Well, things have gone downhill fast in Kinsale. Not for any thing to do with the family, or the boys, all of whom are lovely. Nothing to do with Kinsale itself, either, which is a beautiful town and I would dearly love to spend more time here.
No, its back to the existential angst for Jenny.
Today, I went to the doctors to try and get a pap smear. I had checked with a variety of sources as to whether or not I could do this, and all people had said that I would be able to do so, and would be able to do so cheaply/for free. When I got into the doctor’s office, she told me she couldn’t give me one for free, without me having a PPS number. It would cost me 100 Euro. Now, the PPS number is difficult to get. I need proof of address, which is difficult to get as an au pair, because I need some form of bill with my name and address on it. I then need to take said bill to an office in Cork, which is only open from 10am – 12pm on, like, a Monday and Wednesday (most ridiculous hours ever, they may as well be open ‘only for 15 minutes on the day of the full moon and whenever 5 dark-haired people congregate outside holding rainbow banners’) and apply for one. The number can then take up to 6 weeks to be produced.
When the doctor informed me of this, and that she couldn’t give me the pap smear, as she didn’t want to charge me 100 Euro, I became teary. She noticed and said, ‘Are you getting teary?’ Nothing like asking me if I’m upset to bring on the waterworks. I said, ‘No,’ and promptly burst into tears. She started getting very worried, could she help, could she print out a letter with my name and address on it, I said she couldn’t. Thinking back on it now, that might have worked, but at the time I was mortified that I was sobbing in this woman’s office. I attempted to get a hold of the situation and explained that it wasn’t her fault, that I was under a lot of stress at the moment, and I’d be fine. Of course, when you say something like that, whilst attempting to hold back tears, which have been brought on by such an innocuous statement as, ‘I can’t give you a pap smear’, and you’re in a doctor’s office, they start to get worried. This woman didn’t know me from a bar of soap, and she was clearly very worried. ‘And… and… do you have someone to talk over these… problems with…?’ I felt like I was going to die of embarrassment. I had absolutely no desire to talk to her about these problems. I had no desire (nor did I feel there was any need) to be referred to ‘someone who could help’. I held my head in my hands and muttered, ‘Jesus’, (probably not helping the situation – the situation being me, looking like I was having a mental breakdown in the doctor’s office), as she attempted to comfort me again. At that point, I thought, there was absolutely no point in attempting to convince this woman that I was mentally sound, so I stood up and said, ‘Look, I know what I have to do now, so I’ll do it, so, can I just go, please?’ The woman seemed relieved. ‘Yes, ok, go, just go,’ she said, waving her arms in my direction and at the door.
Not the most comforting of behaviours, when you suspect someone of being mentally unwell, but, hey, I threw her into a pretty uncomfortable situation there. Not meaning to, of course, I was just feeling very frustrated at the whole process, I was also already feeling overwhelmed, on edge and highly anxious.
The reason being that, my new host mother sat me down on Thursday and asked if ‘anything was wrong’. She then proceeded to tell me that she felt I had been all over the shop the last week and a half, that I’d lost my enthusiasm, that my heart wasn’t in it, that she wasn’t sure I wanted to be there etc. etc. etc. There were a variety of things I had done in that week or two that she wasn’t happy about (I had no idea they would be inappropriate, but, hey, that’s what happens when you move to a new work situation). But, anyway she is an insightful person, and she was/is right on the money. As anyone reading any of these posts would know, I really DON’T know what I’m doing here, and I often feel like I would rather be doing something else. I think she intended it to be a pep talk, because she went on to tell me that she thought I was doing very well, but that I had to keep up my enthusiasm and energy. That was comforting, as I had been very worried that I was making lots of stupid mistakes.
However, the fact remains that I am still not sure that I want to be here, as an au pair. I want to be in Ireland, I want to finish as much as I can of the Creative Connections course, but I don’t know how to marry this up with, you know, money and accommodation etc.
When I first decided I wanted to come to Ireland, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, it was wild and spontaneous and inexplicable and crazy. That was part of the charm. When I thought about why I wanted to go, it was a combination of wanting an adventure, wanting to feel inspired, and to chase creative opportunities overseas. But, I got scared. I chose to do something that was comfortable and easy. And that makes sense when I was first moving. It still makes sense in hindsight. But, I think staying where I am, as an au pair, for the next few months, for my last few months in Ireland, defeats the purpose of coming here. Originally, I thought I would work for 6 months, and then travel for 6 months. That changed when I got the Creative Connections course, and I suddenly felt I had to stay in the one place. I do want to finish as much of that course as I can, but I’m finding it difficult to contemplate staying in Ireland just for the course, with nothing else to do.
Being an au pair is ok, but I find it hard to justify why I’m doing it. I feel like I’m wasting my time, just a bit. It was always meant to be ‘a means to an end’, so to speak, but it seems like somewhere along the way, my priorities got crossed, and I ended up committing more to the things I didn’t care as much about, making the things that were meant to be a ‘means to an end’ my priority, instead of the things that I actually wanted to be here for.
I’m 27. Most au pairs are just out of school, are trying to learn English, are figuring out what they want to stufdy next year. Those seem like reasonable reasons to be an au pair – to take a break, to learn a skill – ones that might keep you doing it. But, I feel like its taking up most of my time, without me getting much in return. Of course, I’m getting bills, accommodation, and that’s not nothing. But, at the moment it feels like I’m staying here just for the hell of it. Just because I said I would.
So, what started out as being a pep talk ended with me admitting I didn’t think I wanted to be there, that I thought I wanted to do something else. I think it took my host mother a bit by surprise. We kept having little discussions about it over Thursday and Friday, and went further and further down the track – me saying I couldn’t stay until May, her suggesting Christmas, me then agreeing to a Christmas end date. I don’t think its at all what she wanted, she doesn’t seem very happy with me (and understandably so – she waited for me to arrive for 8 weeks), and what was a stress-free household for me, is now uncomfortable and I feel like I’m treading on eggshells. She says she’s happy for me to stay until Xmas, and really we don’t have a choice, as I don’t know where I’d go if I left right now, and she would have no childminder for when she goes back to work next week.
BUT, the final BUT, is that I think this is the right thing to do. I have to stop running away from scary things or from opportunities. I have to take some risks and go out there and focus on what I actually want to be doing, which is making theatre. It might be expensive, it might scary, but that doesn’t mean its the wrong thing to do.
So, in light of that decision, I will be in Kinsale until Christmas. At that point, I will move, preferably to Cork, if I can find some things/opportunities to occupy me there, or to Dublin if I can’t. I will be making theatre. Lots of it. I will throw myself into everything I can possibly get involved in. Development opportunities, workshops, internships, work experience, paid work (if available), just hanging around other people and generally trying to soak up their amazingness and talent. I’m going to apply for residencies, I’m going to apply to volunteer on festivals, to stage manage, to administer. Whatever people well let me do, I will do it.
Then, at some point in the year, as yet undetermined, as various projects and and opportunities are yet to be confirmed, I will move to the UK. Much as I love Edinburgh and the Scottish people, I’m not going to let myself get sidetracked again. I’m moving to London. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider moving somewhere else, or travelling somewhere else if the right opportunity came up, but I think I need to travel to London and just see what’s going on. I need to meet people that are in London and the UK, I need to work at innovative theatre companies, I need to see their work on a regular basis.
To give myself the best possible chance at doing what I love and what I want to do, this is what I need to do. So, this is what I’m going to do. If anyone has any suggestions of people to talk to, ideas of companies that might let me hang out with them and see how they work, ideas of artists that might do the same, festivals that have volunteering opportunities etc. etc. etc. pass them on. I’m going to need them in the next few months.
No more fear.
Or, feel the fear and do it anyway.
Or, some other cliche.