In our fourth episode, guests David Weinczok and Caroline Norton talk about escaping in nature, imposter syndrome and finding treasure (everywhere).
Originally from Canada, David (‘The Castle Hunter’), graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 2012 with a Master’s in International Relations. David is passionate about promoting Scotland’s rich history and currently works as a Digital Media Content Producer at National Museums Scotland. Alongside this, David is also an author (The History Behind Game of Thrones: The North Remembers, 2019), presenter, broadcaster and heritage consultant.
Caroline is a final year student in International Law and International Relations at the University of Edinburgh. During her studies, Caroline was the External Relations Manager and Team Mentor at FreshSight Ltd., as well as the Lead Consultant of a project.
As usual we start with an object, but in season five we celebrate hidden corners and unexpected connections. Subscribe now for University of Edinburgh community exploration and really good chat.
You can find more information on the Sharing things website.
Graphic images designed by Chris Behr. They are part of his Nice Things icon set.
Ayanda 0:06 Hello, howzit? Welcome to Sharing things. I'm Ayanda, your new host for season five. As usual, we've gathered to listen to conversations from members of our community. Let's go on a journey together while we discover the little things that connect us. In this episode, we hear from David Weinczok and Caroline Norton.
So we can just kind of start off by introducing ourselves. We can start off by David Caroline, and then we could just jump into the conversation. So David, tell us more about yourself.
David 0:44 Hi, thanks. Yeah, I am-- it feels, always feels funny saying I'm a historian because I still have that imposter syndrome. You know, I've done a degree I've been working in the field for years and yet I'm like, do I put pseudo in front of that? Do I put freelance? Let's just go with historian, I'll be bold today. And I primarily work with sort of early through High Medieval Scottish history, hence why I moved to Edinburgh, from Canada, very nearly 10 years ago now, coming up to my 10 year Scotland-aversary on the ninth of September. I currently work in the day job with the digital media department at National Museums Scotland and I've been a freelance writer for a number of years for various publications like The Scots Magazine, Scottish Banner or anything with Scottish/ Scotland in the title, and I'm probably there [laughs].
Ayanda 1:32 Nice, nice. Caroline, who are you?
Caroline 1:34 So I'm Caroline. I just graduated from Edinburgh and I did international law and international relations. And I'm sort of in that quintessential point where I have, I thought I'd have more answers. And I definitely have more questions. So I'm trying to figure that out. And I'm trying to position myself for my next chapter, you know, sort of in the best way I can. So it's been a summer of sort of self exploration and really just enjoying seeing family again, reading and yeah, chillin’ out.
Ayanda 2:12 It sounds really, really cool.
David 2:14 This is going way, way back now. We're talking, you know, nearly a decade, but I did international relations as well at the University of Edinburgh, of course. So yeah, I'd be really interested to hear what your experience was like and I'm assuming you've been working through Covid times-
Caroline 2:29 Yeah.
David 2:29 -and it's all been that much crazier than usual?
Caroline 2:32 Yeah, so I really enjoyed my time studying at Edinburgh. I added on international law in my second year, because I thought it sort of grounded sort of the more theory part of international relations. And it was something we had to take an international law class, and it was something that I did well, and I really enjoyed myself. So here's me thinking, I'm going to ground this theory based IR that I'm pursuing, and I end up doing all legal philosophy, and political theory [laughs]. So it didn't do exactly what I thought it was gonna do. But I enjoyed it. I think, as someone who wasn't originally thinking of doing anything like that, I sort of walked in was like, I'll pick whatever you know, and I'll just try to sort of be a sponge. And I think that has its pros and cons, because I didn't have a very sort of set path in what I was pursuing, and so I don't feel like I've graduated with this sort of niche, or even close to a niche skill set, if you will, you know, or even interest. And so I feel like that's difficult. But at the same time, I was able to sort of explore a lot. And so I'm hoping I mean, fingers crossed, I'd love to do a master's and I'm actually currently trying to apply to University of Toronto for the Munk School of Global Affairs. And sort of see where that goes.
David 3:50 And kudos as well, for you know, sort of acknowledging not being on a set path. I think set paths are overrated [laughter]. They can be good. I certainly didn't have one when I graduated.
Caroline 4:02 Yeah.
David 4:03 You know, it was a very, very meandering path where, you know, I wasn't even quite sure I wanted to be doing international relations. You know, like yourself, as you're very invested in the theory side of things, to the point where my dissertation wasn't particularly well received, because it was too theory based. And it was like, wait, this isn't talking about trade deals and missiles and all this. This is talking about social movements and you know, some [unintelligible] and this sort of thing, and I'm like...
Caroline 4:29 Yeah mine was social movements as well. My whole dissertation was, was the, the place of anger and protest and civil disobedience. So we're on the same, we're on the same wavelength here David [laughs].
David 4:40 Wow, yeah. You've probably had some amazing sort of insights of watching the unfolding of the media and especially on social media, just the way that anger is being channelled-
Caroline 4:51 Absolutely.
David 4:52 -both reductively and destructively.
Caroline 4:54 Yeah.
David 4:54 That's a fascinating subject.
Caroline 4:56 Oh my gosh, and I was so excited. I had this wonderful, wonderful dissertation supervisory and so I was-- I knew I was really into civil disobedience because especially in theory, you know, it's something that continuously comes up. And mine was specifically kind of BLM focused. But I also kind of looked at refugee crisis and all, and all these other things, but it was more theory based. It's the philosophy of emotion, which I didn't really know was a thing, to be honest, you know, and it's normally far more of a psych-- psychology sort of topic, but they, they do have this philosophy of emotion that gets very political very quickly. And it was just wonderful. The basically trying to legitimise anger as, as a really important way of expressing yourself.
David 5:40 It's interesting to see how, yeah, that that anger sort of evolved. In my-- my research touched on similar points, I suppose, but I was looking at the Occupy Movement. And what I was arguing was that it was an indication, and I said, it wouldn't necessarily be a successful movement, but it was an indication that there were cracks starting to develop in how more and more people were starting to see the world and starting to recognise the systemic and built-in injustices, and starting to just begin to challenge that, even just with-- whether they were in the streets, or whether they were just reading about it at home and going, hey, you know what, they might have kind of a point here. I was looking at this idea that, that sort of general awakening was possibly going to lead to some form of, you know, systemic reform, at the very least. And it was, shall we say, disheartening, I'll go with disheartening. What unfolded over the next half decade or so. But I think we're coming back around to a point where, you know, the research that you're doing is going to be incredibly relevant and we might just be coming to a point where we can hopefully count on some serious change, maybe powered by anger.
Caroline 6:55 Yeah. I think so.
Ayanda 6:55 Yeah, yeah. I think I'm quite curious as well to know. So you both went for international relations, but found yourself looking at the theory of how really, we could start to look at society differently and shape it differently. I'm quite curious to know, where's the motivation behind that, to feel that change needs to happen, what kind of feeds that drive in you?
David 7:22 I think it was a lot to do with emotion for me. I've always, you know, want to say always, going back to my earliest memories of childhood, just been an incredibly sensitive, very porous person. The things that happen in the world, I feel like are happening to me. Now, that can be very difficult to grapple with, you know, on a day-to-day basis. It can be overwhelming, and frankly, it often has been. But I think a lot of my desire to look at these sorts of issues came from this deep internal sense that I had that, you know, there's just there was something wrong out there, I couldn't quite put my finger on it. And I grew up, you know, admittedly, in a relatively privileged position where I was sheltered from, you know, a lot of, a lot of the worst of it, there's absolutely no doubt about that. But even just hearing about things happening in the world, and you know, growing up in a time, before social media, you know, there were still so many ways to find out, I'm quite thankful that I grew up before social media. I think I, you know, I don't know how well I would have fared if I had Twitter when I was 13. But it came from a desire to just channel that sense of, sort of hurt. And think about what I could do in just a small or large way to try to work against that. And it manifested in some funny ways, you know, I did get involved in, you know, various marches against the prorogation of Parliament, for instance, in Canada, when that happened back around 2009/2010, something like that. There was the funniest example, just because I was desperate to do something about anything. I joined the anti-idling campaign at the university I was at, at the time, which was York University, and I was like, don't idle your cars, it's polluting the world, don't you know it's just one simple little thing you can do to change it. So there were some funny, yeah, offshoots of that. And I think, ultimately, you know, that same sensitivity meant that I didn't end up going into politics as a profession, frankly, you know, I couldn't handle it. So I've sort of, I guess, stepped back from it in one sense, but it's still very much a part of my day to day life and experience.
Ayanda 9:44 Just kind of taking it back to your childhood, David, and also I think there's also links to the object that you brought with you today. So give us a bit of a snapshot as to what your object is and what it meant to you at the time.
David 10:01 Sure. So I've brought a book, which I've kind of felt like was cheating a little bit. So I brought a secret second object as well which ties in.
Ayanda 10:13 Ooh.
David 10:13 Yeah. But the book in this case, is a compilation of Calvin and Hobbes comics. If you're not familiar with Calvin and Hobbes, it was one of these comic strips that was a regular in newspapers, mostly in sort of, I think it was the late 80s through 90s for the most part, when it was most popular by cartoonist Jim Waterson. And it's a tale of this, this young boy, he's incredibly mischievous, much more mischievous than I ever was, I swear. And the trouble he gets into in these sort of domestic situations with his, you know, boring parents who want to, you know, instil order sense in to him, and he's just out there daydreaming, constantly getting caught up in these fantastical imaginary adventures alongside his tiger friend Hobbes. So in his mind, Hobbes is a real tiger, but an anthropomorphic tiger who speaks and is actually very philosophical and quite witty and wry and all that. And it's really just about the sometimes quite mundane adventures that they have and how they transform that mundanity into something special, which is something that I think I, I liked to do when I was a child, and I still do, but I also kind of had to, to a certain extent, as painted previously, by the idea that, you know, I'm very sort of, I call it porous. I get a tremendous amount from what's in my environment. And that could be good or bad. If I'm in an environment, which I feel is stifling, oppressive, boring, then I feel mired in that. If I'm in an environment which is stimulating, interesting, dynamic, then I get a charge off of that. So a big part of the reason why I moved to Edinburgh. And so I can recall many occasions where as a kid, you know, just to get away from day to day life, I would wander into, you know, a tiny sliver of woods wedged between these massive suburban, you know, blocks, because I grew up in Canada, around Toronto, and spent some time in Nova Scotia as well. And so a lot of the areas I grew up in were just, you know, miles and miles on end, for as far as you could see, it was just houses that all looked the exact same. And so I would find something like, you know, a tiny, tiny sliver of woods, it could be a quarter of a mile long, and I would turn it into Rivendale, you know, from Lord of the Rings and imagine battles with orcs and elves or, you know, get a snowdrift in the winter and dig a trench in it and then challenge all the world to come take me on and it never did [laughter]. Yeah, exactly the very much like Calvin in the comic strips, you know, I had like 500 snowballs ready to go, just in case anyone wanted to. So that's why I thought I would bring this along. Because, you know, sort of Calvin and Hobbes' experience in the comics very much mirrors sort of my own emotional journey, not just as a child, but also now in my early 30s.
Ayanda 13:22 And I guess my second question to that then would be how do you view the comics, the comics today? And how differently is that to when you first read them?
David 13:33 Inevitably, I now identify more with the dad character than I think, Calvin at this point [laughter]. Which is something I've never come to grips with over the last few years, like, oh wow that happened fast. But I like to think I've still retained some of that, that Calvin and in fact, I've named my dog Calvin, as well. So you know, I still keep that with me. He's a very, very lovely little cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Cocker Spaniel, got those big puppy dog eyes you just can't say no to. But how I relate to that now and this speaks to my experience in Scotland since I arrived, but particularly over the last nearly two years now is for various reasons, again, largely out of necessity and for mental health, trying to find sources of wonder in the same street that I've walked down 500 times, you know. So the particular strip that really resonated with me and the line that I sort of keep in my mind wherever I go, is Calvin in his backyard digging a hole which his dad later gets furious about, like, what are you doing? You're digging up the garden and Calvin's like, yeah it's an adventure, come on. That's, that's a good reason. And Hobbes comes over to Calvin, he's like, you know, why are you digging a hole? I'm looking for buried treasure and Hobbes is like, well, what have you got? And he's like, oh, I've got a few dirty rocks, I've got a weird root and some disgusting grubs. And then Hobbes is like, on your first try? [laughter]. Calvin says there's treasure everywhere, you know?
Ayanda 15:02 Yeah, that's so beautiful.
David 15:04 Isn't that great? If we just carried a little bit around of that, around with us, wouldn’t we all just be a little bit happy.
Caroline 15:10 Oh gosh, yeah.
Ayanda 15:11 I agree. I agree. And Caroline, do you have a childhood escape?
Caroline 15:18 That honestly, that whole sort of story, it resonates with me a lot, because I wasn't-- I'm an only child. So-- and I was born and raised in Switzerland. And so we were kind of, sort of pseudo countryside-ish, you know, we're not that far away from the [unintelligible] but like, far enough away, right. So it was still 30 minutes to get there. And I was totally like an adventure freak, like, I didn't have a phone until I moved to America, which says a lot about America. But yeah, I was sort of a very outdoorsy kind of person. And, you know, I used to have all these books about dragons and things like that. And I always think back about those, those experiences, because it was the same, I would go to my wood, I would go to-- I had this special tree, you know, and it was just the best, the biggest escape. I looked like I was gonna, you know, tackle the world in my backpack and all that, and it was literally a 20 minute walk away. But it was, it was beautiful. And yeah, and I had these books about dragons and all this cool stuff. There was this one book dragonology, and it like, catalogued all these different dragons and it told you about the scales and stuff. And so I made my own. And the funny thing is, I don't recall ever actually believing that those dragons were gonna come like, I never thought that it was real. But it was so precious anyway, you know, and it actually that ties into my object. So my Saint Christopher is my object and I'm not a Christian. So it's my relationship with it isn't really attached to the religious-- religiosity of it. But it's played a huge role in my life, since I got it when I was about eight. And again, it's not that I, I don't want to say believe, because I don't know if I believe or not believe. But it's not that I inherently think that this object is connected to any good or bad faith, right? But it's just something there. And it's so precious to have that kind of thing to, to appreciate, you know, and it's an escape and it's special. It's really, really precious.
David 17:26 Really interesting to hear you say, you know, sort of have an object which has certain connotations, you know, which people might yeah, make assumptions about, but then to say that, you know, you're not necessarily-- like with the dragons, you don't actually believe that they're going to swoop down at any moment. I have a very similar approach, you know, I'm atheistic, you know, I'm not, I wouldn't consider myself, you know, really a spiritual person in any way. And yet, I do these things, which I can't quite explain. For instance, probably the most powerful example of that is when I was in Orkney, in 2013. And I went to the Ring of Brodgar, this fantastic, massive ring of standing stones in this sort of natural Amphitheatre, you know, the landscape focusing in like a lens almost on this extraordinary place riddled with Neolithic ruins, and, you know, remnants from thousands and thousands of years ago. And I don't know why I did it, but I made a vow on one of the stones about something that was very important to me. And I can't go into it too much, but I didn't keep the vow. And in my mind, I know it's not true, but I'm convinced that what happened, you know, that situation was the result of me not keeping that vow with the standing stones. And I recently went back, and I went back to the Stone and I was like, right, you and I are going to sort this out [laughter]. And it was like, I wasn't, I wasn't expecting the stone to stand up and start talking to me. I wasn't expecting a voice to boom down from the heavens, but it was really important that I did it. I don't know why.
Caroline 19:17 Yeah. And I mean, I'm interested to hear what you think because when you say spirituality, you know, I would say like, I'm a spiritual person. But I see that very much grounded in the symbiotic relationship we have with nature, you know, and me coexisting with my natural environment. And I feel like kind of from what you're saying, you know, you like adventure you liked sort of finding these escapes in nature, and I mean, can that be a degree of spirituality? Would you appreciate it through that lens, or maybe not as much, I don't know?
David 19:50 I think I would. Some of the most serene moments where I felt just, not quite outwith myself, you know, in the sense of like an out of body experience or anything like that, but just a really deep sense of connection and feeling as though I wasn't, you know, sort of an interloper in a place, but a part of it, have been in, you know, for a sunset, have been, you know, sitting on top of a cliff, dangling my legs, you know, with ocean crashing down below that sort of thing. And I think that's a big part of the reason why I do what I do, I spend almost all my spare time that I can get away with, on my bike, cycling out to historic sites, and you know, all around Scotland. The most satisfying moments I've had in the 10 years in Scotland, obviously, there's parts of that to do with relationships, parts that to do with family, but the ones that sort of first flash in my mind, are those quiet moments where I'm just sitting off and alone and just thinking. How about you?
Caroline 20:52 Yeah, I mean, I think for me, spirituality is sort of acknowledging that I'm not maybe alone, you know, that there's, there's, there's more out there. And it's not just people. It's, like I said, it's my natural environment and there's a heart in that environment. And so, I mean, I would say that's pretty-- I mean, I have also, when I was younger, I kind of had an OCD situation. So I was very obsessive with routines and sort of superstition. And like, rubbing, you know, this thing and this thing. Yeah, so but then I found sort of coping mechanisms, and a lot of those coping mechanisms, were just sort of taking a step back and thinking, okay, I'm not alone in these aspects, not just the people I see every day, but also, this, this ground that I'm walking in, or this escape that I have, and to me, I feel like it sounds very sort of airy fairy. But to me, that's kind of the spirituality and just feeling a great, great comfort in the micro and the macro aspects of your life, you know, but I wouldn't say I've ever, the organised religion path, I tried by myself as a young person, my parents aren't very religious. And I tried, I tried different churches and things. But, no, there was always a question that couldn't be answered [laughs].
Ayanda 22:18 I'm quite interested to know, because you, you believe in spirituality and you do believe that you're, you're not alone, essentially. And as you said, not just amongst people, but just, you know, in so many different spheres as well. And I wonder what role does your, your object that you brought today play in that? To know that it does-- is it about that comfort, feeling that you're not alone?
Caroline 22:40 Yeah, I think it's representative of you know, it's not the, the object itself. And so I got the object because when I was eight, we were flying from Switzerland to our cottage in Canada. And on the first leg, there was an electrical fire in the cockpit. And so, you know, it was such a weird experience of, you know, the, I mean, it was a bad situation. And thankfully, sort of crucially, we were over land so we could, we could land. If not, it would have been a different situation. But, so it was this, you know, oxygen masks, everything's so dystopian and weird, like, and I remember it vividly. And I really don't have a great memory, but this, I remember. And, yeah, and I was looking around, and I was screaming, I think at the time, like I was really in distress. But I remember everyone was just like, looking straight ahead. And it was just one of the weirdest moments of my life, like in this mass moment of panic, and I can just remember me, like freaking out. And everyone just, like, time had stopped, you know. Anyway, we're fine. We land, everything sorted. But on the on the leg back, when it's time for us to go back from Canada to Switzerland, I was sort of understandably hesitant on getting any sort of air travel, right, air transportation. So my auntie gave it to me. And then I kind of just wore it, you know, ever since and my relationship with it has changed so much, because it used to be that I must have it on because it is a direct, you know, correlate to having positive, safe, you know, experiences with transportation. And then it was like, oh, now it's something that whenever-- I was a big rower in high school, so now it's something that when I'm rowing, I want to wear it, because that makes me go fast, you know, or-- and then-- and now it's just something that like, I kind of like to imagine that has like, a little memory, like a camera or something in it and then it's just seeing like this whole evolution of my life, you know, as a personal development as a person.
Ayanda 22:40 Yeah.
David 22:50 And the flight back was smooth?
Caroline 23:30 It was, it was, we're all good. As a child I was, I was still a bit suspicious and someone said, well, you know, the statistics are such that there's just no chance you'll ever get in the same situation, honestly, if it happens to you once the chances of it happening again. It's completely fine. So you and anyone who flies with you, it's never gonna happen again. So I had it in my head that statistics says that I'm super safe now and looking good. We're all good. And I'm wearing my Saint Christopher, so you know, everyone's fine.
Ayanda 25:07 Yes. And we can see that you have it on you. And I was wondering, David, how often do you refer back to your special object? And maybe you could tell us about the second one you also brought?
David 25:19 Yeah, I think it's a good time for that, because it speaks directly to, you know, what we've just been discussing as this really interesting idea of objects sort of taking on lives of their own. And, you know, it really struck me when you said that, you like to imagine that your Saint Christopher's sort of observe things and take these snapshots along the way and is, you know, building up its own sort of story. My second object, it's just a stone. It's a fairly small, round, quite smooth stone. I tend to pick up a stone on the, on the edges of the water, so along beaches or lochs. So those sorts of things from places that I go, I always make sure it's nothing like historical so I'm not accidentally taking home a piece of castle or something. Well away from the actual historic site that I'm visiting. But I, I don't do it because I'm a geology nerd. Although I think geology is fascinating. I don't do it because I want to own a part of the place I've been to. I do it because I have this belief that if you invest something with stories and experiences that it does take on a life of its own. And this is probably inspired by a line of poetry, which I recall reading several years ago, which is Hugh MacDiarmid 'on a raised beach'. And the line, I'm not really, you know, I don't know all that much poetry. I don't even know all that much, Hugh MacDiarmid, but this one line just really struck me, which is 'there are plenty of ruined buildings in the world, but there are no ruined stones'. And what he means by that, I think, or what I interpret that as, is if you give something the power of having a story attached to it, then it could be anything you want it to be. So you know, this stone, to me isn't just a chunk of rock that's been through unfathomable pressure and heat and all that. It's a part of the story. In this case, this is a pure coincidence, I've now mentioned Orkney twice, but this is from the Isle of Hoy near a really remarkable place called the Dwarfie Stane, which is this Neolithic tomb, which is a massive slab of rock. It's unique in the British Isles in that it's one large rock which has been hollowed out. And you can imagine the amount of labour that would have gone into such a thing. You know, it's extraordinary. And there's folklore surrounding it. Walter Scott wrote about it and he said that it was home to, you know, a dwarf called Trolled who he kind of appropriated from the Norse sagas and, you know, Vikings probably did find shelter in it on a few occasions, and there's Victorian traveller who went there who left Persian and Latin script on the side of it. So it's this amazing place and it's the kind of place where if you don't know what it is, you can just go past it and be like, I'm not even going to bother stopping there. I'm just gonna crack onto the beach that's a mile away. But if you know what it is, and if you know some of those stories, you can and I did spend hours just sitting next to it and going, this is cool. And feeling like you're a part of that story.
Caroline 28:43 Absolutely. I love that.
Ayanda 28:46 Yeah, yeah. And I just want to take it back to something we mentioned earlier in our conversation, I think it's quite relevant. Seeing that, Caroline, you're still like in that place of, okay, I've done this, what's next for me? And David, you also spoke about imposter syndrome, which I also have my own two cents. Like, I'm just gonna put it out there [laughter]. I just want to just kind of like explore that because you had a similar journey, David. So how did you eventually find your feet and maybe that's something you know, Caroline and I could just kind of like feed on.
Caroline 29:24 Absolutely, yeah.
David 29:25 It might not be particularly reassuring to you to know that I'm still convinced I'm going to be swept off my feet by no choice of my own in the moment. So it's a journey. I'm a bit further along that journey now than I was, you know, maybe half a decade ago. But I think what's helped is trying to judge myself less by how I think other people are perceiving me or how I sort of feel in this idealised version of myself that I imagine I think we all to an extent have that idealised version of ourselves. Trying not to, to actually judge myself on that, but rather what actually makes me content, what actually gives me a sense of purpose. And the difference between the expectations on that imagined individual, and the expectations that I actually hold to myself are as vast as the Grand Canyon. You know, it's stunning the difference between those two sort of versions. So I think, certainly just being involved in a number of projects over the years, you know, having a couple publications out there has helped, it's nice to be able to tap your name into Google and for stuff to come up. You're like, oh, that's cool. So one of my proudest moments was when I completed my book, which came out in 2019, which touches on a lot of stuff we've been talking about already, especially stories and fantastical stories, because it's a sort of Scottish history book, but using Game of Thrones as a segway into Scottish history and being like, hey, if you thought that battle in Game of Thrones was cool, well, here's one that was almost identical to it in real life. Yeah, and it was real. And not just looking at sort of, you know, the very easy comparisons like that, but also thinking about how history is presented, how historiography is presented in Game of Thrones and how we have sort of come to interpret it with Scottish history. But even still, you know, with that book, I'm like, I did write it in a period where, frankly, I was in quite poor mental health. I've suffered for again, as long as I can remember from at times very severe depression, very severe anxiety. Similar to yourself Caroline, I had sort of, you know, OCD, I do have Tourette’s Syndrome, as well. And just recently, within the last six months, I was diagnosed with ADHD, which I kind of mourn over a little bit, because I think of all the lost potential if I had had that understanding of myself when I was 15, or 16. What could I have done differently in the last half of my life? So again, when I start to think that way, I bring it back to, okay, well, I could have been something else. But you know, what, I'm living in a city that I imagined I wanted to live in when I was in my early teens. I've got a book out there, I get to go to castles and standing stones on the weekend. I'm working at a museum, this, this is pretty cool. I like this. And it's just trying to bring it back to that reality, I think. I would welcome your suggestions for how to overcome that syndrome as well because I've certainly not figured it out.
Ayanda 32:35 Yeah, yeah, Caroline what about you? How do you, how do you interact with the imposter syndrome?
Caroline 32:40 Yeah, I think a lot of the interaction has been negative thus far. So we're trying to get into a positive interaction with it. I think it's also very common for somebody who just finished their degree, from what I understand, and the people I've spoken to, you know, it's a really big transition in your life. And so I think it's inevitable if you're not 100% sure what you want to do, that you, you're sort of plagued with it, right? And I think, yeah, it's, it's something that I also find important because it, it can act as a counterbalance, you know, it can be like an accountability, check that everyone is an imposter to everything because not everyone-- no one's amazing and perfect at anything, right? So I think it's human to have it, we must have it, we must have it to innovate and to strive for change and be better. But I think it's just balancing it with, you know, reality as well and knowing that, okay, you know, I can't have this expectation of myself. Because it's gonna-- it's crippling, and it's gonna hurt me so much more. And then, you know, there the cycle keeps going and going, and that is the quintessential snowball. And I remember that I really had that in second year. And that thinking, if you really feed into it, and you allow it to happen, you're just gonna start tumbling down, you know, because it's like, well, I didn't do that, well I could have done that better. And well like, I'm really doing myself this way now, and it goes, and it goes, and it goes, and it's so much wasted energy. I think that's my biggest thing. I have to think of it that way. It's just wasted energy, where as much as I don't think I could do XYZ, I know I can do ABC. And that needs to count for something. And hopefully at some point, that will take me to XYZ or whatever that next step is going to be, you know. So, yeah it's kind of a weird relationship with it, right? Like you appreciate part of it, but it can be crippling that is, that is the hope and right now I need to just focus on like it not being crippling and you know, when you're applying to jobs, you're applying all these things and you're like, oh my gosh, like, everything they want, and I'm just like, there's just no way, there's just no way. And I've always said like you know, you, you can't be perfect for a job unless you've started to do it. You'd like, you-- just because that's just not how the world works, right. So, yeah.
David 33:12 It can change your life those moments of indecision, those moments of doubt. And I guess what I would say to people struggling with that is, as much as it might be challenging in the moment, the one time that it pays off is going to be worth all the times that it didn't.
Caroline 35:22 I have one thing as well, because I think a lot of the time imposter syndrome is, is experienced by people who are really, really ambitious and who care so, so much. And I remember there was a lecturer that we had, and he said, don't be paralysed by ambition. And I thought that was such a wonderful thought that I always, always keep with me, because-
Ayanda 35:42 I need to write this down. So many things coming out of here today.
Caroline 35:46 I just always think about it because it's true. I get so excited about something and I'm so passionate about it or whatever. And that starts paralysing me and then that imposter syndrome really starts to come in. And something that began as this amazing opportunity that I want to share with everyone has just turned into this horrifically, you know, nerve racking experience that I'm terrified about even just starting because, you know, what if it doesn't materialise. But, like you said, I mean, you've got to do it, because what if?
David 36:19 I was just wondering, Caroline, if you have, you know, a way of sort of talking yourself down from that, or, or trying to step back from that all or nothing mentality? Because that, that resonates, you know. It's like, if you've not, you know, if you're not like, you know, in the Forbes 30 under 30, then why are you bothering, you know, and, like, you wanna talk about toxic minds...
Caroline 36:44 It's true, though.
Ayanda 36:46 Yeah, like, that's the fastest way to get there.
Caroline 36:48 You're just kind of, like, why am I bothering? I think those experiences are sort of like, you're not grounded in reality, because you're just so caught up in your head, and you're so caught up in these contingencies of, you know, if, when, where, how, why? That I feel like I'm grounded by having friends that are different, you know, and working so hard and creating a network and a support group and a community that is not the echo chamber. And that, I find hugely, hugely important. And I think about all these stories that are around me, and I'm thinking of, you know, this person doing this, and this person doing that. And to me, that is grounding, it makes me talk myself down, because I'm like, you know, things are out of your control. And you know, all these brilliant people that are so different that have gotten to their places in such different ways. And you're just another one of those people that's going to do it your own way, and calm down or, you know, calm down. So I think variety and support network and people is really big, really big, and I don't like speaking about struggling. And I mean, I think you know, it's so funny, everyone uses that cliche, like, I don't like asking for help. But like, no one does. You know, like, that's something you really have to teach yourself. And I think it's a rare breed of human to say like, oh, no, I've always just loved to ask for help. Like, I don't think that that's as common as, as we'd like to think. So, I think actually realising that and being like, okay, I really now like to ask for help, not just that I can ask for it, but I like to ask for help and that can be through directly asking, or it can be through, just appreciating that your friends did this, this way, or people you admire did this this way. That's special.
David 38:33 It's really special and I think important, as well, to sort of acknowledge in that scenario that you know, you have these, these friends, and you know, these colleagues, acquaintances from all these different walks of life doing these incredible things. And, you know, you probably think the world of some of them, and someone in that circle, you know, thinks the world of you and thinks you're doing incredible, amazing things and just be like, yeah, these people chose me to be a part of their lives as well. That's cool. So...
Caroline 39:03 I think like, it's not all about me, like it is in my head. Because it is all about me in my head, because that's how it works [laughter]. So it's like a reminder, like, okay, it's not all about me, because think of all these wonderful people.
Ayanda 39:25 So on Sharing things, we like to ask a final question at the end. So our question to you is, if you had to pick one word to describe the object or objects that you brought with you today, what would it be?
Caroline 39:42 Oh my lord.
David 39:46 For me, I would have to go with something like nourishing, because just when the world gets a bit much and I'm struggling to cope, which is not infrequent. Coming back to what this book represents to me is the best way I know to ground myself again. It's the best way I know to take care of myself and to put myself in a position to get back out there into the world and do better for other people as well. So, when things are getting difficult, I tend to hop on my bike and go try to find some treasure. And even if it doesn't, you know, turn a frown upside down or anything as radical as that. I think recentering on what this book represents to me is a sure-fire way to feel better about myself and feel better about what I can do for others.
Caroline 40:55 I love that. David, I want to go find treasure with you.
David 41:01 There's so much, it's everywhere.
Caroline 41:04 We'll find a nice stone that's not part of a castle, you know? [laughter].
Ayanda 41:08 Yes.
David 41:09 You know, there's like half a dozen standing stones in Edinburgh, like I'm talking in Edinburgh.
Caroline 41:15 Really?
David 41:15 And like no one knows about them. No one bothers to go see them. There’s like a 10 foot tall one down by the Pentlands. There's a, there's a 4000 year old tomb with three standing stones around it just next to Edinburgh airport, you know, like it's flanked by motorways, and it's across the road from a McDonald's. And, and-
Ayanda 41:35 I think I've seen it!
David 41:37 -it's called Huly Hill Cairn, h u l y Hill Carin. And the amazing thing is, you can sit down at the base of one of the standing stones and watch the planes from the airport, taking off directly over you, they fly right over it. And just sitting you know, at the base of something that was made so long ago, and then looking across the road and seeing those golden arches and an aeroplane flying overhead, it puts things in perspective.
Caroline 42:03 Okay, so actually, that you say perspective, I would say that that is the term that I associate with my, my object. Because I think it's something that I resort to, especially now that it has history behind it or has my own history attached to it. It's something that then really puts things into perspective. Like remember when you used this thing when you were freaking out when you were flying, and you were nine years old? And then remember, when you were using this when you were applying for colleges, and you were rubbing it, like please can I just get in somewhere? And like all these different experiences I have with it. So I'd say it's definitely perspective. Yeah.
Ayanda 42:40 That is, that is beautiful.
David 42:41 It is.
Ayanda 42:42 Thank you so much for coming through today and sharing of yourself with us. We really, really appreciate it, really, really grateful and I've learned so much. And I've always wondered what those stones were like, every time I go to the airport to visit a different country or go home. I was like, oh, that looks interesting. And then I kind of just forget about it. So to learn that it has so much history and richness behind it is really, really beautiful. Amazing.
David 43:09 But yeah, this has been like genuinely just one of the most like, I'll go with nourishing again, doubling down. And this lovely conversation that I've had, since this whole you know, shenanigans of two years has begun. So thank you.
Caroline 43:26 This is wonderful. This is a highlight of my summer. How lucky I feel you know, yeah.
Ayanda 43:38 Hey there, thanks for listening. You can subscribe to our channel on your favourite podcast platform, or check out our website to find out more about our guests. See you next time.
Kate 44:01 I hope you've enjoyed meeting members of our University of Edinburgh community. To connect with more join Platform One, our online meeting place for students, alumni and staff of the University. To find out more search Platform One Edinburgh.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai