Friday, June 6, 2008

Yours Sincerely

Dear Boss,

This is a hard letter to write but one of necessity. I am handing in my notice and would like to arrange a suitable handover.

It will come as no surprise ,that I have become increasingly unhappy within my work and need to be back in a penniless but creative environment. I have had four good years within the company and have thoroughly enjoyed my time. I believe I have made great progress and developed personally and professionally. I now wish to move on and excel in an environment where it is unacceptable to say ‘back of the net’ or ‘balls in the air’ with a straight face.

Between now and September, I believe I can transfer my role responsibilities between individuals within the department, ensuring my departure has minimal or no impact on the current projects. I feel now is a suitable time to leave a well paid job, what with rising food and fuel costs pushing inflation through the roof. Come to think of it, I might not have a roof as the impending recession leaves me unable to afford mortgage repayments. I will, almost certainly, be broke in six months time, living back with my parents and selling double glazing by a motorway roadside complex.

I can, however, recognise without a shadow of doubt that this is the right thing for me to do. I have not yet formally informed the Director and am asking your advice on the next course of action.

Yours Sincerely


p.s. If anyone ever mentions data migration, mumbles bulls**t management speech and dares to ask me to reflect upon anything, I will not take responsibility for my actions. If certain management in this place develop any emotional intelligence and begin to act with even the slightest level of integrity please let me know, I would love to see that.

Unfortunately I feel I need to remove the p.s. and possibly tone down the sarcasm! But essentially that's it, I'm leaving. I am relieved, scared s**tless but happy! I have no new job, no real plans but unless I force myself into this situation I will continue to rot. And believe me, I will not smell good!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Me, Myself and 'Bush Falls'!

The train carriage pulls up into a picturesque station and judging from recent breakdowns, I fear I am on the outskirts of ‘lalaland’. Inhaling deeply, I step down onto the empty platform. Tugging my suitcase I walk through the ticket office into an idyllic village where life meanders, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of London life. The sun beats down and already the fresh air is blowing away the recently felt April blues. I find a bench, sit, flick absently through the newspaper and wait for the lone village taxi to arrive and take me to a countryside retreat I recently booked myself into.

Relaxing in the sun, scribbling mindlessly in my notepad I have visions of a beautiful cottage surrounded by vast rolling hills, where bird song fills the silence and the stress of city life fades into a memory. People will come to this paradise to relax, detox and perhaps, even meditate. Communal dinners will break the day and the few residents will sit around eating vegetarian food, grown on the land. Recalling adventurous escapades, experienced travelling through exotic lands. The loneliness will ebb away as I find myself again. Oh sod this, I feel like I’m in a frigging Enid Blyton novel!!

Swiftly moving on… A well-dressed woman joins me on the bench. An air of sophistication surrounds her and, not to my surprise, classical music begins to emanate from her hand-bag. I glance over as she opens her Prada bag to retrieve her phone. ‘Cynthia, darling!’ she exclaims in a British aristocracy drool, followed by a brief silence, ‘Nope’ *Long contemplative pause* uh-hah, I know it is amarrzing, but I’m terribly sorrow darling, Monty is in a committee meeting all day and will surely miss Henry’s cricket match’.

My attention is diverted as another elegantly dressed women sits to the other side of me, ‘Yep, yep, I totally understand the predicament, but if Karolina can’t wait till Isabel’s home, then she can not take the Suzuki’, she bellows into her mobile, in an equally upper class tone. Sandwiched between the rich and wealthy I begin to chuckle to myself, do they not know how stereotypically posh they sound? And maybe I am in an Enid Blyton story after all?

Waiting for one of them to mention Fanny and Dick are coming over later for lashings of ginger-beer, both women, as if on cue, glance my way. I realise I am sitting slouched and spread legged, wearing cut-off combat trousers, an off-white vest top and ‘seen better day trainers’. In my ear-wigging I have inadvertently opened the newspaper (yes it’s the Sun) to page three and Melinda’s breasts stare up at us. I can almost hear ‘lesbians, must they be so stereotypical’, being muttered under their breathe as I quickly turn the page and straighten my posture. My embarrassment is thankfully interrupted with the arrival of the taxi.

Twenty minutes later, and a very verbal guided tour by the local driver, we arrive at the remote location where I will spend the next few days. The house and grounds are beautiful; however it quickly becomes apparent my visions of communal dinners, meeting interesting people, tales of exotic places and meditating in the grounds are not going to come to fruition. Why? Because I’m the only person there! Following an incredibly lonely dinner, at a large table set only for one, I head back to my basic, TV-less room to stare sadly at the wall. Wishing I was anywhere but here, and hoping even the taxi driver would come back, I reach for a novel recently recommended by a friend.

‘Bushfalls’ by Jonathan Tropper is a humorous story about a 34 year old man who writes a disparaging novel about his home town. Well that’s the plot, but I read a story about a lost, insecure, lonely man who was scared of being hurt, getting older and allowing himself to be loved. He ultimately has a minor emotional break-down, a consequence of finally facing himself. A friend acts as his therapist, offering blunt, unprofessional but honest advice as the character has a series of panic attacks and random vomiting incidents. I won’t irritatingly ruin the story, but he does begin to let go of the wilfully stored emotions and change the negative self perception of himself. Oh, and his car gets blown up and there’s an enjoyable amount of sex in between.

So why the book review, because I could relate to him and it was very reminiscent of recent experiences; unfortunately, minus the sex! I did take the next few days to relax, read, walk and spend some time with myself to figure out what has been happening in my life and head. Returning to London I felt relaxed, tanned and a couple of pounds lighter, which is always nice. Importantly though, I returned with a strong sense of, once again, being able to cope and this is imperative with the amount of changes that lie ahead. I have to be honest though, I did, at stages, get bored of myself and it would have been ‘amarrzing’ to share a ginger-beer with Fanny and Dick.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mayday, Mayday!

Standing by the drinks machine waiting for my third cup of coffee to percolate its way into my mug, everything suddenly appears a little unbearable and I feel so incredibly tired. In that one moment I have an overwhelming desire to let my legs give way, crumble slowly onto the carpet tiled floor, assume the foetal position and close my eyes. Sanity thankfully perks up and the rational part of my brain takes over and repeats to ‘crazy self’ the words ‘breathe, just breathe’. As if on auto-pilot I turn, leaving the coffee stewing and walk through the doors, down the stairwell, past the busy breakfast canteen and avoiding eye contact with fellow colleagues, I head to the exit.

With just a few more steps before I can leave this, now claustrophobic office behind, palpitations begin pounding against my chest. Gasping for breathe and unsure of whether to burp or faint I unconvincingly reassure ‘crazy self’, ‘just count to ten and you’ll be ok!’. As I stumble out the final secure turnstile doors into the sunlight and adjoining park; ‘Five, six, seven, eight… oh shit’ is my last thought as I bend over and throw up.

Sitting in the park, unattractively smelling of vomit, I can see I need some help. Life is ok, in fact it’s pretty good. There have been a lot of recent changes and developments but surely they are not the cause for this emotional break down? What’s really scaring the shit out of me? And why am I surrounded by an air of desperation? My phone rings and breaks my confused train of thought. ‘Where are you?’ Terribly Posh Tara discreetly whispers ‘you’re late for a meeting and they’re all waiting?’

This is just one of the overly dramatic, humourless April events that I had no intention of writing about. Every week I sit in-front of the laptop, tapping the table, staring at the blank screen, to then procrastinate with unnecessary flat cleaning or decide watching the omnibus of Eastenders is far more critical to my wellbeing. Questioning what is the point of writing if I can not understand or rationalise what the hell is going on in my somewhat screwed up head. The past month has been a series of uncharacteristic panic attacks, hysteria and bi-polar behaviour that would leave Britney appear emotionally centred.

Tara cancelled the meeting, found me blubbering on a park bench and tried to comfort me but to no avail. When I finally returned to my desk, red eyed and fake smiling, I emailed the boss and booked some holiday time. It’s now May and today I leave on a lunchtime train to the countryside where I intend to drink carrot juice, relax and put my life back into perspective. With April over I already feel better. The sun is shining and the recent developments in my life now seem bearable and almost exciting, but that’s another story!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Thinking out loud

I have it all planned. Over the past two weeks occupational decisions have been made, I have researched my options, found the ideal career to pursue and printed off the appropriate application forms. I was almost surprised I had not figured it out before. I have found a job with my name written all over it and no it’s not a wine taster or strip club owner (but actually they could be a good back up plan). My new found career is creative, energetic, people orientated and has nothing to do with data migration or system upgrades. There is just one minor obstacle, in order to actually get the job I am destined to do, I need to go back to school!

Work quickly became bearable and when summoned up north again, I was not overly enthusiastic but decided the time on the train would in itself give me an opportunity to complete the University application form. To really make the trip extra bearable I decided it is time to get off the fence, stop talking about dating and finally ask out a very attractive girl I recently met. She said yes and the date was set. So, now I have a new career path, a date and an insane grin plastered across my face. People ask ‘why so happy?’ followed swiftly by ‘for the love of god please stop singing’ and what do I do? I momentarily stop singing badly and tell everyone and anyone who will listen about my exciting news!

Sitting on the train and after several cups of coffee, I can not procrastinate any longer and the course form is waiting for me to carefully articulate how my personal skills, previous experience and academic interests will support my application. Reading the supporting information, I come across section 7. Payment of fees... arh, OK, before I do anything I need to work out how I can afford to quit my job, closet the Next suits, dye my hair purple and get stoned on a daily basis. After thirty minutes, some figures scribbled on the back of my council tax final demand it’s apparent that if I work everyday from now until September, cut out all luxuries (i.e. food) and double my housemates rent, I still can not afford six months fees and living, let alone two years studying.

Contemplating the fact part-time jobs, loans and holiday work will just about see me through, my phone flashes showing an unknown number. It’s the course convener who I emailed during my research. I make my apologies about the potential lack of reception and begin asking questions. He quickly interrupts and asks about my experience regarding a pre-requisite for the course. To not bore and to summarise the conversation, he explains they will not even look at my application until next year. I calmly argue my case but to no avail. Whilst talking my phone again buzzes but this time alerting me I have a text message. Feeling teary I finish the conversation, read the text and in less than one hundred and fifty characters I am informed, that due to genuine circumstances, my Friday night date is cancelled. Oh bollocks!

My Dad has always been a big sports fan and growing up we were practically banned from asking the question ‘who’s winning?’. Dad would always respond ‘Ssh you’ll jinx it’ as his favourite team let in the winning goal! I often repeat those few words but for some reason I never listen to my own advice. I find if I have a thought or idea, however trivial, then you can guarantee within seconds I will tell the world. Did I jinx all my plans by not keeping quiet? Or are obstacles just an inconvenience masking a positive waiting around the corner?

After a weekend feeling slightly deflated I have now paid my council tax, am revisiting the future career drawing board and have rearranged my date. I of course can not mention any of these plan’s as do not want to jinx anything. But I can say, Stringfellow’s will still employ me so looks like my back up plan will come to fruition!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why the long face?

I am escaping London for the week, leaving on the seven o’clock out of Kings Cross and heading north on an eagerly awaited works trip. I am looking forward to spending time with some different work mates, stay in the country Spa hotel, inhale a good dose of fresh air and take a moment to pause and feel better.

Waking at five is not my favourite way to start the day but within record time I am packed, showered and almost look awake and presentable as the taxi arrives to take me to the tube station. Opening the flat door it quickly becomes apparent that there is one hell of a storm happening. The wind will not allow me to even close the flat door and after a several minute fight, me against the gale forces, the door is firmly locked and I attempt the short walk to the cab.

The walk is comparable to being hosed down with ice water whilst walking through thick treacle and I wonder if the Spa hotel will see the potential money earner in selling a similar intense, detoxifying, fitness experience to the rich. Not feeling very entrepreneurial I only question ‘Why on earth did I not spend another half hour in bed?’ I look more bedraggled than I did when waking and now I really am miserable and ever so slightly damp smelling!

In spite of the dramatic weather there are no delays on the British transport system, and remarkably four hours later I arrive at the northern office. The sun is shining, the air is clean and already my four week miserable mood is beginning to lift. On entering the office a group of us head to a room, plug in our laptops, turn on the projector, arrange the flip charts and pour copious amounts of coffee in preparation for the two day workshop.

Sitting in the board room, reading through the agenda on data migration, suddenly everything makes sense. My bad mood, need for escapism, feeling of discontentment and general wallowing self pity is lifted in a moment of clarity. It is obvious and I am, without a shadow of doubt, doing the wrong job. I am not having a lazy moment wishing I was back in bed or on holiday with friends than be working; this is an overwhelming feeling that I really can not do this soul destroying job for even one more minute.

How did this happen? When did I stop being creative, doing a profession I love, in order to become corporate? Who uses words such as reflection, stabilisation and granularity on a daily basis? I do, and I am almost convincing when it comes to the fine art of speaking bullshit. Work colleagues listen, take advice and I get paid. The past few years have been a good experience but sitting here it is taking every ounce of my being to not stand up, calmly pack away my belongings, walk towards the exit and say ‘Do I look like I give a f**k’ and never return.

Of course I did not but it was a great thought which kept me entertained for the next few days as I sat in the hotel (without the detoxifying spa treatments) pondering my future and career aspirations. I am now back in the London office and have made some occupational decisions. Once I get out of this workshop on the ‘Stabilisation of an IT upgrade’, I’ll ‘reflect’ on those decisions and in the meantime try not to make a dramatic departure.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cut out the pauses!

Question: 'If you could remove from life one thing, what would it be? Death? Remorse? Pain?'
Answer: 'No! The great object of life is sensation. Cut out the pauses for only in our most vibrant experiences, be they great joy or great woe, lies real learning!' (Quote: Lord Byron from Trust Byron)

I always loved that quote. Viewing life as an exciting rollercoaster that should be lived to its fullest, leaving no opportunity missed or experience regretted. I don’t have time to stop and why would I when the world has so much to offer? To pause is dull and life is too short to take a break from extreme sensations, isn’t it?

No! To not burn out, physically and mentally, of course we need the pauses in order to stop, reflect and truly learn from the experiences. Unfortunately pauses, due to their very nature, aren’t going to be associated with fun and humour, more boredom with glimpses of profundity. I need to stop, take a breath and find time to figure out what the hell I am doing with my life and understand why I feel so f**king miserable and tired.

Over this week I have the luxury of a works trip so can spend evenings in a hotel on my own and look at what needs to change in order to pull myself out of the hole I have temporarily fallen in to. So to finish this very short blog, which will continue later this week; ‘A bear walks into a bar, looks at the barman and says ‘can I have a pint of…….*2 minutes silently pass*…. Guinness please?’ The barman replies ‘of course, but why the big paws?!’

Look I did say pauses lacked fun and humour! Don’t even get me started on what happened when a crocodile walked into a bar….

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Should have, would have, if only

I have been staring at the same four walls for three days. Within this eight by six foot room the lack of sunlight and glare from the naked bulb is making my eyes sting and I feel incredibly nauseous. Every muscle hurts, my hands are raw and scratched and I am feeling detached. Lost in my thoughts, I am still aware of a faint voice in the background which I think I tuned out hours ago. Tiredness overwhelms and I begin to reflect on the chain of events that escalated out of control and ultimately led to this incarceration.

Since moving into the flat two years ago I have decorated every room, laid the floors, installed the new kitchen and painted over the Toy Story bedroom wallpaper. Over time and with help from friends and family, mainly my Mum, I have a nice, comfortable living space for myself and now housemate. But it’s not quite finished and for months now Mum has been encouraging me to lay a new carpet in my bedroom. Due to stubbornness, I have rebelled and ignored her suggestions even though I know it would look better but it’s my flat I’ll do what I want! Post Christmas, once again carpets were mentioned and in true Mother-Daughter fashion, juvenility took over as I snorted ‘leave me alone’ followed by a flippant, throw away remark…. ‘I’d rather do the bathroom first!’

Big mistake! When DIY is involved my Mum turns into an enthusiastic unpaid property developer and within two weeks I have bought the tiles, temporarily kicked Housemate out and the parents have moved into my tatty carpeted bedroom. In my brightly lit bathroom I stop daydreaming, return to reality, carefully stick the last tiles to the shower wall and realise the faint voice is that of my Mum. She is deliberating whether we should have sealed the tiles, can spirit levels be wrong and is this adhesive suitably water-proof? She is only thinking aloud and doesn’t need a response so I again switch off, begin grouting and think is there anything I ‘should have’ done differently since buying this flat.

Weeks before I moved here my partner and I were having problems and talking about taking a break. During our decision making I went out one night and slept with someone else. I could give reasons, excuses and try to justify my actions but the shameful reality is that I was a coward who was easily flattered and wanted a way out. We did not take a break and I did not take my way out but instead admitted my infidelity, breaking her heart and mine. We still moved in together and naively, no, stupidly, thought we could move on, but judging from what I write about we know it didn’t work out like that.

Should have, would have and if only! Words I can only associate with regret. That was my one regret and for a long time it was all consuming. ‘I should have gone home alone and I would have prevented the pain I'm causing’, ‘If only I had not slept with someone else, maybe we would be working out’ and ‘I should have walked away before it got to this’. Too busy chastising myself and asking for forgiveness, I could not admit we were both in the wrong relationship and regardless of my actions we would still never make it work. I made a huge mistake which I am still ashamed of but I can learn from it, not be a coward and never repeat the performance in any future relationship.

Mum is once again thinking aloud; this time worrying that we should have raised the bath to avoid the millimetre gap that no-one will ever see and if only we hadn’t starting grouting before dinner we could move tiles for reasons unbeknown to me. I ungratefully respond with ‘well there’s not a lot we can do now, is there?’ and visualise, hitting my head against the 'stuck forever and never coming off the wall' tiles in a fit of despair. She is just worrying that the bathroom won’t be perfect and of course it is. Her constant questioning and strive for DIY perfection does have some benefits but is it really worth the feeling of regret in the meantime?

Can we ever be truly content and satisfied with life if constantly questioning how it could have been better? I have banned ‘should have’, ‘would have’ and ‘if only’ from my vocabulary and hopefully I won’t ever regret a part of my life to the extent I have to reinstate them again. Mistakes happen and if we can learn, become wiser and attempt to not repeat history then we should ‘not’ have done anything differently…. Except maybe I 'should have' stopped watching Changing Rooms, thinking ‘I can do that’ and hired a professional tradesman to do the job instead!