Switched On

Monday 14 January 2019

One night over Christmas I went out with a good friend who I don't see as often as I'd like for "just the one drink."

As anyone who enjoys a tipple will know, that one drink is very rarely alone for long. 2 bottles of wine, a Martini Espresso and a can of Hoola Hooch (delicious by the way) later and I found myself quite impressively making not only my train but also the last bus home.

Now I don't know about you, but when I've had a bottle of wine, an espresso Martini and a can of Hoola Hooch I tend to find I get a little reflective.

And when I say reflective, I mean pretentious.

I know this because on the bus home I bumped into someone I went to school with and pretty sure I spent the entire journey waxing lyrical about aaaart, and theartaaah, and podcasts and how "I've just got stuff I want to say, y'know?"

I'm probably being a little harsh on myself there. In reality, they're probably the same sort of thing I would have spoken about sober. I'm not even sure I came across that pretentious really - but that's what happens when you don't realise how drunk you are until about lunchtime the next day (I actually woke up feeling great/still drunk).

So put aside the chat about art, and theatre and podcasts. The bit that's really niggling at me is the part about how "I've just got things to say." Because in truth, I'm not really sure I do.

Or at least not well-informed things.

I've been thinking about this for a long time now, especially when it comes to what I type out here. I got bored of telling people what I was doing day to day because most days looked the same, and I wasn't sure that when something special did happen I really wanted it to be known to everyone. And I've always hated writing reviews or anything sponsored and really let's face it, that makes me a pretty crap lifestyle blogger, and I had no interest in getting better at it.

But I love to write. Which is what led me back to writing more personal essays, and thought pieces. I wanted to say things about the world.

I'm a switched on young woman. I have thoughts and feelings about politics, feminism, mental health, climate change, books, art, equality and world events. I must be able to take those thoughts and turn them into some sort of post, right?

But while I might have lots of thoughts and feelings about lots of things, what I don't have is facts.

Cold, hard, not something I sort of heard from someone, somewhere facts.

The kind of facts I’ve discovered for myself from a source I trust. The kind of facts I’d be willing to stake my life on.
I like to think I’m a switched on young woman. I like to have an opinion on things and I like to discuss that opinion but the truth is most of those times those opinions are based on nothing more than gut instinct or even worse... they’re second hand.

They’re second hand and it shows. They’re easy to poke holes in or can be unravelled by picking on a tiny string. and it’s not the opinions fault, the opinion was a well-made item but I just don’t know how to look after it properly and it’s never really fitted or felt truly like mine.

That opinion was a bespoke garment made by hand by somebody else for only themselves to wear. It wasn’t meant for me and when I put it on it looks like a knock-off replica, not the real thing.

Of course, we all get our opinions from somewhere, we all have gut feelings about things and pick things up from people we respect and admire, but the important part is to tailor-make them and fit for you. Take what you’ve felt or picked up and build on it. Adorn it, patch up the holes, add an accessory.

I listen to lots of podcasts where I listen to other people eloquently discuss their opinions about the world around us but I never follow it up by reading the articles they’ve discussed for myself. I read the guardian long read but rarely the news.

I wade into a political debate with my liberal views and a belief that the world should be more equal but with nothing to back it up.

And even when I speak up about the things I do KNOW about, if someone questions it I still lack the confidence to defend it.

I don’t think I’m alone in being guilty of this. 

I think there’s probably a lot of us out there who feel so exhausted and frustrated by the world that we are tired of reading and learning and truly debating. Because what does it matter anyway? The people who don’t think like us will never change their mind and their way is just wrong. Don't ask me why, it just is.
I believe I have things to say and when I’m drunk I’ll happily tell you that. I’m a switched on young woman. But if you ask me what I have to say? My drunken pretentiousness might just shatter.

"Oh, you know just about, Brexit and stuff."

When actually I don’t. Not beyond “it’s all a mess and I voted to remain.” Nothing to say that is new or backed up or insightful. That was just the first 'current news item' I could think of. I can probably quote someone else, and tell you they've encaptured my feelings on it, but I know very little about the knitty-gritty.

So what am I going to do about it?

I'd love to wrap this up in a nice conclusion. Maybe give you some pointers for what to do if you are feeling the same, but I'm hesitant to do that. I don't want to force myself to watch the news every day because truthfully I don't think that's the answer. I'm also aware you're never going to be an expert on everything and cold hard facts are hard to come by in this day and age.

So is the answer not to speak up at all?

Well, no.

The last things I want to do is discourage anyone from sharing their opinions, least of all myself.  But what I need to learn to do is admit when I am at the end of my knowledge, learn that it's ok to have a gut feeling, or the beginning of an opinion, when that's all you have.

It's a lot less embarassing to say 'I'm not aware of all the facts, but my initial thoughts on it are this...' than it is to go headfirst into something only to be caught out.

It also paves the way for much more open and honest discussions. I have a sneaky feeling that if you admit you don't know all the facts, others will come forward and say the same.

And the other major bonus is, if you're honest about when you don't have the facts, you can feel more confident in expressing your opinion when you do have them. And that's what we really need, vocal switched on people speaking up about the things they really know about and people who are willing to listen.


Further reading...
How much of a hypocrite am I? Write a full blog post admitting I never click on the further reading then add in my own! Anyway, if you're a better person than I am here are some things, related to this blog post that might interest you:

  1. The High Low Podcast: Where I get most of my opinions from to be honest with you. This episode about how feelings took over the world is particularly relevant
  2. I signed up to the Weekly Long Read email from The Guardian at the beginning of the month to encourage myself to read beyond the things I'm usually interested in. The long reads cover everything from politics to psychology and they send the email out on a Saturday morning. Sign up here.
  3. Really tempted to link to a six pack of Hoola Hooch here, but instead, I'll link to this piece I wrote a while back because sometimes getting a bit drunk and saying pretentious things out loud can actually be a good thing

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