What If My Dreams Don’t Come True?

Just two words can leave me in a cold sweat. Two words that have had me tossing and turning throughout the early hours of the morning, putting those dreams on hold or shattering them and most importantly, having me doubt every cell that swims flippantly through each and every vein in my body. So, as I come to the last year of my twenties, I look back at my ‘what if’s’ with an arched eye brow and an eye role here and there.

What if I don’t get the job?

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It happens. Sometimes you lose out to someone with more experience. Sometimes you realise that you had completely fucked up in the interview process through nerves that made you come out in a rash that looked ‘medical attention’ worthy (just me then?). Sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know. Some you win, some you lose but I think you always end up where you are supposed to be. It sounds easy to say ‘just have faith’ and that I’m flippantly putting that statement out there with no thought. But that is not the case. I have certainly lost out on many jobs. I have also been hired for many jobs that I now wish I had lost out on. Still, I completely have faith that I will end up in a job that makes me happy. One that doesn’t leave me crying silently in a cubicle, having sleepless nights and generally losing my mind. Have faith that all will work out as it should. Keep working on projects that utilise your natural talents and above all keep trying. The wheel has to turn the other way eventually.

What if I get fired?

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This did happen to me and unfortunately it wasn’t when I was a teenybopper, shovelling greasy chips into paper cartons at the local fish and chip shop. Nor did it happen when I started a sales career knocking on strangers doors trying to force a brand new gas and electricity supplier down their unsuspecting throats. Nor did it happen when I was dodging responsibilities in my last job. It happened when I felt I had found the ideal role. Right in the heart of Sydney, in an office block that revealed views of a city that took my breath away. My new role was to create documents for the bankers. A role that would have me exploring the depths of the Microsoft office suite to create visually pleasing masterpieces. The high-flying bankers would then use the documents to close various multi-million dollar deals. I got the job through a friend. Someone who helped me through the interview and a 3 hour Microsoft office test to secure the job.

I felt I had hit the jackpot. Finally I could stay in Australia – my dream place and build the life I’d always wanted. It wasn’t to be. Barely a week into the new job I was gently told to hand in my pass and make my way to the exit. Quite rightly too as I had no idea how to navigate through Excel never mind create a fancy technical graph that would leave members of the boardroom drooling. I also wanted it so much that I couldn’t concentrate, preferring to beat myself up over every single mistake that I made or the fact that I was just so damn slow. I left feeling like such a failure that my words here cannot do the crushing, overwhelmingly disappointed feeling justice.

Now I look back and see a small glitch in the road. Something that I barely think about and if I do, it no longer matters anywhere near as much as it did. It wasn’t meant to be and yes, I could sit here and think of what could have been but that really is a fruitless act. Sometimes your hired and sometimes your fired. Sometimes you resign and the boss loses out. Sometimes your fired and you lose out. As long as you tried your best and gave it your all then that’s what really matters. You never know, perhaps a few years down the line you will realise that it was the best thing that ever happened, which is certainly the case for me.

What if he leaves me?

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When I look back at my past relationships, I usually cringe. Reason being is that I was so desperate, it was embarrassing. Falling in love is wonderfully painful. With it brings a certain madness to the mind which can leave you being extremely unreasonable at the best of time. Sometimes, when you are least expecting it, that nasty soul sucking worm will start whispering to you that all is not safe and your loved one will be making their grand exit shortly. With the worm now nibbling slowly at your sanity, you throw caution to the wind and begin to latch onto your loved one with smothering force.

It not clever and it isn’t pretty. There is nothing worse than a desperate lover. He may well leave. It could be because the grass seems greener. It could be because the relationship has run its course or it could be that your insecurities are driving them away. Relationships end and relationships begin. The sooner you let go, the easier it will be…For you. As the saying goes ‘If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, its yours forever. If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be’. Also, you may be surprised that when you are out of ‘that’ relationship and recovered, you may look back and think ‘my god he was a prick. What the hell was I thinking?’ Or something along those lines.

What if I’m single for the rest of my life?!

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Many people are single and more and more people are choosing to stay that way. Take a dear friend of mine who is maybe in his 50s. He has been single for the entire 12 years that I’ve known him and has resigned himself to the fact the he is going to remain single. Comfortable in his routine, it has now become harder to let someone into his life. For me, I believe that it is far more important to be comfortable in your own skin than to search for someone to fill the void. If you can’t be alone, truly by yourself in your own company, then you will have a hard time really flourishing in any relationship. Work on yourself, no matter how painful that may be. Make yourself into the best You possible. If someone does come along and sweeps you off your feet then hopefully they will have worked on themselves too and together you would make one unbeatable team. If someone doesn’t come along then at least you can say that you enjoy your own company and actually LIKE yourself. That you can fulfil all your dreams and ambitions without hoping that someone else will do it for you. Take control of yourself. Make yourself happy. Once you have achieved that then whether someone is in or not in your life will be irrelevant.

What if I can’t make friends?

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Ah, the joys of making friends when you’re an adult. Gone are the days of wandering through the school corridors rubbing shoulders with your greatest fans – your friends. When you’re an adult taking on the pressures of the working world, making friends becomes a little (a lot) less straight forward. Yes, there are going to be people who just don’t like you. Sometimes on sight. Just the mention of your name could have people kicking the office bins over in a frenzy. Sometimes there are valid reasons that you have people vividly plotting your death. Other times it really is their problem. As they say, you can’t please everyone and why the hell should you. Life it tough enough as it is without having to try to please people who will never appreciate your uniqueness. That’s not to say you run around with your head up your arse, practically choking on your own ego. Be sincere, listen to others and show kindness. People love people. It’s human nature to be social creatures. Be the one to break the ice and introduce yourself. New and amazing friendships are waiting where you least expect them to be.

What if I don’t have it ‘all together’ when I reach my thirties?

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I have a list that had been created when I was in my early twenties. It pretty much went as you might guess with emphasis on the house, car, great job, great man, holidays and money. Pretty much a fancy pants lifestyle. Now I sit in my parents house as I wait to see if the job I want (and one I know I will be good at) will come through. I have no house or no mortgage to speak of, no car, no man in sight and little savings. If you had told me that when I was writing my dream list and crossing my fingers for the days to come I would have felt severely deflated. My stroppy younger self would have thrown the tantrum of all tantrums while asking the big question ‘what the fuck is the point then?!’ Well, I can safely say that I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have one year before reaching my thirties and I may or may not tick off all my to do list and that’s ok. As long as I grow a little wiser, a little happier and a little kinder then that’s all that matters to me.

Walking one hundred miles alone

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My days are now spent creating a mould in the sofa with my butt, rummaging in the fridge believing it will automatically refill itself when my back is turned and watching mind numbing movies that have me dribbling over my week old pyjamas. Yes, I am back with the parents. It has its good points of course, which mainly boils down to my mother trying to feed me and my father serving me home-made wine with a questionable percentage. But I digress.

Today I spent some time trying to lose myself in cyber space and found an article in an online newspaper. Well it wasn’t so much an article but an agony aunt page where some poor soul had written in, in desperation. The painful situation was caused by being single for 9 years. As soon as I saw the headline I was compelled to read. The woman went into detail about her life over the last 9 years and how terribly lonely it has been. She also wrote of how she is terrified that she may spend the next nine years alone, which didn’t bear thinking about. I scrolled down, anticipating the agony aunts soothing words of encouragement but was quite surprised when what was served was just a cold dish of ‘reality check’. The agony aunts words were, I expect, a big smack in the face for the girl seeking some much-needed encouragement. Of course the agony aunt shared her sympathy, but it was in small doses compared with the tough love she brought, practically wagging her cyber finger in the girls face with accusations of being completely self-absorbed. I waited for the ‘there’s someone for everyone’ rubbish that people throw out there when they have no idea what to tell you but there was none of that. Respect, but if I was on the receiving end of that letter I would be seriously hurling myself under the bed covers in a bid to hibernate for the rest of my living days, or at least until I was hungry.

In any case, the words of the 32-year-old woman scratched at my own single status. I understood where she was coming from but also from the point of view of the agony aunt who was basically giving this woman and every woman who is wallowing in single self-pity, a good shaking. It also had me thinking, why should being single be so terribly pitiful. In fact, although there are twinges of loneliness here and there, there are plenty of reasons why I am basking in the glow of single life and here’s why;

I don’t have to compromise shit.
No longer is there someone who I need to answer too. Someone I have to run my plans past. What a breath of fresh air it is that I no longer have the wrong partner guilt tripping me into staying in or planning my daily life to suit them. Of course not all relationships have such an unbalanced sense of power but it is nice that the only one that I have to clarify my plans with is myself.

Holidays are cheap and cheerful
No longer is my purse empty from the hundreds of pounds I would throw at my partner in the name of love. Personally, I just couldn’t stop spending. Wanting to declare my love I would rummage for the right gifts to fill the Christmas sack to the point of overflow. Valentines day would be a blur of sweet poems and whatever outfit he was after at the time. Birthdays would be trips away, home-made food and baked birthday cakes. Candles lit, I would be practically perfect, sitting there handing present after present, more excited that they were. Needless to say I have saved lots of money by being single. Money that I will selfishly put towards travelling solo to exotic locations.

The drunken devil
Now I know it’s not just me who has earth-shaking arguments with a partner when drunk. I have read that a ‘drunk man speaks a sober mans mind’, which in my case is right on the money. I see it every time I hit the town for a night of much-needed dance therapy, couples airing their grievances in public, choosing this time to throw some slurred insults and bring up issues that had been festering for far too long. This is a part that I really, REALLY do not miss. Those nights at 1am where I would be tripping over the pavement, hair sticking to my forehead from another night dancing on the club floor. Him at my side screeching some accusation which would provoke me into joining him in a drunken, public war. I can see our faces now, twisted into something grotesque, the smell of alcohol dripping from every pore. That leads me to;

The accusations
Love can make you go nuts, but it is also a time when your intuition rears its wonderful head. Being in a relationship is a breeding ground for uncertainty. It is also a time when trust is really put to the test. There are some fabulous relationships that really are a good example of what a relationship should look like…Unfortunately I can’t think of any but I’m sure (more like I hope) they exist. If there is anything I can say is that sometimes when you think you are going crazy and you are having these niggling doubts, don’t ignore them. Your intuition is probably begging you to wake up and smell the bullshit. Being single is like a breath of fresh air compared to the mind-boggling battle field of trust. When your single, there are no drunken rows, brewing insecurity and subtle insidious lies. It’s just plain sailing, all the way to the meals for one.

You get some much-needed alone time
Now is your time to work on your hopes and dreams. With no one there to influence your decisions you are free to do as you please. Sometimes a partner can feel threatened when you’re passionately involved in something that doesn’t involve them, whether that be knitting, writing or pursuing that evening class. They feel like they are losing you and this can be a terrifying concept. Being single means that the only person who can possible hold you back is yourself. Your time to run with that business idea has never been better. You can devote all your time to that special project as there is no one there to subconsciously or consciously hold you back.

You’re free to check out the talent
Yes, now’s the time to ogle that hottie as they walk past, give someone your number and fill you spare time with dates, even if its not in the view of finding that ‘special someone’. Yes, sometimes these dates are questionable and leave something of a bad taste in your mouth but they are great for helping you realise what you don’t want in a partner. You also get to meet some great people who may not be right for romance but could offer opportunities that will enable you to reach your personal goals. You don’t have to stick with the first one that comes along. There are 7 billion people out there and just because your single doesn’t mean you have to veg out on the sofa gathering dust.

Yes, being single has its perks I can assure you. You can watch what you like, eat whatever you fancy, flirt outrageously, bath for over an hour in peace, wear questionable pyjamas, burp and fart without offending your partner, read shockingly embarrassing books under the covers, miss out on expensive hallmark holidays (valentines) and live like a slob if you choose. A friend of my mothers said to her (about me) “Its great that she travelling now but as she gets older, she is going to need someone by her side”. Maybe, but I tell you what, I would rather walk a one hundred miles alone than with an asshole by my side.

Next time, travel with boyfriend

This is what I was told by the hotel manager. Obviously the staring and random foreign comments thrown at me were not all in my head. I did believe for a moment that I was being rather sensitive, with my previous post blowing off steam. As it stands, actually I’m seen as just weird.

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Welcome to the world of the single female traveller. Not all places of course but here in Ha Long bay I am seen as something of a rare species. With thoughts of writing, reading and relaxing before beginning my teaching career I thought what better way to spend it than on the coast of Vietnam. Maybe I was just a little bit naïve and failing to really check out the weather forecast – believing anything is better than the weather in the UK, I have found myself wrapped up in a scarf and woolly hat, eyes squinting through the fog.

So after a conversation with the manager of the hotel which involved me being sheepishly embarrassed of my single status, I have decided to do myself a favour and head south for warmth and sangria. I don’t take what the manager said to heart, as when I look back on holidays when I did have a partner, all I can remember are tears, arguments and silent treatment.

Holiday with boyfriend number 1

It was my 18th birthday and my first time on a plane. Me and my boyfriend touched down in Cyprus for a week of dinning, dancing and having plenty of…….cocktails. My excitement and enthusiasm was immediately popped like a balloon when ‘C’ didn’t want to do anything. In fact we barely left the hotel as he was terrified of the locals. Instead we were in bed by eight. This lasted a week and involved multiple arguments and sheer boredom, which lead to more arguments for something to do. Arriving back in the UK we broke up in the car on the way home from the airport (only to get back together and repeat the same shit for another 3 years).

Holiday with boyfriend number 2

Exciting stuff, with a whole campervan to take us through Europe. I painted the inside a ghastly yellow, and hung up flower power curtains. He put up shelves in what would be our new home for the next 6 weeks and off we went. The campervan, the cities, the mountains, the lakes, the beaches, the history, the architecture were all incredibly. Apart from him. ‘T’ decided that the best way to take in the sights and sounds of our adventure was to chase European skirts. He was also something of a ‘cold’ fish which didn’t fill my heart with the warmth and giddiness of young love. The trip itself was amazing. It was just a shame he was there.

Holiday with boyfriend number 3

A trip to Portugal, travelling from Wales by car. I long ass journey but involved rocking to various music and eating baguettes and salami off the boot of the car, Mediterranean sun hot on our necks. It was our first holiday, in which we had only been dating for 4 weeks. We stayed at ‘K’s aunties villa, surrounded by fig and olive trees. It was stunning, except all was not as it seemed with the man in my life. As I observed this new Casanova with all his words of love and affection, I noticed that he would change personalities, depending on who he was talking too. How bizarre, I thought. The holiday went in a haze of alcohol, fine food, walks on the beach and me trying to detach his face from mine. Which was permanently attached, slobbering over me and removing layers of skin away.

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Get off my face already

He would not leave me alone for a second, watching my every move and spraying his territory with every glance from another male. I came away from the holiday mentally exhausted, hung-over and overwhelmed with the ‘love bombing’.

So Mr Manager, travel with a boyfriend next time?

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All eyes on me

Again I wandered out of my hotel into the sleepiness of Ha Long bay. All market stalls were closed and the fog still drowned out the scenery. Again the sky met the sea in a blanket of silver with just the faintest edges of the mountains in view, watercolour in a haze of shades. I walked along the beach front, wandering aimlessly and trying to calm the increasing feeling that I was being watched. Constantly.Eyes on me

I am in a tourist destination where hundreds of ‘farangs’ get dropped of weekly, if not daily to explore this gem, a world heritage Site and popular travel destination. So if this is the case can you please stop staring at me as if I have grown multiple heads in the space of seconds. I feel like I have become something of a freak show as I walk alone along the hidden streets where groups of local people stop and gawk, before turning to their friends and having a good old chin wag about my presence. It doesn’t help that I have come in the quiet season (aka the freaking freezing season).

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Do I have something in my teeth?

I am not immune to the staring. I spent a year in Huairou – Beijing, teaching English, which was a very quiet place to be situated. With only three ‘farangs’ – myself and two guys – we were something of a novelty. There, it was a whole different ball game of staring. Shopping trips became a constant game of hide and seek where, basket in hand, I would try to lose the groups of local people amongst the aisles as they followed, curious as to what I was going to put into my basket. My shopping was scrutinised and commented on, especially when I would stock up on multiple chocolate bars in some sort of desperate attempt to cure my home-sickness. Tube rides became a photo opportunity for locals, who would sneakily hold up their camera phones to take various snap shots of my hung-over state.

Did you get my good side?

Now I find myself battling those familiar feelings which I had long forgotten about. Can I just accept that they may be curious? Can I just let it slide and feel overjoyed that I don’t blend in? Can I just saunter down the streets with the careless freedom that comes with wandering in new and unfamiliar territory? No. At the moment I feel like doing this, if one more person stares at me.

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Just look at me once more……

Hoodie up and scarf wrapped round my face, I was still recognised as a foreigner. What is it exactly? Do I have a particular ‘farang’ swagger that I’m unaware of? Guys on mopeds frantically turned their heads in shock at my presence, before shouting only God knows what. I’m hoping it was all sweet words of ‘welcome my dear long-lost friend’ although I might be just a bit optimistic there. Whilst I was with my travel companion I could handle it and took it as innocent curiosity and no more than that. Now, alone and feeling vulnerable, I notice every stare and hear every heckle, which makes me want to kick off and throw random, clumsy Kung Fu moves on the unsuspecting audience.

Forcing myself to eat, I found a small restaurant to eat my beloved noodles. I sat at the back and felt all eyes on me as I battled my way through the use of chopsticks and slippery noodles, which of course made me even more self-conscious and therefore had me dribbling, dropping and slobbering over my bowl of deliciousness, much to the amusement of the multiple pairs of eyes as they watched my discomfort.

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I have now retreated to my hotel room, feeling comfort in my sanctuary and away from preying eyes. Tomorrow, I shall again brave the curious stares and random comments thrown my way, that I do not understand. I will keep smiling through gritted teeth and try to take it all in innocent jest and when I eat my noodles I will dribble with abandon, relishing every splatter that covers my face. As I say, Vietnamese food is there to be thoroughly enjoyed, audience or not.