The smiling stage

Thailand visa has now been ticked off on the list. 60 days to run amok in the land of smiles. My mother was temporarily confused with the time limit.

Mother: 60 days….So that’s a month then.
Me: Ah no……How many days are in a month?
Mother: I don’t know.
Me: Yes you do, come on, how many?
Me: 30 days hath September……..
Mother: Oh yes I know this one….April, June and November!
Me: Right….So if that’s the case how many months are in 60 days?
Mother: Two. Two months.
Me: We got there in the end (patted hand for extra reassurance)

And that right there is evidence of what a fabulously patient teacher I will make.

Six days left before I board the plane. Six days left of watching Friends re-runs and judging people on Facebook. I know I will not have time over there to do such important things so I have to get as much judging and stalking in as possible. Pathetic as it sounds I just cant help myself. The fact is I am procrastinating like a pro and I know that if I think about the things I REALLY need to do, it will send me into a panic so to ensure panic diversion, I will continue to stick my head in the sand ( aka Facebook, Dailymail, Uberhumor) as much as possible.

I do this every time I know I have something important and life changing to focus on. I also take the same approach to legal documents, bank statements and anything else that really does need my undivided attention. Complete work as quickly as possible and then fling into the oblivion. Close your eyes and cross your fingers that all will go well. My work as a Sales Analyst also took this creative approach (delightful employee that I was). The ‘If all else fails, lets pretend it isn’t happening’ approach. First complete work quickly and sufficiently. Then scan documents with confidence that all is correct. This can be done in seconds (please don’t lie to yourself that people with check…..The ‘you are important’ ship sailed a long time ago). Send document out into the black hole of cyberspace where it will never be read or acknowledged again. For extra fun send the email as important and in bold black letters, emphasise the importance that it must be read otherwise the consequence of not actioning will be eye watering. Watch as your email pops up in you colleagues Outlook to be either opened and ignored, opened and deleted or my favourite, not even opened or clicked on. Self sooth with a trip to the canteen for cheesecake.

I think back to what a good little worker ant I once was. Even cried over an Excel Spread sheet and the fact that I thought the Office application was completely out to get me. Especially when I had to present data to management. That was when it really went to great lengths to piss me off. ‘This never happens usually’ I would squeak while clicking everything possible and turning several shades of red. I gradually learnt that I wasn’t that important and graduated to the ‘Smiling stage’. It never failed and always delivered fast results. You don’t even have to be mentally present in the conversation which is why it was such a success. I spent full conversations shopping, planning dinner, deciding whether I should go to the gym, deciding against the gym, whether my latest crush was in the building or working from home, what movie I should I watch, has Netflix added new movies, whether I could eat that giant muffin in one whole bite all while smiling and nodding. Not only was I able to mentally check out I was also able to please my employer as I was seen as an eager to please, result driven professional. If I missed something really important I could comfort myself with the knowledge that my manager would forget that he had spoken to me after 5 minutes.

Coming back from the Thai Consulate I promised myself that I would never torture myself with spread sheets again. That and skinny jeans. I swear I am having to catapult myself into them. I am hoping that the sheer shock and terror of arriving in Thailand on my own will drain the fat off me. Or at least to my feet so I can walk it off. My mother also likes to comment on my ‘out of control’ curves.

Mother: You have a figure like Marilyn Monroe
Me: Oh…thank you
Mother: Yes voluptuous
Me: ah, thanks
Mother: Men like a lot of meat……..And by God you’ve got a lot of meat!!!! (Cue cackling)
Me: Great….Don’t know how to take that…Mmmm…Cheers


Dreaming the dream

I had dinner with my brother and sister in law the other evening. Glass of wine in hand I prepared myself for the various questions that were going to be thrown at me. The first comment was from my sister in law. She made a reference to a comment I made nearly two years ago which consisted of my desire to settle, get married and work my way into a miserable existence….I mean work my way to the top, yes that’s what I meant.

Oh how things have changed. I really did mean that at the time. After moving to various accommodations ranging from cockroach infested to jail cell interior and practically living out of a suitcase I really was ready for some sense of stability. “My feet are thoroughly scratched” I exclaimed (more to myself than anything). “That’s it for me, no more travelling around unless its for a nice holiday”. That’s it I thought to myself join the sheep. There must be something in it if everyone else is doing it. It is only now that I think back to my office corner and realise that actually the most terrifying concept for me was thinking that ‘this is it’. I would sit there and try to think ahead into the future and what I would be doing and the only thing I saw was myself, doing the same thing day in day out. Growing older by the day but learning little and feeling less. I would also mentally beat myself down to accept that this was it with thoughts such as you have messed up anough, that is it, you are not going anywhere…Just grown up! I smiled at my sister in law with a sense of apology for being such a little liar. “Yes I did say that but after Italy I gained some sort of perspective”. “I don’t know how you do it” they both looked at each other. “We couldn’t do it, all that travel and going to a new place again, living out of a suitcase. Seems so exhausting and we are too old for that now”. Damn straight it is exhausting. I am exhausted just thinking about moving from this chair. But that is the problem. When you are not fulfilled or happy everything seems so much harder. So much more difficult and dreams are just unreachable.

Swirling the red Shiraz around in my glass I explain to them my reasons for yet again jumping into the unknown. I hope it is not a case of jumping from the pan into the fire. Think I have burnt myself enough already. If I think too much about my recent actions I panic with the realisation that I have walked out of a decent job in a multinational software corporation. “You could have stayed there and used your holidays to explore and travel” my brother said. “So I spend my time waiting for two weeks or so out of the year where I can feel fulfilled and happy?!” I reply. He laughs at this and agrees with me.

Its strange but when one person decides to make a break for it you find that you tend to ruffle a few feathers without necessarily meaning to. Suddenly people who you thought were happy with their situation confide in you that not all is what it seems. Certain friends suddenly reveal that they hate their jobs and that they want to travel. Your old colleagues start dropping like flies and you hear through the grape vine that Colleague 1 is secretly going for interviews and Colleague 2 wants to take a year out to travel. I know what its like. I have sat at my desk and its someone’s last day in the office and all you can think about is that ‘THEY ARE BREAKING FREE’. You hate it, and you wish to some degree that it is you walking out that door to freedom. That it is you packing your desk up with the promise of a new job or a new business idea that will set you up for life. When they have left the premise you all huddle together and throw in a few comforting words such as “he would have been promoted and he just threw it away” or “he will never get such a great package as here” or the one I like the best “he was going to be fired soon anyway, his work was shit”. You all nod in agreement like those nodding bobbing dogs you get for cars before the awkward silence seeps into the conversation like a bad fart and people disperse back into their cubicles. Some will be left with a sense of longing and others will be a left with a sense of purpose. The knowing that another one bites the dust leaves more money and promotion opportunities.

My brother drove me home and confides in me that if he could he would drive lorries around Europe and see the world but with a wife and children that is not possible. I ask him if he could have his time again what career would he have gone for. He tells me he would loved to have been a social worker. I advice that he is only 42 and he can still do it. There are people of all ages who decide to change careers and do what they have always wanted to do. He nods and agrees and tells me he will look into it when he gets back home. I know that he wont look into it and if he does that would surprise and delight me to the core. I also know that when he is 60 he will not look back and think “Yes, I am glad that I didn’t look into becoming a social worker. 42 was far too old”.

I cannot say whether in the years to come that I will regret my actions but if I don’t try I will never know. In the words of Mark Twain;

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Notice period

Oh I feel so fleshy and thick. My arms and legs are swollen with the copious amounts of wine and carbohydrates. I feel so sluggish and ill. I am also starting to feel quite guilty knowing that I am deliberately stuffing myself and drinking myself into some form of contentment. Continually trying to hush the uncertainty that I currently feel. I know my butt will barely leave my seat for the remaining 7 hours left of my unfulfilling day. I will then make my way home which involves a 20 minute bus journey and a 15 minute walk. I will open the door to my bedsit and remove my tight jeans in mere seconds, before pulling on my extra snuggy flannel pyjama bottoms and old t-shirt. I will then proceed to fly into my double bed with rapid speed, whilst grabbing my laptop with kung pho movement. The next 5 hours of my remaining day will be spent immersed in the various antics of some movie that will take me away from my reality. This comatose state will be repeated for the remainder of the week.

I swore to myself that I would do the right thing and work until the end of my contract.I am now having second thoughts which mostly involve the question ‘why break the habit of a life time? You never work your notice. Why change things now? Just remind yourself how much crap they have put you through!!’. Part of me feels that as an adult I should be more mature and leave on a good note, creating some much needed good karma. Then I argue with myself that who gets anywhere doing the right thing? In 4 months’ time when I am on the other side of the world will I think to myself ‘I am so glad I worked my notice’ or will I think ‘I am glad I went back to Wales and spent and extra two weeks with people who actually love me’. Hmmmm when I put it like that there really is no contest. I also know well enough now that once your gone no one will give you a second thought. Ok that is a harsh but let’s face it, It will be a passing thought. In a few weeks’ time they will have some other poor ant to sit in my seat and continue the irrelevant, mundane, mind numbing work that I have had the pleasure of undertaking for the last 2 years. I will be gone and no one will give a flying fuck. I know this. Why I try to convince myself that it will be any different I do not know. I am nothing but a corporate ant here.

Yes, l shall rebel and save myself. Life as we know is far too short. To think I am even contemplating making myself ill and unhappy for an extra two weeks is just ridiculous.

The break-up dance

So I now brace myself for the break up dance. It is always an emotional time when a break up is imminent. You know it’s not working. You are sure that they know is not working. Surely they can feel your negative energy wafting around the room like a bad smell. It really comes down to the fact that you can no longer make each other happy. Or worse you don’t make them happy. You have felt that things haven’t been working for a while. You discuss the issues and make promises you can’t keep. You no longer laugh but bicker constantly and fain interest. You want it to work so much because deep down the thought of going it alone terrifies you to the core. What if there is nothing out there? What will I do by myself? It’s a terrifying concept and one that has kept you in a situation that has been holding you back for far too long. You run through the past grievances in your mind, tortured by moments when you should have spoken up and held your own. Then the inevitable moment comes. That terrifying time when you fight all reasoning and just do it….You hand in your notice.

Unlike a relationship where you break up and swiftly move on (of course not without tears and tantrums) now you are faced with the break up and then spending 4 weeks doing the break up dance. 4 weeks of avoiding eye contact and awkward conversations in the corridor. 4 weeks of finding somewhere else to grab a quick coffee. Now is the time to not get too excited about any future plans that you may have. It’s best to look sad and disappointed. Have the ‘oh I wanted it to work so much, can we still be friends’ attitude. Smile with a hint of sadness in your eyes, after all there is no need to rub salt into the wound and trying to make them jealous will not end well. Do tell them ‘its not you its me’ even though you know damn well it’s all them!

So here I am, feeling a little less caged and a bit more excited for the future. I have taken a leap of faith and taken the plunge with my travel plans. How it will pan out I can only wonder. My CELTA interview was such a disaster that I am surprised the interviewer could manage to understand one sentence from me as I continually babbled and stuttered my way through. I felt my checks burning with embarrassment at how ridiculously unprepared I was, confident that being a native English speaker would be enough. They must need the numbers though, as I was offered a place. Either that or it was pity.

On a positive note I know 100% that this is the right decision. I have no idea where I will be in two months, six months or one years time. I have a rough draft but I feel the need to not plan so much and just let whatever happens happen.

The Crush

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.

Decisions and reflection

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.

Escaping Corpville

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.