“The Big Leather Chair”

What would be your Mastermind subject?

I was thinking about this in the shower the other day, as you do. And it occurred to me that I no longer have a subject that I can honestly say I specialise in.

The revelation made me genuinely sad. Have I let myself down?

mastermind_chairImage courtesy of bigissue.com

I don’t really specialise in anything any more – I just generalise, badly. It’s not the end of the world. I’ve managed to get through life so far. But over the last few days I’ve been asking myself the question – what exactly do I know?

It’s generally acknowledged that you’re supposed to know more things when you get older, right? But in reality while (some of us) become wiser, cold-hard-facts-knowledge is something we just end up forgetting. Life takes over and we stop practicing – getting on with daily life doesn’t leave an awful lot of time for knowledge pursuits. Not unless you’re doing it as part of your day job.

I’d say that my knowledge peaked at 22 and it’s all been drip dropping out like a leaky tap since.

Does part of us stop caring? I’d argue that most of us get to a point where we’re not trying to prove ourselves to the world anymore. You start to relax.

I was quite happy with this relaxing, until the other day in the shower. Now I’m worried – should I be learning more stuff?

You forget what it is like to learn. The confidence it brings. When I was at school, absorbing all that information was effortless. Natural. So much so that I took it for granted. But now as an adult, well – it’s a totally different, scary slog of a story.

Last week – before the shower – I was told that my punctuation is all over the place. At the age of 31 and owner of a Bachelor’s Degree in the English Language this bombshell was hugely shame inducing.

Handily, for some reason I’ve had the Penguin Guide to Punctuation in my bookcase for who knows how many years. So, I thought I’d spend ten minutes reading through that to refresh my ageing memory…

Eight days later, and I still have not grasped the functions on the comma. *At this point I will take the opportunity to apologise for the offensive and incorrect use of commas riddled throughout this blog post.

When the weekend arrived I was at my wits end. I thought I’d give my poor brain a break. Do some relaxing, something I am confident I am good at.

We walked into town. Loafed around the library. Got tired from all that hard work. Sat down in said library for a break. We looked up and realised the square outside was packed. Positively teeming with throngs of over-excited small children literally running, throwing themselves at whatever was going on.

I’ll tell you what was going on. Science.

The British Science Festival had come to town, and my word was it going down well.

Some children were blowing bubbles bigger than the London Eye.

Some children (and grown adults) were running barefoot through a bowl of custard – which held solid under the weight of those who ran quick enough.

But the biggest hitter – and most entertaining to watch – were the mini canisters which, when filled with two reactive elements, exploded.

The sheer glee on each child’s face as the canister propelled itself into the air as if by magic, and the rapt fascination as they were shown how this had happened was really was heart warming. And a little inspirational.

That thirst for knowledge is something I wish I had made more of an effort to hold on to.

But of course, it’s easy for kids. They have tons of time to dedicate to learning. They don’t have any worries about money, work or getting the washing done.

Perhaps the answer is to stop being so damn lazy. Just take up a hobby. REALLY take up a hobby. (Not just buying Kirstie Allsopp’s Craft book and leaving it there next to the TV.)

Because despite it being hard work – and I already have enough of that at actual work – learning new things really does make you feel better about yourself. Helps you feel as though you can go about the world with some confidence – even if you don’t want to take it over any more.

Being a specialist in something – no matter how trivial or obscure – is a small way of demonstrating to the world, and to yourself, that you’re still here. In a small, relaxed way.

So, I think after I’ve conquered commas I will release the inner child with me, and learn something. Perhaps I’ll start by taking out a science book from the library. Who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll be the one showing small children how to walk over custard.

And if John Humphrys invites me over to the big leather chair, I’ll have the confidence to say yes.

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