I am browsing the second-hand books in one of my favourite book stores/café on Glebe Point road, Sydney. My hand hovers over a title that I can just about read. ‘Quarter life Crisis’. I pick it up and immediately smile to myself. Must be a sign, I believe. Paying my few dollars I wander out with my boyfriend at the time who by this point has become increasingly impatient. He hates bookstores and merely tolerates my love for them.
I am tortured. Emotionally my energy is at an all time low. I can barely string a sentence together never mind trying to succeed in a high paced IT sales environment. I spend most of my week crying silently at my desk with evenings spent on the relationship battlefield, with emotional abuse being the weapon of choice. I am desperate for answers, praying constantly to God, the Angels, the Universe to give me some sort of sign that I am on the right path.
It has taken me 40 minutes to eat an apple. Reason being is that it is so damn quiet here in the open plan office that I could hear the crunch vibrating through my skull. Paranoid that my colleagues might be mentally strangling me with each crisp, echoing bite, I gave up. I didn’t even make it to the core before throwing it away. This of course made me even more agitated than usual.
I was foolish yesterday and booked a one way ticket to Bangkok for November. I have not even had my second interview for the Celta course yet and I have already taken the plunge and acted a little irresponsibly. I had to have a Desperados beer straight after the booking confirmation came through to quench my nerves. It had to be done though as I can feel my insecurities building up minute by minute. If I wait any longer I may not have any courage left.
I walked to work with a slight spring in my step which people have not failed to notice. I can smell the freedom already. It will be a fresh start but I am terrified. What if my plan of escape fails to work again? I swore to myself that starting this job over a year and a half ago that my itchy feet were thoroughly scratched. I told myself it was time to nest. I was to save my money, work hard in the corporate world, get on the career ladder, put a deposit down for a house and finally have some stability after the endless rollercoaster of jobs, travel and bad romance. Now I have done it again. I could very well be throwing away great opportunities for the unknown but isn’t life all about taking some risks? Why is it the more stability I have the more my soul wants to desperately break free.
At the time of buying that book on the quarter life crisis, I was in the middle of an awful relationship which a year and a half later I am still emotionally recovering from. I remember reading the book and looking to my partner for answers. Answers to the big questions of ‘what the hell am I supposed to do’? I never did get the answers I needed and spent many more months silently crying at my desk wondering if it was ever going to get easier. I desperately wanted someone to reassure me that everyone goes through these moments in life, except no one did. Particularly not my partner at the time. I can say that I am grateful that time in my life is over but I know how it feels to fail, which is why this challenge seems overwhelming at the best of times.
I am sitting at my desk and feel like screaming. My mother tells me that I am running away. If that is the case then I can only give myself this advice…..Run.
It seems I have fallen back into groundhog day. I awoke at the usual time of 7am to a sky full darkness. I felt the winter through my rain coat as I made the 15 minute walk to the bus stop. I do love the winter though. Particularly the smell in the air at this time of year. That damp, bitter-sweet smell that seeps into your bones. It makes me long for a thick duvet, warm soups and socks fresh from the dryer. It is also a time of year that makes me extremely lazy as I feel justified to sleep till noon and procrastinate. It also allows me to be somewhat invisible with thick hoods that fall over my eyes and massive umbrellas that force people onto the roads. Now is the time to layer up. My frustration with my wardrobe will cease as I can now throw anything on and not worry about my expanding waist. My boots have already been dragged out from the back of the wardrobe to be teamed with thick tights and woolly jumpers that fall off the shoulder. Fortunately my job has a relaxed dress code so I never have to feel the pressure of having to squeeze into my pencil skirt after a particularly carb heavy weekend.
At my desk today I was particularly anxious. Thoughts of where I will be at Christmas flooded my mind. UK or Bangkok? Have I lost my nerve? Should I go November or January? On and on this went until a Lync message popped up on my screen from my crush. This crush has lasted for a year. At the time he was in a relationship but has fairly recently been reintroduced to singles Ville. I have never had a crush that has been quite this intense since I was 13. His name was Mr Evans and he was my history teacher. The moment I set eyes on him with his stumpy legs and smelly gym bag I was smitten. It was great for making me work hard as all I wanted to do was impress this God like creature. I would stare so intensely at him wishing and wanting him to be all mine. My face would flush with embarrassment when he would wander over to check each pupils work book. He must have known that I was completely besotted. Once he caught me gazing so intensely at him and I remember the slight grin that spread across his face. I also recall my realisation that he knew. I was mortified. The teacher crush lasted 3 years before I reached the rebellious teenage years and became more interested in playing truant.
Now 15 years later and I find that familiar feeling again. Oh it has been so long since I have felt this way. That is the problem with crushes is that you should make the most of it and never act on them. As soon as you do the fantasy that had built up will be popped like a balloon and you finally realise that you have nothing in common and they were not nearly as perfect as you thought they were. Crushes have many good points. They help you stay motivated to a certain extent as you want them to see you as practically perfect. You become a model employee who will stop at nothing for perfection. They make you want to be in early (so you can see them) and stay late (so you can see them and hope they may ask you out for a sneaky post work drink). You dress your best and put effort into your appearance. You also smile so much more and people comment that you have ‘such a wonderful glow’ about you. Obviously today I was grinning like a cheshire cat when he bought me lunch for helping him with his sales forecast. We laughed and joked and after that one hour I practically floated back to my desk. The remainder of the afternoon went by in a state of bliss with thoughts of him asking me out. The rain against the window and the dark rumbling clouds did nothing to dampen my mood. For a few hours I felt euphoric and even now as I type I feel that excitement in my belly. Those nervous butterflies in the pit of my stomach. That is the wonderful thing about crushes. They can turn a dull day into blissful one. But to act on it? No, it just couldn’t live up to expectations so I will enjoy the fantasy while I can.
The silence in the office is deafening. I have just made my way through the most delicious chocolate chip muffin – breakfast of champions – which they make on site. I have never been much of a muffin person, finding them rather bland and inferior to the standard cake. I do however take it all back since working here. They are made to perfection. The top has a slight crunch while the inside is soft and full of chocolate chips. Even better is the fact they are always warm so the chocolate is in that delicious melting state. I wash it down with a double espresso for the ultimate sugar and caffeine rush.
I am not usually so unhealthy but looking outside at the drizzle I feel an urge to start layering the fat in preparation for winter hibernation. I must resist as I have far more important things to be doing with my time. For example I have taken the plunge and applied for the Celta course running in Bangkok. My two weeks of teaching in Italy lit such a fire in my belly but already all that remains is a burning ember. I knew this would happen. I felt myself physically deflate into my chair the moment I was back at my desk in work. I feel my drive diminishing and the thoughts of giving up and staying put are overwhelming. That is why I feel I need to act fast, before the insecurities set in an gnaw at what is left of my hope.
I should proceed with caution. My track record of spontaneous and somewhat irresponsible decisions have left me slightly worse for wear. When I was 20 years old I made the decision while at summer camp to travel to Beijing and teach English. With very little money in my pocket I picked up my flight ticket in New York and boarded the plane to a place I had never been and to meet with people I had not spoken to. In hindsight I was high on life and with the possibility of not going back to university and student life. I felt invincible and that the world was mine for the taking.
Needless to say my time in China shook me to the core. I fought with crippling loneliness and the culture shock experienced was overwhelming. I had no idea how to teach and the depression that was building day by day made each small task seem like a tremendous effort. I remember that a slept a lot and ate a lot. Other than that it was a blur of self-hatred. I also found myself desperate to prove to everyone that I could hack it with images of myself going home, tail between the legs spurring me on. I couldn’t hack it though and crumbled after 8 months. I arrived back in Wales 2 stone heavier and deeply disappointed with myself.
I also sadly remember that one of the reasons for my travels was the hope that people (boys in particular) would find me so much more interesting. This was not the case and very few people asked about my adventures. It was probably for the best as my experience had left me with a sour taste in my mouth.
Now eight years later and other adventures (some great, some less so) under my belt and I am at that cross-road once again. Do I stay or do I go? That is the question.
I sometimes wonder if my expanding butt could have been avoided if I were not to work in the corporate wold. It has not been my lack of trying I might add, with frequent visits to the gym. Still it seems minute by minute the fat cells seem to combine in force for the ultimate party on my hips. Not to mention my stomach which I did accept at some point in my life to be fairly decent. As in it was once flat. I look at the display of goodies around the office. Tubs of M&S flapjacks and caramel cake bites decorate the desks in all their calorific glory. Is this my life now? An endless food to mouth frenzy?
Apart from the fat, my brain seems heavy. Not with knowledge but with sheer boredom. Sometimes I will take my eyes away from the computer screen in front of me to observe my surroundings. The question that is becoming more and more frequent is ‘What am I doing here?’. I will observe my colleagues in all their working glory. I hear the heavy sighs, the rustling of papers, the frantic tapping on key boards. People rushing to meetings, laptops in hand with an air of importance. I wonder to myself if they are feeling as restless as I. Swivelling back around to my desk I take in the views of the outside world which is the benefit of being stuck in the corner of the office. I take in the sky with its doom and gloom appearance and the many trees which are currently in a state of undress, preparing themselves for the winter.
Some people love routine and detest change. A slight change in temperature can send many a colleague into a fluster. Suddenly there is a vote on who’s turn it is to call maintenance. Other times there is a dilemma when the fridge is out of Doctor Pepper. How can we work in these conditions?!
What I find most intriguing about my fellow colleagues is the loyalty of some of them. There seems to be a secret competition of who has lasted the longest. Some as many as 20-30 years. I see them puff up with pride at how driven they are and the glazed look of satisfaction with a job well done. They line up their trophies for people to admire and fawn over. They list their certifications and expertise on their LinkedIn. You just know they were the perfect student. Never late, homework in on time and completed to perfection. I wonder why I am not like the others. I currently pretend that I am and no one has figured out that I am a complete fraud. At times I feel a twinge of envy at how peaceful they seem with their lot. Happy to work the 9-5.30, build a home, start the family, tick the boxes. Instead I am constantly feeling this inner urge to break free…Or at the very least break dance in the middle of the office.
I recently went away to teach English for two weeks. In just two weeks it felt like my soul had stretched and yawed in my belly and cried for sheer joy. It had remained dormant for some time and I was quite sure it left in frustration when I nearly had a nervous breakdown over an Excel spread sheet. To find that it was still there alive and kicking was something of a comfort. Fingers hovering over the keyboard I feel something is brewing deep in my belly. I have been wondering what it might be, this unusual feeling. Then it came to me. It is hope.