liv: cup of tea with text from HHGttG (teeeeea)
[personal profile] liv
This comes from an access-locked post, a set of five quite interesting questions, so I thought I'd pass it on as the questions themselves are not original to the OP, and I'm not betraying any secrets by propagating the meme.

Apparently some newspaper claimed these are five questions people regret not asking their loved ones before they die. I'm not convinced by this, a lot of these deathbed regret things are just glurge and a way to make something sound profound, but anyway, they are interesting questions regardless of that. So, here we go:

  1. What is your greatest regret?
    Well. That's a big one to start with! I've never actually said this anywhere public before, in fact I've been reluctant to mention it even to people I'm close to, but self-disclosure leads to interesting blogs, so, here goes: when I was a student I cheated on someone I was in a monogamous relationship with. It was a one-off incident, it didn't really have too many bad consequences, as I pretty much straight afterwards confessed it to my then partner who very generously forgave me. And I'm still friends with the people I cheated with and indeed it didn't really affect our relationship very much, so I was really really lucky.

    I'm really ashamed of it, anyway, cos I basically deliberately hurt someone I loved, and not for any particular reason, just let myself get into a situation which I should have seen coming and avoided. And even though my then partner was very understanding, it means I can never again think of myself as someone who would never do that. I actually don't think I will do it again, the reasons that got me into that situation aren't likely to come up and I now know better than to pretend to myself that it's ok to get physically intimate with people I really shouldn't be sexual with. But I really regret not just hurting someone I cared about, but the loss of being able to promise anyone I'm involved with in future, I would never ever do that.

  2. What were your hopes and dreams as a child?
    I like this one! When I was really tiny, like too young to understand why this isn't exactly an option, I wanted to be able to change my physical sex at will. I'm not sure if I wanted a fluid gender or not, I phrased it to myself as wanting to be a boy some of the time but I didn't know the difference between "being a boy" and "having a penis". I think I (incorrectly) wanted to have a penis so that I would be a boy, rather than wanting the anatomy for its own sake, but it's hard to remember my muddled and almost pre-verbal thinking. I wasn't really able to express this usefully to anyone, but I remember wanting it very strongly, wishing and wishing for a fairy godmother to come along and give me this magical power (so maybe I was on some level aware that what I wanted wasn't possible, if I was thinking of it as magic rather than something that could happen). I definitely always wanted to be able to change back though, I never wanted to be a boy permanently.

    I always wanted to have long hair, and as soon as my parents stopped dictating my hairstyle, I grew my very short hair out and I've never looked back. I still feel really sad and not myself any time my hair gets trimmed to shorter than waist length. My siblings tease me for at some point expressing the idea that when I grew up I would grow a beard like my Daddy; I remember arguing that even if it isn't usual for girls to grow up to be people with beards, by the time I grew up "they" would have invented the technology for this to be possible. I still kind of have an image of myself with rather more facial and body hair than I have in reality, but even now that I do know of the appropriate technology it's not really something I want to pursue. I don't want to identify as or be perceived as male, and I don't want the kind of grief that I'd get for being a hairy, bearded woman, so it's no more than a minor wistfulness that I didn't achieve that part of my childhood dreams. I mean, I don't remove what body hair I do have, and I am actively pleased with the thin little whiskers around my mouth and on my chin, but I'm hardly being courageous in my self-expression by this choice given that my hair is so fair it's basically invisible. I am quite intrigued to see what will happen post-menopause and if this hair will thicken and darken, and if feeling more like my internal image of myself will be enough to outweigh the downside of not conforming to gendered beauty standards.

    The first career ambition I remember expressing was to be an academic (I said "maths professor" when I was five or so, but mainly because I didn't know the range of academic fields out there); basically I wanted to get paid for being good at maths and other school subjects, I didn't really know what a professor does other than that they're clever, and I thought of myself as clever. For much of my childhood I wanted to be a teacher; I did a lot of play-teaching my younger sibs, and then some actual volunteer teaching at Sunday school and peer teaching at youth camp. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to be a teacher as a job, but I did spend many years saying that I did, and I even had some thoughts about what specific kind of job (I was interested in junior school, the 8-12 age range). And later on I wanted to be a scientist, particularly a geneticist, mainly because I grew up in the era when DNA was the big exciting thing in popular science. As an adult I am very happy to have a job and some volunteer activities that involve lots of teaching, even though teacher isn't officially my title, and I am in fact an academic who gets money and kudos for being what my younger self would have called "clever", and I did in fact become a cell biologist who does research with quite a lot of genetics in it, which I didn't know about as a field until my late teens, but I was pretty close, I think.

    It's a negative one but I always wanted not to have children. For a long time I used to say I didn't want to get married or have sex either, and I was wrong about those two (I got a fair amount of teasing about it at my wedding, I can tell you). I think a lot of my not wanting those things was because of the childfree thing; certainly when I was tiny I thought that having children was more or less an inevitable consequence of growing up, and later on I was unclear that it was possible to get married and choose not to have children, and although I knew about contraception in theory I didn't really understand it as an option that would allow me to be sexually active without (substantial) risk of pregnancy. Also I had picked up the meme that it's wrong to have sex outside marriage, so much of my not wanting relationships was because I didn't want to have sex within marriage which might lead to children (even if not directly, I assumed that nobody would agree to an intentionally childfree marriage) and I didn't want to have sex outside marriage because that was in some way naughty. And part of not wanting to have relationships was that I wanted to focus on my career ambitions and I was afraid that relationships would be a distraction. So far I have made it to 36 without ever being pregnant, but my attitude to sex and relationships has shifted a lot since I was a kid.

  3. What would you like to see change in the world over the next ten years?
    This is such a huge question! I think if I had to pick one thing, and talking on a global scale, I would like to see a meaningful commitment by those who hold economic power to eliminating severe poverty, malnutrition and preventable disease. I mean, I don't know if it's possible on a ten-year timescale, but I have heard that there is in fact enough food and basic medicine to support the world population, and the main problem is distribution. I feel like if there were the political will this is a problem that could be solved, though I don't really know enough about the issues.

    There are lots of other things I want but they seem kind of fantasies rather than plausible world changes. I suspect it's too late to reverse climate change, though certainly I would be in favour of any steps that do happen in the next ten years to reduce pollution and move to sustainable / renewable energy. I would like everybody everywhere to stop being racist and xenophobic, and, you know, world peace would also be nice! But I have no idea what the path is from here to there, whereas I can imagine both a lessening of efforts to deliberately maintain global inequalities and the general exploitation of the majority of the world by rich countries, and an increase in efforts towards food distribution, medical and educational access. And I think all those things would probably mitigate against environmental catastrophe, racism and war even if they wouldn't entirely solve those problems.

  4. What was the most rebellious thing you did as a young person?
    Thing is, my rebellious period lasted from about aged two (when I said no to absolutely everything) to aged eight or so, with lots of violence and tantrums in between. I was very, very conventional and conformist and authority-pleasing as a teenager and pretty tame and law-abiding as a young adult, really. So when I was under eight there was a serious limit to how much I could in fact go against authority, how ever much I might have wanted to.

    I guess the most rebellious thing I did was cutting up the washing on the washing line around the age of four, because I wanted to play with scissors and I was curious to find out what would happen if I did something that was unquestionably deliberately disobedient in ways that couldn't be excused (as my parents were extremely fair about not punishing me for accidents or behaving in generally age-appropriate if annoying ways).

    Anyway since I've been old enough to have emotional regulation I can't think of anything I've done purely or mainly because it went against what adults or authorities or The Establishment wanted. I have done things that people disapprove of, though honestly not really much, but always because I found myself in disagreement with the people (potentially) judging me, not because I wanted to rebel or assert my idependence or anything like that.

  5. What can you remember about your first kiss?
    Compared to some of the others this seems like a rather trivial question. I can remember my first kiss extremely well; I was 19, coming to the end of my first year at university. I had spent a week having conversations with my best friend in which we started to realize that against any expectations we were somewhat mutually attracted. And that culminated in standing in the "late gate", the little door students could use to get in and out of my college after the porter's lodge closed, which my friend and I needed because we were as usual talking about everything under the sun and losing track of time. And we had just about come to the conclusion that we probably wanted to date, and kissing seemed appropriate for that.

    The actual physical act of kissing wasn't very exciting; indeed it turned out that the person who was to become my first boyfriend didn't really like French kissing very much, and I... even now I have to be in the right mood to appreciate it, I sort of wish it didn't hold this cultural role as the thing you do to move a connection to unambiguously sexual. But it was the start of a relationship which I never ever expected to happen (I was really unattractive for most of my teens, plus I was only just starting to understand romantic relationships as something I might want even if they were possible), so in that sense, memorable.


Anyway, I'm staying with [personal profile] angelofthenorth currently, and we had a lovely weekend of visiting beautiful places and eating tasty food, as we often do when we manage to overcome geography and spend time together. And I'm procrastinating from a big pile of marking by answering memes and navel-gazing.
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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