Sunday, January 01, 2006

2005 Review

Taken from here.

1. What did you do in 2005 that you've never done before?

Write a thesis - I'd never done that as an undergraduate, so my masters one was my first go (see q.8). And several other academic things too actually, like attending my first conference and doing my first undergraduate teaching last term, but I won't bore you with all the work stuff. More personal and interesting, I attended a friend's wedding - as in, one of my old school friends, Genny, not some older relative who I was going to with my parents etc. Oh, and I finally attended my first inter-college 'exchange dinner' - and ended up going to Exeter, New and Wolfson colleges last term (see q.17).

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I don't really do New Years' resolutions. Not because I don't need to, but because I wouldn't keep them anyway, and don't see much special about the New Year when it comes to self-improvement. I'm constantly telling myself to, for example, eat healthier and do more exercise, and usually failing… Hopefully it'll be one more year without taking up smoking, and thereby save me ever having to quit - does that count?

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No. Only marriage so far...

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully not, though I'm afraid my grans seem older and frailer every vacation.

5. What countries did you visit?

I went to Wales for the wedding (in Aberystwyth). That's it. I don't really travel much.

6. What would you like to have in 2006 that you lacked in 2005?

A girlfriend.

7. What date from 2005 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

As I said, I don't really do dates, so it generally takes something like 9/11 for me to remember... I'll certainly remember Genny's wedding, but would already struggle with the date (20-something June…). I suppose I might remember what I was doing on my birthday, but as that was only a couple of days ago it doesn't count for much.

Probably best of all actually was the 25th of May, seeing Liverpool win the Champions League. I'm not old enough to remember the last time (1984), so even when we were 3-0 down at half-time I resisted the temptation to leave (like some other people), telling myself it could be another 20 years before we reached the final again. And as soon as we scored for 3-1 early in the second half I believed we could come back…

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting a distinction in my masters. I think I had a bit of a point to prove, as my supervisor has favourites and I'm not one of them. When I handed in my very first rough draft of chapter one, he told me he had serious concerns about whether it would pass - and he certainly took convincing before approving my PhD application. Although in the end my thesis still wasn't as good as I'd have liked, I put in a good performance in the exams and came away with a distinction overall which was particularly satisfying. And getting funding too - that's also quite an achievement, though it's a bit of a lottery really, and all I could do was perform as well as possible in my masters and hope. (Which was certainly a nerve-wracking wait through August).

9. What was your biggest failure?

Probably not being independent enough. Now I have proper funding - a decent-sized government maintenance grant - for my studies I'm not so financially reliant on my parents, but I still let them do quite a lot for me. I do tend to cook for myself when I go home, but don't always wash up after myself, and know that food 'magically' appears in the fridge/cupboards again… I suppose this is just one of those awkward transitional phases, where I haven't really quite left the nest, and I don't have a job to pay my parents rent, so it's hard to see alternatives when I go home to visit.

What I'm most ashamed about though is the trip to Aberystwyth for the wedding - my dad volunteered to book and pay for a B&B/hotel, and drive from Essex via Oxford to get there. In my defence, I had little money or time, since it was a week after my exams and my masters funding had run out; but even though I know my parents would both do all they can to help me, I must stop taking advantage of that and stand on my own feet a bit more.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

The usual few colds - at least one a term - but nothing serious, touch wood.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Well, I didn't have a lot of money, particularly over the summer (as I said in q.9) - I only got three-quarters funding for the second year of my masters, as that ended in June, so I had to make do from a couple of odd jobs over the summer until October and a new grant cheque (which, at the time, wasn't even guaranteed to come at all). Most of my money went on small things (see q.14), and I'd be hard-pressed to pick a best book or CD of the year, or even remember half the ones I did buy this year. Therefore though it's not particularly exciting, I'll pick what was probably my biggest purchase of the year - a new bike. After going a whole year on a 12 year old rusty mountain bike, which was probably easier to push up hill than ride, I'd promised myself a new one if I got my grant - so 1st October it felt pretty good, having been frugal all summer, to walk into the shop and splash out £150 again. Hopefully it'll last me as long as the old one, and I've been extra-careful about locking it now.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Tough one, I'll say Liverpool FC again - if you can call winning the Champions League 'behaviour' - I certainly celebrated it!

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

I don't think there was anyone that bad either. Well, no one I know personally anyway. I'll say wannabe famous Z-list celebrities and reality TV stars. I don't really pay attention to these nobodies, but their willingness to do anything to get on TV or in the newspapers is depressing.

14. Where did most of your money go?

The usual boring things - rent, food and most of the disposable income on books, CDs and the occasional night out down the pub.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Nothing really. Perhaps the Champions League final.

16. What song will always remind you of 2005?

I don't generally associate any of my music too much with particular people, places, times or events, because even while I might have been listening to something at one particular time that won't be the only time. Therefore it's often big commercial hits, especially during the summer, that remind me of what I was doing. I suppose hits of 2005 (for me) include Hard-Fi 'Hard to Beat' and Gorillaz 'Feel Good Inc'.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

- happier or sadder?
Probably slightly happier. I think uni life has definitely been better from the third year on, but last term (autumn 2005, the first of my PhD) is a strong candidate for best yet. It's amazing how much more freedom one has as a research student, compared to constant weekly classes, deadlines and essays. I was able to do a lot more socially, without the fear that other commitments would interfere with my work. Admittedly, this sense of freedom is probably short-lived, as I didn't actually write any of my thesis, but still it was a good term.

- richer or poorer?
Definitely richer. Even though my dad stopped the monthly allowance he had still been paying me up until the summer, PhD funding is about 50% more than what I had for my masters, so as long as I avoid extravagances I can actually afford to save a bit again. (Which is just as well, given it'll take me forever to earn 'real money', and even start worrying about paying off a mortgage or pension plan).

- thinner or fatter?
Maybe a bit fatter, but after putting on weight at some point early in university life, I think I've maintained a fairly steady weight around 13 stone. I said I needed to eat healthier and do more exercise though... I think the fat just clogs up my arteries rather than adding to my belly, for now - and it'll probably pile on too, as I get a bit older.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Relaxing, or doing any things that weren't work. I really wish I could find myself time for at least one day off a week, but term-time it just won't happen. Then again, I suppose it could if I worked solidly from 9-6 five or six days a week, I just prefer long lunches, coffee breaks when I feel like it, etc, and consequently find myself working all weekend too. Plus while I could procrastinate for England, I've never been very good at doing nothing either. Half the time I plan to take off, I find myself thinking I should be reading to make use of the time…

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Worrying. I'm also a born worrier. I've already gone a bit grey around the temples… And I don't even have that much to worry about (no family, job, mortgage, etc) at the moment - though the wait for funding confirmation in the summer was pretty stressful, there were two or three weeks were I was having serious discussions about money and contingency plans with my parents. (They both wanted me to do the PhD without funding, I'd have postponed/dropped-out).

20. How did you spend the holidays?

As in the Christmas holidays just gone, or all of them in 2005? It doesn't make a lot of difference, as I didn't get much in the way of real holiday time until the masters was over.

The Christmas 'break' 2004-start 05 was spent writing assessed coursework essays, and Easter finishing off my thesis (submitted late April). The summer, as I said, I was left rather 'in limbo' academically - waiting on both my results and funding decisions before knowing what I'd be doing in October. I was supposed to be studying (optimistically), but to make ends meet I ended up doing various jobs, including two weeks of market research and six weeks part time in the university offices as an office junior/data entry 'monkey' type role dealing with UCAS forms and incoming students. Thankfully I did also fit in a wedding, a couple of novels, some time at home, a bit of relaxation and *some* study, though not going away anywhere (unless you count the weekend in Aberystwyth or two weeks at home).

As for the holidays just gone (Christmas/New Year 2005), far more relaxing that the preceding term. I was going to a conference in London over the 16th and 17th of December so used that opportunity to go home on the train (since Oxford to Colchester has to go via London, I was half-way home). I saw my parents, grans and a couple of aunts I hadn't seen since summer, watched more TV than usual, read a couple of books I'd taken with me in preparation for next term, and a novel. Nothing special. Came back to Oxford on the 29th (despite snow), and celebrated the New Year (and my 24th birthday) quietly with a few friends over my place.

21. Did you fall in love in 2005?


22. How many one-night stands?


23. What was your favourite TV programme?

Hard to pick one, but as a flat we've become quite fond of Family Guy and American Dad now. And Scrubs when that was on, it was 2005 wasn't it? Also we're all quite attached to Lost, but I wouldn't call that a favourite as such, we're just addicted.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

No, there aren't many people I hate.

25. What was the best book you read?

Well, I read so many - almost entirely academic I'm afraid - that it's hard to say. Actually not many I get time to read cover to cover, normally I have to delve in to a chapter, read the bit I'm after, and put the rest aside. Thinking of ones I read entirely, Richard Vernon's 'Political Morality: A Theory of Liberal Democracy' seemed an interesting reconciliation of two idea(l)s, that I think should be on a few more undergrad reading lists, and one I read over Christmas: Karl Popper's 'The Open Society and its Enemies. Vol. 1: The Spell of Plato' caused me to re-think some of Plato's political theory. Novel-wise, there aren't so many contenders, but it's probably Luke Rhinehart's 'The Dice Man' as that was a bit different from what I'd normally read (academically or for pleasure) and did get me thinking as well as entertaining.

26. What was your favourite film of this year?

I watch films on television or DVD, but I don't think I've even been to the cinema this year, so it won't be a new one. I think I'll have to pass. I can't name a favourite of 2005, and my favourite of all time (that I've seen in the year) is a bit hard.

27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2005?

Predominantly black. And band t-shirts will never go out of fashion...

28. Whom do you miss?

I'm pretty used to not seeing various friends scattered all over the country by now. If I had to pick one person, I guess it'd be my former undergrad flatmate Mike, who's gone off to Taiwan for a couple of years to learn Chinese. We're still in touch by email, but it's odd not being able to meet up in person every couple of months.

29. Who was the best new person you met?

This shouldn't be too hard, with a new intake of students to both my college and department each October, but although I consequently met quite a few people none really stand out.

30. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2005.

Believe in yourself and have confidence.


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