How It’s Probably Gonna Be Fine.

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The transition from a mindless, unwanted job in visitor services to a challenging, developmental career in EFL was a speedy one, to say the least. Having been interviewed for a position one Friday in September last year, I was offered the job the following Monday. By Wednesday morning I was standing in Bydgoszcz airport, wide eyed, not so bushy tailed, and feeling rather like a small fish in a cavernous ocean.

By midday, I had joined the induction class and was sitting with two teachers, discussing how best to teach the present perfect to pre-intermediate teenagers. Believe me, I was a mess. My head was spinning. All I could think was, “What am I doing in Poland? Present perfect? Pre-inter-what? Teenagers?!” In less than a week, I had somehow managed to become gainfully employed, move out of my flat, leave my friends and family behind with only a rushed farewell, and fly out to a country, before which I had never even considered visiting, to live there for nine months. And suddenly, there I was, in a room with a dozen other teachers, all talking about the best way to approach grammatical points to students. This may be aptly described as ‘a shock to the system’.

During the first teaching week, I think I cried about three times. By the first month I was averaging once a week. Not in front of anyone, of course. I’m British. Everything , and I mean everything, that I was experiencing was completely new to me. Teaching teenagers, teaching 1-2-1s, teaching business classes, observations, the correct way to fill out registers, classroom management, AFCs, time management, how to use the printer. I could go on, but I imagine you can think of more yourself. I had never been under such pressure before, and the strain of it was, at times, almost unbearable.

I use ‘almost’, because it is a significant word in this context, and we all know how important context is. Had it been so unbearable, I would have left. The reason that is wasn’t is because of the unwavering support and encouragement of the people with whom I work. With the new teachers, who I think all felt as bemused and teary as I did, we had each other to console, to cheer on, and to assist when we felt too stupid to turn to anyone else. The more experienced and senior teachers, and Director of Studies, showed not one flicker of irritation when they were asked, for the tenth time, the difference between ‘been’ and ‘gone’, or where an activity could be found. They were always ready to check a lesson plan you were unsure of, or help you identify the best CCQs. They would give advice on how to control unruly children, and would patiently let you display a range of emotions before pointing you to an idea, a textbook, or a bar, and making you feel a million times better. And the best part? This is still going on.

Despite age, experience, ambitions, or anything else, for that matter, there is one overriding point to this rambling. In this job, you’re all in it together. You cry together, work together, whine together, and you most definitely drink and play ridiculous card games together. Since starting this crazy ride, I have grown into a person I wasn’t sure I would ever know. Excuse the cliché there, I promise it won’t happen again! It’s been four months now, and senior teachers have been known to ask ME for ideas or advice! Me! The one who didn’t know what the present perfect was! The one who freaked out because she couldn’t see past the end of next week! I think back to Past Me now, and smile patronisingly. Now, I remember how good I have it, and I remember my mantra: It’s probably gonna be fine.

How Living In Poland Is Exactly Like Living In England, But At The Same Time Completely Different.

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My alarm screeched at me this morning and, without bothering to open my eyes or lift my head, I stretched out an arm (the one I wasn’t lying on), felt around for a couple of seconds until skin contacted phone, and swiped my fingers around on the cool screen until the noise desisted.

When the incessant whining returned again five minutes later, I was marginally more awake to realise that I had failed to swipe ‘cancel’ and had instead selected ‘snooze’.  Turning my head and opening one eye this time, I again reached out and aimed for the correct side of the screen with which to make contact.  This dramatically increased effort resulted in the successful shutting up of the alarm, although my arm was left to dangle over the side of the bed, all energy having been used up.

Not satisfied with my desire to remain asleep, the alarm once again resumed its ‘meh meh meh MEH MEH MEH’ barely a few minutes after my false success.  Both eyes shot open, my head revolved sharply and I glared at my fucking phone.  It was no use: I was awake.

Resigned to my defeat; I sat, swung my legs out of bed, picked up my phone and imagined throwing it against a wall, before correctly swiping and shutting it up for good.  Yawn, rub eyes, feel for glasses, find glasses, put on glasses.  Coffee.  A routine perfected and performed everyday for as long as glasses and coffee have been a necessary part of my life.  Following that, a shower was optional, clothes mandatory.  I was then having a nice time deciding what to have for breakfast when…

Ah, shit, I have to do washing.

Huffily dressing (shower negated), I scrambled for clothes strewn about the bedroom, reminding myself yet again to buy a clothes basket, and practically ran to the washing machine, arms loaded, hoping that the faster I carry out the chore, the sooner I will have time to do something more interesting, like sitting down.

Clothes in, tab in, door slammed, slammed again (they never like shutting the first time, do they), dial turned (click click click click click), and the satisfaction of hearing the machine fill with water to begin its miserable task.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I turned back to happier, breakfast related thoughts, when…

Oh, crap.  I need to wash up.

I was starting to feel betrayed, as though Sunday had it in for me.  All I wanted to do was sit, drink tea, eat food and watch QI, and I wasn’t even allowed to do that in my own flat.  My hands itched to find my phone and throw it against a wall as punishment for starting all of this.  Instead, I put them to work in the kitchen.  Bowl, hot water, fairy liquid, glass first, then cutlery, then crockery, pile up, air dry.

It took me an entire hour this morning to remember that I was in Poland, not England.  The giveaway wasn’t the flat itself, in which I have only lived for two months, or the views outside the windows, or even the writing on the washing machine.  It was the fairy liquid, because I noticed it wasn’t green.  Nor is it technically fairy liquid.

Having finally succeeded in making breakfast (tea, muesli, yogurt, in case you were interested), and sitting down to watch Stephen waxing lyrical, I realised that I would probably be OK wherever I was in the world.  Being unable to predict the future (like most of you, I’m sure), I naturally can’t be positive about this.  But if I’m waking up in the morning, hating my alarm (MEH MEH MEH), following routines, cursing over chores, and generally living my life, then I suppose things must be alright!  Granted, I’m aware that this doesn’t sound particularly interesting or exciting, but, guys, I’m living in a DIFFERENT COUNTRY.  For me, and for those who know me, this is certainly excitement enough for me right now.  If I had anymore I would probably explode.  And I can’t be bothered to clean that on top of my other chores.

How To Remember That You’re An Achiever, Not A Loser.

Spring is almost nearly just about here, and it does tend to put you in that bouncy mood of optimism.  Not to say that there aren’t going to be days, during the warmer weather, that will make you want to hurl your phone at a wall, or curl up in bed at 2pm and forget there’s anything shiny and sunny in the world.  Today, I am feeling mixed emotions.  This is not unusual for me, and I am sure that many of you flit through the day with a jumble of thoughts and feelings that take you from happiness to despondency in a matter of minutes. However, the overriding thought that I have today is that I am, and will continue to be, an achiever of life.  This thought has, in part, arrived through a mini reflection on my first boyfriend.  Not normally a pause for thought in my mind anymore, since I haven’t seen him in almost 10 years.  It started with some milk.

Breakfast can be a tricky meal for me, since I normally struggle to eat so early.  But, as I have been continually told since I can remember, it’s the most important meal of the day, so the conformist in me always tries to have a go at it.  This morning, I failed tremendously.  I played it safe with cereal which, you must agree, is an easy, uncomplicated, crunchy to soggy mix of two ingredients, accompanied by bowl and spoon.  Small children can handle this concoction, so hey, no worries, right?

Blanket on knees, bowl settled in between, spoon at ready…oooh, I’ll just grab that to read whilst I eat.  Enter mistake number one.  Out pours the milk, collecting into a creamy white pool in my lap, along with five or six crunchy, not yet soggy, morsels.  Crap.  Followed by mistake number two.  Instinct takes over; I stand up, still holding the bowl in one hand, and with the other frantically trying to retain the puddle of milk and rapidly sponging cereal.  This cannot be done successfully with a/ one hand and b/ expecting a liquid to behave itself in its self made swimming bath for, now very, soggy squares of edible cardboard.  Double crap.

As I washed the blanket in the sink to prevent potential off milk smell later (the worst of smells), and threw away the remaining cereal that hadn’t escaped the bowl (by now an unidentifiable looking paste), I felt more than a little like a loser.  Here I am, 25 years old (nearly 26, cry), and still incapable of grasping the very simple concepts of gravity and breakfast.  It was at this moment that I wondered how Pete was doing.

I shan’t try to explain why my brain decided to connect an embarrassingly ruined breakfast with a first love.  I don’t really want to know myself.  But, here we are.  Following the clean up, I did what any person connected to social media would do; I checked up on him.  Don’t get all uppity about it now, we’ve all done it.  And if you haven’t, then you either don’t have access to the internet, or you’re lying.  So, you’re probably lying.  Really, though, is it so bad to check on an old flame?  As long as you’re absolutely, definitely, positively over said flame, then there’s really nothing to hurt either of you.  Just a thought.

Turns out he seems to be doing very well.  Looks happy, has a pretty girlfriend, lots of friends.  I smiled upon seeing this.  Good for him!  I was genuinely pleased for him until I realised something.  What if he, one day, took it upon himself to check up on ME through the two way mirror of social media?  I had a minor freak out.  He’d see the last 10 years through photos of me looking fat, fatter, with failed relationships, ridiculous hair colours, probably drunk half the time, not going anywhere, and nothing to show for myself.  A loser, essentially. My minor freak out escalated to moderate.

I turned to my own page, scrolled through my photographs, and saw exactly what I was expecting.  Moderate began knocking on the door of severe.  I didn’t want to be a loser.  I didn’t plan to be a loser.  My five year old self did not write LOSER down as an answer to the teacher’s question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’  So I will be damned if I am going to be a loser now. As I scrolled through the pictures, my almost severe panic reverted to moderate, and then slunk back to minor before sulkily returning to its own room in my head and slamming the door shut.  I saw pictures I didn’t like of me, sure, and pictures where I questioned my sanity (seriously, bleached blonde hair?? Did no one want to stop me on that one?!).  More importantly, however, I didn’t see a loser.  I saw an achiever.  Sure, perhaps not financially successful, or stunningly beautiful, or with the dream career, but dammit, I’m still here aren’t I?

In a perfect world, I would have all those things, but perfection is overrated and boring. And there’s no such thing, anyway, so pah to you, Perfection!  I think it takes looking at yourself in a more forgiving way to realise that you have a lot to give, and a lot to be thankful for.  Apologies for the cringe, dear reader, but don’t expect me to believe that you’ve never felt like a loser after seeing an ex move on, or noticing you’ve put on a few pounds, or not getting that job you really bloody wanted. Or spilling cereal in your lap.  Don’t go beating yourself up for feeling  like a failure.  Take a second, have a look around you, check out old photos, and remember your five year old self, who wanted to be an astronaut, or a princess, or a cookie.  Where you are now proves, by the very fact of your existence, that you have achieved.

We gotta keep moving forward, people!  Looking back helps ground you, and remind you how far you’ve come.  Also it reminds you which hair colours suit you, so bear that in mind, too.  So, the next time you’re feeling a little less than awesome, perhaps it would be best to start by social media stalking yourself, and remembering how far you’ve come!Breakfast Meme

How That Friday Feeling Can Become That Whyday Feeling.

Friday.  Don’t you just love that day?  Doesn’t it fill you with relief and joy, knowing that you’ve slogged through Monday and Tuesday, blurred your way through Wednesday, tingled with anticipation Nearly-Friday-Thursday until, finally, FRIDAY?!?  Oh man, it’s like that sweet sweet sensation of climbing into a freshly made bed, or getting your key into the lock on the first try.  Friday almost doesn’t count as a part of the week, because you’re so looking forward to the plans (or, heck, no plans) you’ve made for the weekend that it just sort of blinks and then, 5pm, hello!  You trip merrily across the office/library/enter yours here, and race home and jump on the bed in happiness or open that bottle of plonk early in a bar with your friends (or by yourself, no judging), because YAY IT’S FRIDAY.

I work weekends.

So, therein lies that awful disruption to a familiar routine that you have known and loved since before you can really remember.  My Friday has become a Whyday.  Imagine a toddler, who has just been told that he/she can’t stay up late/eat anymore chocolate/put their baby sibling in the toilet, see their face in your mind’s eye, watch that little bundle of joy scrunch up its eyes, turn red with rage, open its mouth to the fullest, and yell out “WHHYYYYY???”  You’ll have an idea, then, of what working weekends is like, when your friends are texting you to see if you’re EVER going to make it out, or watching Facebook feeds filling up with statuses announcing to the world that they are “going out drinking and dancing with my peeps tonight whaaaaa???!”  My dears, it’s deplorable.

I can well assume that most of you who read this have had, or still have, a weekend job to look forward to, and can therefore understand my twinge of envy with regard to the inevitable Whyday.  And, let’s face it, it’s not always through choice that people work weekends.  Sometimes, there just isn’t another option.  If you work weekends and your Friday isn’t a Whyday, then sir/madam, I salute you, and would kindly request that you pass on your wisdom regarding your feelings towards this particular time.  Because I am sat here, in bed, on a Friday night, feeling very much like the whinging toddler previously described.

No doubt, however, that when the day comes when I am once more a 9-5 working gal, living it up for the weekend, then I will truly miss the Sunday nights, when I have my own little ritual of kicking off my work shoes, shedding my work clothes for something comfier than work clothes (which is practically anything else I own), and popping the cork out of the bottle, knowing I don’t have to be up early on Monday.  I guess, really, my Friday nights are many of your Sunday nights.  Only you win, weekday workers, you win, because I just can’t shake that special feeling that a Friday brings.  Even now, having been a weekend worker for a solid six months, it’s just not something I can seem to shake off.  I miss my Friday Feeling, so you all make damn sure that you enjoy yours whilst you have it!

One more thing: If you’re ever having a WHHHYYYY?? moment, whether you’re a weekday or weekend worker, just think of a friend of mine, who goes to school AND works all weekend, and quit whining.  That girl is FIERCE.Friday Meme

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How To React To Passive Aggressive Abuse From Someone You’ve Never Even Met.

My friend got engaged the other day (hurrah!), so I took the opportunity to visit her yesterday.  Naturally, I decided to try and avoid the treacherous rush hour traffic (boo, hiss), but of course got stuck right in the middle of it for the entire course of the journey (moan).  You can, therefore, imagine my shuddering relief to finally reach my destination.  I pulled up and jumped out, happy to have survived my ordeal, and went into my friend’s house to enjoy an evening of merriment and wedding planning.

The End.

Well, it would have been the end of a perfectly wonderful evening, and I was much more relaxed and prepared to make my way home in my little car, had I not discovered a note that someone had put under my windscreen wipers that completely threw my calm into the proverbial wind.

“GREAT PARKING
SELFISH C**T!”

I took the liberty of inserting the asterisks into that for you, since the writer didn’t feel that taking their anger down a peg or two was appropriate.  My first instinct, upon reading this, was slight amusement.  “Ok”, I thought to myself, “That’s a bit harsh.”  This feeling was almost immediately replaced by guilt.  Guilt, my friends, is an emotion that I am cursed to constantly suffer from, whether I am actually in the wrong or not.  I frantically looked up and down the road, wondering what the hell I had done to deserve such wrath.  I noticed that behind my car, there was probably only enough space for a Smart car to slip into, and at the front, I had left too much space between my car and the other parked up.  Guilt increased.  Guilt followed by fear.  Fear that kicked guilt out of my head and frantically whispered “Get in.  Drive away.  Right now”.  Suddenly, at half past ten at night, standing all alone in the middle of an unfamiliar street, holding threatening words in my hand, I got scared.  If someone could write so viciously, surely they could act viciously, too?

I crumpled the note, stuffed it in my pocket and hurriedly packed myself into my little car.  Guilt returned.  My poor car.  I felt sorry for my car; ashamed that I seemingly couldn’t park to someone’s satisfaction, and that it had taken the hit for me.  I was feeling guilty for leaving my car out on the road.  I wished I could have brought it in, like a cat.  As you can see, readers, my mind was starting to get a tad frazzled, slightly irrational, and a little cloudy.

What better way to clear your head than to go for a drive?  Luckily for me, I had no other option! (hurrah!?)  I had to take a moment to coax myself out of my tension, with Fear helpfully reminding me that I should probably, you know, get out of there before the culprit of the note, you know, kicks my windows through.  I nervously started the car, hesitantly pulled out, and carefully drove off.  I basically made my car creep out of there on tiptoes.

Once I had made it to the motorway, the quiet monotony of the streetlights pulsating past me, my car settling into the 70 speed limit (yes), Fear having gotten bored and pigged off to harass someone else, I began to reflect on the note.  It was written on a large, bright pink (magenta/cerise/hot pink, you know, some version of pink that isn’t pink) sticky post-it note.  This person wasn’t fucking around with the back of a receipt or anything.  Oh no, I deserved post-it note treatment for my crime.  Secondly, DEFINITE Sharpie pen.  No worrying about whether or not the note would be misconstrued because the ink was running out, or the pencil wasn’t clear enough.  Sharpies suggest purpose, and boy did this person have a purpose.

Finally, the wording.  No holds back sarcasm, followed by aggressive expletives.  I then realised two, no, three, very important things:

One: I can understand that this person was pissed off when, on arriving home from a day’s work, they had to park a bit further away than normal from their house.  They also didn’t stop to consider that, when the culprit (me) had parked up, there was a heap of space free behind their (my) car.  Really, what I am getting at is that the note is really a reflection on them, rather than on me, because:

Two: People Make Mistakes, People!  I hold my hands up on this one, I admit, I should have made sure I was closer to the car in front of me.  I made a mistake.  I can only apologise to the note taker for being A HUMAN BEING.  Seriously, how many reading this, who are drivers themselves, or just pedestrians, have seen other people on the road making mistakes?  Blocking someone in at a car park?  Cutting someone up on a roundabout?  Leaving the handbrake off so the car rolls into the middle of the road? (I have seen that – it was hilarious).  Can you yourselves honestly, hand on heart, say you’ve never accidentally made a mistake on the road?  Things like this happen all the time, everyday, and I refuse to believe that the majority of people are so malicious that they would intentionally do things on the road to inconvenience, even endanger, other road users.  People make mistakes, simple as. Which leads me to:

Three: Sorry, note maker, you made a mistake, too.  I wasn’t a selfish c**t, I was thoughtless.  I thought I had parked fine, and I’m sorry that your opinion on the matter differed to mine.  But the next time you decide to channel your rage using cerise paper and a Sharpie, perhaps just take a step back and have a little think about how your words might affect the person you’re attacking from a distance.  Allow for people to make car notemistakes, because they all do.  Even you.

Now it’s The End.

How To Cope When Your Ex Comes Back To Town.

My friend and I were hanging out the other day, (hanging out = drinking).  It was Valentine’s Day.  Quite a difficult day of the year for those singletons who, like me, don’t buy in to the whole commercialism of it, but secretly want to exile all lovers for showing affection to each other because damn them for inadvertently shoving it into our faces.  Being single on V Day is hard, so a good bottle of rum goes a long way in terms of solace.

“I saw Danny the other day,” my friend began.  My heart jumped.  An ex, a bad ending, another woman.  I mentally kicked myself.  Why do I care?  It was years ago, I am so over it.  So, to show how much I didn’t care, I asked how he was.

“He’s good, moving back here soon.”

Shit.  That was the last thing I wanted to hear, and thank you so much, Life, for the last thing I wanted to hear to be told to me on Valentine’s Day.  To prove how much I had no interest in this news, I asked about the other woman.

“Rachel?  They’re still together.”

Oh, FFS.

Since then, I have been wondering why I reacted so much to this news, and how I would feel if I saw him again.  It’s not that impossible: mutual friends, a smallish city, and that bitch known as Life could all play a hand in this.  I remember that episode from Sex and the City, when Miranda spots her ex on the street with another woman.  Despite being a self assured, highly successful woman, she reacts in the way that I imagine most of us would.  She ducks, hides, and then, when the moment is right, she runs like a madwoman in the opposite direction.  Smooth.

I am not a self assured, highly successful woman. So the duck and run seems a perfectly viable option.  But that is really only plausible if you see your ex first.  What if you don’t?  What if you turn around in a bar or a shop one day and, BANG, hello!  You could run then, but you’d look really bloody stupid.  You’d be cursing yourself afterwards, screaming WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???  There’s no way back from that one.

Other options, then, are to be considered.  You could lie: “Yes, I’m doing very well in my current job, just got promoted actually, and I’m building my reputation as an artist, my last painting sold for £2000.  My boyfriend, Raphael, is an up and coming director.  You might have seen him at the BAFTAs this year.  You didn’t?  Such a shame.  I only couldn’t accompany him because I was flying to Bruges to be a bridesmaid to a woman whose life I had saved whilst on holiday there a couple of years ago.”  Or, you could be very, very honest: “Well, I’m currently working two jobs.  In the first, I am only working weekends, and in the second, it’s such unreliable work that I am making peanuts.  I’ve no confidence with my artwork, so I procrastinate a lot.  I’ve just gotten out of an emotionally damaging relationship with an older man, and now I can’t trust men anymore.  I’m seeing a therapist once a week after I had a breakdown and had to leave my old job, which means I am in debt to my dad, and barely able to support myself.  My life is a mess.”

After exploring both of these options at length, I had a sudden epiphany.  I love a good epiphany: after Life has beaten you black and blue and starts to feel sorry for you, it sends down a little whisper of wisdom so you can avoid another beating.  My epiphany was this.  I don’t care.  Not groundbreaking, I know, since I had already professed not to care when my friend broke the news to me.  But, fact is, people, I don’t care because I shouldn’t.  Seriously, how many of us have freaked out over news of an ex?  Agonizing over how to deal with it, how to respond? Worrying about some hypothetical scenario in which we are face to face once again?  We don’t have to, quite frankly.  We’re not delicate, we won’t dissolve into tears or cause a scene.  It might hurt, it might be a shock, but we will deal in the way each of us know is best for ourselves.  We got over it then and, by god, we’ll get over it now.

So, if I see Danny in the future, I will do what I have to do.  Smile, be happy to see him, ask about his life, then walk to the nearest place-with-wine and drink some of it with a friend.  The first meeting may be hard, but once that’s over, who knows?  You might surprise yourself, and realise you are genuinely pleased to see your ex, that you are truly happy they are OK.  And, if you’re really not?  There’s always that place-with-wine and a friend.

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