Category: The Good Stuff

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Be Patient. Persevere. Value Slowness.

Tight turnaround times for staggering towers of essays. Fixed minimum numbers of publications per REF cycle. And while you’re at it, make sure your work has measurable impact on non-academic audiences and engages with stakeholders outside of academia. Thoughtful, detailed, constructive feedback takes time. Reading your students’ work in a way that honours their efforts takes time. It takes time making sure you’re not confusing the essay you’re reading with one of the dozens of others you’ve had to work through in the last twenty-four hours in order to return them by the deadline stipulated by your university. And it takes time to get...

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The Good Stuff: So Far, So Good?

Today is the fourteenth day of “The Good Stuff”, a project in which I challenge myself to write down and publish one positive thought every day until the end of this year. When I started this, I explained that I was doing it primarily for myself, and I suppose it makes sense to start this short reflection with the impact this exercise has had on me so far. On some days, it’s been really tough to come up with a positive thought to commit to paper and share with you all. On two occasions, I was too tired – mentally...

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Your Struggles Are Real

Everyone will tell you that they have times of extreme worry, sadness, anger, or frustration. Sometimes, when you try to explain your anxiety or depression to people, they will tell you that these feelings are normal in your given circumstances. This can be really difficult because – as I said in my last post – for many of us the notion that we have a mental health issue isn’t a conclusion we jump to quickly. It’s often something that we figure out over months, often years, and frequently only with some help. Many of you will realise the feeling when...

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It’s Normal to Feel Shit Sometimes

  For many of us, acknowledging that we may be suffering from a mental health issue can be a long, difficult process. What can be even more difficult, though, once you have acknowledged your problem and are trying to deal with it, is to recognise and be comfortable with those bad periods in your life – however long or short – that are just that. Bad patches that we all go through and which define our human experience. Today’s positive thought is a reminder to myself that it’s ok, and perfectly normal, to feel shit sometimes. There are...

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Do Something Silly Every Day

I don’t think this thought needs much explaining. At least once every day, I run up the stairs as if I’m The Flash. I take pictures of myself pulling the most hideous, ridiculous faces – we’re not talking adorably silly, here; we’re talking outright worrying. A year ago, I played charades at my neighbours’ house on Boxing Day, amidst lots of people. It’s safe to say it has taken most of my 32 years on this earth to build up the courage for that. I never thought I’d be able to do this kind of thing without crying myself to...

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Selfcare Is Not Selfish

Yesterday was the first time since I started The Good Stuff that I didn’t feel able to commit a positive thought to paper. Not because it was a bad day – quite the opposite – but because I was absolutely exhausted after a trip to Brunel University that meant I had been on the go for 15 hours straight. When I dragged myself from bath to bed within half an hour of getting home, I remembered that it wasn’t too late to write down today’s positive note. But I also barely was able to keep my eyes open, and...

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Be More Maya

There are lots of things I could say about Maya and the role she plays in my life, and I’m sure you’ll hear much more about her as this year progresses because she’s a big inspiration for me when it comes to positive thoughts. But for today, let me tell you that Maya is neurotic, obsessive, and very anxious. No points for guessing that, yes, she’s a Collie X, and some of these traits are part of her breed, though not in the way in which they manifest in Maya. Maya hates not being able to control where people are...

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The Art of Not Giving a Shit

  It’s taken me a long, long time to master the art of not giving a shit. I used to get furious, desperately frustrated, sad, and anxious over things people said or did, or stuff that happened, when really that stuff and those people had very little real impact on me, my work, or my life. I think it’s the most valuable skill we can learn: to not be affected by things that don’t matter. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it. But it really is a challenge if you struggle with issues such as anxiety, and a lack...

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Embracing Mediocrity

  Today’s thought is dedicated to those days we all know very well, and tend to file away under the labels “unsuccessful”, “unproductive”, or “unsatisfactory”. Teaching goes ok, but won’t win you any prizes. Writing … well, you did some. A tiny bit. Nothing paradigm shifting in either quantity or quality. Maybe you even did some domestic chores. Not to show home standards, but you have matching socks at the ready for the next day or two. I had one of those days today. I did far less than the examples I’ve just listed. Actually, the only thing...

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Be More Henry

Henry is a French Bulldog. He’s my dogs’ best friend, and together they like nothing better than chasing each other in circles. They’re an odd group of friends: Maya and Jaggers are Collie x Kelpies; long-legged dogs who can run and work all day. Henry, with his short legs and muscular, stocky body can keep up for short bursts and sprints, but he can’t keep up for prolonged periods of time … and he knows he doesn’t have to. He runs with them for as long as he can. Then he rests and waits for his opportunity. Henry...

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Face Your Fears

I’ve been trying to make this thought sound less dramatic, but somehow “Get Comfortable with Discomfort” didn’t quite sound right, and also vaguely reminded me of adverts for constipation remedies. The reason I was looking for a better phrase is that this note isn’t really about what I’d call “fears”. It’s about the things that make you uncomfortable, to a greater or lesser degree, on a daily basis. I’ve had to face a lot of those things over the past year or so, especially when my ten-year relationship ended. All the issues with which I have always struggled all...

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You’ll Stumble in My Footsteps

  “Try walking in my shoes. You’ll stumble in my footsteps.” (Depeche Mode, “Walking in My Shoes”, 1993) Every day, you do things and deal with things others couldn’t. Recognise this, and be proud of yourself. The idea behind today’s thought is that, like me, you probably spend a lot of time admiring other people and their skills, their ways of dealing with certain things, and so on.Believe it or not, other people probably feel the same when they look at you. I’m sure my dogs are pretty chuffed that I make food and toys appear from a cupboard every...

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Be Grateful for the Good Things

I had a pretty rotten start to the day. Nothing particularly horrible: for various reasons, I worked late, then was up relatively early to do a day of teaching. Up until last Wednesday, I was under the impression I’d be on leave this semester, so there was an added sense of disbelief when I started my commute to Liverpool for the first time this year. I was tired. I wasn’t sure how the large-group afternoon workshop/ lecture/ seminar would work out, given that I’d been thinking it over and over until 2AM. One of my dogs had a...

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Be More Jaggers

This thought neither asks you to be more like the shady lawyer from Dickens’s Great Expectations, nor does it suggest that you should adopt some of the more comical behaviours that my pony-sized puppy, Jaggers, so eagerly displays the majority of the time. Something that I have learned from little Jaggers, though, is to be optimistic about people, unless they do something that really gives you reason to do otherwise. Even then, remember yesterday’s note: don’t judge people by their mistakes. Jaggers is your classic happy-go-lucky dog. He’s not scared of anyone until they give him a reason to be. He approaches...

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Making Mistakes

Today’s positive thought is evidence of the fact that the positive thoughts you’ll be reading here this year are not (and were never meant to be) revolutionary, original, or particularly clever. They’re quite the opposite: they’re little things. Things that are common sense for many people. Things of which most of us only have to remind ourselves occasionally. They’re things that apply to me that very day. Today’s note is one of those, but it’s something I have struggled with my entire life, and as I wrote this first note of the year, I realised it’s also something that is...

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The Good Stuff: A Year In Positive Thoughts

I have never made New Year’s resolutions, but yesterday I decided that there was one to which it was worth committing. As of today, I am keeping a diary of positive thoughts. Every day, I’ll handwrite one positive note. About myself, about something I’ve realised, or about something for which I’m grateful. It may be a very general thought, or it may be very specific and personal. It may be about something I’ve long felt is one of my strengths, or it could be a positive take on something with which I have struggled in the past and continue...

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