The third metric for success

Reviews

In the summer I always go through a non-fiction phase. I’m easy to spot at the beach: amidst a crowd of tan-hungry, light readers holding paperbacks adorned in bright illustrations and catchy titles, I’m the one holding a book with someone’s face on it and a one-word serious heading to top the cake. And I don’t budge from under the umbrella.

So this summer, I let my teeth sink into Arianna Huffington’s Thrive, which had me nodding at various points while reading it. In fact, I ended up underlining so many bits from the book that it ended up becoming a central part of my conversations with friends as I’d whip out my Kindle to quote this and that. The premise of the book is simple: Huffington questions our present-day definition of success — it can’t just be measured in terms of money and power. She claims that there is a need for a third metric for success, which consists of four pillars: well being, wisdom, wonder and giving. She divides the book accordingly and dives into each of those sections and explores the extent of contribution each makes to making individuals more fulfilled and able to succeed.


Being connected in a shallow way to the entire world can prevent us from being deeply connected to those closest to us — including ourselves.

– From Arianna Huffington’s “Thrive”


She peppers the book with great quotes from artists, philosophers, poets and many more and substantiates many of her points with her own experience and with established literature. As such, each of the four sections is broken down to smaller sub-sections that are frequently broken up by interspersed quotes that link to the writing. Though I found most of the quotes great, this kind of disjointed reading made for an awkward reading experience; I often felt like I was reading a series of articles stringed together rather than a cohesive whole.

Huffington goes into great length in discussing technology and our dependence on technology, and in fact extols technological detox — a point that reverberated well with me. Paradoxically though she claims that sometimes the help we need to get away from technology comes from technology, and proceeds to give a list of top apps that help remind us to disconnect an X amount of time per day. This kind of digested, watered down writing, of lists and quotes only helped draw my attention to the fact that this is a format familiar to me from extended online reading. I expect a bit more from a book; if I’ve picked it up to read, it doesn’t have to be broken down into smaller bytes to get a point across. I can handle it, thanks.


 Ours is a generation bloated with information and starved for wisdom.

– From Arianna Huffington’s “Thrive”


Despite these minor quirks, the book is quite reflective in its tone, and this is what I liked best because it also invites the reader to self-reflect. The anecdotal stories help to ring truth to her points and illuminates a more personal Huffington, whose name has almost become a metonymy for success. The stories also make what she’s saying easily relatable to any reader. There is much to digest in this short book, and a great list of follow-up reading provided in the extensive bibliography, and this is purposeful. “Whatever you entry point is — embrace it” she writes in the epilogue. And if there’s one thing certain, it’s that everyone can find an entry point in this book. If anything, it will provide you with great quotable material and an involuntary self-evaluation that may or may not end up changing how you live your life.

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Leash not included

Commentary

Yesterday, after a day of trying to get to grips with the idea that I wasn’t going to have a pet after all, I called the vet to settle the bill for her treatment. He charged us less than I had anticipated, and I appreciated this a lot. We arranged for me to stop by on Tuesday to pay the balance.

As luck would have it, my boyfriend got off work earlier than usual, which happens once every — no, wait, that never happens. And so when I came home we decided to pay a visit to the vet after all. I was set on asking him to keep a look out for me for any potential puppies and let me know. He recommended a local organization’s website that he worked with, and I added that to my list of potential dog resources. By that point, I had realized that the chances of putting myself through that process of selection were very very slim. So bill settled, we left the clinic just as a young couple with their 4-year-old daughter walked in. I felt sad, but not as devastated as I had initially suspected.

As we were getting in the car, the vet comes out and calls us in. “There’s something here that I think will interest you,” he said laconically.

And we walked in to this:

Image

It was a male puppy that had wandered into this family’s yard, but they couldn’t keep it because they already had a labrador. They figured their vet might have an idea as to what to do with it, and here comes our cue. It was too fluffy and hairy for my taste. It was a little boy and I’ve only ever had girls. It was absolutely not what I imagined I would ever want, but I fell in love with him in an instant. It was as though that serendipitous meeting was meant to happen. We both readily accepted him into our arms and into our home.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I present you Teddy Mercury. In this episode, Teddy Mercury meets a ball for the first time. Stay tuned for more adventures!

One girl, six cups of espresso

Commentary

Recently I’ve taken on the role of espresso queen. I must say that I’m failing at all of my imaginary duties including managing to make the aforementioned coffee with even nominal success. But true to my nature, I refuse to let up, give in, raise the white flag or quite plainly to revert back to dear old poisonous Nescafé.

My coffee snobbishness set in on a cool Saturday morning when we visited two of our friends for brunch. I’ve been on a no-milk-whatsoever diet for the better part of this year, so at the absence of a milk substitute, I opted for a water diluted espresso, what I later discovered in my utter naivety is called a luongo. I was worried that drinking it would be a true struggle, mostly in my attempt to hide its underlying bitterness.

I knew as much from an early college mishap that happened to me days into my arrival on campus in a middle-of-nowhere town, PA. This was long before Starbucks was a language we spoke fluently on the island, so naturally all of the hot beverages sounded excitingly foreign to my tongue; so much so, that I made a pact to try each drink individually before deciding on my personal favorite (a thorough experiment, I’m sure you’d agree). Propped behing a long, patient line of caffeine-starved students, I eyed caramel macchiatos, chai lattes, cappuccinos — unable to name them at the time, of course. As I neared the register, I still hadn’t made up my mind on what to order, so under pressure to play my one-act role as customer I stated that I’d like an espresso. I kept hearing this word everywhere. I waited for a good five minutes and watched as my peers walked off with deliciously decadent calorific drinks before my own drink was called up. To my complete surprise (but surely, not to your own dear urbane readers) I was handed a tiny cup of scalding espresso. So great was my shock and embarrassment — mostly to myself, because I had higher, taller, expectations for my drink — that I sipped a bit to prove that this is what I had wanted all along. Naturally, no one was paying me much mind. The bitterness hit me like a brick to the head, and I proceeded to dispensing buckets of sugar in the tiny container, going through the motions of a person who knows what she’s doing with her coffee. As I carried my espresso steadily in my hand, I walked out of the building, found the nearest waste basket and trashed it. There was no way I would ever drink that shit ever again. Promptly after that experience, I settled on the Chai Latte as my staple.

But on that Saturday morning, when I asked if it would be too strong, my friend M— decried the myth that espresso is bitter. “Good espresso should never be bitter,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone. Yeah right, I thought. As I was served my coffee, I hesitantly took a first sip, only to realize, to my complete astonishment that it was quite certainly the best coffee I had ever drunk. So rich, so smooth, so easy to down in a gulp, were it not for its hot temperature. I was a changed person.

Soon after, on my birthday to be precise, I went to a local shop to buy filter coffee and on a whim decided to buy an espresso kettle. Completely clueless on how one decides on a good kettle, I went by my aesthetic instinct: a blue that matched my kitchen. As I pulled out my wallet to pay, the man behind the counter offered to treat me to an espresso. Feeling like quite the connoisseur, I indulged, though memories of the earlier incident burned fresh on my palate. Still, I summoned the courage to drink it in almost a shot, completely on the go, Italian-style, before I got my paper bag and left. It was bitter; thank God I had spearmint gum.

The very next morning I decided to try out my skills at espresso making. How difficult is it, you ask. It’s a lot more than I had anticipated. For starters, the first hiccup to my coffee was the very fact that I had bought a much larger kettle than necessary. This resulted in a total of six cups of espresso, even when I was the only one drinking. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but after the whole packet of coffee I bought ran out in a week, I started being thrifty with the measurements. And here appears the next problem: I could never get the water quantity and the coffee quantity just right: it was either too weak or too bitter, and the amount of coffee I made was always at least for three or four cups. My boyfriend started drinking shots of espresso, convincing himself that it’s good coffee after all; I started putting two or three shots in my morning Americano. At some point weeks after this frantic, nonsensical denial, he turned to me and said, “This tastes like shit.” I could only concur.

About two weeks ago, I managed to get a smaller kettle and you’d think that my espresso worries have been assuaged. Far from it I’m now faced with a new daunting challenge: half the times I make my espresso, it tastes strongly of soap. No matter how much I rinse it, the taste won’t easily go away. The first time it happened, appalled, I rinsed it down the drain and brewed another coffee in the six-cup kettle. The second time it happened, I drank about a fifth of it before quitting. The third time it happened, I downed half my latte. Naturally, there’s a part of me (the more rational me) wondering: Is this the price I have to pay to convince myself that I’m drinking good coffee? Isn’t it about time I whip out the old Nescafé and enjoy a frappé like a decent human being in need of a caffeine fix?

We’ll see.

The linear ever after

Rants

The second sex, may by no means be the weaker one, according to Simone de Beauvoir, but according to Cypriot culture, it’s the one whose life has already been pre-determined. You don’t need to look into the remnants of coffee stained cups or the palm of your hand ladies, your life is spelled out for you the moment you are born without that golden member. Your life is an equation of sums and losses that all equate your perfect, charming quotidien into a meagre sense of achievement.

And here is your cue to say “Thank you”, whispers your grandmother.

My problem with this, is that increasingly, I’m not just hearing about this happily-ever-after from my grandma, whose old fashioned take on life can best be taken as quaint and romantic, if not blatantly ignorant. No, increasingly, I’m hearing this from my peers. I find it disappointing that in the 21st century, the majority of women my age cannot think beyond the domestic box of marital happiness. As 20-somethings, where is the thirst for new experiences? Where is the insatiable energy for learning and self-discovery? Why all this sudden rush to wear our bank installments round our neck with a sense of pride at our adulthood? Why do I feel more added pressure from the women my age, than from parents and extended family?

Of course, this is only exacerbated by the very fact that we are traversing across the very trying expanse of wedding season. I never used to hate weddings, but I do now.  Walking towards the bride and groom to offer my heartfelt congratulations I’m convinced the mixture of exhaustion and greed (after all, why invite 6,000 guests?) makes me a barely discernible figure as I near the couple’s stand; at most, I’m seen as a € sign. And the underlying logic that echoes from person to person leaves me nothing more than shocked: “It’s an investment, I go to their wedding, they come to mine”. So basically, what everyone is doing is circulating the same €50 around and around and around. A genuine gesture, indeed.

But what particularly got me today, was a rather indiscreet question as I was having my morning coffee and talking about canoeing. It cut through my sense of individuality quite sharply: “When are you going to have a baby?” And suddenly I felt the extra weight of expectation, the additional stress of not wanting to meet the standards predefined by apparently everyone in my circle. It makes me want to despise everything within the linear fairy tale that everyone seems to fool themselves into. A baby? I’m still a kid myself!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim to have the answer to a happy life. For some, marital bliss and everything that comes with it may be that which fulfills them. But leave some room for the odd ones out, will you? We can’t all fit into the cookie-cutter world of the predictable. Some of us might want to try going the other route and in all honesty, what’s it to you?

Where’s my mojo?

Commentary

So let’s make it clear. I’ve looked at all possible locations: behing the couch, in the fridge next to that tupperware that’s growing all sorts of fungus, in the far depths of my bag, in my tiny car, in my not-so-tiny wardrobe. Where has my mojo gone? Why has it abandoned me?

Or wait. Maybe I’m to blame. It might just be that the very high I was experiencing right about the beginning of 2012 has very cutely come back to bite me in the face. The feeling of I can do everything has quickly given way to: Is there anything I can do? The same person who read three books in the first week of the year, is now reading 10 words a day, claiming a whole page as a cause for celebration. That very same person walks around with dark circles under the eyes, despite a good 7-hour sleep. She’s shunned color and she continuously burns the food, but doesn’t mind eating it because she’s that hungry.

Is this person you too? Want to join forces in rediscovering our mojos? Listening for your suggestions, eagerly.

Get me the gear

Commentary

I was always the kid whoshowed up all red-eyed on the first day of school because of no sleep the night before. You can blame it on the stress of the first day, or the excitement of returning to routine, or downright weird, but it happened every single year. Now, on the more responsible end of classroom, my problem is mostly managing to wake up on the first day of school not sleep. But if there’s one thing that merits excitement at the beginning of the new school year, it’s nerdy supplies. And whenI say nerdy, I mean nerdy. 

These are some of my most coveted items for the new school year (take note, readers):

it's an achievement during the school year

*sigh*

Random Tuesday: Student talk

Random Tuesdays

One of the undeniable perks of being  a teacher is the vacation time, sure. But what happens during the remaining 9 months of marking and marking and marking? In a perfect world, marking wouldn’t really be as long and tedious as it actually is, because most of the essays would make sense. In reality, most are full of errors and malapropisms that offer a glimmer of hilarity to the whole ordeal.

This blog captures some of the great student gems found in writings. It’s quite amusing, if not frightening, what spellcheck lets you get away with.

Have you got any glaring examples of language misuse? Please share!

Random Tuesday: Stick it

Random Tuesdays

I’m a big fan of stickers. My collection includes the likes of Hello Kitty (a must), Godzilla (remember him?) and non-sensical Thai pop-ups that pronounce “me love you” (say what?). There’s nothing a little sticker can’t fix or spice up. Even something as everyday as the tube. I bring you this awesome blog which documents hilarious play-on-words for London Tube stops.

Text me

Commentary

My cellphone beeps quietly when an incoming message comes through. It’s so discreet that I often don’t even hear it, much to my relief, to be honest with you. On the rare occasions that I don’t have the radio playing in my car — I find it hard to resist the daily crap that local stations broadcastreligiously — I may catch the end of my jazzy ringtone (key word: rare). Sure, I have, at times, stupidly rummaged through my bag while driving in an attempt to pick up on time, for once. But since my bad hearing goes hand-in-hand with my clumsiness, I thought it prudent to invest in a set of headphones.

On the up side of this, I’m more alert to incoming calls whilst driving. On the downside, I’m also aware of incoming text messages, which I occasionally read at red lights. Recently, I’ve been getting quite a number of messages, all of them from sources unknown to me. Mercedes texts me on a regular basis, Audi R8 has added me as a contact recently, NRG is a devoted spammer, BMW X5 ditto. Can someone please tell me what ever happened to privacy? I don’t even know how or when these companies acquired my number, but surely there must be a breach of privacy here? Whenever I sign up for something, I always make it a point to tick the box that says Do not spam me or so help you God! So what gives spammers?

A reasonable person might point me to a simple solution: these spammers are not really offending anyone since they offer a toll-free number at the bottom of every text message that allows you to be taken off the illegitimate list of cell numbers. Sure, I’ve noticed it! It’s a toll-free number that is always busy. In fact, I’m even questioning its validity because I’ve tried to call it every single time I get another chance to enter a mega-competition-or-else. It’s just useless.

If companies are not respecting individual right to privacy, or even offering the chance to defend my right by ticking the much-coveted box, why isn’t there a no-call / no-text registry in Cyprus? If I get one more spam message in the middle of the night, I think I’m going to give up on my cellphone altogether. Or life.