Things for me to remember in 2014.

A short compendium of shit I seem to have difficulty holding in mind:

  • The rigorous standards of fact-checking in published books are basically nil. People can print any old garbage, and people can quote any old garbage, and if you’ve learned anything from Twitter it’s that no one checks sources.
  • A lot of the social points people make with unwavering conviction are propped up by nothing but that conviction, and can be safely ignored, even when the person making the point is screaming about how not listening to them and taking their side above all others means you will be rejected from the kingdom of Heaven.
  • There is not actually anything stopping you from spending your money on, for example, educational courses or nice dinners, instead of the things you think you should spend it on in order to be the kind of person whose bank statements your friends, family, or MP would approve of.
  • You don’t have to agree with someone to like them, and you don’t have to like someone to agree with them. Also, people are complicated patchworks of nuance and difference, and a person can be Very Right about one thing and Distressingly Wrong about something else (see Richard Dawkins: a phenomenal popular science educator who made understanding genetics easy for you, but who made calling yourself an atheist an exercise in explaining that you’re not also a demented Twitter bigot; the topography of an individual’s intellect and social worth is not a flat sheet).
  • It is a lot easier to do a thing you enjoy doing than a thing you hate doing, and if the thing you hate doing isn’t actually necessary there is no point in forcing yourself to do it in the expectation of headpats which are quite frankly not likely to be forthcoming.
  • Don’t waste what remains of your energy on trying to win over people who are predisposed to despise you due to their own bloody issues.
  • Your sanity is not worth the dubious pay-off of being branded acceptable by people who live at a different pace and speed to you.
  • When there are over 800 books in your flat, and a further 900 on your Kindle, and you have not read more than 65% of them there is actually no need for you to lurk around the internet trying to find a worthwhile Cracked article to disagree with.
  • While the NHS is still there it might be a good idea to actually use it rather than spending 6 months to a year in pain from various problems, convinced that “hypochondria” or “how dare you waste our time” is the inevitable response when in actual fact since moving away from the West Country where that was the standard response about TWELVE YEARS AGO, no London doctor or dentist has ever done anything other than take health problems seriously and scold you for not coming in sooner.
  • There is no reason not to make art. There is no reason not to learn things. You have the equipment and abilities, and you live in a city where free learning resources are so ubiquitous that it is frankly taking an effort of will on your part to remain ignorant.
  • Despite what social media may have led you to believe, you do not need to justify or excuse the things you enjoy. You do not need to explain them or defend them. The books aren’t illegal: the TV series aren’t prohibited; the films aren’t verboten. You don’t have to cut yourself off from things that give you pleasure just because you can’t win a fight about why you’re allowed to watch or read them. This is adulthood. No one is stopping you.
  • Keep remembering the chasm between op-ed pieces and the world you witness every time you go outside. And don’t fall into the trap of assuming that because one is written down, it’s more like the truth. There are a thousand truths and – as you told yourself at the beginning of this list – a lot of them aren’t fact-checked.
  • The problem with “the endless monolith of white male authors” is not that white men wrote, it is that a culture venerated their words above and beyond all others, and declared that anything which was not their writing was not worthwhile. The problem is not the author. The problem is the world they’re in and the people who read them: you can write what you want.
  • What you hear repeated is the contents of one echo chamber and not the views of the entire world; if you don’t like what you’re hearing, widen your circle of input until there’s a signal that suits your needs.
  • If you’re ever convinced that the people you love are indifferent to you, ask if they would do the same for a stranger as they do for you. Teaching tools: the way people respond to anonymous commenters vs the way they answer questions from you.
  • While despair may feel like an appropriate response to the vagrancies of the world, it’s not a productive one. Make things until you can’t feel sorry for yourself any more.

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