You are allowed to fear the worst as long as you promise to be happy when things are actually quite alright
This Monday marks the beginning of my third week back at work. As of tonight I have already spent 11 days in my office. I feared going back. What I left was a mess and a lot of things changed while I was away and I wasn’t able to hope things would change for the better, only able to fear things would be the same or worse.
I was wrong.
It’s worth repeating and worth giving an exclamation mark:
I was wrong!
Let’s get things straight. Work is work and after 11½ months at home with my pregnant belly turned into beautiful baby boy, I am sometimes overwhelmed with sadness that from now on it’s just work and work and work. No more walking around the park drinking coffee when the weather is good, no meeting up with my mother for cakes when the sweet tooth needs feeding, no napping on the couch and watching DVDs. It’s “working 9 to 5”. But it is so much better than my worst fears.
Explaining what happened and how is too difficult. A mix of things made me lose confidence in myself and just before my maternity leave I felt reduced and looked down upon. That is already saying too much, but that’s the way it was.
Coming back was a new beginning. On my first day I immediately felt how things were different, how things had changed – and how they had changed to the better. The first week I was frantically waiting for a call, an invitation to an interview that was going to end my misery. They never called, but as it turns out neither did misery. On my second day I realised that everything felt lighter. On my third day I was praised to the sky for my involvement and feedback in a project that’s getting more attention than any other projects where I work. I came in from the street, I threw around a bit of “good old me” and I was thanked for it. I was so tired when I came home, but I felt so good going to sleep that night. On my fourth day I felt like the capacity I am, I felt like the capacity I wasn’t allowed to be and feel like before I had my boy. On my fifth day I smiled and as the day turned into night I was so tired I could have fallen asleep over dinner.
Week two was good. And now week three looks promising. I can’t believe, but I’m going to make the most of it.
I am biased, I know, not able to see straight, too involved. I know, I know, I know. BUT:
Most of the change is due to things I had nothing to do with, but I too have worked hard at changing things so I would feel better, so I will – hopefully – never lose my confidence again.
On my first day back at work I bought a Moleskine calendar. I read about this idea ages ago, but never got around to doing it, but now is different and now is the time. The idea is that every day you end by writing down what you have done. That way you can keep track of what you do. When you tell your boss you want to do more of something or less of something else you and you feel as if nothing happens, you have your calendar to back you up. And when you apply for jobs and your updating your resume and you have no clue what you have been up to, you just look through your calendar and there you have it. My plan is to hopefully do more strategic work, to show that I am capable of it (and yes, in the end to get promoted). The calendar is one way of helping me to get there, because now I can prove what I have done.
As we rang in 2013 I promised myself I would make an effort. That’s kind of big and can hold so many things, but I did have specific things in mind. I wanted to make an effort to feel good when I go to work. I wanted to walk into my office feeling as the best possible version of me – on the outside as well. My work doesn’t require me to dress a certain way. It’s easier to overdress than to underdress. But there’s no need to position myself just above the underdressed when I could and would feel so much better positioning myself just beneath the overdressed. So I am making an effort. I am trying to wear different things and not look the same all five work days of the week. I am wearing my vast collection of scarfs, and I am going to try to wear my dresses (and yes, I have already worn my jeans way too much, but the weather is too cold for riding my bike in a dress so the dresses are put on hold for now). Today I wore my poncho. A couple of colleagues looked. Maybe they thought it was cool, but good old me naturally thought they were thinking “what is she doing?”. But you know what, I don’t care. I wore my knitted poncho because a poncho like that is basically a sweater sans sleeves and I love the colours and the look of that poncho and why not wear it? Wearing it like this means I can wear it many, many more times than if I only used it as I would traditionally use it: on top of a jacket on a cool spring day. Making an effort also means I now have a pair of shoes at work. When I get to work in the morning I changed into my lovely ballet flats instead of a) wearing the heavy boots that are keeping my feet warm on my bike ride or b) freezing my toes of because I wear shoes that are not meant to keep out the cold on my way to work on the bike. Making an effort is about feeling good about myself. I want to. Because if I do so many other things will be easier.
Perhaps the most important thing is that I decided to come back and say no. NO! No way. No, no, no. It’s such a tiny word, but such an important word. Part of my misery before the boy was due to not saying no. I didn’t say no, the others did and then we all know what happens. So in the past two weeks I have said no more times than ever before (maybe not, but you know what I mean). I am more than willing to do things, do crappy things, but I am saying no and I am letting people know that. And the fun thing, at least for me, is that saying no means I have boosted the image of me as a capacity. I don’t do whatever. I do a lot, but I also say no. I am crossing my fingers and arm and legs and all things crossable that I can continue to do this because this has made such a huge difference. It is also why I am writing this down: To remind myself that I was going to continue to say no. Things might change and if they do, I need this reminder.
For the moment a lot of things are temporary at work. Things will change in the next couple of months. The plan is still to get a new job. I have promised myself that, but while I wait and search for that new job, I am going to make the most of the one I am currently holding, it would be silly not to.
Wish me luck. For the first time in years I actually feel as if the ride is fun and that I am on top of it.
I don’t really want to write about it, and it’s so obvious, I doubt anyone will need an explanation, but it would look weird going through my list and then skipping this one – specially since it’s my number 1.
I hope to find a new job this year. I have been in my current position for 5 years and it’s time to move on. I believe in moving on and I believe that you won’t make the most of your experience from a job before you move on to the next.
BUT (there’s always a but)
It isn’t really the best of times to find a new job. Many are looking and the jobs are few compared to just a couple of years ago. During my darkest days last autumn I figured that I would only be happy if I found a new job – a day job – I figured my happiness depended on what I do for a day job. Then I stumbled upon an interview with Sarah Kay:
”Find room in your life to do the thing you love. It doesn’t have to be the thing you make money doing. It doesn’t have to be your career or what pays your rent. You just need to have it. If it is what you get paid for, that’s awesome too. But you can be an amazing poet who also has a day job. Plenty do. It doesn’t take anything away from your art or the joy that you get from doing it. In some places in the Middle East, they acknowledge that everyone is (or could be) a poet. Your plumber is a poet, the school teacher, the fireman down the street. I like this immensely. It doesn’t make being a poet less special, it makes it more relevant.”
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be a poet and I don’t hope to make it my day job, but it kind of opened my eyes to the fact that yes, I want another job and the faster the better, but if I can’t find a new day job then it’s up to me to find another job, something that makes me happy, something that makes up for the fact that I’m stuck and can’t find a new job. Whether it’s blogging or exercising or writing with a pen on a real piece of paper, it has to be something that makes me happy, something that gives me something to look forward to.
On top of my list is still finding a new job, but if that proves difficult then I’ll rephrase and say: “Find room in my life for something that makes up for not being able to get a new job”.
On the inside of my closet door I have a list. Every time I fetch something in my closet, it looks at me. For now – it might change, I know – it smiles at me when I see it. It’s a list of things I want to do in 2013.
I didn’t really want to make a list, but I ended up doing it. As the new year came closer and closer, I found myself thinking about all the things I wanted to make an effort to try to get done. One of them was work really hard on building a wardrobe. I have wanted to do this before – and failed – but I still want to do it and as I began wondering what pieces I ought to buy, what colour etc., I figured the right place to remind myself of wanting to do this had to be the inside of my closet door. And then other things came along.
I am not fooling myself. I know that this list can make me seriously mad in March when I have to admit that I have gotten nowhere, but I made it anyway.
- New job
- Blog in Danish
- New winter coat
- Christmas saving
- Follow and finish running programme
- Clean bathroom weekly
- Photograph, 52 themes
- Read 12 books
- Put apartment up for sale
- Spend a night away from home with J
- Write 52 memories
- Make an effort
- Build a wardrobe
- Cook 52 new recipes (preferably from already owned cookbooks)
- Visit 4 museums, 4 exhibitions.
And that’s it. I might come up with more, but for now these are the words hanging on the inside of my closet door.
I don’t know if I owe anyone an apology or and explanation for signing off and then returning as if nothing had happened, but if I do, here we go:
I signed off because I needed to breathe. December was in no way an easy month and I felt trapped and sad and basically couldn’t see any light anywhere. Because most of it is down to my job, I couldn’t really write about it here, so I decided to quit.
The minute I quit I felt as if I was missing a piece. I thought of things I wanted to write. This space is a way of getting things out of my head, of debating with myself, of writing for my own pleasure not caring whether it’s read or not.
I allowed myself to return, promising myself I would keep up as long as I enjoyed it and felt I got something from it, so those last words weren’t the last ones. I missed this space too much.
(If I whisper, maybe people won’t notice?)
The girl woke up burning hot on the 24th. The boy followed on the 28th. I never got the fever or the flu for real, but a cold was still about to kill me during the days between Christmas and New Year. As I lived through the last days of 2012 I couldn’t help but feel that it was as if destiny was screaming at me: “You want peace? You want a nice family holiday? You want time to write an application? This is what life has in store for you. Take it or leave it!”
2012 was a rocky year. It wasn’t all bad, big parts of it were great. GREAT. But in the end the mixed emotions and the worrying about things was all I could remember, all there was. Every single day. It was as if the struggle was no longer to keep my head above water, but to catch a glimpse of light from under the surface.
On New Year’s Eve the boy still had a fever. We were meant to go to my brother’s house and the “responsible parent” in us felt that we ought to cancel. In the end we went. We needed to get out, to have the girl play with her cousins, to drink some wine and a glass or two of pink champagne (champagne, the real thing, not sparkly, but champagne!), to eat some great food and be within some other four walls than our own. That evening the boy didn’t have a fever.
I was meant to write an application between Christmas and New Year. J was going to look after the children and I could get some hours at a local cafe writing my ass off to show them my best. Well, well, lovely dream, but no making it come true. Instead I have been stealing hours here and there during the first days of January to try to write something, and I thank my mother for taking the boy three hours yesterday so I could write and write and nothing but write. Come Monday they will get an application and it may not show me at my best, it may not win the Nobel Price for Applications (if there was such a thing), but it will be the best possible product I can produce within the life that I live.
For a while I have been thinking that 2013 was just around the corner. As usually I had great plans and hopes and dreams and as the year came closer, I got scared. Autumn wasn’t fun and come December I had decided that the “no fun” would jump into the new year along with me.
On the 30th of December I spoke to my dad. We laughed at how your hopes and dreams for the new year are never as pure and dreamy as on the last two days of the old year. “Yes, and in the end you learn that the new year is just like the old one,” my dad said. “It’s both good and bad.”
The ball dropped when he said that. “It’s both good and bad”.
I grew up when he said that. When I was younger, years were always going to be great. You’d travel exciting places, finish a degree or throw the party of a lifetime. When I was younger, years were careless and wonderful. Then I got my first job, bought an apartment, married, had two kids. It’s not that I can’t change the direction my life is going in, it’s that changing it is way more (WAY MORE) difficult than it was back when it was just me, back when it was just J and I.
So 2013 is going to be a good year. And 2013 is going to be a bad year. But 2013 is the first year I have entered with this knowledge written on the back of my hand so that I will never forget that chasing a “great year” is difficult, bound to make me sad, but that chasing the good things, appreciating the good things, seeing 2013 not as a whole, but as a lot of different pieces to a puzzle will – at least I hope so – all in all make it a great year to look back on in 12 months time.
Happy New Year.
It’s time to say my farewell, to write the last words and get on with it (whatever that is).
This began because I wanted a baby. Everyone else around us were having babies, but we weren’t. Five years ago I wanted a great 2008, but all I really wanted was a baby. I got one and I thought I could continue to write, but five years and another baby on, I have to admit that I can’t.
The thing is that since having that baby, most of my life has centered around her. I love that and wouldn’t want it any other way. The problem, however, is that the part of my life that doesn’t center around her, centers around a shitty job, around people who doesn’t believe in me. I am no fun to be around – in person or in writing.
I want a great 2013, I really do, but I am having trouble believing in it and what I really don’t want is to document not getting it. My diary will be more than enough proof of that.
So I am signing off. These are my very last words. I wish I could have ended this on a high note, but at least I am ending it now before I go even further down the road of misery.
I’m trying to figure out what I want from 2013, but I don’t know. A little bit of peace would be nice, so would recognition. For a while I thought a new job would help, but I am no longer so sure.
One thing hasn’t changed since back in 2008: I am still hoping for a great year, I am just choosing to do so in silence.
Thank you if you read and all the best.
I guess two children, a marriage and a mortgage are all “adult things”. I guess I am no longer to escape the fact that I am an adult who does adult things, but even so 2013 is looming and I have a feeling it’s going to be a year of adult things.
- We need to sell the apartment. Four people in the bedroom is cozy at times and difficult at times so we need to sell this place.
- We need to buy another place – preferably a house. I know we bought an apartment 7 years ago and with that came mortgage and responsibilities and all that, but this step feels HUGE. We need to find a house, one that we can live in for a long time, and by choosing that house we’ll be choosing schools for our children. We will most likely be purchasing their “childhood home”, the one they will remember when they have kids themselves one day.
- I need to find another job. I have been in my current position for 5 years. It has had ups and downs, but it has been mainly downs the past couple of years and it’s time to see if I can find something else. I worry because last time I applied for a job I was just out of university and it was kind of okay to not know it all, but now I need to see myself as someone with 5 years of experience and it’s no longer okay to not know things. This freaks me out
- We need to figure out how to be a family of four. We need to make it work with two working parents and two kids in daycare and kindergarten. We need to cook meals and do laundry and we need to do things on the weekends that make us feel like a family. I can’t see how we can fit it all in, I just can’t…
- We need to buy a car. We can no longer rely on borrowing my parents’ second car and we can’t live without one, so we have to buy one. I know this is a small step to some, but to me it’s a big one.
I think I hit bottom. At least I hope I did, because “up” is so far away, I can’t see the light. If it is not the bottom, I hope that what’s left before I hit it will be short – I know not to expect sweet.
I think I hit bottom. I think because I want to return to surface. The want to return to surface always happens when my feet find something to land on – the bottom – even though it can be rocky or tiny or covered in mud so I can’t see it. But hitting the bottom is finding somewhere to take off in order to return to surface.
I think I hit bottom. I look at my children, I look at how I am around them and I think to myself that if it gets any worse, if I am less of a mother, less of an institution of endless love and understanding, I shouldn’t be around at all. “I don’t like it when you yell, mum” my daughter tells me, but the answer to why I do it (I hit bottom), will not satisfy her, will not do. That answer will not make her home grounds safe enough for her to explore the world and not be afraid to step out into it. That answer will not make her confide in me or let me help her or even let me hold her hand and tuck her in when she wants her pacifier and I have to tell her that it’s gone.
I think I hit bottom. I look at my husband and I wonder what life was like when I wanted to kiss him first thing when he got home in the afternoon, when love was in the air even though the kids were screaming and dinner wasn’t ready. I look at my husband and I long for the times when the look of the two of us never left anyone in doubt of why we married, why we had kids, why we are meant to be. Because we are. We are. Meant to be.
I think I hit bottom. And I think it’s time to get away from there. To reach out to those who are already reaching out to me, to love those who are already loving me, to not care about a burnt dinner or a new job that doesn’t come, to respect myself and the life I – nobody else – chose. I think it’s time.