What Does Cool Mean?
One of the dangers of having time on our hands is over thinking things. This week I was invited by a friend to join in with one of those facebook challenges that are going round where you are asked to show your top ten album covers. My choices are very cheesy and a part of me didn’t want to take part. I would be exposed as a very ‘uncool’ music lover. Another part of me though, almost wanted to exaggerate the ‘cheesy’ aspect and present it as my own kind of ‘coolness’. It got me thinking about what it is to be cool and why it either matters or doesn’t matter to be cool.
How to be Cool
The very word ‘cool’ of course, is no longer even ‘on trend’ or ‘cool’. It would be, of course, ridiculously ‘uncool’ for me to use ‘cool’ replacements, such as ‘sic’. (It isn’t cool to try to be a teenager at 51!) When I was teaching, the term ‘cool’ was used to categorize a particular group of students. Rather like there were the ‘jocks’ and the ‘nerds’, there was ‘the cool kids’. My understanding is that this was the group that the majority aspired to be one of. I think the cool kids were trendy, were a little bit rebellious and most importantly were popular. Being ‘popular’ made them cool, and being ‘cool’ made them ‘popular’. It seemed image was a large part of being both cool and popular and how you presented yourself mattered. As such, it was a fairly shallow measure, but whilst it lacked depth and substance it was largely aspired to.
So that takes me to the question of whether being cool is a pathway to being accepted in a particular cohort? Or perhaps it can be used as a wider term for being generally accepted into those parts of society you desire to be in. We might want to be cool to be accepted, even if it goes against the behavioural, social and cultural values we have. If so then isn’t desiring to be cool a bit pitiable, as surely being strong enough to stand out from the crowd is a more worthy quality than being cool. Maybe part of our brain views ‘being cool’ as negative. It is like smoking or drinking alcohol, we might want it, but we know it is bad for us. Maybe it is just the ‘wannabes that have to try to be cool; the really cool people just somehow are! If that was the case though, then why would so many ‘allegedly cool’ people end up with tremendous mental health issues. Maybe aspiring to coolness is hugely detrimental to our mental health.
It seems that being cool is as ‘long as a piece of string’ and as ‘changeable as the wind’ and we need to decide whether to follow trends or buck them. Particularly for young people this can be hard as we are still figuring out who we are. What is popular and cool one week is naff and out of date the next. For example, when I had a ten and an eleven year old it was very cool to love One Direction, until suddenly it wasn’t. If there is one thing that is constant about being cool is that what is cool isn’t constant.
Before I started this post I asked my own kids if I should write about being cool and they said it was too big a topic; I'd never figure out what i wanted to say and I'd end up rambling. They were right, I am not getting anywhere fast. When living in the moment to really strive for coolness there is a need to be prepared to change to fit in. Historical perspective and ‘age’ changes this perspective and we can explore coolness as a tool to reflect on who we have become and what our influences were.
What's Cooler than Being Cool?
It is possibly true to say that ‘coolness’ matters more when we are young and we are less self-assured. As my hesitancy over sharing my uncool music shows, perhaps it doesn’t ever completely go away. What is actually cool is to not give a stuff about ‘what is cool’, however, whilst we co-exist with others, this isn’t ever going to completely happen. It links to an awareness of a desire to be accepted, juxtaposed against what we are prepared to do in order for that acceptance. It's tied up with our very sense of self worth.
Being cool links to a shared understanding of values that ascertain popularity, acceptance and status. They are defined within groups in a particular place and time in history. With this shared history it is possible to explore ‘being cool’ together. Exploring what was ‘cool’ is fun and doesn’t need to get ‘heavy’. As I say, I over think things.. Maybe I’m harbouring a secret wish that exploring ‘coolness’ in this way, is indeed just a little bit cool in itself! Is my music ever going to be cool though? I doubt it.
Are you a Christmas Scrooge or Bob Cratchit?
Our family love Christmas. Saint Mick of Thana turns into Bob Crachit, full of Christmas spirit and good will. He is generous to a fault and surpasses even Tiny Tim in his kindness. The girls are full of Christmas cheer. They don their Christmas pudding earrings and Santa hats with aplomb. In accordance with family tradition we all play Christmas songs loudly in the car from November onwards.
My personal Christmas highlight has always been the school carol concert. This year I’m back in the UK so missed it, but now both girls have graduated from school it would have probably been too bitter sweet to attend anyway.
To be truthful Christmas does feel a little bit strange this year. I think it is because although we only have a week to go we are still not all together as a family. In fact, I had a full on row with the staff in Morrison’s the other day. I was definitely in the ‘right’ but uncharacteristically (I hope) I did react as a bit of a Christmas Scrooge. I have needed to remind myself it is more important to be kind than to be right? Anyway … what about you …
Where are you on the Scrooge Scale?
I’ll pass no comment on the responses, but feel relieved that perhaps I’m not too much of a Scrooge after all. Actually, as I write this I have Coronation Street on the TV. Playing in the background of the soap opera is the song ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ which is juxtaposed against Barbara Knox, playing Rita Fairclough, crying into her photo album, bereft with loneliness. It is a pertinent reminder to add ‘Do you check on your elderly neighbours?’ to the above list. I guess that is the key way to demonstrate the kindness of Tiny Tim.
Reflecting back, over the years our Christmases have been very different. From safari trips and hot air ballooning in the Serengeti when we lived in Tanzania, to scrumptious all you can eat and drink lunches at our favourite Sheraton Grande restaurant in Bangkok to wonderful lunches with the most delicious food you can imagine at my brother’s and his wife’s house we have always been very lucky at Christmas time. This year Annie comes home tomorrow so then Christmas can really begin. I am sure that any lingering Scrooge will dissipate completely with the joy of her arrival. (For a day or two at least anyway!)
Personal Goal Setting
Personal Goal Setting - Is it for you?
Goal setting has always been quite important to me. This morning I happened upon a notebook and found some of the ‘yearly’ goals I’d made for 2018-2019. They included meeting my goodreads target of completing 50 books, (including 5 non-fiction titles); swimming four or five times a week; maintaining my beginning of year weight and keeping a positive outlook. So far I’ve only succeeded in one goal, but having said that the year’s not over yet! Also, I’m not too downcast so actually that maybe means I’ve succeeded in two.
The Benefits of Goal Setting
In truth, I don’t just set yearly goals. I set daily, weekly and monthly goals. I guess I’m a bit obsessed. I do find it helpful though and feel it has many benefits. To be honest I'd like to read a self-help book about it. I wonder what Mark Manson would think of goal setting as a life priority.
Goal setting provides structure and routine. Perhaps as an ex-teacher I can’t manage life without a simulation of school bells and a mindset of what needs achieving in what length of time. I try to make my daily goals more than just a list of jobs by remembering why the day’s goal needs completing. For example, if it is something like practise my piano for half an hour it helps to keep in mind that I am doing this because I love the pleasure that being able to play a piece without a mistake brings; I also love the process of getting there.
Goal setting gives me a boost when I accomplish something. I feel that it releases the same kind of endorphins that completing exercise does. (though sadly that particular boost is not something I’ve experienced for a little while!) In education there is a lot of talk about intrinsic rather than extrinsic rewards and I think the boost from achieving personal goal setting is an example of just this.
Goal setting is a reflection tool and enables me to evaluate what matters. It also enables thought and analysis regarding whether my values and needs are constant or changing. I can reflect on the wider benefits of achieving a goal. For example setting a goal to maintain my weight serves to remind me how great I felt when I reached a healthy size and re-opened the door of enjoying shopping for clothes. Having a goal means that any slippage of an achievement can be dealt with. Having said that I don’t think I’ll be unusual in not worrying to much about maintaining my exact weight until after Christmas
Goal setting helps me become motivated. I love to read and books are my thing but this year concentrating on reading has been more challenging than ever before. I’m wondering if that’s linked to being fifty and next year I’ll need some goals to enable me to be more focused!
Goal setting stops me procrastinating. A deadline for me is a really useful tool so if I set a goal to have something accomplished by a particular date then I am far more likely to actually do it.
Goal setting is a positive affirmative choice. Remembering the point of setting a goal and completing positive actions towards meeting it is I think, a great way of feeling good. I much prefer this to having an outlook of having to simply go without or give up things without keeping in mind why.
How to Set Goals
When I was teaching we spent quite a lot of time looking at how to set goals. I am always keen on figuring out how I can read more. I think it makes great sense to discuss your goals with a friend or family member and to enlist their support in setting them. The first thing is to be clear about what the purpose of setting a goal is and how it is beneficial. Goals can even go beyond the personal and you may wish to set up a ‘family goal’ too. Having said that I’m not sure that my Saint Mick and the girls would be too pleased at my inflicting a family goal on them! I guess we can only really be responsible for ourselves, but it might be a motivator for us all to work towards something. Hmmm… I think I’ll have to think about that a little more.
Using the SMART target model is, I think a great way of setting goals. I’ve posted before about this acronym. In brief if a goal or target is specific, manageable, attainable, realistic and set within a timeframe then it is something that can be achieved and will go on to improve a person’s individual well-being. It is particularly useful when trying to overcome hurdles- be they emotional, physical or academic so is a super tool to use with young people.
The only downside of the SMART target approach to goal setting is that perhaps it doesn’t encourage too much risk, As I’m feeling fairly emotionally robust right now I’m thinking I might shake things up a little bit next year and change realistic to risk-taking. I don’t know what I’ll do yet, but it might be something to do with exercise! Any ideas?
Personal Goal Setting and Evaluation
As I’ve mentioned I haven’t been fully successful with my goals this year, (so far) but I don’t mind too much. Actually, that’s not quite true. I do mind as if I set a goal I like to achieve it. Being positive though, the process of working towards my goals has been worthwhile in itself. It is useful for me to reflect why I haven’t always completed my goals in a timely manner as then I can regroup and consider if I need to ‘up my game’ or can ‘cut myself some slack.’ I can definitely say I’ve made substantial progess towards meeting my goals but is that a cop out? I’m not sure. I view goal setting as a tool to help me live with purpose and direction and I see goal setting as a continuous part of life so do think it is worthwhile doing.
I do understand the counter viewpoint and know that some people avoid ‘goal setting’ with a barge pole as they simply feel too much a ‘failure’ if a goal isn’t met. That’s fair enough, but I couldn’t survive without my goals. I kind of do understand that but if the tool is used well then it is maybe time to consider if it is a ‘good goal’ in the first place. If it is then the failure to meet it might need a little more thought and action. Anyway, I can feel quite pleased today’s goal of reflecting on goal setting is almost completed. I knew this blog was useful for something!! Are you a goal setter? If so what kind of goals do you like to set?
How you Know your Middle-Aged!
A Steady Middle-Age
I haven't had much to blog about lately as October has been a fairly steady month. and I've felt pretty ordinary and dare I say, middle-aged. I've corrected myself when using middle-aged derogatively but ... life has been pleasant but uneventful. I've been back in the UK for most of it, hanging out with my oldies, trying not to visit Betsy who is settling into university in York too often and refraining from texting her and Annie (in Spain) more than five or six times a day. The hiighlight for my middle-aged existence has been having my lovely Saint Mick of Thana here for half term. He had a great time but I think was a little perturbed at the large list of middle-aged 'jobs' that I had lined up for him. (No expat life of maids and helpers back in the UK!). He even managed to find time to get new LED lights fitted to ‘our’ old Land Rover Defender while he was here so that “you won’t have to drive home from visiting Betsy with poor lights!” Hmm.
We've been getting a kitchen makeover completed so there were trips to the local dump along with the regular grass cutting, and other 'boy jobs'. for Mick to do. Yes, I know that is sexist. but nevertheless the tasks needed completing. (It is probably fair to say that my whole family hate my lists of jobs, but it has never stopped me writng them!)
Anyway, the Howdens kitchen is finally finished and looks great. (I should thank Terry McKitten the best joiner in England, Martin Barr, a wonderful electrician (so good that I have now got him working in the bathroom!) and Ann Clement and Matteo Hilldrith for a lovely kitchen design..) As the final piece of flooring was laid and the dishwasher started its first cycle, my level of excitement at a job well done made me think the term middle-aged really did apply to me. I'm not so sure young people get as excited as I did by new splashbacks! Not to worry I'm middle-aged and proud!
Anyway, what with one thing and another I've started thinking a bit more about being middle aged and have realised there are other middle-aged give-aways too! Do they apply to you?
They are not the best pics but before and after along with the reluctant kitchen model Terry!
Coping with Empty Nesting Anxiety
I posted last week about viewing the whole experience of being an Empty Nester in a positive light using Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice for my examples.. I joked about trying to not over parent and leave the munchkins to spread their wings in peace. Like many things it is much easier to say something than actually follow through and this week I’ve come remarkably close to overstepping the mark several times! I can only thank my kids for their levels of tolerance of my constant urge to over-parent.
I’ve noticed that whilst things are going super well with the girls, I can ‘play it cool’ and stay reasonably detached, but when there is even the teeniest glimmer of any problem (however small) I am suddenly there, offering unsolicited advice, suggesting ways of fixing things, judging and generally being an all round pain in the neck!
To be serious, any desire to over parent at this time does stem from real worry about whether the kids are doing ok as it is quite likely that they will feel at least a little bit homesick and have their own ‘stuff’ going on. The irony is that in trying to help it is easy to exacerbate this. A worry (another!) is that I don’t want the girls to ‘not tell me’ things about their life because of how I respond. I’m also concerned that they have both inherited, to some extent at least, the ‘Flint worry gene’ and that this creates problems for them in their own life! This is definitely not good! If only I could go back in time and learn earlier about role-modelling. Of course I can’t, but it is never too late to try to improve. I am therefore determined to put proper strategies in place to cope with Empty Nesting anxiety. This is what I have come up with: