A sloppy and sentimental piece about the secrets and details of my life and a simple app on my phone. 

I love writing and on many occasions have started journals. Some I stick with for months, but all I eventually abandon. 

The half full pages tell stories, keep my darkest secrets, have poems and artwork. Yet they are always incomplete. 

Their partial tales give the skeleton of my life, rough details of my existence, so that the reader has just a sense of who I am and what I’ve been through.

Yet there is one journal that despite the years, I faithfully write down everything: the notes app on my phone.

I started taking notes when I was about 15 and discovered how efficient it was so I didn’t have to carry a notebook at all times. 

The notes originally started as homework for school, or important messages to pass along. 

Then my first stroke of creative genius: recording the outrageous quotes of my family. 

For anyone who hasn’t met my family, you’ve probably dodged a bullet. I adore them, but there’s a lot of personality and chaos crammed into one small family unit. 

My childhood home was filled with over the top stories, attempted jokes and the more one liners than anyone would be comfortable with. 

For years I diligently took note of these quotes, first from just my immediate family, then my extended family and soon enough my friends. 

My seventeen year old self was convinced that I would one day publish a book with these snippets of conversation, as recorded without context and immortalised through the notes app. 

When I moved out of home, the notes app became a practical place to write meal plans, grocery lists and passwords and important details. They were no longer filled with lively quotes, as my life became more dull.

Then I found myself sitting in a cafe in some foreign country with no notebook on hand, desperately needing to get my thoughts out of my head. So I started frantically typing. 

From then on, the emotional essays typed into notes become more common. 

Shopping lists, to do lists and the occasional idea to research dotted between emotional essay after essay.

The notes app once again recorded the details of my life, this time without the joy. 

The auto sync feature means these tales travel with me everywhere I go and I have years worth of thoughts available at the touch of my fingertips. No matter the device, the note will always eventually make its way to the folder on my phone.

One night this week at 3 in the morning, once more thee victim of insomnia, I decided to go through my notes.

There were over five hundred from a period on seven years.

As I read I was overjoyed by the ideas and memories that I had the foresight to preserve. 

Some were happy and light hearted, many were deeply emotional and some shone a light on the simple joys.

Library reference numbers, recorded in the notes made me want to explore the library and find the names of the books my past self was eager to read. 
The packing lists have made me reminisce on all the trips and moves that have shaped my existence. 

Nowadays I use notes for everything, they contain everything from the mundane to my most personal thoughts. 

The are minutes from working meetings, instructions on drafting changes.

So. Many. Grocery. Lists. 

There are notes from the books I’ve read, sometimes reviews or poignant thoughts, but mostly prose that deeply affected me, all carefully copied down so I wouldn’t forget it. 

There are lists of every imaginable kind.

There are the notes I frantically scribbled down in the middle of the night when struck with inspiration. 

There are half written essay paragraphs that have come to me in an intense moment of clarity. 

There are the dreams that I’ve recorded typed through weary eyes after being jolted awake. 

There are the notes. about my loved ones: a best friend’s favourite flower, gift ideas, important dates to remember to check up on someone. These might just be my favourite, because they’re not about me, but about the people who have shaped me.

Notes is the only place where I still dare to write poetry. 

These notes flesh out the details of my existence. From them you learn more about my OCD tendencies, my infatuation with literature, my need to always know more, and my penchant for snow peas, than any other piece of my writing.

These notes have captured the best and worst moments. The moments where I was sure that I would be successful, and more importantly, the moments I would certain that there should be no tomorrow. 

All so imperfectly captured with their typos, with the time and dates recorded forever. 

That night this week that I looked through my notes, I deleted so many of them. I thought that there was no need to record music playlists, favourite candles, meal plans or lists of book that I wanted to read. 

When I woke up I promptly rescued each and every single note from the recently deleted note, and they are once again safely contained in my notes app. 

A Perfectionist’s Musings

Productivity: the state or quality of being productive*

Objectively productivity is a good thing, it is what drives society, it is what allows things to get done. Productivity makes the world go around.

As the world transitioned into working from their homes not offices, the influx of of posts about productive WFH began. I cannot even begin to estimate how many times I saw some variation of that same post. There were lists, planner templates, tricks and tips, articles and even an essay or two that somehow made their way to me.

That hyperproductive focused phase lasted about ten days. We all say that post about how if you didn’t find time to chase your dreams whilst being stuck at home it wasn’t being busy that stopped your from chasing them. Hell, I even launched this here site thanks in a large part to the hyperproductivity phase of quarantine.

Then the narrative quickly shifted and the rhetoric became that one shouldn’t be preoccupied by their productivity during this time, we are after all going through a global pandemic.

Whilst the anti-productivity movement seems to have kept its footing in the cultural discussion for longer, there’s something about it that just bothers me.

Sure, it’s a nice departure from the insufferable hustle culture vernacular
that has been so readily adopted in recent years.
Sure it’s a movement steeped in kindness to oneself and acceptance of
the emotional toll of the current situation.

But man oh man, does it bug me.

I’m not someone who is good at slowing down, I never have been. I remember the countless nights my father spent during my childhood trying to help me fall asleep. He tried every thing- no technology in the evenings, warm glasses of milk, bedtime stories, relaxation techniques. Hell, the man even downloaded every track of whale songs, white noise, rainforest sounds** and rain that iTunes had at the time.

It’s not just sleep that I have trouble with, the issue really is that somehow my self-worth and productivity have become inextricably linked.

Even now as I’m writing this, it’s hours past when I was supposed to go to bed, and I know that I have an enormous day of work ahead of me tomorrow, yet I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not doing enough.

I should have done more work.
I should be reading cases for my classes.
I have an essay that I should be editing.
I need to post more on my blog.

These thoughts run through my mind in perpetuity and if I’ve learnt anything from years (perhaps more like a decade) of sleepless nights, I know that if I don’t write them down and do something that makes me feel productive I’ll total three hours sleep for the fourth night in a row.

So how do I find balance? Where do these feeling stem from? Probably both great questions for a therapist, but alas the sleepless nights spent pondering these very issues have provided me some answers.

I won’t wax poetic about the value of schedules, time management and organisation here, but let me just say that if you share my perfectionist traits and need to be productive, having a system in place is indispensable. What that system may look like is a matter for another post, but just know that you need one.

Secondly, and something not enough people do, is to have a brain dump. A brain dump is essentially where you take all the thoughts in your head and put them on paper. It can take many forms- a list in you phone notes app, a scribble on a post it, a diary entry, or as was the case for me tonight, a blog post.

There is something magical about getting all the mish mash of thoughts in a permanent note so that they won’t occupy your mind.

Some say our of sight, out of mind. Personally, I say written in a neat list in order of decreasing urgency , out of mind. It’s got a ring to it, don’t you think?

Finally, and absolutely most importantly, learn acceptance. The same way that the anti-productivity movement is gentle to itself, and validates the feelings of its followers, I allow myself to be a productivity driven person.

I know myself, and I know that my fiercely determined (some may say stubborn, but in true Alex Betheras form I would argue with them) self is not likely to change. I enjoy having multiple balls in the air, I like to be busy. I strongly believe that being a highly committed individual makes me interesting and encourages me to fully embrace all of my different interests.

If I wasn’t predisposed to intrinsic motivation and hyperproductivity, I would have to give up some part of myself and my hobbies, and that is frankly not something I am willing to do. I couldn’t be an aspiring tax lawyer, lifestyle blogger, who loves art, photography and fashion and who spends her free time engaging with politics, whilst also trying to maintain a social life and give back to my community, if I was not will to spend a lot of late nights and early mornings chasing my dreams.

Being driven by productivity allows me to have it all. Maybe one day I’ll be ready to pursue just one or two interests, but for now the need to be productive allows me to embrace them all. Sure a proper night sleep now and then might be nice, but I wouldn’t trade my lifestyle for anything.

TLDR: a perfectionist, type A girl justifies her tendencies to base her value on her productivity, and is totally okay with it.

* There is nothing I hate more than when definitions use a different forms of the word that they are defining, but alas apparently not everyone is on the same page.

** I should note the irony of my dad trying to get me to listen to rainforest sounds given that both my childhood homes were largely surrounded by rainforests.

Note from the author: in the interest of full transparency this was originally written on the back of a piece of paper with a self-made productivity tacker.

Origin Story

I’ve been avidly reading blogs for the last decade or so of my life. I’ve always loved them as a form of artistic expression and how the authors can convey their perspective on a variety of topics, from the seemingly trivial things, to essays on the serious topics being debated in this day and age. Blogging to me has always been a uniquely captivating combination of photograph, style and prose that is unparalleled by all other mediums.

During my high school days I launched a blog or two that lasted a couple of weeks before I no longer wanted to commit the time and energy to generating content. I did however have a deep love for the angsty medium that was tumblr, and had a number of blogs on that site covering a number of topics that lasted through my teenage years.

I’d like to think of this reiteration of my foray into blogging, as not my sophomore attempt, but as my adult debut in the blogging sphere.

Like most people globally, I am currently at home due to COVID-19. As my part time jobs have had to close, I’ve suddenly found myself with more time on my hands than I’ve quite frankly ever had. I’m someone that is always on the go, with a multitude of responsibilities and activities requiring my attention. However, almost overnight my life shifted from being constantly busy, to spending the majority of my time confined within the walls of my house.

So I decided to do something I’ve always wanted to do, and follow my passions by launching this blog. The downtime from my regular life has also given me the time to pursue other personal projects that I hadn’t been able to fully dedicate myself to, so keep an eye out here for some updates coming very soon.

With all that said, I hope that each of you that have found your way onto my blog will continue to read and I hope that this quarantine period has given you the opportunity and inspiration to chase some of your dreams as well.