Category Archives: Employment

What Do You Want?

One of the awkward parts of heading home over Christmas was the amount of times I had to answer the question, ‘So, are you still acting?’ Because I gave up so many months ago (though, really, if no-ones asking you to audition for anything and you’re not getting paid any actual money, is there anything you’re actually ‘giving up’, really?) and then wrote several blog posts about it and then put those blog posts on Facebook, I kind of assumed everyone would have gotten the message. I mean, obviously my family and friends have all subscribed to my blog and eagerly await each new post, which they then read in minute detail, taking notes so that they can later discuss me and my life choices at some kind of ‘Jenny blog’ reading group they have, right?

RIGHT?

Apparently that is not the case (do they not LOVE me???) Nothing like heading home to have to come face-to-face with a whole bunch of stuff you happily ignore in your fake, not-quite-adult, day-to-day Berlin life.

‘No, I’m not acting anymore.’

‘No, I’m not writing either.’

‘No, no theatre, none at all, absolutely no interest, but, anyways, HOW ARE YOU?’ (Mental note: must get better at effective conversation subject changes)

The next question then is, ‘Well, what are you going to do now?’

To which the response is, ‘I don’t know.’

And, then, inevitably, ‘Well, what do you WANT to do?’

To which the response still is, ‘I. DO. NOT. KNOW.’

Idon'tKnow

DON’T KNOW, DON’T KNOW, DON’T KNOW

This is a troubling answer to a lot of people. Who doesn’t know what they want?

(Side note: I often don’t know what I want, but usually it’s 8pm, I haven’t eaten since lunch and someone is attempting to figure out what restaurant to go to. At which point, my response is to cry until someone finds the largest possible plate of the nearest available food and gives it to me)

See, I knew what I wanted. For many years I knew what I wanted and that was to work in theatre and I didn’t know how that was going to happen, but that’s what I wanted and I was going to make it work. Somehow. Many people told me that was not what I wanted, or I that I shouldn’t want that, or that was a stupid thing to want, or a bad thing to want or blah blah blah and it turns out those many people were right. Kudos to them, I hope you all feel very proud of yourselves and wow, wouldn’t life have been swell if I’d listened to you all. No, really, I’m not bitter at you, I’m bitter at me.

ANYWAY, the main point is that after having given up on that one thing that I actually wanted, I literally am left with nothing else.

That’s rather melodramatic. Of course there are plenty of things that I could do, and, furthermore, have considered doing, but exactly how does one choose between them? When there is no strong feeling guiding you in any direction? My main criteria at the moment is, ‘must not choose wrong thing again,’ which I’m sure you can imagine is fairly crippling. I do have one other main criteria which is, ‘cannot work shitty, casual, low-paid, soulless work anymore’, which is also kind of ephemeral and all-encompassing and, in it’s own way limiting.

Despite my ridiculous amounts of fancy schooling, I am trained in nothing useful and nothing necessary.

And, to have people still asking me the same shitty question that got me into this mess (‘But, what do you WANT to do?’) is just the icing on the cake.

 

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Filed under Berlin, Employment, Introspection, Theatre, Unemployment

6 Reasons Not to do Something You Love (for a Career)

It’s a truism of this generation that the way to choose your career is to work out the ‘thing you love’ and then do it. Seems simple enough. And if you follow this advice, all manner of riches should be poured down upon you: fulfilment, happiness, health, career success, nice friends, a good-looking partner, great skin, perfect teeth and to top it all off, actual money. At least, that’s what I learnt from ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. Or was it ‘Eat Pray Love’? I don’t remember. One of those.

The problem is that whilst it’s a very seductive idea, it’s a pretty shitty way of running your life, picking your career and managing a wider community. Unfortunately, however, the idea is pervasive. It forms the backbone of every B-grade Hollywood film. Your parents said it to you throughout school (though, they might occasionally backtrack when you’d announce you wanted to be a crocodile trainer).

I’ve spent that last 18 years of my life repeating that I had to go into theatre, because I loved it more than anything and therefore I’d never be happy if I didn’t do exactly that. I thought loving something was as much as was needed. I was encouraged in this by anyone whoever spoke about the acting industry – it’s so hard, you have to make sure you LOVE it more than ANYTHING, otherwise there’s no point in going into it. So I loved it harder.

But I’m slowly learning that it doesn’t work that way. And that ‘loving’ something may actually be a hugely detrimental thing to feel towards something you want to be successful at. Here are my reasons.

1) Remember when you first fall in love with someone and everything they do is wonderful and even their farts smell of roses? You don’t want to have that kind of attitude towards something you do as a job. To be truly successful at work, you should be able to think critically and objectively about what you’re doing. It requires you to look at your industry, your company, your colleagues, your own work and think, ‘well, is this the best that can be done? Is there something missing? Are we doing something stupid that we should fix?’ It’s hard to do that when you think everything smells like roses. If Florence Nightingale was so in love with nursing that she hadn’t been able to look up and say, ‘hey, how come all these infections are spreading amongst my patients,’ we’d all have been a little bit worse off.

2) Falling in love involves spending a lot of time with the adored object. Like, A LOT, of time. Like, sometimes you don’t even really come up for air. Like, sometimes you turn around and it’s 9 months later and you call your friends and they’re all like, ‘Dude. We thought you were dead.’ I  mean, that might not be the best kind of relationship, but, still, you have to admit it sometimes happens. The problem with doing this with your career is that you begin to lose all perspective. Related to the first point – you can no longer think critically about your adored career because you have nothing to compare it to. It seems like the most important thing in the world, because it’s the ONLY thing in the world.

3) Love is selfish. Not in a, ‘this-person-is-all mine-i’ll-kill-you-if-you-even-look-at-them’ totally psycho-jealous kind of way, but in a ‘I’m-love-this-person-and-more-than-that-I-love-how-good-they-make-me-feel’ kind of way. Yes, you love them for who they are, but you also love them for how they make you feel. Which is a perfectly fine way of choosing a career as an individual. It becomes a disaster, however, when every single middle-class kid decides they want to play the cello and only play the cello and be paid a living wage for playing the cello and why shouldn’t they play the cello, after all, they love it. Now, I have no problem with middle-class kids that want to play the cello (hey, it’s a beautiful instrument, and I saw ‘Hilary & Jackie’, it looked like a really glamorous life until Jackie got multiple sclerosis), but my point is, someone should really also learn how to, I don’t know, cure multiple sclerosis as well as everyone becoming cello players. I’m not saying there’s not a place for cello players. I’m just saying there’s as many things wrong with the society that is all artists as there is with the society that is all doctors. The other problem is that I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone whose told me their passion is collecting rubbish. So, ‘do what you love’ leaves some massive holes in society that some unlucky person has to fill for whatever reason. It doesn’t really seem fair that they can’t also ‘do what they love’.

4) Sometimes you fall in love with someone that doesn’t treat you very well. They take advantage of your love for them. They insist you have to go out at midnight to buy cookies for them from the convenience store even though they’re not diabetic or disabled and they live in a really bad neighbourhood. And then, when you call them in tears one night because your best friend’s boyfriend has decided he hates you and wants your best friend never to see you again, instead of offering to come over immediately, your partner kind of yawns and says, ‘Oi, that’s dreadful but I’ve got a really early start tomorrow so I should probably get off the phone….’ A career that you love unconditionally is like that. You’ll do unthinkable things. Like, work for free even though you don’t know how you’re going to pay the rent next month. Like, putting up with a boss who emotionally abuses you because the job will ‘look good on your CV.’ Like, being the coffee person because maybe sometime soon the people you’re getting coffee for will let you actually do something related to the career of your choice. You’ll even start thinking it makes sense to pay money to be involved in ‘opportunities’ for ‘potential’ work that ‘may become available’ ‘somewhere’ down the line.

5) Sometimes we fall in love with people that are not quite right for us. Maybe we’re sick of being single. Maybe we couldn’t find anybody else. Maybe we went through a tough break-up and it seems easier to be in love with this ok person for a while instead of going out there and having our heart broken all over again. The point is that they aren’t quite the match we think they are. But we try desperately to make it work. Maybe you’re vegan and all she eats is steak. Maybe you work for Shell Oil and he’s an environmental campaigner for Greenpeace. I’m not saying you can’t make it work (or that Hollywood couldn’t do a damn fine job of making a quirky rom-com out of your attempts), but I am saying it might be more trouble than it’s worth. Sometimes we fall in love with careers or industries that don’t match our talents or our personalities. But because we ‘love’ them, or because we know of no other way of choosing a career, we stay in them longer than is advisable. Sure, maybe you’ll be able to make it work eventually, maybe you’ll develop that killer shark instinct you need to be the cutthroat criminal lawyer you always dreamed of since watching Law & Order all those years ago. But, would it really be worth it? Maybe you’d be better used and happier somewhere else, doing something else.

6) People fall out of love. This is true. Divorce statistics don’t lie. I know we all want to believe in the happily ever after (I know I want to believe in the happily ever after), but chances are it won’t come your way. If you’re lucky, your ‘lifetime’ partner will die before you fall out of love with them and then you can spend the rest of your life mourning their great loss (I’m looking at you, Queen Victoria) and thinking you missed out on some kind of grey-haired, sepia-coloured, pigeon-feeding, end-of-life romance. Otherwise, there’s a large chance that the person you swore eternal devotion to is going to, at some point, loose their pretty shininess. You change, they change. You find yourself living in an apartment made up of a quarter of things you used to love from your old shared house and a quarter of the things you used to hate, plus a cat or two that you’re never sure you actually adopted but you seem to feed now, awkwardly flicking through Tinder and trying to encourage a sense of flirtatiousness and footloose fancy-free-ness. Breaking up with the career you thought you loved (or wanted to love) is just as devastating. You find yourself at an unimaginable age, starting at the beginning, looking at university guidebooks whilst shuddering with confusion and distaste at all the young people you might need to interact with who remind you on a daily basis just how much of a head start they have over you. Sure there’s nothing wrong with starting again. And, even if you choose a career for other reasons that you ‘love’ it, you may find yourself shifting gears at some point down the line. However, changing jobs is so much harder if you’ve invested all that emotional energy, that love, into the career to begin with. It’s like your personality has been ripped out. You don’t know who you are anymore.

Aristotle said: “Where your talents and the needs of the world cross; there lies your vocation.” It might be longer and more complex than ‘do what you love,’ but it’s all the more useful for it. It considers the world, not just yourself. It considers what you can offer, rather than just what you’d like to do all day (I mean, I’d like to drink red wine whilst playing ‘Spell Tower’ on my phone, but that wouldn’t necessarily be the best use of my time and I’d probably be pretty bummed at myself on my death bed if all I’d achieved in life was a score above 10,000 on Spell Tower).

I’m sure I haven’t convinced the majority of you. And I’m sure plenty of people (plenty) will continue to go out there and choose careers based on ‘what they love’ and only on what they love (hey, you can’t fight City Hall. Or after-school specials). And some of you might find that works out ok for you. But the rest of you might find yourself dissatisfied, unhappy, unfulfilled and not really sure why. The problem is the nature of the game, the starting premise. When it comes to work, at least, love is definitely not all you need.

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Filed under Employment, Introspection, Theatre

The Hidden Talents of Your Wait Staff

I’ve been meaning to write this one for a while, but I haven’t had a chance, for many and various reasons (really, the amount of times I write that at the start of a post, I should really just stop making excuses and write the damn things).

Anyway. I have been working as a waitress for a while now and I feel that there are a few things you should know about your waitstaff. People seem to think this job is just a matter of writing down orders, bringing out food and taking money. I’m here to tell you it’s a lot more complicated than that. Obviously not all waitstaff you come in contact with actually have the following skills (I’m particularly reminded of Phoebe’s sister Ursula who waitressed at the cafe featured in hit comedy ‘Mad About You’ – yes, my knowledge of early to mid 90’s NBC sitcom comedy is that detailed). I’m not trying to defend those really, truly terrible waitstaff who bring you the bread basket in their pants (‘Friends’ reference there, for all you playing at home), but next time you’re in a busy restaurant and you catch sight of your waitstaff consider that, if they’re doing a good job and you are enjoying yourself and your food, it’s likely that they have some (or all) of the following skills:

1) Diplomacy

Think of it this way. The kitchen is Israel and your little table of two is Palestine. Now, I’m not suggesting that the kitchen staff are going to enter the restaurant and start building an illegal settlement on your table, but you and the kitchen have conflicting goals, aims and beliefs (some dating back many hundreds of years), which essentially boils down to the fact that the kitchen wants to cook your food the way they always have and always do, and you want things different and slightly personalised (no onion, no pepper, extra crackling… you name it, you want it). Your waiter is like Sweden or Norway at a UN-sanctioned peace conference and is the go-between in negotiations between the kitchen and the table. ‘We can’t replace the goat’s cheese with parmesan, but I can offer you extra feta.’ The better the waiter is at getting the kitchen on side, the more likely it is that you will be able to enjoy the food you want to enjoy the way you want to enjoy it.

2) Language and Descriptive Skills

You see something on the menu. It sounds kind of interesting, but you are puzzled by some aspect of it. You ask the waiter a follow-up question. The waiter’s answer at this point is going to help you decide between taking a risk on something exotic or going for the burger. Also, your future enjoyment (or not) of your meal will depend a great deal on the accuracy of their descriptive powers (eg Your waitress tells you that you get five thin sausages with your mash. It comes out with three fat ones. If thin sausages are a particular passion of yours and their inclusion in the description therefore played a role in your decision to order said British staple meal, then you will, most likely, be sorely disappointed in your waitstaff). I’m not saying all good waitstaff are also potentially Pulitzer prize winning authors just waiting for their chance to shine… but, oh, ok, well, perhaps I am hinting that.

3) Intuition

The best staff know what you want before you want it. They offer you starters and sides you never knew were essential to your dining pleasure until they were offered. They get you a full water jug before your old one runs out. They fetch sauces before you ask for them. They print the bill before you have to mime for it. The best staff even know what you’re feeling before you’ve processed and understood the feeling yourself. From across the restaurant, I have registered a look of unhappiness on the face of a customer who had just bitten into their meal and, in a matter of seconds, rushed to their side to rectify the situation. I think you’ll find that good waitstaff actually combine the empathetic skills of a Mother Theresa, the mind-reading abilities of Derren Brown and the rapid-fire response of Superman.

4) An Eye for Detail

You may not care that the water glasses on your don’t match, but I DO CARE. And furthermore, I WILL DO EVERYTHING IN MY POWER TO PREVENT SUCH A TRAGEDY OCCURRING. See, though you may not realise you care, you will, at some point, glance at your table (maybe there’s a lull in the conversation, or some joke has fallen flat) notice the mismatched glasses, and even if you’re not conscious of it, part of your brain will register, ‘hmmmm… something’s not quite right. Something looks a bit scrappy.’ And then, on some level, you will start to feel uncomfortable. You will feel awkward. Unhappy. Like, life is no longer worth living. You will leave the restaurant displeased by something you can’t quite put your finger on. I am so dedicated to my job as a waitress that I care about whether or not all the people sitting on your table have the same size water glasses. I care about whether or not all the tables in the restaurant have the exact same layout, even though people at Table x will never see the layout at Table z. I care if you’ve been given two entree forks instead of a mains fork and an entree fork. If, when setting up the restaurant, I had enough time to measure the gaps between the napkin and the cutlery with a ruler, I would do it. What I’m trying to say is that, at work, I am actually Carson from Downton Abbey (at work, mind. At home it’s another story all together. I just switch that part of my brain off. It gets tired, you see).

5) Strategic Planning

On a busy afternoon or evening in the restaurant, you need a plan of attack. You need to work like a chess-player, always thinking two or three steps ahead. Or, like a boy scout, always being prepared. Or, like an ARMY GENERAL ORDERING HIS TROOPS INTO BATTLE. You need to know what all your tables are doing and all your tables are going to want not just in the present moment, but in the FOLLOWING fifteen to twenty minutes so you can make certain that all things happen at the appropriate time. And, if that’s not possible, then you need to make sure that the most important things happen first and the least important happen sometime afterwards. For example, a lot of meals are being brought out from the kitchen for Table No. 1, just as you’ve just taken a coffee order from Table No. 2.  It might seem like the coffee order is more pressing (because you have to make it yourself), but it could take up to ten minutes to get it all done. In that time, Table No. 1 could discover they don’t have their sides, one of their party is missing a meal and another’s meal is cold. If you ignore Table No.1 for 10 minutes to make coffee you can be assured that for the rest of the afternoon, you will genuinely feel like a soldier under attack from one particular quarter.

6) Interpersonal Skills

This one is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how little it is appreciated – probably because everyone thinks they can do it. There is a difference, however, between good interpersonal skills (mine) and excellent interpersonal skills (some of the girls at work). The trick is to make everyone think you are their best friend. And the best way to do that is to try and believe it yourself. Laugh convincingly at jokes that aren’t funny, or you don’t like or that don’t even make sense. Your customers are the most fascinating, interesting, delightful, entertaining people you’ve ever met (and, hey, sometimes its genuinely true). You learn to handle difficult customers (who may not be interested in being handled). You notice when customers want to be left alone and when they want to have a chat. On my whimsical days, I like to think of the restaurant as my own grand 1950s manor, in the style of an Agatha Christie novel, and I am the lady of the house, graciously welcoming this eclectic bunch of dignitaries into my home (of course, I never run it so far into the novel that a mysterious murder occurs). I am the hostess with the mostess, so to speak, swanning about in a flowing chiffon gown, making chit-chat with all my guests and making sure they are as comfortable as possible.

Yes, I know, I’m totally bonkers, but it gets me through my shifts.

7) Mathematical Ability

There are a lot of people out there who don’t even look at their bills at the end of the night (who are these people? How much money do they have? Where did they get it? Can I have some too please?) They just hand over their cards and say, ‘oh, just split it equally.’ Just split 106.93 equally between 6 equally? Umm…. ok, give me a second. I have used my 5th grade maths skills more in the past 6 months than I have since the 8th grade when we were suddenly allowed to use calculators for exams. You can’t really carry a calculator when you’re on the floor (well, you could, but there are so many other, more vital waitstaff tools that need to be carried about – pen, pad, bottle opener etc – that, by the time you start adding calculator to the list you may as well just grab a backpack and bring the till and wine cellar with you), so when someone hands you a bill and some cards and says, ‘oh, just split it equally’, you have to do some pretty quick (and accurate) maths. So, it may not be essential to do it manually, you could walk away and get the calculator, but in my personal experience, suddenly looking anxious and rushing off to get a calculator can make a customer nervous. And, the last thing we want to do is make a customer nervous. The less the customer has to worry about pesky, routine things like money and cutlery and condiments throughout a meal, the happier they are when they leave.

Look at all those happy waitstaff! Found at: http://www.keene.edu/kst/2007Fall/memories.cfm?I=16

Look at all those happy waitstaff! Found at: http://www.keene.edu/kst/2007Fall/memories.cfm?I=16

 

 

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Reception (or, Feeling Stoo-pid)

New job, new insecurities.

So, I’m not sure how many of you know this, but in the past few weeks, I’ve been getting trained up to work on reception of the hotel I’ve been waitressing at. I was oh-so-proud about this new job when they offered it to me. It’s a reasonable amount of responsibility, large payments, working independently, making sure balance sheets add up etc. And, its not like I was completely unqualified for the position. I’ve done several years in customer service in educational institutions. I’ve worked with databases, I know how to answer phones, I can type at a speed that sounds impressively and satisfyingly quick in a quiet, empty room (you know the clickety-clack sound I’m talking about – it comes with however many years in administration, countless hours wasted on social media and pages and pages of writing of various types: essays, plays, stories, blog posts etc.)

Anywho,  I was very much up for the new challenge that reception would provide. At least, I thought I was. But, my first training shift was, to say the least, intimidating. In between my first and second training shifts, I realised that whilst I could remember various useful things I needed to do (‘At the start of the day I print off reports!’), I couldn’t remember other, vital parts of that information (‘But where are those reports kept…. And what are they called again?’) So, on my second training shift, I started taking notes. This made me feel much more comfortable. On my third training shift, I put my notes into action and felt much happier. Until I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to encounter (and note down the correct procedure) of absolutely everything that could possibly happen to me on a reception shift. There was, inevitably, going to be things that I wouldn’t know how to deal with.

My first shift on my own on reception was on Monday and I was lucky in that only two people were checking out. It meant I could spend most of my time slowly working through everything else that needed to be done. Or, in some cases, slowly working through things that I had done earlier in the day and then realised I had done wrong. But, still, by the end of the shift, pretty much everything was done correctly and I only had one situation I needed to have help with from my manager when she took over from me. I left work feeling pretty ok about myself and how the shift had gone.

Today was my second shift on my own. You’d think that after having done one shift on my own, things would start to get better. I’d start to get into a groove, start to understand more things. I’d be building on the good start I’d made on Monday and that no days would ever be that hard again. It would be onwards and upwards from here. Constant progress. Like a progressive utopian view of history, where the perfect reception employee version of myself would eventually be reached at an, as yet undetermined, point in the (hopefully) not too distant future. (If you get me. I don’t blame you if you don’t. I’m not sure I get me). Anyway, that is, of course what I expected of today. A small improvement on Monday. Nothing too fancy you understand, possibly not even noticeable to the naked eye. But, something at least to make me feel like I was getting somewhere.

But, unfortunately I spent most of the day feeling like the little Dutch boy who stuck his finger in the leaking dike to stop his Dutch town from being swallowed by the sea (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Brinker,_or_The_Silver_Skates#Popular_culture:_the_legend_of_the_boy_and_the_dike). Except that, unlike that Dutch boy, there wasn’t just one hole. Every time the phone rang, or an email came in, there was a new problem, a new hole burst in the dike. Some of them were smaller, more easily dealt with. But, still, by the time my manager came in at the end of my shift, it didn’t feel like there was just one tiny hole that could be stopped with just one tiny finger (like that lucky little Dutch boy), but that I was literally holding together the entire dike with my bare hands and attempting to fight back the full force of a storm-racked North Sea with my puny little girls’ arms. It seemed like the more I learnt about the job, the more I realised how much I didn’t know about the job. And that was kind of scary.

To be fair to myself, things that were confusing and scary a week ago are now easy. They’re now the things that I’m looking forward to, because they’re the things that I know how to do. It’s the unexpected things, the one-offs, the things that I knew I was never going to be able to write down the steps of on my little notepad, that are the problems. And, I know from experience of these sorts of jobs that for most of these one-off problems it won’t be a matter of learning the solution to every problem, it’ll be a matter or learning how to respond and learning how to find the information that I need to work out a solution. It’s just that I don’t deal so well with a state of conscious incompetence. And that’s a shame, because it pretty much always feels like I’m always living in a state of conscious incompetence (I do like that phrase). Some people seem to effortlessly exist in states of conscious (or even unconscious) competence. And still others are quite happy in their state of unconscious incompetence (it must be nice to like yourself so much that you don’t need to worry or care at all about whether or not you’re doing things right or wrong). But, even when I’m doing something I know I know how to do, I get anxious, feeling like there might be something I’m doing wrong that I don’t even know about. Which is why I always get nervous around policemen. Just in case I just happen to be doing something illegal accidentally when they walk past and I don’t even know about it.

Not a particularly upbeat post. And I know I’m probably taking things way too seriously (particularly for a job that is, for me, just about making ends meet). But, if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s feeling stupid. And, feeling like other people think I’m stupid. And, today was just one long day of feeling stoo-pid.

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Working Life

I’m not at a Caffe Nero? Am I still allowed to blog?

Oddly enough, I actually have two posts that I want to write. They’re probably not that exciting. But, hey ho, I started this blogging project to capture all those amazing overseas moments I was having and I am not one to give up on a challenge half-way through (unless, of course, that challenge includes cold-calling pensioners and asking that they donate their pennies to the poor, disabled dogs and cats of Mexico. Because THAT is a challenge I will give up on in, oh, let’s call it, 16 hours?)

So, I’ve gotten these two jobs, at least one of which I am enjoying a great deal. But, of course, after months of unemployment/underemployment, the sudden flip to 40 – 50 hour weeks was a little much for my slightly unfit, slightly overweight, vegetarian body to stand. Whenever I got time off from work, I would crawl up on the couch, my bed, or occasionally my housemate’s bed (its not weird, she wasn’t there and she said I could do it) and watch endless hours of TV. I rediscovered such classic movies as ‘When Harry Met Sally’, ‘Ghost’ and ‘Castaway’. I watched not-so-classic movies such as ‘Swinging with the Finkels’ (yes, the title should have been a giveaway). I was disturbed by Tilda Swinton and that freaky boy in ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’. I watched endless, endless episodes of ‘Friends’. In fact, I watched so many episodes of ‘Friends’ that I’m beginning to think that I don’t like the show anymore. Or, it could be that I’ve just reached the crap episodes (ie, the ones that they were making because they knew they were going to have to cancel it, but wanted to squeeze as much money out of the show as possible before they did).

I would get home from work, physically broken from work, but still buzzing and not tired enough to go to sleep and would watch whatever we had recorded over the week whilst eating a bag of chips for my dinner and considering whether I would end up like one of those male university students down in Melbourne who ended up with scurvy (urban legend? Perhaps. However, I’ve gone on a Vitamin C binge today, just in case).

And, then, sometime during this week, all of a sudden, I stopped being so tired. I got used to it. The thought of putting on the TV made me desperately unhappy (whereas, a week previously, the thought of switching off the TV had made me desperately unhappy). It took me kind of by surprise. When I woke up with a free day today, I thought, ‘huh’. Well, then, what shall we do? I ended up spending two hours singing songs and imagining that I was auditioning for the X-Factor (needless to say, Gary Barlow thought I was excellent. The cat, however, disagreed and left the room in a sulk).

So, there you go. Not earth-shattering, or life-changing, but its good to know that I won’t be spending all my time in London either at work, or in front of the TV. I went on a sneaky day-trip to Brighton last Monday after 10 days of work in a row and it was revelation. Walking through London Bridge station, I was looking at all the people going, ‘Oh, that’s right! I live in London! London, England! That’s a really big place that doesn’t just consist of my apartment and Clapham Common. Excellent.’

I intend to make better use of my non-work time next week with the cunning use of lists…

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Filed under Employment, London

Unemployed to Overemployed

I am currently sitting in Cafe Nero (not the one in Clapham Common – I do go other places!) having gone to two of my jobs today and taking a break before heading to my final job of the day. Two weeks ago, I barely had one job (in that, I had ‘work’, but it wasn’t paid), today I’m struggling to find enough hours to complete all the jobs I have (voluntary, paid and self-imposed), with all my bosses (including myself) slightly annoyed I’m not doing more hours for them and whilst also fending of other potential bosses who seem to be continuously ringing me to offer other jobs, and also… you know, sleep, eat and breathe. Apparently the reason its very difficult to find a job in London is because each person in London is allocated one particular fortnight period where they are offered ALL the jobs (even ones you haven’t applied for) and at no other point during the year will they be offered jobs. This last fortnight was MY fortnight (finally) and suddenly I have loads of jobs and am doing 13 hour days. Wheeeeeee.

Of course, as far as crises go, this is probably a much happier situation to be in than the one I was in two weeks ago (which was especially highlighted by the bank account statement received this morning…. 600 pounds in, 2600 pounds out. Eek). But, in true me-style, I’m turning molehills into mountains and spending some part of each day worrying that someone is going to ask me to do something that I can’t do because of all the other things the other people have asked me to do and then the delicate balance of jobs will suddenly come crashing down on my head, with many terrible consequences that I cannot think of right now, but rest assured they are terrible and generally involve being yelled at and people not liking me (incidentally, I met a lovely gentleman the other night, who also happened to be a magician, and he told me that he ‘turned mountains into molehills’, which is a turn of phrase I am particularly attached to and offer it to you here for your reading pleasure).

It certainly is interesting being back in paid work after having spent such a long time doing unpaid and voluntary work. It highlights a strange (and inconvenient) feeling of awkwardness that I have around being paid for doing work. Which may also explain the apparent inability I have turning any of the things that I do into money-making ventures. The minute I’m asking for payment for anything at all, I start to get uncomfortable and doubt whether or not what I am offering actually does provide value for money. This is particularly problematic around things that I enjoy doing (the eternal artist dilemma – to work or not work for free?) but seems also to be an issue around work that there is no way I would do without being paid at least minimum wage. So, at the charity call-centre, leaving each shift having received no donations for the charities, but having been paid however much for my shifts was pretty obviously *not* value for money as far as the charities were concerned. The constant analyzing of my calling technique by the managers (which was meant to assist me) made this anxious feeling even worse by highlighting all the ways I could potentially have gotten more money out of the pensioners and thereby made myself worthwhile as a charity call-centre worker and/or human being.

At the pub, things are much better, as apparently I have a ‘natural affinity’ for waitressing, meaning that I’m bubbly and smile a lot and laugh when the customers make jokes. Incidentally, this is actually all you need to be a waitress, surprisingly enough, its nothing to do with food and money and all that (ok, its a little bit about that, but the important thing is to be friendly and upbeat). I have been dubbed the ‘Mick Jagger of waitressing’, which I’m taking as a compliment, though really I suppose it could go either way. Nevertheless, my mood at the pub goes in swings and roundabouts depending very much on whether or not I’m feeling like I’m ‘value for money’ or, more importantly, whether or not my bosses feel I am ‘value for money’.

And this fixation on ‘value for money’, the constant calculating and re-calculating of my current ‘value’ on the employment market stems from a paranoia that if ‘they’ discover I am not ‘value for money’ then ‘they’ will fire me. Of course, as we have already established, I am currently overemployed in low-paid work, so it’d be alright if someone did actually fire me. So, what exactly is the problem here? Why do I continue to turn molehills into mountains?

Well, here we come to the absolute end of the line, the absolute crux of the matter, which is that if they fire me because I am not ‘value for money’, then that must mean they think I’m worthless and if someone, out there in the world, thinks I’m worthless (leaving aside what I myself think on the subject, leaving aside whether or not I actually think this person is worthwhile and is capable of making such a decision on my worth and/or worthlessness as a human being), then it might very well be true. Leaving aside whether or not I actually want or care about the job, leaving aside whether or not the job is making me happy, being fired from a job means someone doesn’t like me/thinks I’m stupid/unskilled/unqualified/not VALUE-FOR-MONEY and therefore expendable. And, for whatever reason (probably my deep-seated and cripplingly low self-esteem issues… JOKES) I have decided that, in my life, it IS, and MUST BE possible for EVERYONE I EVER COME IN CONTACT WITH to like and/or love me UNRESERVEDLY.

Ah, its fun being me sometimes.

I obviously don’t have this problem as a volunteer, because I have yet to make such a disaster of a voluntary situation that it entirely cancels out the benefit of me working for free (though, I suppose there’s still time and really, if I was ACTUALLY serious about being value-for-money I would be on the lookout for any possible ways I could also potentially screw volunteer things up, just to be on the safe side and really make my life a living hell).

Anyway, before you start sending conciliatory messages, I’m not feeling sad or awful, I am analyzing the situation from a distance, which is ever-so-healthy and amusing. Because, you’ll find, if you do this yourself, that once you trace your anxieties back to their source and pin-point exactly what it is that is making you upset or anxious, you’ll realise it is so ridiculous as to be laughable. And then, once you’re laughing at it, the problem becomes a lot smaller and less significant (a mountain into a mole-hill, if you will).

Its rather like getting rid of a Boggart in ‘Harry Potter’.

Alan Rickman as a Boggart in ‘Harry Potter’. Found at http://www.ugo.com/movies/harry-potter-spells?page=4

That JK Rowling really is a very clever lady. And the next time I’m feeling anxious at work, perhaps I will imagine Alan Rickman in a green dress and an over-sized eagle on his head.

Maybe I’ll just do that anyway.

I mean, Alan Rickman is pretty awesome.

 

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Filed under Employment, Introspection, Unemployment