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.

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Another Brick In The Corporate Wall

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It seems to me that my new-found path in life never fails to leave people with endless questions, mostly with a regard to my mental health and whether I have lost the plot. Take for instance a repeated conversation with my brother.

‘So what are you going to do with your life?’

‘I’m going to teach English as a foreign language and travel the world….’

‘Yes but…..What are you going to do with your life?’

This seems to be the reaction from most people. A mixture of envy with a dash of cynicism topped off with a large dollop of disappointment. I get it. For years after my first TEFL contract in China I swore I would never dip my toe into the world of teaching again. Fuelled by the various comments bashing English teachers as ‘avoiding responsibility’, ‘unaccepted by their own country’ and ‘wasters and hippies with no ambition’ I gave up on teaching altogether. My 20-year-old mind had been firmly polluted by the endless jibes that come hand in hand with TEFL. Instead, after completing my degree, I pushed myself into the corporate world with dreams of a flash wardrobe and an even flashier car. And this is where I lost ‘myself’.

Hired and jumping up and down in my parents kitchen I thought my new-found success would pave the way to management heaven. Having received my contract and welcome letter as a new employee of a global IT company I could not conceal my excitement and satisfaction. The girl from the bleak council estate was well and truly on her way to success. I began my role with the enthusiasm of a new puppy, all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed but still shaking in my boots at the thought of using Excel and numbers as they certainly weren’t my personal strengths. I got to work an hour early, always first to arrive and usually last to leave. Lunch times would be spent at the desk trying desperately to hide another Excel formula fuck up as I watched the days pass in a blur of pivot tables and numbers, adding and subtracting. Sometimes I would bound out the door, satisfied that my day was full of small successes. Other days I would cry at the thought of messing up another report. A report that barely anyone ever read.

You see after a few months in the role I realised that no one cared. Reports and new websites that I fawned over and spent countless hours trying to perfect were pretty much irrelevant. I realised that I had become part of the furniture, another brick in the wall of a massive corporation and that no amount of trying was going to get me anywhere. Hushed discussions with other disgruntled employees furthered my suspicion that I was going nowhere fast and the only way up was to leave and reapply for the desired new role. When I was a fresh newbie I listened as my trainer spoke about a woman on another floor who hide all her ‘to do work’ under her desk. This woman did sweet f.a for 6 months before she was caught out from the growing mounds of paperwork forming under her desk, trying to escape. At the time I was horrified. How lazy and inconsiderate. Now I realise that no one gave a shit, and for her laziness (or cleverness) to go unnoticed for that amount of time must have meant that she was both invisible and irrelevant. Something I was to become familiar with.

Once the rose-tinted glasses had been removed and I was no longer breaking into a cold sweat on report days, I found myself slipping into a cubicle coma. For 8 hours a day I sat, clicking on the mouse creating documents that would be sent into the black hole of cyber space. I had mentally left the building. The silence would descend over the office as each of us punched in numbers and wrote out endless emails, while I tried desperately to find some sense of fulfilment in a job that I should not have been in. A job that I had no natural talent for. But that didn’t stop me from pushing and forcing myself to fit the mould, unaware that I was depleting my spirit with each day that passed.

After I ‘woke up’ and realised that I had no business being in IT, never mind an office, I slipped out unnoticed. No one saw me place my plant in my bag and forage around for my shoe collection that had been gathering under my desk. I cut my notice short and left, walking out into the grey sky and damp air without (so much as) a backward glance. Now I look back at all the years I spent chasing the money signs and all I see is someone wanting to conform. Someone desperate to have a desirable CV and endless Linkedin contacts. Someone who wanted to go to work in smart clothes, reeking of success. Someone who wanted a nice monthly wage, with an even nicer bonus and a mortgage to boot.

Now I’m no longer that somebody, but it took me years to wake up from wanting that dream. I now wait to begin my English teaching role in Bangkok where I can go back to the hustle and bustle of the uncomfortably humid streets. Where the various smells of the street stalls attack my senses and where everyone seems to be on ‘Thai’ time, walking at snail pace and coming to classes late. And as for people who question my dreams and ambitions I say simple to mind your own. My dreams, wherever they may lead, are none of your concern. Let me enjoy the fact that at nearly 29 years old I may have found my calling and thank fuck for that as it has taken me to hell and back trying to find it.

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?
Silence
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

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.