The Worthless Week

Groundhog Week

If I could relive the last week, would I?

It’s been strange. You see I have been working full time for the first time in my life. It has been five weeks in this new position, and although I don’t really know what I’m doing and I’m still not sure whether I’m capable of this particular job, I am still there.

I still get up at 6.30am, get the first bus at 7.30am, the second at 8.05am, get to work around 8.30am, greet the people I work with, sit at my desk and begin by 8.45am. That is my morning routine.

However, at the end of last week one ear stopped working and I developed a chest infection. I tried to push through it, but eventually I was sent home. A doctor’s appointment concluded with a strict instruction not to go back to work, and a heavily signed sick note.

This entire week was a backtrack to my unemployed days.

Instead of getting up early, I’d get out the bed around 9.30am, have a breakfast that takes longer than five minutes to prepare and fill the day with rubbish television. It was like going back in time rather than repeating it. I’ve hated it.

I realised what a lazy meaningless routine I had developed over those years. How selfish it felt. How bored I really was.

Yes, I started designing and painting a new canvas when I felt back to normal. So yes, I had something to focus on. But it just wasn’t the same. I wasn’t surrounded by a variety of people, chatting at the printer, walking into town at lunch.

Instead I was sat on my bed or on the floor.

Yes, I sit at work and wait for answers to emails and phone calls, I wait to hear agreements and wait to be taught different skills and wait to be given new instructions. But this week I’ve been waiting for the beginning of a television programme, waiting for the eggs to boil, waiting for the first coat of paint to dry.

Not exactly comparable.

Lots of people call their working week the Groundhog days of their life. Following a routine of getting to work, logging onto their computer, answering the expected emails, dealing with the expected phone calls and attending the pre-planned meetings.

However, that isn’t my groundhog week. That is my new life. That is my new structure. It can be tiring. It can be boring, confusing or difficult. It can be all the negatives in the world, but it can never be as depressing as the nothingness of unemployment.

Trust me.

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The First Job Nightmare

First!

Is the first always the worst?

I have just been offered a new job, well to be more accurate, my second ever real job. I loved the interview, the officials were fantastic and funny. But to explain why I’m not completely excited and raring to go with this job, I have to take you back a few months…

…To my first job

I had an interview for a Teaching Assistant Placement, and by the time I got home I had a phone call with a job offer. Although it wasn’t with the age group I’d applied for I thought to myself ‘fantastic, a job’, and took it immediately.

When I turned up for work I received no instruction, training or explanation. Instead a building was pointed out to me and I was told to go there. When I got to the door I realised it was coded. No one had given me a code. I had no contract. So, in the classroom I did anything and everything I could.

I didn’t particularly enjoy Early Years, but I didn’t let that effect my interaction with the children. The only blunt flaw I can recognise honestly was my unwillingness to go into the staff room at lunch.

And then there was a pair of wellies.

A young child couldn’t find them, so the class teacher asked me to help with the hunt. I didn’t know another Teaching Assistant was also on the trail. I found them, and she doubted they were genuine so I lifted them over the child’s head to show her.

This sounds inconsequential and just an average part of an Early Years Classroom Assistant’s day. But then I walked back into the classroom and saw this same TA doing a derogatory mocking impression of me.

I was shocked, first trying to convince myself it wasn’t me she was doing an impression of. I knew it was.

I made the decision that I would wait until all the children had gone home and then confront her on it. I would ask whether I had upset her and let her vent and explain. I would then apologise and explain that I never meant to make her feel however it was I made her feel.

That is how I wanted it to go.

This is how it went…

“Hi, sorry. Have I annoyed you?”

“Yes, and if you keep talking to me I’m going to slap you around the face”

I nearly fell over. I immediately apologised even though I had no clue what had made her feel so violent. I tried to find out by asking a few times, but her friend warned me off by telling me she would follow through on her consistent repeated threat of ‘a smack’.

I knew deep down that this was the end of this job. How can you work alongside a woman that wants to hit you and another that supports her?

They left me standing in the car park. I started crying. I phoned my dad who told me to immediately report it because she couldn’t speak to me like that.

I went into the office quite hysterical, which I regret. The Deputy Head took me into the office and got me a tissue and a drink and explained that I shouldn’t act like that in front of a parent. I apologised. Then the Head Teacher turned up and repeated the same reprimand three times making me finally say, ‘look, I said I was sorry’.

I told him what had happened, and to shorten his response it consisted of two main phrases;

‘You need to learn to be more mature in an adult workplace’

‘You should go home and spend the weekend self-reflecting’

I left as my dad said he was outside to pick me up. I told him what had been said and he asked my permission to go in and listen to Head Teacher himself. I think he believed I was missing something out.

Another choice phrase from the Leader of a Primary School:

‘We don’t know what was actually said yet’

I quit.

Now, I’ve been offered this new job. Everything about the job itself and the application process has been completely different. And so was I.

During the interview for that first job I was incredibly posh, prim and efficient. It made me nervous to be myself when I started. This interview began with the male member of staff making a joke about my name and so I thought ‘I’m just going to be myself, sarcasm and all’. It went very well. But I didn’t expect to be qualified enough for the position.

I got the email yesterday with the job offer and contract in black and white.

I’m petrified it will be a repeat of the first time.

I don’t want to quit a job with an official title, in a university setting, doing something I think I will genuinely enjoy.

Fingers crossed my first job was the worst.

The Elderly Tear Removal Service

Moved to Tears

I can’t imagine not finding the act of death sad, or at the very least be put on the verge of outward emotional displays at the thought of it. Especially if it were to be someone close to me. A parent, partner, child, friend. Thinking of it now, I feel as though the death of any of these current or future individuals would linger and constantly cut into the life that I carried on living. This would bring tears.

Then I had a conversation. One that was very macabre from the beginning.

Socialising within the charity organisation I am a part of, I was placed on a table with five women with ages beginning at 72 and ending at 98.

The 98 year old woman began telling me how both her and her husband came on the trips that the charity organises. Then he died. This would be her first one without him.

However, she didn’t tell me this with tears in her eyes.

She carried on elaborating to me whilst the others began to discuss a recent funeral. She told me how she had never been to his grave. That her parents had a plot just a few over from his.

She didn’t seem sad even though the topic was morbid. It was a conversation like any other.

Her father passed first, and her mother, on her deathbed, told her daughter never to come to the cemetery. To never visit her grave or her fathers. She told her daughter that she didn’t want the grass around the gravestone trimmed, that she didn’t want flowers. That she didn’t want her daughter there.

And her daughter, now sat to my right and 98 years old, had never visited the grave of her father, the grave of her mother or the grave of her husband.

I asked her whether she wanted to or whether she ever would.

She looked at me as if I’d asked the most absurd question and replied with a confident ‘no, never’.

To me that is tragic and sad. To her it was fact and choice.

Upon her mother’s request it is likely that she cried. But not anymore. She admired, responded respectfully and fulfilled her mother’s wishes. That in itself is beautiful.

Thinking of it, even as I type, the morbid beauty of her act hits something inward and robs me of breath. But not to her as she spoke about it.

Does age dry up the tears?

Do the tears stop moving once life is thoroughly experienced?

Gene Wilder’s Good Deed

It Builds Character

I remember watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a child and being completely absorbed by the character of Willy Wonka. From reading the book, I then saw Gene Wilder’s interpretation and realised that he was exactly how my youthful mind had imagined.

Then he delivered that one line.

“So shines a good deed in a weary world”

I was moved. All throughout, Mr Wonka was conveyed as comically unbalanced to the point of madness, depth only being found within his passion. But then, reaching out for Charlie’s Ever-Lasting Gobstopper, Gene Wilder said those nine words. Suddenly I saw a character with so much more depth. Willy Wonka was given an intelligent sadness, which could be voiced through phrases that, even in context, could be deemed completely irrelevant.

Throughout life individuals have given speeches that have shaken the world and filled books with potentially moving quotations. These words, either spoken or written, can give strength and inspire.

Now a single line from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory might not meet that standard but, for me, it was the most moving part of the entire movie. Not the Oompa Loompas, not Mike TV or Veruca Salt, not even the lifetime supply of chocolate. Instead that one scene in the half office.

Gene Wilder showed me, even from a young age, that levels of character analysis and depth of emotion can be altered drastically from just one scene and one sentence.

This has followed me through almost every essay I’ve written, as I was constantly reprimanded in my college and university days for focusing on one phrase or one stanza, rather than on the piece in it’s entirety.

“So Shines a Good Deed in a Weary World”

An Unwilling Atheist

Un/Faithful

I am an unwilling atheist.

I am confident that there is no other world than the one we currently occupy, and yet I don’t want that confidence.
I read Biblical Testaments as moralistic tales, and envy those for whom some sense of reality emerges and comfort is gained.
I watch some sing hymns and get truly involved and moved, whilst for me they are lyrics to read and appreciate.
Personally sermons are well structured, strongly emotive speeches from the pulpit, and yet for others they are inspirational testimonies of belief.
I have met those that have willingly devoted their lives to the church in one way or another, and yet cannot comprehend the might of their motivation.

For me religion is fascinating. Raised in the Catholic Church I have come into contact with many forms of iconography, exceptional architecture, striking sculpture and beautiful paintings and drawings, all of which are based on a world created through many pages in a large book that is supported over an altar.

I have spoken to a variety of people about their Lourdes’ experience and listened to stories of arising from the water dry and different. Intelligent aware individuals tell me how they felt stronger after that moment. I do not believe this to be ridiculous, and I shun those that do. I do not undermine their belief by placations and pacifications. Instead I see it as faith. And not just faith, but a strong faith.

I would look at Lourdes, take in the architecture, the iconography, the stories of Sainthood and miracles that circle around the spring and see just that. Nothing otherworldly, nothing religiously provocative. Just a place, a thing and a story.

Innate cynicism is unfortunately one of the harshest killers of faith. 

I read works inspired by the religious world, works such as Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy, and they inspire strong admiration from me. These pieces, and others using similar inspiration, are beautiful and full of so much depth of meaning. They bring forth all this emotion from me, but not faith.

I envy all those people with real honest faith because they will always have something or someone to turn to, something or someone that is constantly and consistently there.

The pessimistic cynics of the world don’t have that.

I don’t have that.
I wish I did.

 

 

 

A Motherly Invisible Conflict

Conflicted

Everyone argues with people that raised them.

It’s inevitable. Being different characters, having differing traits and different opinions and yet sharing the same four walls will always result in one or two polite disagreements a month… and maybe the odd heavier conflict.

Having that one heavier conflict with my mother is an intensely annoying experience.

I have never known anyone argue like my mum.

An argument with my mum is highlighted with a change of tone. It gets louder and suddenly you are shouting at one another. Then it gets harsher and meaner and more personal. And then my mum leaves the room or the house.

Around ten to fifteen minutes later my mum comes back in, her tone having completely changed and her whole temperament calmed. She’ll walk up to her verbal combatant and ask a polite question or begin a completely irrelevant conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with what has just occurred between you.

When I was younger I believed that my mum was faking it, that really she was simply repressing everything to do with the argument in order to stop it escalating any further. I believed she was bottling it up and pretending to be calm again.

However as I’ve got older I’ve realised that she isn’t pretending.

She has genuinely filed away that conflict. She’s filed away all the negative emotions that had her seething and moved on.

I am completely unable to feel that way. If an argument is unresolved I am still full of anger. I want discussions, apologies and explanations. That is my conflict resolution. For my mother, it is to forget that the conflict ever happened and move on.

Which unfortunately means that if my mum and I have an argument, I’m left wanting to hear more about it and air all that negativity vocally, whilst my mum has calmed completely and simply ignores the topic as though the conflict never happened. She’s able to move on within seconds. She’s able to not only act as though the argument never happened, she’s able to truly feel that.

With my mum, it becomes The Invisible Conflict.

With no lingering resentment, no snide whispered comments. Nothing. It’s the conflict that definitely did happen, but, due to her ability to remove hostility from her own mind, it becomes invisible.

Annoyingly Invisible.

A Villainous Job Snob

Upturned Noses

I have spent my entire life in the education system. And have been very successful throughout it. Not with natural innate cleverness I might add, but instead through consistent hard work at every level of qualification.

All of this was for a reason, of course. I had spent the entirety of my teen years and my early twenties with the resounding dream of teaching. Preferably Secondary School or High School English. And then suddenly, with all the As and A*s in the bag keeping the Degree cosy, I hit a hole in the road.

Well more like a crater.

I was told ever so politely that my dream wasn’t going to be a possibility. Epilepsy, you see. Now of course there are conditions to epileptic teachers leading a classroom. Completely understandable. However, unfortunately for me, I don’t fit under any of those conditions.

So then, after all the years of effort, essays and exams, everything that I had worked towards had been brutally dismantled before my eyes.

That left me with the awkward question of ‘What am I going to do now?’

It was when I started browsing job opportunities that I realised that I had become a Villainous Job Snob. I began deciding that I wasn’t going to do ‘that type of job’ before I’d even read the requirements or the full nature of the employment.

Now, supermarket work, which seems to be available at will, has always been off the counter for me, because of the correlation between my presence inside of one and the amount of seizures that occur. But retail wouldn’t have been.

Now, one thing that everyone here has to understand, I do not judge those people that work in retail, restaurants or call centres. Fair enough on every count. If you enjoy the work itself, the people, being able to provide for yourself and your family or even just being in a stable nine to five. That isn’t what I judge. What I judge truly is myself in that position.

I see myself in those uniforms and feel such a heavy wave of disappointment. As though all those years, all that pushing, all those well earned certificates were and are wasted. And if I began stacking shelves every day then I may as well take all those glittering bits of paper to the back of my house and burn them.

I sound like a horrific human being and I know it. I sound like a judgemental snob and I know it.

But I can’t help but judge myself by a certain standard. The standard representative of my hard work, the results and qualifications that came as a result of it and therefore the level of employment that would be expected to follow.