Welcome! Honest Lies is the personal site of a 25 year old graduate electrical engineer living in the UK. Covering every day life, books and various other randomness. Read more about me and the site here.

“Can I be safe from this sudden fear of change. This sudden fear is strange”

It was my 25th birthday on Sunday. I wanted to write about it, as I have many thoughts about turning 25, but my thoughts wouldn’t come together. Still, they won’t. I am writing and deleting, writing and deleting. So here goes, a random thought dump about being 25 and where my life is now and all my random thoughts about it.

(This is going to be very all over the place, I’m sorry, I just don’t know how to pull this all together.)

25 feels like a milestone age, in a quiet way – the way 16 is to 18. I am, as always, amazed as to how far I’ve come. 25. It feels like I should really know what I’m doing by now. I don’t. And actually, I think that its likely that a lot of twenty somethings feel these same feelings, the weight of the world’s expectations versus our own feelings of loss and confusion. But I suppose I tell myself that because I want things to be coming together now. And I don’t quite want to admit it, that I think about settling down quite often. Not in the traditional sense, like getting married, or having kids. But I think about owning my own place, having a stable job, having some savings, buying nice furniture and adopting a kitty. I think about these things which I feel are some of the markers of adulthood and I see that I have none of them and I feel a little lacking.

I’m 25. I’ve come so far and I have so much, but I’m caught up in feelings of wondering if it’s the ‘right’ things or if it’s enough and I look at others my age and feel a little, fine a lot inadequate. (I guess I’m also caught up in watching my sister, who is older than me so I should accept is ahead of me, but I look at her stable job, the house she has bought and the kitty she has adopted and I ache. Will that be me in three years? Can that be me? It doesn’t feel like my life is heading in that direction yet and again, I ache.)

I’m still settling in to this new stage of adult hood – being a working professional. I know, still. I feel so frustrated with myself too, I keep telling myself to hurry up about it all, but I can’t seem to. My anxious brain takes a long time to process things. So now, almost two years of working gone past and I’m still processing, trying to come up with working professional Catherine, and get rid of student Catherine. For such a long time my life was dictated by academic timetables, coursework and exams that it is incredibly difficult to get out of that mind-set. Work is so difficult. It’s at once incredibly structured and incredibly free. Instead of working to a curriculum, memorising the right things and putting them on a paper and measuring your life’s progress by the grades you get, it’s a lot more abstract. You have to take your own initiative, and then you get judged on how you take initiative and what you come up with, yourself. It’s weird getting used to creating your own curriculum to study and managing your own schedules, and don’t even get me started on also dealing with office life and culture. I still feel like a complete fish out of water at work. There is so much to learn, so many interesting but difficult things to take in and try not to mess up. Being at work, working, can be incredibly rewarding, but also extremely embarrassing sometimes. It’s so awesome getting things right, but on the flipside it’s so awful getting them wrong. You want to impress! And make a good impression! Then you make a typo in a mail to a client, or can’t explain a key concept without getting tongue tied and it’s like damn, self. Come on. I get so frustrated with myself. I need to think about becoming a chartered engineer at some point, but I have no confidence for it. Am I worthy of it? Do I know enough for it? No way can I be that clever and competent.

I still can’t quite believe I have an engineering degree, to be honest. That I am an engineer. Like, what. Even now, 7 years after school, I still sit with the teacher’s words telling me I was never going to get anywhere. Some days I’m crippled by imposter syndrome, clinging on to average GCSEs and poor A level grades, and ignoring the masters in engineering I have, or the nearly two years of actual engineering experience I have.

Then there’s home management. I have been making a lot of changes to my flat, trying to settle in, while terrified of settling in, because it’s a rental and I don’t know when or if I’ll have to move, I just feel like I’m going to have to move and I don’t want to enjoy this flat too much, or buy too much furniture, because moving is painful enough without owning so many things. But I’m trying to settle into the now, enjoy my environment now without worrying about later. (After all, no matter what I’ll be packing crap tonnes of stuff into boxes, and I’ve probably long past the point where I could avoid paying for a moving service.) I’m trying to be good about chores and keeping things clean too. At first I struggled with that – I was so tired from work and commuting. Now I’m driving and my commute is easier and I get home sooner it’s a bit easier. I am incredibly lucky with the place I am living in and I try to tell myself that often, remind myself that even I don’t own my place and I can’t paint the walls or put up shelves, at least I have a warm roof over my head, lots of space all to myself, and none of the problems with scrupulous landlords, dodgy roommates, weird moulds or maintenance issues that some people suffer. I am safe and comfortable. It’s enough. More than enough. I am very lucky.

I am not so good about managing my diet or exercise. I still eat like a student and struggle to exercise – I got to week four of couch to 5k then gave up, I dip in and out of Yoga, but I can’t make anything work. I’m very lazy outside of work.

I’m not sure what’s going on with this blog. I don’t want to give up blogging, but there’s such a large part of my life (work!) that I have to keep private and its awkward working around that elephant in the room (work!).

Everything is messy and awkward right now. While my heart longs for stability and settling down, my life has had other ideas. There’s been so much going on these past few years. But I’m still here, 25 years old, trying to deal with it all and sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. Just like everyone else, I imagine.

“He stands in front of the mirror with a net, hoping to catch something.”

I decided to test out my driving skills again today – I decided I would go check out Bolton Abbey and the surrounding areas so I could take advantage of the nice weather and go for a good (and I hoped scenic) walk. I’ve not been feeling well these past few weeks so I was a little bit nervous venturing out on my first day of really feeling better, but I thought to myself that there was no contractual obligation to complete the whole walk I had planned, I could turn back at any time if I started feeling weak again.

Of course I didn’t really want to turn back.

I set off at noon and the drive was much shorter than that to the Yorkshire coast, yet managed to be 100 times more stressful. The roads were narrow, and busy, and there were a million cyclists out and about to try and overtake, or worse, cyclists on the other side of the road causing traffic that side to verge into my lane. There were also many pedestrians and bikers… basically everyone was out in all forms today. That, with the narrow roads, and my unfamiliarity of the route, meant I was soon talking back to my sat nav and muttering under my breath at various hazards…stress relief ;) In the end, the sat nav took me to a random farm so I had to turn around and find my own way for the last couple of meters which was also stressful, then I had to pay £10 (!!) entry, only for there to be no parking anyway, so I had to squeeze myself into the tiniest space ever and after recently crashing during parking, I was so nervous, and there were so many people around, passing around and behind my car making it so so difficult. It was horrible. But I felt pretty proud once I eventually got myself into the parking space, without crashing, and got the engine off.

I changed into my walking boots and slathered myself in sun cream then set off. From the car park, I wanted to head to the Valley of Desolation, then from there head onwards to the Barden Moor and finally, ascend Simons Seat. I started off well, the route was sign posted initially and busy. Eventually, as the signs petered out and the walk became less pedestrian, I missed the turning to the Valley of Desolation and had to circle back to get to it. It was worth it though, as the valley was beautiful. Despite its name, it’s actually a lush forest, and there were two waterfalls, one really quite impressive one. It was also blissfully cool and quiet in the forest. (Outside of the forest, I was melting. And probably burning despite the sun cream.) I took a million pictures and then completed my circle and set off again towards the moors. Unfortunately, I started to get tired, even though there was barely any ascent. I made it out of the forest and onto the moors and then the walk started to very slowly, very painfully, start to ascend and I could feel myself struggling. I felt so tired.

I stopped, then pushed on, then stopped again, had something to eat, then pushed on again. But eventually I had to admit I could go no further – I still needed energy to get back, and then to drive, and I just couldn’t keep pushing myself on like that. I was so annoyed. I was close enough to Simons Seat for it to be frustrating, but far enough that it wasn’t just a case of pushing forwards for a short while more. It would have been a long, painful slog to complete my journey.

I reluctantly turned back, and then my mood lifted when I stumbled upon a big group of Grouse. My only other encounter with Grouse, I thought I had gotten a video of them flying, only to find I had not pressed record. So then I lingered, taking many pictures and videos. Unfortunately I couldn’t get them flying, but I was still amazed at how close they were, and how photogenic they were being. I was holding back and being as still as I could, but they didn’t seem afraid at all. I was amazed by them, and their incredibly funny bird ‘song.’ They are fascinating creatures. I laughed at the way they would sit amongst the heather with just their heads visible. It really felt great – to have turned back from what I wanted, to find something possibly even better. I observed them for ages, following them down the road as they migrated from the heather into the bracken. Then I lost them. But after carrying on for a while I found another one. Finally, I carried on further down where I would encounter one more.

I walked back the way I had come, which wasn’t too boring, as I got to go past the waterfalls again. This time, I tried to climb to the top of the big waterfall and I got pretty close. It was quite exhilarating, if not a little scary! I got some interesting pictures though.

I made it back to the car park just as the ice cream parlour was closing, and therefore wasn’t accepting any more customers :( Then I drove home, which was still stressful, although the amount of cyclists and pedestrians had thankfully decreased. It was a good walk, I think. I am super disappointed I didn’t get to complete the whole walk, but on the plus side I did get to see the Valley of Desolation, I got to see the Grouse (which I probably wouldn’t have if I didn’t turn back when I did!), and I did walk a good 4.5 miles which is not bad when still, probably, a little sick.

I did realise though that I paid £10 and didn’t even use it to go see the Abbey itself! I’ll have to do so next time… I’m definitely going to have to go back and make it to Simons Seat then too.

I started out with two shrimps, attempted to have four shrimps, failed, and somehow decided to buy more shrimps. All in all I have now bought 6 shrimps, and yet just like my last post, I still only have one. For a time, I definitely had two. I saw my red one around and sometimes I saw one of the latest two I’d bought, a small yellow cherry type. I’d bought a pair of yellow ones as I thought they’d blend in better, therefore reducing chances of getting eaten. And one of the pair disappeared, but there was one left that I could spot now and again. It seemed utterly fine. On Tuesday night it was swimming around and it came to the front of the tank for the very first time, allowing me to take some pictures of it.

On Wednesday morning I looked into the tank and it was dead. It didn’t seem like it had been attacked, there was no sign of damage, no sign of disease. It was just….dead. I was hurt and confused. How could it just die like that, overnight? It was ok. And then it was dead.

I’d had a danio death just on Monday so this was a bit of a blow. But I know my tank is clean and stable so I’m mostly confused. The shrimp seemed too young to pass of old age. I think I need to test the water for copper? That could be a reason. (But the other one is fine so you’d think they’d both be in trouble if there was something anti shrimp in the water… ) The only other thing could be stress from the water change I carried out on Tuesday, but I didn’t cause a massive flux in tank temperature. I did gravel clean, maybe it was too disruptive?

I thought shrimp were meant to be easy. But I’ve definitely lost two, probably lost another, and I’m missing another two.

The real question is – how is that one red shrimp thriving still when all its mates have died? I look at it and I’m amazed at it’s resilience. It swims about the tank amongst the fish without fear (perhaps trying to blend in to prevent attack?) And it’s big and healthy…

These creatures baffle me. I need to resist buying more…it’s just expensive fish food by this point (I left the yellow shrimp in the tank on Wednesday just in case I was wrong but of course all that happened was my fish ate it. Partially. So I had to take out the remains…. )

“All I feel is emptiness here, searching for what you want me to say. I’m terrified…”

Something I’ve found difficult to adjust to in the 9-5 life is definitely where the lines exist in interactions with coworkers. They aren’t friends, but you see them daily, and it’s confusing as hell trying to thus figure out how to interact with them.

When I first started work I admit, I shared too much. I’m always like that when I’m trying to integrate in a group – I’ll say anything, if I think it will make someone like me or find me interesting. It’s a terrible habit picked up from being an immigrant child trying to fit into a school where the only other foreigner was my own sister. I wanted to impress, I wanted to be interesting, I wanted to be liked. I would do anything, even lie, to try and fit in. So, I always do this. But I realised I was doing that and I tried to back track, to withdraw and become more careful. But I was embarrassed and I felt awkward. I am aware of the lines I have crossed, the mistakes I initially made as I tried to settle into this working thing.

I worry about what my co-workers think of me, what they might say about me over their cups of tea on their coffee breaks or worse, to my line manager.

I know the world doesn’t revolve around me, but people do tend to chatter amongst themselves in offices don’t they? People talk, whatever their intentions for it. It’s the worst thing about office life for an introvert – a big open plan space, lots of people, and the unsettling feeling of constantly being watched that comes with that.

It is awkward and confusing. You spend more time with these people than your own family, you have to be nice to them, you need to make a good impression and appear a good team worker, but at the same time you need to be on your guard because you’re the graduate/junior, and you don’t know what they will report to your line manager about you. You need them to trust you to do your work more than you need them to like you, but how much does liking you come into play with trusting you to deliver?

I have taken to keeping my head down and working as quietly as I can, and only asking work questions and brushing off personal enquiries as best I can, or giving light, featureless answers. I do try to show interest in my co-workers, but carefully, generically – sticking to the safest topics I can think of. I think this is the right way forward. I don’t want to become friends and I don’t want to develop those kind of emotions in my work – I want a separation between work and my personal life. I am scared about getting too attached to this one job and getting attached to the people around me would, I imagine, feed such an attachment.

Of course, sometimes I go to site, and this often involves long drives. Stuck in a car for hours with a single coworker. It’s terrifying and I find myself rambling sometimes, and I don’t like that. It’s hard to know how to navigate travelling with coworkers.

Recently, I attended a team dinner and that was another level of confusing. I have another team dinner invite sitting in my inbox and I’m not sure if I should accept. It feels like I need to draw lines. If I start engaging like this, I am scared that line between work and personal will get blurred, but only for me who doesn’t have the experience or the worldliness to know how to navigate work social events without getting attached or saying the wrong things, or blurting out something awkwardly personal….

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

Today I decided I was going to take a day trip to the Yorkshire Coast again. The difference this time was- I was going to drive it. I set off very early in the morning, grabbed a Starbucks, and then headed across to the coast. I had just a single high-speed road to take before a set of narrow, twisty country roads so it wasn’t beyond my abilities – that, and the roads were very quiet early on a Sunday morning. It was just very long.

Gannets
My trip started with a visit to the RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Context: The RSPB is the Royal Society of Birds. The Bempton Cliffs are a long stretch of sheer cliffs part of the Yorkshire coast which serve as a key nesting site for thousands of sea birds, many of them rare (especially in these parts) such as Puffins and Gannets. I have been wanting to go there for the longest time, because I want to see puffins (because who wouldn’t want to see Puffins.) Although the drive did get stressful on the approach to the cliffs, because of aforementioned twisty country roads, I got there OK and even managed to park OK. It was just past 10 when I had arrived, so the drive was just over an hour and a half. Bearable, especially with my excitement about the puffins to motivate me!

At the entrance to the nature reserve a very nice man from the RSPB talked me through my visit and what I could expect to see and he provided a helpful handout – for free no less – with detailed illustrations of the birds to help identify them.
I entered the reserve and began my walk along the cliffs, stopping at all the viewpoints to look for puffins. There were thousands of birds coating every available surface of the cliffs, sitting on the water and flying around the cliffs. (They were incredibly noisy too.) There were a lot of people there too, and I felt quite inadequate compared to the sheer number of them carrying all manners of binoculars, tripods, telescopes and DLSRs with what looked like a meter of lenses attached to them. A lot of people there were clearly Very Serious about birdwatching, and were planning to spend a long time at it. (I even spotted a man asleep, and snoring, on a bench and I imagined him spending his morning at a viewpoint, taking a noon nap before carrying on.) I felt a little sad when they could spot puffins and no matter how much I scanned with my camera on full zoom I just couldn’t. Looking for tiny little puffins among all those thousands of birds was a very strange, frustrating game of ‘Where’s Wally?’, with the picture far away and constantly shifting.

PUFFINS!!!
But, I did manage to see some puffins. Maybe not as many as I wanted/expected? But I was so close to the ones I did see which was absolutely amazing. I definitely agree with the RSPB information that they are slightly comical in looks, but I also found them incredibly cute. I could also see Gannets, Kittiwakes, Herring Gulls, Guillemots and Razorbills. (Basically all the birds listed on the sheet bar two!) I saw the very young, very fluffy babies of the gannets and kittiwakes, nestled in under a parent (Interestingly, and luckily, when I look over my photos I can zoom in and spot things I never picked up with my own eyes – an extra puffin, more babies. It’s pretty cool and I can see why most people were carrying about such heavy equipment – their photos must be incredible.) It was absolutely amazing and it would have been worth the drive just for that, but my day would get better.

My sister is in holiday in Scarborough with some girlfriends at the moment. So I asked her if I could crash their holiday for the day so I could see her- and she said yes :) I drove into Scarborough from the Bempton Cliffs, getting a little lost trying to find the car park I had chosen thanks to my GPS going wonky, but again just about managing it. I met my sister and her friends at a small, out of the way restaurant where we had food like hot sandwiches, burgers, chips, salad and nachos for lunch. It was all freshly made, very simple but flavorful and reasonably priced. 10/10. After a filling lunch we made our way to the beach, where we set ourselves up for the rest of the afternoon. I waded into the water with my sister for a bit, but then we both just lay down and chilled in the sun. Although the day had started out a bit grey, and I had started out wrapped up at the cliffs, it turned into a gloriously bright and sunny day and I was hot even after shedding all my extra layers.

It was really relaxing, lazing about in the sun with my sister and her friends, talking about nothing in particular and soaking in the warmth.

We then went into one of the arcades and wasted only a small amount of money playing the 2 pence a go games, then we did some quick souvenir shopping and headed back to the car. The walk back to the car was unfortunately uphill most of the way and I don’t think anyone was impressed with my choice of parking. :/

Although this was my first time taking passengers, thankfully the nerves about that didn’t get me too much and I drove everyone back safely to their accommodation. I pretty much dropped them off then set off back home. The drive back was way more tiring and I had to stop for some caffeine – even though it was late and I knew it would affect my sleep, I was getting worried for myself and my concentration. After getting a shot of caffeine in me I was OK for the rest of the drive. Thankfully the roads remained quiet and I got home in good time. I am interested to see how I will sleep tonight, if I will manage to wake up tomorrow morning, and how driving will be tomorrow… I’ve had a great day though and I’m feeling pretty proud for all the “driving firsts” I ticked off today, successfully.