Category Archives: Life

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

I Can’t Get No (Job) Satisfaction

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One day, many years ago, I came up with an ingenious thought experiment which is the true test of how much I’m enjoying a job.

It’s simple. I pose myself this question:

If I somehow had a magical button that would allow me to black out every day at the start of work, waking me up hours later once I’m finished, would I use it? Continue reading I Can’t Get No (Job) Satisfaction

Another Existential Crisis

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A few years ago now, not long after my birthday, I wrote a blog post that I was pretty proud of. It was entitled, “The Annual Existential Crisis (Birthday)” and was essentially how every year my birthday forces me to become introspective about my life and how I  usually don’t like the results.

In the three years since that post, I have worked 4 different jobs in 3 different countries. I have had the happiest period of my life yet really nothing about my situation has changed.

I’ve now arrived in another country and I’m looking for another job and all those horrible thoughts and feelings are swarming back to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been sitting around house-sitting for a few weeks and for the first time in a few years I’ve finally had a chance to sit down and think about…stuff. That’s the worst thing to think about.

Continue reading Another Existential Crisis

Modern Envy.

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Of all the characteristics of ordinary human nature envy is the most unfortunate; not only does the envious person wish to inflict misfortune and do so whenever he can with impunity, but he is also himself rendered unhappy by envy. Instead of deriving pleasure from what he has, he derives pain from what others have.
– Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

Envy. It takes us all at some point, usually when we’re at our weakest. Whenever I’m miserable or depressed, the sin rears it’s ugly head and poisons my mind. I have envied my friends, I have envied my family. It shames me to say it, yet it’s almost impossible to stop.

When we are children we are all envious creatures. We know little of the world or our own lives, we lack true empathy and are selfish beings. We look at the other children around us and see what they have and if we don’t have it, we want it. If another child has a new toy, we too need a new toy.

As children our envy stems somewhat from perceived injustices. Why should another child have something while we have nothing? How is that fair? Children can’t rationalise that another child getting a toy has very little to do with their own circumstances.

Growing into adulthood we don’t learn much, we are still prone to envy and jealousy and struggle with our feelings, we just find between ways to hide it from others. Continue reading Modern Envy.

Waiting For Next Season: The Pain of Being a Football Fan

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Like every generation of Englishman, I got into football at a young age. Each day I would go out onto the field outside my house with my friends. Friends – at that age – were easy to come by. Anybody that could kick a ball was a friend.

We’d throw down some t-shirts for goalposts. The unluckiest – weakest – child was forced to be the goalkeeper. Then the rest of us would pretend we were world class footballers until it was dark. Continue reading Waiting For Next Season: The Pain of Being a Football Fan

Santa Teacher

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Christmas was approaching. Excitement building. At first the children spoke in hushed whispers, but as the day came closer their voices grew louder. Eventually they were shouting in hysterics “Santa is coming! Santa is coming!”

I wrote about lying to children in my last post. Well the biggest lie of all is Santa. And as Christmas approached it was my biggest problem.

Pity. That’s what I feel for any white male who works in a Korean hagwon at Christmas. Why? Because there’s a very definite possibility that you will find yourself tasked with being Santa. In a school filled with Korean women, the white guy becomes Santa by default.

Continue reading Santa Teacher

Daniel Teacher’s House on the Moon

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The best thing about working with kids is that they’ll believe anything you say. To children, anybody over 5 years older than them is an adult. Somebody to be trusted. Somebody who tells no lies.

I love a good lie. Something I can really sink my teeth into. Literally. The first time I lied to the children, I said I’d eaten another child.

One student had left the school to go to America. I explained that he wasn’t in America, he was in my belly. I’d eaten him.

At this point in the lie, the reaction is different based on the child. Some automatically believe it to be true. Some want more details (“What part of him did you eat first?”) Some shout out loud that I’m a liar. Then they say that they’re going to call the police and I’m going to go to prison for lying. Everybody laughs aloud.

Continue reading Daniel Teacher’s House on the Moon