Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Student + ??? = Adult

In the Western world, we learn so much between the ages of 18 and 21. Whether we go to university, get our first full-time job, or begin chasing our dreams in earnest, these years are usually our first steps into true independence. We go food shopping for ourselves, go all out when it comes to parties, go halfway round the world on journeys of self-discovery. Parents and schoolwork are no longer around to define us, so we have to find out who we are for ourselves.

The flip side of that, of course, is that no one can tell us what to do; and we exploit that to the full. The number of people I know who blew most of their student maintenance loan during freshers' week is pretty staggering - I mean if we're going to be in debt anyway, why not have some fun along the way?

In my experience, this ideology of excess pervades student life on many levels:
I've only got one lecture today, I'll skip it and binge season 7 of RuPaul's Drag Race.
Let's unlock everything in Mario Kart Double Dash, and drink every time we hit a banana!
What? We ate all this week's biscuits while watching fail videos on YouTube?

Those examples are only partly true, but you get the idea.

The milestones of 18 and 21 are supposed to mark the beginning and end of our final transition into adulthood. However, there are some obstacles that even those years cannot teach. Friends of mine in their mid-to-late twenties have overcome them, and I think it is these hurdles that truly separate the adults from the big kids. I don't know if I've identified them all yet, but the one I'm focussing on here is 'moderation'.

The reason this skill is hard to learn stems from the 'no one can tell us what to do' attitude of the average first-year student. Doing things in excess is fun, feels fulfilling (at the time at least), and is made easier by the newfound freedom of our surroundings. Why shouldn't we marathon American Gods when Amazon Prime has a free trial for students? And if uni won't punish us for not turning up to lectures, why should we prioritise them over going out and drinking every night?

I should point out that I have never been that kind of student - I can count the number of contact hours I've missed on one hand. But I still rebel against moderation. The longer a D&D game is, and the more snacks I can eat during the game, the better. And if I'm going to hang out with friends at a house party, then I'm going to do it until we're kicked out!

But adults have responsibilities. They need to be awake enough to do their job, so they can still pay rent. They don't have the safety net of student loans or schedules; don't have the time to play Overwatch for 5 hours at a time. As a graduand, I'm beginning to realise that moderation forces itself on us all eventually, so the adult world can function normally.

I'm not looking forward to leaving the excess of freedom behind, but I know there are things I won't miss about it: hangovers, for a start. The feeling of uselessness when you realise that looking for easter eggs in Cars 2 isn't as productive as it sounded three hours ago. I look forward to moderation, to actively making time for the things that really give me joy, that really matter.

After all, being an adult can't be that bad...

Can it?

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Podcasts Are Awesome - And More Important than Ever.

Is it just me, or do you really hate the internet sometimes?

Don't get me wrong, I don't know what I'd do without it. I organise my life on Facebook, I stream 90% of my music through Spotify, and of course no internet means no Overwatch!

But I'm sure you've had some not-so-great experiences: You finish reading an interesting article, whether it be Buzzfeed, the Onion or something a little more high-brow, and you decide to have a look at the comments section. Surely your peers will have some enlightening comments on what you've just read?

No? Just people yelling at each other? Penning essays of drivel with no evidence to back up your point, just to one-up this stranger who's rubbed you up the wrong way? Ah well...

Okay, this doesn't happen all the time, but it seems that intelligent discourse on the web is getting harder and harder to find. This is why I love podcasts. I'm sure most of you reading this already know and love the world of podcasts, and don't need any encouragement to enter this wonderful world. But for the rest of you, here's my case:

First of all, podcasts are free to anyone with an internet connection, something that few legitimate entertainment providers can claim these days. Download a good podcast app and you immediately have every single podcast out there at your fingertips.

Variety is another positive: hobbies, interests, genres - any corner of culture you can think of, there's probably a podcast for it. Want to explore Gilmore Girls in thematic detail? Then Gilmore Guys is the one for you. Are you a glutton for trivia? Well how about Tell Me Something I don't Know? Or maybe you're more of a storyteller, in which case I can heartily recommend horror-narrative podcast The Magnus Archives. You get the idea; the sky really is the limit.

Practically, they are a godsend - I don't like leaving my data on when I'm not using it, so I make sure there are a few podcasts downloaded on my phone before I leave the house. But my favourite thing about podcasts is the intelligence they bring to the internet. People who make podcasts, for the most part, are not those launching drivel after diatribe at others in the comments section. These are people who see the world for the complicated, fascinating place it is and, in their own small ways, attempt to show those complexities to the world at large. It's admirable, it's entertaining, and it's more important than ever in a world of fake news and sensationalist media.

Please give podcasts a go. You won't regret it.

As a starting point, here's a list of my current podcast subscriptions:

This American Life (Very well-researched magazine show)
The West Wing Weekly (An episode-by-episode look back on The West Wing)
Freakonomics Radio (Much more interesting than it sounds at first)
Welcome to Night Vale (A fictional radio show set in a mysterious desert town)
Answer Me This (A British classic, hilarious and informative)
Rusty Quill Gaming (D&D for your ears!)
My Dad Wrote a Porno (Exactly what it says on the tin - you will cringe and cry with laughter)
Song Exploder (Detailed analysis of modern music, really well made)
S-Town (An intriguing investigation into a mysterious death in small-town Alabama)