THE COLLEAGUE

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People often talk about how important their friends are.

We so frequently recall fond memories of those we have known since university or school and we praise our families for being wonderful- and don’t get me wrong, these people are the people I turn to first. I do feel, however, that we need to give our work colleagues a little more credit for the crucial part that they play in our everyday lives.

Hear me out.

I get that your boyfriend/girlfriend/lover has to endure a run down of the last eight hours at the end of a long, hard day. I know that your girlfriends are the ones nursing your broken heart when things don’t quite work out as planned. Your mum and dad will no doubt be the ones to get you through a really rough patch, it was your grandparent’s job to spoil you rotten and your brother or sister are there to let you know that you’ve put on a bit of weight when no one else will. But the people you work with? They’re the ones who see you everyday, come rain or shine. On a good side of the bed day or on a bad side of the bed day. There’s no respite for those you share a desk with and they have to look at your face for at least six hours a day, whether they (or you) like it or not and this is why I feel it’s high time we celebrate these people we find ourselves spending most of our time with.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that a good work colleague is hard to come by. In fact, starting a new job is a bit like an arranged marriage: you just don’t know what you’re going to get, but what I can say, with some certainty, is that knowing that I can have snippets of great conversation and a laugh at some point between the hours of 9am and 5pm is what makes me stop hitting snooze on my alarm each day. Aside from loving what I do, of course.

More to the point though, post-education, where else do you get the chance to meet and make life-long friends anymore? As a twenty-something, you can’t just approach people in bars and ask them to hang out with you as a mate. Nor do apps intended for this purpose ever really work. Friendship groups are set in stone by 27 and work is the only place you get to meet anyone new. Yet another reason why work colleagues are the bomb.

This positive outlook on desk mates, however, isn’t always agreed upon. In fact, I’ve heard tales-a-plenty about torturous co-workers in the last few days and I recently listened to a podcast by The Pool where someone had written in to ask for advice on how to handle their god-awful neighbouring teammate who chewed really loudly at their desk and sighed a lot. First of all: really dude? personal space, please. Secondly, it made me realise how lucky I have been. Although I’ve had some awkward romantic encounters and have faced both healthy disagreements and a couple of disappointments throughout my working life, I have always managed to find people I click with within my team, company or school and it is those humans who I would like to celebrate today. The ones who put up with my incessant need to talk things through, the ones who help curb my habit of writing endless lists and those who spend hours after work chatting, just because.

So, colleagues of the world: although we might have to make small talk with one another on impromptu tube rides home, spend lunch times working next to each other instead of eating across from one another and we may get a little inappropriate at after work drinks, you are what makes the 9-5 bearable, so let’s be grateful for that.

Tomorrow, take the time to offer a colleague a cup of tea or fetch them a diet coke from the shop. If you have a bit of spare time, offer them a helping hand with something they’re working on, or just get blind drunk on prosecco after hours for no reason at all.

You never know, once you get to talking to people, you might go from being colleagues to life-long friends.

Lord knows, stranger things have happened.

THE NEW YEAR

large (19)I feel like I have learnt more about myself in the past year than I have in the last 26 put together.

I started 2015 on what can only be described as the lowest I have ever been. I had no job, my relationship was hanging on by less than a thread and I was suffering quite severely with anxiety and low self esteem. I looked to the year ahead and couldn’t see past March to be honest. I felt as though everything I knew about myself was wrong, I didn’t know where I was going to be by the following January and, when things were really bad, I didn’t care.

But here I am. With a job I don’t love but I need, not for the money but peace of mind, a relationship that I wouldn’t trade for anything and a healthier outlook on the future.

Cliché or not, I genuinely can’t believe how much can change in a year.

Back in January, those closest to me kept saying that time was a healer and that things would change. They would remind me that nothing is permanent and that I wouldn’t feel this way forever. As you can imagine, I didn’t believe a single word of what they said. Instead, I chose to just bury my head in the sand and carry on with things by ignoring the stuff that was bothering me. This, of course, only made things worse. Until I decided to hit the reset button, chill the f out for a bit and start again.

And then just like that – or rather, six, quite long, quite difficult months later – on an ordinary day in December as I walked home from work, I realised that I didn’t feel sad, anxious, hurt or disappointed anymore. In fact, without knowing, I had grown in confidence, I was happier, more optimistic and driven than ever, but I didn’t feel these things outwardly, overwhelmingly or life-changeingly. I felt them in the most beautiful way possible: I simply felt okay again. And that’s exactly what I wanted to achieve when I hit the reset button back in July. I just wanted to feel like I was in control again and – finally – I do.

So, although I have friends who are joining me on a high of happiness at the close of the year – from engagements and career moves to pregnancies and new relationships – I also have those around me who have recently lost loved ones, who are caring for those who might not be with us for much longer and those who are nursing not broken, but completely shattered, hearts. And it is to those people who I am dedicating this New Year’s post to. Because I was you this time last year, waiting for midnight, hoping for a fairy godmother to appear and wash all of my troubles away with her magic wand. So, although you know as well as I did that she’s never going to come, I am here to remind you that, over the next few months, your luck will change, that there is still time to fix whatever it is that is broken and that by this time next year you will look back and almost be grateful for what you’ve just endured. It will take a few months of cutting yourself some slack, a dash of hard work and a whole lot of me time, but I promise, you will get there.

So, whether you’re excited, apprehensive or nervous about the coming year, be sure to surround yourself with the people you love tonight and give thanks for the things you do have, because that’s really the only thing that matters in this life.

See you in 2016 for another adventure.

Happy New Year.

HOW LUNCH DICTATED MY CAREER – A GUEST POST

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I don’t know about you, but Big Important Life Decisions completely paralyse my brain’s ability to function.

Offer me a double chocolate muffin or an apple and obviously, I’m not mad, I’ll opt for the muffin. I’ll probably take two, one for the road.

Ask me which I’d prefer to watch out of Legally Blonde and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde and yes – I’m only human  – I might pause for a second. But then I’ll see sense and plump for the original. Way more bend and snap.

But ask me what I want to DO with my life and I’ll be pretty stumped. And that’s because the opportunities are endless…which is both exhilarating and terrifying.

Feeling me so far?

When you’re REALLY young the hardest decisions are the likes of:

“Do I eat my chips before my stupid peas or do I leave my chips ’til last and risk getting full?”

[to be fair that’s a question that’s still highly relevant well into my adult years]

Or even the delicate and highly political:

“Who’s going to be my best friend at school today? Sophie…so she’ll invite me to her bouncy castle birthday party? Or Olivia…because then she’ll let me plait her hair at break?”

Even as you grow up through your teens the options are laid out for you:

French or German.

History or Geography.

Backstreet Boys or Boyzone.

Gap year or straight to uni.

It’s not ’til uni is ending that you are suddenly hit with the enormity of your career choices. Yes, it’s slightly different if you studied medicine – your path is fairly set, Dr McSmug. But for many of us, leaving uni meant – for perhaps the first time – we didn’t have anyone offering us A or B on a little plate. It was A-Z and maybe some cheeky hieroglyphics thrown in too. Just to add to the chaos.

When I was a little nipper the only jobs I knew about were the ones I’d seen in picture books: nurse, train driver, teacher and farmer. I literally thought the world was operated by those four jobs alone.

Then dawns the realisation that not only are there countless more industries than you ever envisaged…but within those industries are a complicated hierarchy of positions.

I remember feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed – aged 21 – as my life lay before me and I found myself, much to my disappointment and surprise, not married to Prince William (plan A) or Prince Harry (plan B).

It seemed as though I was going to have to choose a career. I just didn’t have the foggiest clue what that career was going to be.

In the end, my first job out of uni was working in the advertising industry.

Want to know why? The truth?!

It’s because I made the mistake of going to a careers fair completely knackered and hungry.

And it was alphabetically laid out, clockwise. I only managed as far as ‘A’.

I’m happy that one of my KPIs isn’t chaperoning zoo animals. Although I did end up being an accidental sex pest at my advertising job.

*NOW A SLIGHT TANGENT*

On the subject of zoos…I’m not sure how long I would have lasted as a zookeeper. I’m on the crazy end of the squeamish scale. The first time I went to visit my sister in Zimbabwe we went to a crocodile park and I’m DEATHLY afraid of crocs.

I asked – nervously – how many of the beasts they had. The tour guide responded with gusto:

“There are thirty…

Cripes. But I think I can cope with 30. Just.

“-thousand crocodiles in this park.”

Kill me now.

His next line keeps me awake at night to this date, although I think it was intended to soothe us:

“Don’t worry, they rarely escape.”

RARELY ISN’T NEVER.

Cue me, bursting into tears.

*TANGENT OVER*

When it comes to those Big Important Life Decisions, it comforts me slightly that I have permission from the one-and-only Moulin Rouge creator himself, Baz Luhrmann, to not know what I want to do with my life. I mean the man has won 23 film awards (I counted on Wikipedia) so he must know a thing or two about ambition.

From Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)’:

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life

The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives

Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t

I’m 31. I still have 9 years to meet Baz Luhrmann and still be considered ‘interestingly adrift’. I can live with that.

Written by the author of Disasters of A Thirty Something.

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A hilarious blogger (and now Agony Aunt to me) who documents all of the stories from her life that you or I would probably rather forget, all for our entertainment.

Visit her site or follow her on Twitter here.

THE NOD

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Charles Bukowski once said that, “the problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

Although I might have tried to say it with a little more tact, I wholeheartedly agree: the more knowledge you have, the more aware you are of what could go wrong. However, what I will say, is that knowledge doesn’t even slightly compare with the value of experience; hence why we go to our elders for advice, rather than those our junior.

Experience allows you to know what to expect of each challenge that is to follow. It gives you the benefit of hindsight and practical sense. You begin to realise that the things you panic about are a rarity, and that when they do go wrong, it’s generally no biggie. It’s how you deal with the problems you face- that’s the real test.

Or is it?

Some people find actually saying YES to things in the first place the hardest thing to do. It can vary from changing their coffee order from a cappuccino to a latte, to a drastic career change. It can be taking on more responsibility at work that scares you, or saying YES to a proposal you’ve been waiting five years for. Sometimes, we fear things because they are the unknown, and others because we hold such high expectations for them. Either way, if you want something (and it doesn’t hurt anybody else), then take the leap.

It’s so easy to let time tick by on the mundane clock. Work, home, eat, sleep. But with that, time slips through your fingers like sand, and before you know it, five years have passed you by on the 7.46 to Waterloo.

At work, people used to ask me why I didn’t sit still. They couldn’t understand why I was always busy in the evenings and why I didn’t want to just sink into my duvet on a weeknight. I could never give them a reason, except for “why not?” and I always felt that that wasn’t enough to justify my hectic lifestyle.

Now, with hindsight, I realised that was the perfect answer. I was curious, never complacent and rarely bored. Nowadays, particularly in this cold, February climate, I love getting snuggled up with Netflix and snacks. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that, but every night? Maybe it has something to do with me being 25 but – seeing as that isn’t even old – I think it’s just because I say no to things more often.

My parents would tell me at this point to shut up. They would say that I’m still always on the move and rarely sit down, but I’ve seen a change in how much I get up to and I need to get my curiosity back.

Going through a break up is prime time for people to say no to things. You feel like you need to spend time alone, but when you challenge yourself to head out with your mates, you know you’ll laugh at least once- and that’s once more than if you sat in bed alone eating too much pizza. Sometimes, when you’re offered an opportunity at work that’s a little out of your comfort zone, you’ll say no for fear of getting it wrong. Did anyone ever shout at you for not knowing your times tables on arrival at nursery? Didn’t think so. Everything is a challenge when it’s new, so embrace it and do your best- that’s all anyone wants. And dating someone new? Totally terrifying. But you aren’t handcuffed to the seat, so make your excuses and leave; this ain’t no fifty shades situation (unless you want it to be).

I want you now to think about all the things you have said YES to in the course of your life – focus only on sober choices please or else it will have been a wasted exercise – and think about how much better you are for seizing all of those opportunities. Some of them might have turned out to be a disaster and others might have been a spectacular success. Either way, you will have learned something.

I used to love exploring the world and now I find it tedious. Even the thought of having to navigate Glastonbury is overshadowing all the fun that I’ll be having at the moment. It’s time to get off my butt and get excited about things again, the way that a child does on Christmas morning. My surroundings haven’t grown tired, they’re still moving and changing all around me, I’m just ignoring them.

So now to top up my Oyster, ask who’s free and say YES to things.

Who needs a holiday?

The Library

Okay, so I’m in the depths of revision/essay/third year hell and thought I’d take another trip to the library today in order to relieve this stress and get lots of work done. However, as my concentration dwindled this afternoon, I began to notice things about the London library.

London libraries invite everyone inside, making for some sort of mad hatter’s tea part or something. Without wanting to sound too elitist, it seems as though all the people of London who have no one to talk to, come to the library, a place to study IN SILENCE, to talk to people. It really is beyond me. There’s always some nutter asking the librarian lots of utterly pointless questions, gaining everyone’s attention as they peer from behind their desk lamps, pretending to be absorbed in whatever it is they’re reading. There’s always a group of cackling GCSE or A Level students in hysterics over dropping a pen or flirting with eachother over Chaucer. There is always a fittie reading some romantic novel making him seem even more attractive due to his intelligence… actually that I am not complaining about. Distractions are welcome in this case.

A distraction that is not welcome, is the ruffling of newspapers. It really irritates me when people come to the library to read the newspaper. I will never understand this. Why would one choose to sit on a hard wooden chair in partial darkness and in a cold room (because libraries, for some reason, are always cold) to read the morning paper? Go and BUY a newspaper for 30p and enjoy it in your own living room. Or coffee shop. Or anywhere but here. You are taking up valuable study space.

However, despite all these issues with my local library, I still don’t know which library I prefer: the university library or the London Library. I mean, the London library has easy access to ameneties such as Starbucks and Pret but at least university libraries have wifi access! Maybe it’s just Fulham that is stuck in the dark ages but all they provide are four computers for the public. Four. That’s incredibly helpful isn’t it. On the other hand though, university libraries are tedious because everyone who goes there to study is there to be looked at. They’re all like ‘ooohh i’m studying. I’m going to do better than you because I’ve been here for five hours already and you’ve only just arrived.’ No you won’t. I do English and you do Maths. They’re completely unrelated. Pillock.

Not only that, people actually dress up for the library. I’ve been informed it isn’t just Exeter that upholds this rule of compulsory eyeliner and a fit pair of leggings whilst studying, it happens at Nottingham and Durham too. And probably everywhere else for that matter. The thing that annoys me the most? I uphold this tradition and I don’t even know why!!

My concern centered around study space only goes to show how boring my life is. So much for 2011 being eventful eh!