Feeding my brain
I’m not a natural born anything. Well, I’m a natural born human being obviously, but I’m one that doesn’t quite understand how I’m supposed to be when out in the wild of society. Wherever I am, you can guarantee that I’m in a constant state of being five minutes away from an existential crisis (if I’m not already half-way through one while you’re talking to me).
One thing I can do though is observe and absorb. I often see myself from the inside and outside simultaneously, and this usually becomes a kind of paradox as even though I’m seeing myself from these perspectives, and I’m aware of other people seeing me from their perspectives, I still feel like I have to try really hard not to be invisible.
I’m fascinated by what people are interested in, but recently I’ve tried to ask myself what I’m interested in. It would be really easy for me, in a blog post on my book blog to say ‘books’, but that’s too vague. What I’m interested in isn’t the books, it’s what’s inside them. What are they about? Why am I reading them? What is that thing inside me that decides to pick up the ones I do? That’s what I’m trying to discover.
Now, back to the title of this post. There are so many things I’m exploring and trying to learn about. It’s like I’m creating my own life course of stuff, in a little university where I’m the only student and everything around me is the course material. It’s not ‘the university of life’ that people talk about when referring to experience in ‘the real world’, it’s my own thirst for knowledge and understanding, from a mind that has been neglected. I wasted years of my life in a mental stasis, going through the motions, absorbing nothing, and I’ll never get that time back. So I’m writing a series of posts about the ways I’m trying to make up for it.
1. Science & Natural History
My favourite book as a child was The Encyclopedia of Awesome Animals by Claire Llewellyn. I would read this book front to back, a different section every night before bed. Then I’d read it again a few months later, and again and again and again. I’d re-visit all these facts about animals and the natural world, and enjoy reading about them more each time. I’ve always been fascinated with the world around me, and of the sciences Biology was my favourite.
I also had no faith in myself to succeed at the subject in school. I had plenty of non-fiction books at home about animal history, world history, and books about space. But I didn’t see this as being like anything that I was taught at school. In a school context, I had no faith in myself to do well in these subjects because ‘science is hard‘. I was never going to be a natural history academic, because I didn’t know I could be. But the interest in the subject is still very much there.
My love for animals then translated into me thinking my only path in life was to be a vet. This was really never ever going to happen, not because I haven’t got the capacity to learn the profession, but because I won’t even plant a flower without first ensuring I’ve got gloves on (and even then, that’s after I’ve inspected the gloves and removed everything that isn’t part of the glove before I can even think about wearing it). My mum can get her hands in the soil and clear weeds like a gardening wizard, while I’m in the kitchen washing my hands from accidentally touching a slightly muddy rock. So operating on animals? Cleaning animals? Cleaning up after them? Doing anything that involves touching anything at all? I can’t.
I’m much more comfortable reading about nature, animals, Earth and the universe and having all the knowledge in my head to give myself a better understanding of what I’m looking at (and not touching).
in 2017, I read How to Build a Universe, by Brian Cox and Robin Ince (spawned from their podcast ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage‘) and I’m thinking of reading it again. I’ve been listening to the podcast for the first time recently, and I just keep saying to myself ‘Why did I never do this before?’* And the answer? Because I haven’t been embracing what makes me who I am, and the interests that have been with me my whole life. I haven’t connected with myself as a person, or given my mind and body the learning that it craves. It’s like these things have been waiting just below the surface, until one day I remember ‘oh yeah, I like that’ and then I have an existential crisis that I am a person who likes stuff, and I’m not just here to be invisible. If I look back at all the photos I’ve taken over the years, it’s there plain as day. The things I’m interested in are captured in photographs, and I chose to take them naturally without any hesitation about why. But there’s a difference between taking a photo of plants and the natural world, and actually understanding and studying it.
I feel like a child again, opening up my book of awesome animals and feeling content with absorbing and learning about everything that this world has to offer. And one of the reasons I’ve realised all of this, is because of not reading. By which I mean, I hit a reading slump, so turned to the podcast. And now my brain is saying ‘read all the non-fiction science-y books!’ So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Next in this series: Why I’m only a graphic designer in theory, not reality (meaning that I’m not one at all).
*If you read my review of How to Build a Universe you’ll discover the reason was because ‘my mind was muggy’. Which is a phrase I used relating to my mental health at the time, which is a lot better now.