Getting to know…me

Tonight, I’m turning inwards. I’m going to interview myself. Here are ten answers to 10 questions to help you get to know me.

Before I dive into this blog, can I say how nice it is to be back? I mean, I can say what I like. It’s my blog, after all. But it has been far too long since I wrote something and, after some inspiration today, I’ve decided that I want to get back into writing on a semi-regular basis. I’ve been putting off committing to anything regular up until this point because I’ve been fairly busy with work and completing my marketing qualification. But you’re not here for excuses, are you? Writing has always been something I’ve enjoyed, and while I write a lot as part of my job, writing about noise measurement and sound level meters doesn’t quite hit in the same way as writing about other stuff I’m interested in.

I’ve just realised that reading that last sentence back after looking at the title of this article comes across as a little strange. No, I’m not so narcissistic as to be “interested in myself”. Well, maybe I am a little. I mean, you have to be interested in yourself, right? I guess you could say that it is precisely because I am interested in myself that I am committing here and now to writing a bit more regularly. (See, even “a bit more regularly” is so non-committal.) I’m rambling.

The other reason why I’ve struggled to put words to screen, so to speak, is because I’ve had a significant lack of inspiration of late. I could write about politics, but I don’t want to depress myself by shouting into the void or preaching to the converted. We all dislike Boris Johnson. We all think that this brand of Conservative is a poison to our democracy. I don’t need to spend 1,000 words explaining how or why. I could write about theology, but honestly, I haven’t picked up a theological book in so long I wouldn’t know how or where to start. So, tonight, I’m turning inwards. I’m going to interview myself. I’ve found a set of 100 “getting to know you” questions that I’m going to have a go at answering. Don’t worry. I’m not going to tackle all 100. I’m going to take ten and see how it goes. If this particular piece gets any traction, I might take on another 10 in a later post. But, for now, here are ten answers to 10 questions to help you get to know me.

1) Who is your hero?

Ah. A classic question. And not an easy one for me to answer. If I think of all the people who’ve inspired me throughout my life, they all come from such different walks of life and have inspired me in different ways. At the moment, I think the person I look up to most has to be the journalist and radio presenter, James O’Brien. I can hear some of the eye rolls. Sorry. But for me, James is the embodiment of almost every value I have. He is the liberal I aspire to be and the sort of person who, I happen to think, most people should aspire to be like. That might read a bit cult-like, but the things I admire most about James O’Brien are his empathy and his integrity. He’s not afraid to admit when he’s wrong or when he’s changed his mind on something. Hell, he’s written a whole book about it. I think most of the world’s problems could be sorted if we all took a leaf out of his book and were able to admit when we were wrong about something and be empathetic towards our fellow humans.

I’m not comparing him to Jesus. Definitely not. I promise…

This is just an example of why I love James O’Brien so much.

2) If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I always find this a difficult question to answer. Primarily because I wouldn’t consider myself particularly well-travelled. However, the one place I always come back to when I think about this question is Edinburgh. Having spent three years living and studying in York, Edinburgh feels like the next natural step. Not to mention how much I love Scotland and the Scottish people. I’ve always felt such a buzz whenever I’ve been in Edinburgh, and it’s more than just the almost-constant feeling of sub-zero temperatures causing my body to go into a permanent shiver. I suppose that’s what happens when you only ever visit in the winter or early spring.

Interesting fact: I very nearly almost moved to Edinburgh. I applied for jobs and started looking at flats and everything. Alas, life had other plans for me.

Here’s me in the Prince’s Street Gardens in 2017.

3) What is your biggest fear?

Spiders. Holy Jesus. The thought of them alone fills me with dread. But my arachnophobia is made worse by a particular spider: the giant house spider. Yes, that is an actual species. Google it if you don’t believe me. Do you know when people say, “Oh, I’m scared of spiders”? I’m not one of those people. I am actually terrified of them. Terrified-to-the-point-of-having-to-check-cold-and-dark-rooms-before-I-enter-them levels of terrified. I often feel like my fear prevents me from doing the simplest tasks. You want my help to clear out your loft or your garden shed? Fine. But you better have spent the last two weeks inspecting every nook and cranny to make sure there aren’t any eight-legged death blobs hanging around. I might go into a mild panic attack and run away screaming if there are.

I’m not exaggerating.

I’m not including a picture.

4) What is your favorite family vacation?

I like this question because the answer doesn’t take much thinking about. I can’t remember the exact year, but it was my family trip to Luxembourg. I know, it’s such an obscure place to visit for a family holiday. Most families I know of went to Spain or Florida, and they flew. We drove across the continent to Luxembourg. And I loved it. Every minute of it. I can remember the holiday camp we stayed at as clear as day: it had this swimming pool with a multi-coloured retractable dome-shaped roof that they opened when the weather was nice. They also had a crazy golf course, and there was one of those amazing European hypermarkets a short drive away. I managed to get some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys from that hypermarket, which was strange considering I had never shown any interest in TMNT before that holiday, and I didn’t afterwards either.

The other thing I loved about that holiday was the mixtape cassette my mum made for the drive. Every time I hear Tragedy by the Bee Gees, Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell or Illusion by Imagination, I’m transported straight back to the back seats of whatever Austin Montego my dad had at the time, where I was surrounded by travel sweets and the pillow from my bed that was a Roberts-family tradition. I always knew I was going on holiday when my pillow was in the back.

What a tune.

5) What would you change about yourself if you could?

My teeth. Lord knows I absolutely hate my teeth. I don’t want this to come across as cringey or big-headed, but I don’t think I’m a bad-looking chap. Sure, I can’t grow a beard, and half the time, I don’t know what my hairstyle is. But on the whole, I quite like my face. I think it’s a perfectly acceptable face. But the one thing I wish that were different is my teeth. I hate seeing photos of me smiling with my teeth showing. I hate catching a reflection of myself laughing. There are no redeemable qualities about my teeth other than how they help me speak and eat. That’s it. That’s all I have to thank them for.

The biggest regret I have in life is turning down getting braces when I had the chance. I went through all the preparatory work. I had the extra teeth removed. I had that strange springy thing that was meant to widen my jaw fitted. In the end, I decided against having braces because I was terrified they would make the bullying I was experiencing worse. My parents, bless them, were so supportive and told me that they would go with whatever decision I made. I wish to God they hadn’t. The one time I wish they’d have been strict and dictated something to me, they didn’t.

Urgh. To be fair, the beard also doesn’t help.

6) What really makes you angry?

I’m quite a laid back person. Now, people who’ve worked with me, stop it. I know I get stressed and overthink everything. But that doesn’t count. I don’t get angry very often. It takes a lot for me to get angry. But one of the things that fills my chest with that burning sense of rage is people’s lack of empathy when people refuse to see things from someone else’s point of view. When people are so entrenched in their own way of thinking that they cannot, for one minute, entertain the notion that there might be another idea.

I whole-heartedly think the world has and continues to suffer from a chronic lack of empathy, and I think it’s the source of so many of our problems. If every person just stopped to take a minute and consider things from someone else’s point of view, I think lots of problems could get resolved. Instead, we’re all confined to our tribes, the memberships of which demand us to think and say the “right” things for fear of expulsion and shame.

Tim Farron was right when he said that liberalism is eating itself.

I like this.

7) What motivates you to work hard?

One of the things I strive to achieve in life is to make a difference in someone’s day. Even if it’s the smallest of differences, say, showing someone how to right-align text in a Word document or coming up with a new process to make someone’s life easier. I’m quite an insecure person in that I feel like I need to receive a lot of validation to know that I’m doing the right thing. I often get that validation by helping others, which originally drew me to teaching. Helping others is my goal in my life, and it’s what drives me to work hard. Give me a task to help myself, and I’ll get round to it at some point. Give me something that will improve something for someone else, and I’ll spend way more time than is required.

That comes across as quite arrogant, doesn’t it? It’s certainly not meant to. I just like helping people a lot.

I tried to give myself the nickname of Clippy at work. It didn’t catch on.

8) What is your favourite thing about your career?

I was only talking about this today! It’s an interesting question because the career I’ve found myself doing isn’t the one I had planned. But following on from my previous answer about helping people, I enjoy working with people. I enjoy the idea of doing something to get the most out of someone by engaging with them positively and making them feel better about themselves. I’m currently involved with an internal comms/employee engagement strategy at work, and honestly, it’s the most excited I’ve been about a work project in a long time.

I’m a firm believer that if people feel valued and respected and know that what they’re doing is making a difference, then you’ll get more out of them. But if I were to give a boring generic answer to this question, then I would say it’s the fluid nature of what I do. But that’s a lie because I’m not the biggest fan of change and not having a plan.

9) What is your biggest complaint about your job?

I really hope my managers aren’t reading this.

In all seriousness, I think the biggest complaint I could have about my job is that I don’t feel like I should be doing it. Not in some sort of “I’m so above that” way, more in a “I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing yet people trust me to know what I’m doing, and they pay me a lot of money to know what I’m doing and oh shit help me” kind of way.

It’s called imposter syndrome, and I think every person on the planet has it. The interesting thing about imposter syndrome is that I also think it’s true that every person on the planet thinks they’re the only person who has it. It’s quite the phenomenon, in that there’s very little anyone can say or do to convince someone that they’re absolutely right for the job and that they should stop worrying.

It often feels like I’m wearing a mask at work. Who else suffers from imposter syndrome?

10) What is your proudest accomplishment?

I always used to struggle with this question. Not because I hadn’t done some things that were worthy of pride, but because I didn’t think they were particularly special. But that changed in 2017 when I stood in the UK General Election as a parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats.

I was never going to win the seat I was contesting. Hell, it would’ve been a miracle if I’d have kept my deposit. But it didn’t matter. I felt compelled to stand for what I believed in. I wanted to give people who shared my values the opportunity to cast their vote for me. I wanted to put myself forward and show that I was willing to dedicate my life to making the country I love a better place.

It sounds so grand and a tad hyperbolic. But that’s the thing. It doesn’t feel that way, which is why it is truly my proudest accomplishment. Standing to become an MP isn’t something many people do, especially for the Lib Dems. The old saying about anyone who wants a political career not joining the Lib Dems is absolutely on the money. I wasn’t standing because I wanted a career change. I was standing because I genuinely wanted to make a difference.

Although I’m no longer a member of the Liberal Democrats, I still feel immense pride in what I achieved. I’m grateful for the experience and the people I met and for all the support everyone gave me during an incredibly stressful few weeks. But I don’t see myself ever doing it again. Not least because I’m a political nomad these days. And to be honest, I like it that way.

An image showing the 2017 parliamentary candidate for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, Clarke Roberts, in front of Liberal Democrat supporters
Here’s me, right at the start of the 2017 election campaign.

So, there you have it.

10 answers to 10 questions that hopefully helped you get to know me a bit better. If you’ve made it this far, then you probably knew most of that already. I mean, probably not the stuff about my holiday to Luxembourg, unless you’re my mum, dad or sister and were actually there.

In any case, this wraps up tonight’s post. I promise I will make a real effort to try and write more regularly. If there’s anything in particular that you think you’d like me to write about, let me know! I need all the inspiration I can get.

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