Using the word “just”

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I was making a cup of tea in the lunchroom, when a new member of staff walked in. A few months previous, a colleague had complained to me that people generally didn’t say hello to each other when they passed in common areas. Since then, I’d made it a rule to try and say hello to people when seeing them, and try to make a little small talk.

This isn’t exactly something I relish, because generally I’m pretty awkward when it comes to socializing. I often have the tendency to say the wrong thing, or blurt out anything that comes to mind in an attempt to fill the silence as quickly as possible. That or I’ll laugh spontaneously as the nervous tension within me bubbles up. Today was no different.

The member of staff I was speaking to had only been at the organization since the previous week, so we started talking about her new role. She was an admin in one department and as it turned out, I was doing a similar role in my own department.

It was while talking about this that I put my foot in my mouth, “It sounds like we’re doing similar work, I’m just an admin too.”

Usually the conversation would have gone on from there, but this time was different. My colleague stopped me to call me out on my use of the word “just”. Immediately I saw my mistake. By using the word “just” I was diminishing myself and my role. That was bad enough. But by also making the comparison to my colleague and her role, I was disparaging her too.

My initial aim was to explain that we were doing similar work. But instead, by adding that one word “just” the message I sent across was, “We do similar work…and that work isn’t very important.”

When I realized what I’d actually said, I apologized and we ended up having a short discussion about negative self-talk.

Once I got back to my desk I had to immediately Google the use of the word “just”, only to be met with numerous articles about how the word can be diminishing when used.

“Could you just make me a cup of tea?” may sound like a mundane enough request, but at the same time it’s also saying the requested action isn’t really difficult. In that way it could also be sending the signal that it should be easy for the other person to do.

That doesn’t really matter when it comes to cups of tea, but could easily be annoying if asking a colleague at work, “Could you just write me a 200 page report and have it on my desk by tomorrow?” That word, “just” can change your request a lot.

I searched through my work emails and found the word “just” was a regular part of my vocabulary. I most often used it as a way to reduce the importance of my own actions or questions. “I’m just emailing you to ask for your help.” “I just recreated the entire website.”

In this day and age when we’re bombarded with emails daily, failing to respond is easy. I wonder if it’s even easier when you receive an email that is immediately diminished with the word “just”.

Am I reading into this too much? Possibly. But it’s interesting to me that I can be so unaware of my own negativity. That’s problematic.

This is potentially one of those mind blowing moments when you realize that everything you thought you knew about yourself is a lie. But I already knew I was pretty negative, so not really. However, it is kind of interesting to realize I was being negative when that wasn’t even my intention.

My main issue is that I can have these bad habits and not even realize them. That, is the power of negative self-talk. It blends seamlessly into all the other things we say to ourselves. So we can never understand why we suddenly feel bad, or are losing confidence in our abilities.

Even though the answer is obvious now: when you spend weeks telling people you’re “just an admin” or just an anything (“just a mom” was my colleagues pet peeve), eventually you’re going to start feeling worthless.

It’s amazing how one small word can have so much power. But at the same time, I know I have the power to cease using it.

After all, the word “just” is just a word.

Alexa, Write Me A Humourous Blog Post

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Remember 5 years ago when Apple released Siri and everybody thought it was amazing?

For 2 minutes.

Which was the time it took to realise that Siri:

a/ Didn’t understand what the hell you were saying half the time.
b/ Was embarrassing to use in public. “Siri, is my mole cancerous?” Continue reading Alexa, Write Me A Humourous Blog Post

Am I Anti-Opinion?

When I haven’t written anything for my blog in a while, I start to wonder what’s stopping me. Sometimes it’s a lack of inspiration, other times a lack of motivation. Often I’ve fallen out of my routine.

Since moving to America, I’ve had a lot going on in my life to think about (and so, a lot to write about.) But still, I’ve found I’d prefer to do other things.

Much of my writing is about my perspective or my experiences. My opinions. But upon moving to America, that’s something I’ve found myself overwhelmed with.

I’ve become tired of opinions.

For anybody thinking of moving here, a piece of advice: don’t move in an election year. You will be bombarded by opinions.

I think this. She thinks that. We think something. They think something else.

You’re wrong. He’s wrong. Everybody is wrong.

You can’t turn on the TV without seeing something foaming at the mouth, shouting about some person or some thing.

Everywhere you look, people are arguing, angry about some topic.

It gets tiring.

I’m not above it either. I find myself drawn into arguments from time to time, as we all do. Feeling a surge of outrage as somebody says something I disagree with, thinking, “I’ll show them how wrong they are.”

I think we can somehow fool ourselves into believing we’re doing something worthy when we argue with others. Like we’ll help them see the light.

When mostly all we want to do is prove them wrong and feel good about ourselves. Often it’s a waste of oxygen. We are all so narrow-minded that rarely do even the most civil discussions lead to useful conclusions.

So mostly I’ve tried to avoid arguments, discussions and whatever else you’d like to call them. If somebody says something I disagree with, I’ll take a breath and just ask myself, “Why bother? I’ll just get frustrated with myself and all that will do is make me feel upset and nothing else.”

Part of me wishes to say that this is purely an American thing. Often it feels like opinion is more important than fact here.

But I’m sure the UK has similar issues  at the moment. These last few years have been especially divisive in the UK and America. Many of us are divided by our opinions. There’s a lot to argue about.

I find it a bit disheartening. I don’t think the world is as black and white as we often want it to be. A person isn’t all bad because they have an opinion we disagree with. We’re all complex in our beliefs, but that’s often the last thing we’ll consider.

I suppose my main issue is that I believe it’s better to find common ground with others, rather than to focus on what divides us. Nothing good comes from division. It’s probably better to bond with a person over your shared love of football than it is to argue with them over their political beliefs that will never change.

I’m starting to sound a bit idealistic and possibly naive. I do think that we should challenge our beliefs and the extreme beliefs of others.

But I don’t necessarily think that our entire lives need to be devoted to our opinions. Which is how it can often feel.

Anyway, what does this have to do with my blog? (And yes, I get the irony of this opinion piece being a direct attack on opinions.)

I guess I’m often just too tired to write about what I think and feel, when I’m surrounded by what others think and feel a lot of the time. My energy for writing has been drained by an atmosphere of constant opinion and outrage.

To sum it up:

I can’t be arsed with opinion.

On Goals and Life Problems

It’s been almost three months since my last blog post.

I’ve been feeling uninspired. Low on energy. Lacking the motivation to write.

A voice in my head speaks:

Uh oh. I know what that means. You’re not doing too good, Dan.

I agree.

Moving to America has (and continues to be) one of the biggest challenges of my life. I thought it would be easy. But I overestimated my resilience to tough situations.

While I was back home in England, I was pretty miserable. Working a job I hated – nothing meaningful on the horizon. I turned 30 and realised more than ever that I was years behind my peers in terms of wealth, status and generally sorting my life out. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been waiting for years for my life to actually start.

When you’re in this position, it’s easy to fall into a trap.

We focus on a goal in our future and we believe it will unlock every problem in our life: Continue reading On Goals and Life Problems

Living with 5 Cats, 2 Dogs, 1 Bird, 8 Fish and 4 Humans


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Since I moved to America a few months ago, I’ve been unable to work. It takes months for a work visa to be processed and in that time I can’t leave the country, or do much of anything really. To save on costs, my wife and I have been living with her parents and brother.

It doesn’t matter as much as you’d think. Most houses in America are huge in comparison to the UK. Living with other people isn’t a problem. If you need some time alone you can sulk off to your own wing of the house and pretend that nobody is there with you.

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Ninja cat lies in wait to scare the crap out of me.

When it becomes a problem, is when you also have enough animals in the house to open a petting zoo. My wife’s family seems to collect animals like most people collect useless kitchen appliances. Instead of an ice cream maker they’ll only use twice, they get a new cat. Instead of a popcorn machine, a dog. When you have as many cats as they do, it probably seems like something you buy regularly. “Hey, don’t forget to stop by the store on the way home and get a new cat!” “Cat food. You mean cat food, right?” “No no, I mean a cat.” Continue reading Living with 5 Cats, 2 Dogs, 1 Bird, 8 Fish and 4 Humans

Adjusting to Life in America

Before leaving for a new life in America, I believed that moving here would be easy. Over the last two months I’ve found the adjustment to be anything but.

Numerous people back home told me how envious they were about my moving to America. To them, the idea of living in the USA reminds them of past holidays. Great food, good weather, good beer, cheap shopping. No worries. Continue reading Adjusting to Life in America

Children, Marriage and Saying “I Love You”

I can’t remember when it happened, but at some point in the past I settled on a few beliefs and values and they’ve stuck ever since. I think most people are like this, we hold an opinion about something and we never want to waver from it. The longer we hold that opinion, the less it becomes an opinion and the more it becomes a part of us. That belief makes us us. We can never waver from that opinion, otherwise it’ll put our entire identity into disrepute. Continue reading Children, Marriage and Saying “I Love You”

Random thoughts on life and travel.