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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What (not) to say to your unemployed friend: 5 do’s & don’ts

Good evening and welcome to today’s helpful advice on “What to say – or better yet: not to say – when your friend is unemployed”. Given that I have been on the job market for a couple of weeks now and have come to the stark realisation that my industry isn’t in the best of shapes – thank you Brexit – I thought it was time for me to write a post I never wanted to have the knowledge to write. Alas, we don’t always get what we want. Me sitting on the couch all day is a stellar case in point. But at least it provided me with some inspiration, yes? Right, so let’s dive right in:

1. DON’T

Ask how the job hunt is going?
Trust me, if your unemployed friend had good news to share about her incessant search for work, she would have definitely already told you. Most likely she would have hired a blimp with a massive “I’VE GOT A JOB!” printed on it to scour the sky in the area of where you live. There’d be no way you’d ever miss that news, trust me. And if there was any other update to share, like, say, she scored an interview? You will have been notified far in advance, so you could root for her when she went. Even bad updates about failed interviews will be shared – if she wants to. Just… Don’t ask for them, okay?

1. DO

Talk about what is going on with you!
Your friend is, most likely, living a pretty bleak existence right now. If she had the money to spare, she would probably pay you to talk to her about anything other than her own sad reality right now! So have at it, tell her what you’re doing these days, what you’re up to over the weekend, what your significant other is planning for your birthday… It can even be OK to talk about something great you’ve done at work. Just because she’s unemployed, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to share in her friend’s great achievements. If she has a problem listening to your success, then I can tell you right now: that’s not a true friend.

2. DON’T

Be jealous of “all the free time” you’d love to have!
I don’t care whether you’re my bitch or not, I’m about to smack. You. UP! Say that and it’s very likely your friend is doing her best not to punch you in the face right now. You’re being a brat. Because guess what? She’d give a-ny-thing not to be at home all the time. Spending time on the couch is fun for… About a week. Max two. After that it becomes boring and with every passing day, your friend is probably just feeling like more and more of a loser. So don’t be jealous. Don’t even pretend to be jealous. Otherwise any teeth you’ll be missing are of your own doing.

2. DO

Ask what she had for dinner last night?
Did she read a good book maybe? What about a movie? Like it or not, your friend has got a lot of free time right now. You can’t spend ev-er-y waking moment applying for jobs. So odds are your friend is able to Netflix away for a day and picked up on this amazing show she’d love to talk to you about. Take an interest in her life without having what can only be described as “laser focus” on her current work status. She’ll be happy to talk to you about anything and everything, just not her job hunt – capiche?

3. DON’T

Give advice.
This one is simple. Yes, she is applying for jobs online. Yes, she has updated her LinkedIn profile. Yes, she is sending out her resume to various recruitment agencies. Yes, she is personalising emails to people in the business. Yes, she is trying to use the full extent of her network. Yes. Yes. YES! Whatever advice you’ve got: 9 times out of 10, the answer is “Yes, I’ve done that” and you implying otherwise is not only condescending, but patronising and be-yond annoying. Don’t do it. Unless you’re in HR yourself and you actually have valid advice on your friend’s resume, cover letter, upcoming interview (or anything similar), then please keep your comments to yourself.

3. DO

Talk about any job opportunities you’ve come across.
If you know what your friend is looking for and you’ve heard of a job opportunity that really matches her skill set, then of course, tell her about it!!! What are you waiting for?! Any kind of lead like that will be most welcomed! You’ll probably even win “Best Friend” Award of the Year if it pans out. If not, for sure you’ll receive an honourable mention. Either way, your help and thoughtfulness will be most appreciated. Even just knowing that you’re keeping an eye out for her means a lot. You go Glen Coco!

4. DON’T

Suggest any kind of outing.
Going to the movies. Going for dinner. Taking a spa day. Going on holiday. Going partying. The list can go on. Do you know what those suggestions all have in common? They cost money. Do you know what your friend doesn’t have at the minute? An income. Do you know what does still come in though? Bills. So no, your friend can’t go out clubbing with you to take the edge off. And dinner at that nice restaurant is going to have to wait. Anything that entails spending money is most likely going to be off-limits right now. So don’t even go there, because while you think you are taking her mind off things, you’re actually making her feel even more miserable. Trust me, she’s got enough to feel depressed about already. There’s no need for you to help with that.

4. DO

Surprise her with a bag full of food you are going to cook for her!
Or just spontaneously show up with a bunch of dvd’s and demand a movie night! Or maybe you feel like you’d like some company on a walk through the local park?! Any activity not costing money and designed to hang out – without strings attached – is absolutely amazing. Like a breath of fresh air, she’ll be pleased at how considerate you are. Being unemployed can leave your friend feeling isolated, because there’s so many activities she suddenly can’t participate in. By surprising her with your (free) company, she’ll get the benefit of your friendship without that pesky financial cost. Bliss! And also eternal gratitude.
Oh, and if you’re trying to circumvent the “cost” issue by offering to pay for her? Be careful with that one. A nice treat is fine and truly generous, but don’t overdo it or she’ll start feeling like a charity case. Even if she kind of is one right now, there’s no reason she should feel like one.

5. DON’T

Talk about your friend of a friend of your brother who’s in the same position as she is.
Great. What the fuck do I care? Is this helpful information? Is it going to make your friend feel better? Do you really think your friend is going to be pleased to hear that other people are also having a hard time with finding a job? I’m sure you think it’s going to make her feel less alone and therefore less of a failure, but you thought wrong. Instead, it’s just going to convince her that the market is absolutely horrendous and her next opportunity for a job might not be weeks, but months away. She probably already knew that, but you confirming it really adds on the pressure. Thanks for that.

5. DO

Say that you believe in her.
All she really needs from you is support. Belief that she can do this. She may not always believe it herself, so therefore your relentless encouragement is key. There will always be days when it seems hopeless and on those days it means the absolute world that her best friends are rooting for her. You may not be able to supply her with a job. You may not be able to give her advice. You may not be able to show up on her doorstep with a collection of chickflick movies. But you can show support by simply saying that you believe in her. You believe in her skills. You believe that, despite that this is a rough patch she is experiencing, she will get through it. Do that and you are already the best friend she could ever have. Word.

Voilà. And there you have it folks: some insight into what it’s like being unemployed and how to talk to someone who is – i.e. me. Of course, anyone who’s ever had an unemployed friend and now realises that they may have done some of the aforementioned “don’ts”: don’t worry. We, the unemployed friends, know you mean well. We’re not here to bite your head off and discount you as “unfeeling idiots”. On the contrary! We know that you’re trying to be a good friend, but you’re not entirely sure how that works in this new situation. And that isn’t anyone’s fault, it’s simply “uncharted territory” for your friendship. We I would never hold that against you.

Though, now that you understand my situation a bit more, I will no longer make apologies for any grunts, eye rolls, yawns or potential walk-outs you may encounter if you fail to comply with the above. Not to be mean, but you have been forewarned, so no calling me out on being “grumpy”. Because until you wear a robe more often than you wear jeans, you haven’t even begun to understand the meaning of the word.

XOXO

– Your couch potato

 

 

 

The curse and blessing that is YOLO

Decisions. For some reason people around the world struggle with them. I do too. They’re like blank pages we feel like we need to conquer. But how to get those first words onto the page? How to know they are the right words? Decisions very much feel like that. You toss and you turn and you hope that when you do decide, it will be the right decision.

“Yes, he is the guy you will be able to spend your life with, happily ever after.”
“No, that is not the right place for you to move to, far removed from what brings you joy.”
“Perhaps, maybe this job opportunity is the right one, but how to know for sure…?”

If any of this sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve all been there before.

The problem is that making decisions is hard. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how wise you might be, they’re always hard. Because the uncertainty of making the wrong move is a fearful task. More so even in this world than a world of years ago. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am overjoyed by the opportunities screaming at my generation to get noticed, to be our roads less travelled by our ancestors. Growing up in today’s day and age is a privilege, if nothing else. But let’s face it, in a way, things were “easier” way back when.

I use that term loosely, “easy”, as I don’t want you to mistake it for “better”. What I am aiming for is that, once upon a time, you were born and depending on which family you came from, which gender you were etc., life was almost “pre-decided” for you. It may not have suited you perhaps, but in a way, you knew what to do. You knew how far you could go and what limitations life held. While I’d never want to go back to a world like that, I do confess it sounds appealing in a “Gosh-how-amazing-would-it-be-to-not-have-to-make-such-important-life-altering-decisions-all-the-time.” I mean, hell, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this?

In my opinion, a lot of people make choices nowadays out of fear for going into the golden years with too many regrets. It’s what my generation, the #YOLO-generation is all about: You Only Live Once. And that belief, that fear that you only live once, well it means that you have to carpe the hell out of that diem, doesn’t it? It means you can’t let any kind of chance of greatness go to waste, or you’ll be the fool who let it all slip through his/her fingers. There’s pressure behind making decisions now, not just because life is no longer “pre-decided” and you actually control your own fate (for which I’m sure you’ll all say with me: Halleluja!) but if you make the wrong one, you’re not living up to your YOLO-potential. Shame on you!

Let’s be honest: I have felt that pressure massively as well. Who doesn’t? But the absence of said pressure can have negative consequences too, I feel. Say you find yourself in a life you didn’t specifically ask for, you never really wanted, never truly dreamed of in the way that you’re experiencing it, yet… You can see it being stable, presenting you with a future where you know what to expect. Finally, the pressure is off! And you can rest a little easier. You can breathe more carefree, even as the days, weeks and months pass by and you have to admit to yourself, that while you’re not unhappy, you’re not exactly happy either. The relief of knowing what’s coming next keeps you tied to your present state.

As this is my first day where I am truly no longer employed, the pressure is back on in a major way. While it’s an added weight to carry, in a way I welcome it back with open arms. Finally I have the power to make decisions again! Who’d-a-thunk I’d be glad to feel that stress?! Ha, I genuinely am though. To be honest, I always had the power to make my own decisions – of course I did. But my carefree state made me unwilling to change. Now though, I’m ready for something different. So with that in mind, I’ve made two decisions:

  1. I am starting an online copywriting course at the College of Media & Publishing. I’ve always loved writing and I’ve got a solid background in marketing, it’ll be awesome to truly combine the two and see how I do. I have the time nowadays anyways, so why not? Sitting at home day after day just doesn’t interest me – now that I have the opportunity, I want to make the most of it and learn about something that interests me greatly!
  2. This Saturday I’m attending a Creative Writing course at the Faber Academy in London. Not sure what to expect from it, I’ve only been told to “bring my favourite novel”. But I’m definitely so looking forward to it! This course to me is not about learning per se, like the CMP online course is. It’s not about helping me look for the next opportunity in my life… This one just tugs at my heartstrings. This one… Is just for me. :-) And I can’t wait!

I’ll keep you updated on how it all pans out. In the meantime, I’d just like to stimulate each and every one of you to never lose that pressure. Never lose that feeling where life has no more different stories to offer you, because everything is simply going full steam ahead towards the predictable end. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: life is unpredictable. And that can be such an amazing thing to experience! I’d hate for you to lose that excitement, to lose that joyous buoyant feeling of being deliciously alive. Stop being content if you’re not, not truly anyways. Change it. You have the power to make that decision. I encourage you to do so.

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From: Invictus, by William Ernest Henley (1888)

That Roaring Summer

Taken today, Friday 21 August 2015. Wearing a smile.
Taken today, Friday 21 August 2015. Wearing a smile.

Two years ago, I experienced the most amazing summer.

I had one exam I had to retake, sometime in mid August. Which, granted, wasn’t exactly fun. And I had to write my dissertation for my Masters degree in Corporate Communication. Which, granted, wasn’t exactly fun either. But somehow, that summer was absolutely incredible. That summer was one of the best I’ve ever experienced. It was a glorious time at home, still swaddled in the comfort of everything I’ve always known, whilst standing at the precipice of a staggering adventure.

It was the summer of ’13. The days were long and swelteringly hot in the small little town I grew up in. My favourite place to be was in the garden of my parental home. Our garden has always been large and rich with flowers growing everywhere. And there’s a big oak tree, which has been there even before I was born. I’ve seen it grow to a majestic piece of marvellous nature over the years, standing at the edge of our garden, overlooking the empty fields in the distance. The grass is always full of weeds, moss and daisies, making it exquisitely soft and gracefully delicate at the same time. I like daisies the most. No matter what you do, they will grow wherever they like – uncompromising on the simply beauty of being. And this summer, oh let me tell you, the weather was just perfect. The sun would burn hot during the day, whereas the night skies often brought the most refreshing rain. The garden stayed a lush green all summer long – have you ever smelled anything better than the smell of summer rain? It was a glorious time. Life was all nonchalance and comfortable luxury. And happiness seemed to last forever.

Not in the least because of the company I was in. I was home. Home with my parents, who know me well and who’ve grown accustomed to my bouts of loving craziness. My sister was staying with us for a few weeks after having spent many years abroad – it was a great time to reconnect and remember old times, like when we’d sing the theme song of “Gilmore Girls” together whenever it was on TV. And especially when my brother would come by for dinner sometimes, we’d all be reunited again. It wasn’t exactly like my childhood – somehow it was even better. And I’d play Scrabble with my dad, read books, invite friends over… In the evening, I’d reach for my laptop and slowly but surely write my dissertation – barely making a dent in an otherwise careless existence.

It was almost like a perfect beginning to a stunning 1920s novel – all gaiety and naivety. Because of course, I knew it wouldn’t last. In fact, I was acutely aware that it was going to be the last summer I would ever spend at home. My year at Vlerick Business School was awaiting me, which I knew would bring job opportunities in the summer ahead. Which would mean starting work, most likely moving, becoming an adult and all that jazz. (Little did I know I would end up in London, UK?!) So I enjoyed every single minute of it. And I made sure I would always remember the indescribable ecstasy I felt during that summer of ’13…

This summer is so far removed from that one. Instead of two months of vacation, I have 2 weeks. Instead of writing papers for a degree, I now work for a living. Instead of letting casual euphoria take over, I count the days I must return to real life. Instead of feeling like the world was just waiting at my doorstep, I increasingly find you have to cross the threshold and discover it for yourself. While I enjoy making my own way and figuring things out as I go along, there was something so lavish about that feeling I experienced during that summer in ’13. My responsibilities were minimal, at best. My only “job” was to fill my days with blissful happiness, to enjoy spending time with my delightful family and friends, to relish life in a beautiful garden paradise. And even knowing it would end, even knowing things would change soon, I was caught up in the sheer extravagance of those two months.
It was the ultimate summer feeling.

Today, I find myself longing to go back. Like Gatsby before me, I was trying to recreate a time long ago, trying to recapture what I lost. But as naive as I was then, I’m less so now. I now know that you can never go back, not really. We’re not meant to. And that’s okay. People grow, they move on, they change, they – hopefully – get to be even better versions of themselves. It’s only taken me a mere week back home to realise that I won’t be recovering those swelteringly hot summer days of ’13. Instead, I’ll experience new days. And you know what? That’s a good thing. Because two years ago, I would have never even dreamed of living in London. So waking up to a new day… Who knows where I’ll go next?

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Great Gatsby

The professional

My dearest reader,

I apologise for the horrendous absence you have endured. You must have been feeling abandoned, lonely and discarded like a used paper towel by my prolonged non-writing here. I wish I could ease your suffering somehow – reimburse you for the pain you’ve had to withstand. But I’m afraid I have no proper excuse for my behaviour. So let me make amends by grovelling appropriately and letting you back into my most inner circle of thoughts.

[…]

Did you like that? Was that professional?

These days I’m all about finding the balance of being professional and remaining true to my personality. And damn, that’s hard. To a lot of you, it’s so easy: you just don’t say anything weird, nor something that could be construed as an insult, nor the first thought that pops into your head – unless you just never think in bizarre ways, in which case that last one isn’t for you. And to be fair, that does sound easy, even to me. However, for those of you who’ve met me and spent more than half an hour with me, I’m sure you know that does not sound like me.

I wish I was innately professional like that. I wish I had a filter that would make all my jibber-jabber come out as perfectly polished English. I wish the cultural barriers – even though it’s only a trip across the pond – were not as big as they clearly are. I wish that I was as poised as my British counterparts. I wish that people wouldn’t find my behaviour weird, or inappropriate sometimes. I wish that I could fit in without pulling a muscle. I wish that it was easy.

But then again… I don’t wish my family had raised me differently – and in my family, yeah, we are ALL like that. [And yes, you are free to think about our family reunions at this time, with a bunch of people who are all hilarious, quite loud, think in funky ways and see the world like a jigsaw puzzle they don’t know the final image of – and they’re okay with that.] Also, I don’t wish that I didn’t value honesty above everything – public perception be damned. And I don’t wish that I was like everyone else: more reserved, difficult to read, an enigma to be deciphered.

I’m okay being an open book. Feel free to flip through the pages, read into my mind, wonder at the jibber-jabber you’ll undoubtedly encounter. I invite you as a passenger on the journey that is my life. Feel free to write your name in the passenger registry. Or if that’s too open for you, I’m sure you can be a stowaway somewhere below decks, hidden where I can’t see – I won’t mind. Don’t worry about propriety and what it all means, but just keep reading, word after word, page after page. There’s nothing on here I feel uncomfortable sharing. Perhaps you’ll think it’s all bizarre and a waste of your time. Perhaps you cannot fathom why any one person would do this, have an open window into his/her mind like that. Perhaps you’ll just have a laugh. Perhaps you’ll recognise my voice and enjoy spending time with me. Perhaps there’ll be a thing or two to open your eyes and make you look at the world differently, however insignificant or small that may be. And maybe, maybe, you will want to stay tuned to catch a (hopefully) happy ending.

However, being this open – I can only do that here. And of course, in my personal relationships. At work though, different rules apply. And I can’t say it doesn’t bother me that at work it feels like a part I have to hide, of sorts. Not really hide, just… Be careful who I show it to. Because it’s not really something I can change: my open/for-all-to-know thinking was like this when I was 5, it was like this when I was in my teens, I’m sure it will stay with me for a long time to come. But it’s about channelling it properly. And I guess that makes sense. Even to me. And there’s no shame in admitting you’re still learning. =)

But I suppose the main take-away from this is… That you can take the girl out of Belgium, but you can’t take the Belgian out of the girl! So Happy National Holiday my sweet fellow countrymen! I miss you loads and look forward to coming back: the 10th of August I’ll be arriving and staying for about 2 weeks…

See you soon, dear reader.

P.S. While writing, I was totally enjoying this beat. And you know what they say… Sharing is caring:

My life, the movie

The other day one of my best friends told me that my life is… Kinda like a movie. As in: “If my life would be on the big screen, she would so go and watch the hell out of that shit.” I’m not quite sure if that’s a good thing, but I’m willing to take it into consideration. And to be completely fair… My life is kinda like a movie these days. So let’s revise why:

Exhibit A

I am working for one of the biggest FMCG companies in the world, helping to sell some pretty amazing brands, in a foreign country better known as the UK, on a pretty prestigious grad scheme as perceived in the industry. That sounds… Impressive. Even to me, if I’m being honest. Mostly because it sounds very glamorous, even though “living the hotel life” ain’t always everything it’s cracked up to be. Though I admit that I will now forever want a cleaning lady who will make my bed, who will hand out fresh towels everyday – don’t you just love hotel towels? They’re so white and thick! – and who even organizes my make-up for me on the bathroom sink. I may not have my own fridge, but at least I never have to freakin’ hoover the carpet. Life is about balance, after all. And HHonors points! God I love HHonors points! I reached Silver status this weekend. Yes! Bring me my complimentary bottle of water, yippie! (And, yeah sure, some other perks that may come in handy, but the bottle of water really does take the cake, doesn’t it?)

Exhibit B

“I make more money than God.” (awkward pause) LOL! So not true. But it is true that this is my first-ever job and I am making my first-ever pay in the history of mankind. And with that, I obviously mean that student jobs do not count. Seriously, there’s nothing more glorious than going shopping and feeling like you own the world! Of course, truthfully, I don’t own the world at all – pretty sure I’m not interested in Australia anyways, because of the creepy-ass big spiders over there; it’s the one country I never want to visit, kangaroos be damned – but it’s nice being able to live a frugal life because I want to. And not because I simply have no money. So I’ve been able to welcome some new items into my life, such as a much needed winter coat, a nice outfit, cool shoes, an umbrella from Moschino… Didn’t really know that last one was a fancy brand, I just figured “Oh! A black umbrella with pink polka dots! Hmm, I want…” It goes without saying that investing in an umbrella when staying in the UK can be a very practical thing indeed. Especially because every time I bring it, it doesn’t rain. Thank you, universe.

Exhibit C

My friends are awesome. And I know that that is so cliche to say, but in my case it’s true. They give me presents when I’m leaving the next day to start my first-ever job – and we all know how practical a small guide to London can be, right? They give me presents because I’m feeling sad – who doesn’t love a Hello Kitty in an English guard uniform, right? And – which may sound surprising – they make jokes at my expense. Now as for this last one: I know I’m a mess. And guess what: I’m 23 dude. You really, honestly, definitely, think that a 23-year old has everything figured out? And she’s blonde to boot??? What planet do you think you live on?! Geez. Hell to the no: I am, wholeheartedly, a mess and I still have a lot to learn. So… What’s better than not taking yourself so seriously all the time, but having a laugh instead? It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to kinda be all over the place. As long as you can chill out at the end of the day and laugh about it with your friends.

Exhibit D

Drama. Oh, my, gosh, I have no clue how it keeps happening, but something will happen every week, if not every single day. From small things to big things, something’ll pop up over the course of about 24 hours and say “Hiii, I’ve come to make fun of you just because I can.” Today my train didn’t move for exactly one hour because a lady was feeling suicidal. Thank goodness the woman was okay, but naturally I didn’t take the earlier train – even though I could’ve – so I was stuck. On a train. Which had the power cut off. After which the batteries were running out. And you couldn’t even go to the bathroom anymore. *FUN* Lol, I know it’s silly and to be fair, some woman probably had one of the worst days of her life today. But still, it’s things like that. They happen. To me. All the time. And lately, I don’t seem to mind them as much, because what’s the point in getting worked up over them? So I kind of glide through them, but still, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’ll occur. And boy, do my friends enjoy listing them :’) I will probably never live the “bank account saga” down, nor “the overweight luggage saga”, nor the “back pains? no you just want to remain thin saga”. But I guess that’s okay.

Because you know what? My life is interesting.

Just another day at work, walking through beautiful London :-)
Just another day at work, walking through beautiful London :-)

Breathless

It’s the calm before the storm. It’s the moment before the wind will pick up speed, making the waves crash against the cliff walls. It’s the time where I hold my breath, knowing there is no other way to go but with both feet forward, taking a plunge into the deep. I feel like I’ve been running for so long and now I’m at a standstill. There’s no way back. And the way ahead may prove to be filled with some tricky waters. I can’t do anything but wait a little longer, until I’m breathless and I have to swim my way back up to survive.

Everyone has good days. And everyone has bad days. You need to experience both in order to distinguish between the two. Perhaps most staggering of all is when they follow up on each other at a breakneck speed, but perhaps it’s only normal. When you go high that fast, you will fall down in equal measure. And that’s okay.

These are the days I will remember. They are the days I will memorize in my mind, in my heart, in writing, in music, in whatever medium I can find. Whether good or bad, it’s the intense days that remind me of what it means to be alive. I’ve had too many flatline-days: days that don’t make a difference in the grand design. Days that don’t make your heart skip, but where it keeps flatlining at a steady beep. A dime a dozen, I suppose. Days that you’ve forgotten before the clock has struck midnight to announce a new sunrise ahead. They are not the days when inspiration will hit. They are not the days where my mind will soar, for better or worse, and bring with it all that I have pouring out.

*

Today I will remember. Today I know that I am breathless. I am immobile. I am in hiding. And I am trapped. Because I know what lies ahead. And yet I have no clue at all. There is a vast landscape ahead of me, filled with uncharted territories. In some I may find joy, others might bring grief and worse, some could forebode danger. For all intents and purposes, I suppose that is what growing into adulthood feels like. In the past I’ve acknowledged fears about it, as well as the excitement coursing through my veins, but never my inability to make it feel real in my head. I don’t how to make something feel real when I’ve never, not once, experienced it before. Again, this is a day where the range of the human emotional spectrum astounds me. To be honest, if I could, I would draw up a cocoon around me and let that be my safe world. Like a safe blanket, which ruffles softly against my toes and can be held close without fear of suffocation. I’d be alright living life as a caterpillar. Not everyone is meant to be a butterfly, least of all me. But there is no return ticket on the clock that is otherwise known as life.

I’ve read that some cultures see time as a circular motion. That’s in stark contrast to here in the West, where time is linear. There is a beginning. And there is an ending. And you can only go one way. Perhaps my lungs will kick in again if I familiarize myself with a circular way of viewing time. Perhaps that will take the pressure off and my chest can rise once more. Yes, this Western world of ours might have all the technology “inferior worlds” are still lacking… But we have a terrifying notion of growing older. And in that respect, we could learn so, so much. Because not only do we radically judge all human beings at the first sight of wrinkles, but we teach our children that there is a limited amount of time where you can “live your life to the fullest”.

When you are a kid, you cannot wait to be tall. When you are a teenager, you cannot wait to be taken seriously. When you reach your twenties, the full weight of adulthood hits you like a flatiron against your skull. But in your thirties you already start feeling like your best years are behind you. By the time forty looms around the corner, you’re due for your midlife crisis, because that’s when you’re deemed “old enough” for it. And anyone past fifty is considered old, in mind, body and spirit. A fate worse than death, I think. So I say… I say we revolt. I say we yank the rug out from under society’s norms and values and choose our own. I say we choose our own damn fate. Our own damn path. And I say we do not wait too long, before it is too late. A final statement, which I hope will be seen for the irony it depicts.

*

I am not going to divulge my secrets today. Not here. Not to the world. I will not spill the details on the innermost workings of my soul. Not today. Whether high or low, today will be remembered only by me. And through my experiences, I grow. Through my memory of those experiences, I learn. And today, I have learned many a thing. Maybe the most important one being that you can never go home again. Not that home is unsafe or unfamiliar, but it holds no more new experiences. Which translates in a standstill once more. So I will go forward soon. And I pray that the dreams I chase and the doors I choose are the right ones. But in all fairness, the world isn’t perfect. And my life has never been a fairytale. So I can only hope that, when I do start breathing again, I will feel my pulse quicken once again.

From down in the valleys below, anyone with enough willpower can rise. So here I go. Any minute now…