I’ll have a coffee, thanks.

It’s real, guys. Like, some of you already know, but now I am ready to tell the world. My name has been signed on the dotted line at the end of a nice-lookin’ contract. And I am starting work again as early as this coming Tuesday! I am ridiculously excited and overjoyed at the prospect. But before I go into further detail, I want to let you in on the rollercoaster that has been September for me.

Early September things were very exciting. I’d just gotten back from a lovely trip in Belgium, where I was able to fully relax and enjoy some time with my family. Once in London though, the jobhunt was back on! More so, I had a promising lead with an agency. I had built a marketing plan for one of their clients and went to their offices to present it. While nervous, they pretty much loved my presentation and thought me highly skilled. So much so, in fact, that they called me the very same day to offer me a job!

You can imagine me being ridiculously happy, right? I mean… I was beyond happy. Here I was, after being home on the couch for well over 2 months already (technically the first month I was still paid, but “feeling useless” starts as early as the second week of being home, trust me on that) and suddenly there was the light at the end of the tunnel I had been searching for so feverishly! I definitely whooped and, of course, told everyone that my search was over! Congratulated by all of my friends and family, I just had to wait to receive the contract and sign on the dotted line.

Now here is where it gets tricky. I’m not a total whiz when it comes to contracts. I mean, I’ve never seen a “bad one”, so I’m not exactly sure how to identify them. My mom though, who’s been an HR manager for… Longer than I’ve been alive? Not sure. I know she started as a teacher in a very distant past, but I can’t ever remember her being anything other than an HR manager. The last 15 years even a very successful one – somehow we were able to survive on her one pay check for over 12 years with 3 kids… I mean, my dad can be very creative and smart with handling budgets, but still I’m sure her being great at her job had to be part of that equation. So naturally, that means I immediately forwarded my mom the new contract so she could review it and point out anything strange.

And then… There were a lot of strange things. Each strange thing was, in effect, legal and on its own not that harmful. But all together, I mean… It was iffy. And the more I thought about it, the more I questioned it with the company, the more I asked advice from people who know a thing or two about what’s acceptable, my stomach just roiled. This wasn’t a good opportunity. I might learn loads, but under what stress would I be living if I couldn’t even take a sick day, because they were unpaid? Opting out of the Working Time Regulations of 1998 – apparently a standard practice here in the UK with agency work – made me feel very uncomfortable. Because while I’d be all right working as much as the job required me to, that does mean that sometimes you dismiss your body ’til the point where your body says “no”. But then you can’t take sick days? Say what now?!

There was other stuff too, about training I’d have to pay back etc., that just made me come down from that high fluffy cloud I was on to this sad pit of reality. From overjoyed to miserable in three days flat. I don’t recommend it. It’s not something I would want anyone to go through. And yet… In a way it was also a good thing? This is weird, because at the time it was really dreadful to go through. But it taught me something: just because you’re happy at getting an opportunity, it doesn’t mean you need to be blindsided by saying “yes” to crappy conditions. Just because I was starting to become desperate for employment, it didn’t mean I had to simply ask “How high?” when they’d commanded me to jump. I could choose not to jump. And so… I didn’t.

And it was the best thing I ever did. Because well over a week later, I heard back from another company – Cafédirect – that they’d wanted to see me for a second interview. The time between hearing back and that first interview was… Three weeks? At least. So I’d almost given up hope. But now here I was: back in the running and working on another marketing presentation. I presented a week later, I waited a few (nervous!) days and… The rest is almost history already.

Their offer was great, down to the fine print. And I’ll be joining their team on Tuesday. I won’t just be working, but I’ll be learning so much, I’ll be part of a team again and I’ll be coming home each day knowing that my efforts are helping struggling coffee farmers from all over the world. Because Cafédirect gives back up to 50% of its profits to the farmers, something which is well over the necessary requirement to be called “fair trade”. It’s going to be in the city of London as well – no more funny trips to lovely ole’ Luton for me. Instead of just happening to live in this city, I’m going to be an active member in it!

All in all, I couldn’t be more happy, because it feels like a new beginning. As most of you know, the past 12 months have been rough going for me. I was dumped. I faced the insecurity of a planned “re-structure” for months in the office. I survived my old boss, which – for the insiders reading this – was a feat in and of itself. I was then pushed into a position I didn’t want and also very much hated. Simultaneously I was forced to move out of my apartment, leaving great friends and memories behind. And all of it then lead me to the last few months, where unemployment reigned.
I mean… That’s rough. No matter how you try to present it.

So here I am. At the end of those pretty dismal 12 months. And while autumn is taking hold of this country once again, I feel like I am experiencing a new spring. Because I am now ready to start a new job for a company I believe in. (I never actually drank beer, or many alcoholic beverages anyways… Whereas I’m a lover of coffee!) Because I am living in a new flat with a great flatmate. Because I have friends who send me care packages or who come to visit, not London, but me and the only expectation is to chill out together. Because I have family who also send me care packages, who surprise me with trips to Belgium and Germany and who’ve been incredibly supportive through this whole ordeal. Because the past 12 months have taught me loads. I now know I can handle way more than I ever thought possible. And I also know that what they say is true: after rain, there will be sunshine again.

I am ready for a new spring. I hope you are too.

12-months

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A perfect day.

The last weekend of August I spent some time at home, in the cute little town I grew up in back in Belgium. And on Friday, at the end of the summer, I am happy to announce I experienced a perfect day.

As you all know, it’s been a tumultuous couple of months lately, with a lot of ups and downs – mostly downs, unfortunately. Which is why my weekend at home was so much sought after, as I had hoped it would give me my much needed reprieve. And my goodness, did it ever?

It was a hot day, swelteringly so. I’d spent the week in my apartment in London, working on a presentation for a company I’d like to get hired for. With the temperatures being what they had been, I was excited beyond belief when my mom and sister suggested “we go to the beach?” on Friday. I jumped at the chance and simply could. Not. Wait!

I’d packed my bikini to Belgium and soon we were off in the car in search of some relief from the blistering heat. Now, for those of you who don’t know Belgium all that well: there’s only about 40 kilometres of coast and it’s ridiculously busy, buildings and people everywhere, not exactly majorly “relaxing” if I’m honest. But, given the chance to jump into the sea, I told myself I didn’t care. Until… My mom suggested a different coast to visit.

Cadzand. About 15 kilometres further down the coast from Knokke-Heist – a famous beachside destination in Belgium – it’s a fairly lesser known beach, just across the border into the Netherlands. School in the Netherlands had already started again by Friday, so the amount of kids we encountered there was far less than we’d been expecting. Additionally, buildings and general “businesses” were… Not really present. Apparently there are laws in the Netherlands that prohibit too many building permits on the coastline, making it idyllic and peaceful beyond your wildest (Belgian) dreams!

The sea was cold. At first. But once the sun came out and my sister and I started happily swimming, I just had the best time! Swimming into the sea, letting ourselves drift back into land – all the while trying to keep our heads above water… The waves sometimes made it difficult, with lots of spluttering and coughing up sea water as a result, all the while laughing our asses off when the other one got a particularly nasty wave in the face! Pahaha, so much fun to be had at the beach!

But swimming in the sea, tanning on the beach while reading a good book… That wasn’t even all of it. There was exactly one restaurant on the beach. Just the one. And given that we were in Zeeland – famous for its mussels – I most heartily indulged into the ah-mazing seafood they served there. My goodness, it was yummy! And I was still in my bikini, all chilled out. Also the sun was shining gorgeously. I kid you not, but it felts as if the world was smiling at me. :-)

Even on the way back home: traffic was barely an issue. I mean: Friday evening on the last weekend of August? No hours of standing still in a hot car? What?! It’s like the universe realised it owed me one. After months of crappiness at work and then the added fever of jobhunting, finally, I was given a perfect day.

A perfect day with my sister and my mom. A perfect day of sunshine. A perfect day… At the beach.

Beach time - copy
A perfect day.