Tag Archives: work

100 Miles West – Busy Doing Nothing

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time goes when you are not working and how damn slow it can go when you are.

I have been in Bristol for three weeks now and having predicted I would be employed by this point I am quite horrified to realise I have hardly started looking for work. After one disappointing rejection I need to get myself out there, but I have been SO busy doing nothing I just can’t find the time.

Ok, it is possible that I may have watched 24 hours of Dawson’s Creek during the past few weeks (possible I said, I will never fully confirm this horrifying admission) … and have maybe slept for between 10 and 12 hours a night… and I might even have been to a yoga class or two but even all these activities should not have combined to make me incapable of sorting out my future life?

I feel a little bit like I am on holiday, a little bit like I am skiving and a lot like I am avoiding reality, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing as long as I am prepared to recognise it for what it is and stop trying to find lots of things not to do.

Here are some fun things I have discovered about Bristol while I have been so busy doing nothing, weirdly they all begin with L:

  1. The library – The first thing I try to do when I arrive in a new city is check out the library. Bristol library sadly doesn’t rank among the greats, but it certainly has a certain charm. A lovely quiet and old fashioned reading room and a temporary exhibition space showing the history of tin mining in the South West. Perfect.
  2. Lovely people – everyone is so nice! This is not just a reflection on moody London, I have been to many places where people are not this nice, but here people just seem to understand that it is nicer to be nice and engage in 90 seconds of idle chit-chat than to cut to the chase. Refreshing.
  3. Lakota – is still going! The club where I mis-spent my youth and did things which I am too embarrassed to admit to even now is still going from strength to strength. It is an institution! Because of this I hope that one day I can proudly say I             a            at Lakota
  4. Long walks – I have always walked, wherever I am, but everyone seems to enjoy walking in Bristol and ‘going for a walk’ is an actual regular pastime. The countryside is a mere spit away and very beautiful it is too. I’ve seen red deer and everything.
  5. Light – ok, this may be a bit of a cheat because the evenings ARE getting lighter throughout the country, but it just feels like there is more sky here, and therefore more light, and light is very important indeed.

Oh and last but not least – hot boys, lots of them. Okay, boys doesn’t begin with L, but Lots does, as does Lust, and Love so who knows what this crazy city has in store.

I’m excited to see what happens when I stop doing all the nothing I am currently doing and actually start doing something with the open and unpredictable future stretching in front of my fortunate arse.

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Doing A Degrassi

I’m aware that it will be a very small minority who will have any idea what ‘Doing a Degrassi’ means, but hopefully, if you don’t, you can at least relate to the weirdness I am about to describe.

Back in the late 1980’s, I found myself in regular conflict with my mother over whether or not I could watch Grange Hill. She always won. I wasn’t giving up that easily though and I soon found an alternative in Degrassi Junior High – a series from Canada which my mother deemed acceptable because we have family in Toronto. It was so much wilder than Grange Hill!

There was a character called Steph in Degrassi who would leave her house in the morning dressed like a ‘nerd’ and then get changed in the school bathrooms transforming herself into a scrunch-dry haired, blusher and lipstick wearing goddess, in my eyes. She appealed to my ingrained rebellious nature and, as is so often the case with characters who exist in our formative years, has stayed with me as a reminder of our ability to transform ourselves into what or whoever we want to be, and also that things, and people, are not always as they appear on the outside.

At 37 I am still fascinated by our real selves as opposed to the projected image of ourselves we offer to the world and am never more aware of this in myself than when I go from my ‘real’ self, who appears when I am relaxed, happy and un-stressed to my projected self, who appears when I am highly strung, stressed and trying to be something I am not.

In my current job I have to get up at 5am on a Monday morning to get to work, travelling from London to Glasgow. I am not a morning person. This is an understatement. I roll out of bed, onto the tube, onto the plane and arrive in Glasgow bleary-eyed at about 0845. But, I have managed to find some joy in this commute. Never have I had a better opportunity to re-enact my childhood idol’s transformation than when I enter the toilets at Glasgow Airport. Often changing in a cubicle, I emerge smartly dressed and stand in front of the mirrors, just me and a couple of flight attendants, and prepare to apply the war paint.

I get to work transforming the puffy, sallow looking face in front of me into a powerful and energised business-ready visage. I work in TV so it’s hardly about powersuits and shoulder pads but I am not afraid to admit I am struggling on this current production so a bit of armour is vital. TV is a great industry in terms of working environment and generally you get a lot of like-minded people on a team and every one just wants to make the best programme they are capable of making. And we all know that what you wear and what you look like has little to no impact on that outcome. But I have found over the years, after wearing jeans and converse throughout my 20’s that actually, as a production manager I feel much more in touch with the job I am supposed to be doing if I dress a little smarter, a little less comfortably, a little more ‘managerially’. And so I do, and I enjoy it, and it helps. But the character I have created for work doesn’t feel like me. It is a necessary creation in order for me to do my job, but I find it hard to reconcile this character with who I become at the weekends and evenings when I either don’t wear any make-up or go all out and create a 50’s style and character which is more me than the business type.

It feels important to me to separate these two parts of my personality but I need to accept that the character I create for work is just as much a part of who I am as the character I am outside of work and I need to embrace my Degrassi transformation. It makes me feel stronger and have more faith in my own ability, and  I need as much help in that department as I can get at the moment.

I wonder if men have such trouble switching between character roles or even if it crosses their minds? Maybe in fact I am a rare woman who does this and other women feel completely themselves in their work job and I am just in the wrong job, which is entirely possible! Do you feel more confident if you dress a certain way at work? What outfit makes you feel brave or different?

 

Coping With The Daily Grind

My alarm goes off at 7.30am, I press the snooze button for half an hour, sometimes more. I drag myself into the shower, often leaning my head against the tiles. I get dressed, I walk to work. I sit at a desk for 8 hours, sometimes more, staring at a screen. I get the bus home. I eat, I watch a movie or write, I go to bed. This is my routine (and countless others’) 5 days a week. I don’t hate my job, most of the time I enjoy it, but I am not passionate about it, and committing the biggest part of your life to something you are not passionate about can be horribly depressing.

Carpe Diem! Is what Robin Williams liked to say in Dead Poet’s Society but that’s not always easy when you have a mortgage and bills to pay. I would love to wake up one morning and declare that I am off to seize the day and everything else be damned, but I have responsibilities and am maybe not as free spirited as I like to think I am.  However, there are other ways to seize the day and, as I have recently re-learnt, it is all about perspective. I had a teacher at school who actually made us stand on our desks one day to get a different viewpoint, to remind us to look at things differently, just like Robin Williams had. We all thought it was ridiculous until we did it, and strangely everything did look different from that perspective. The familiar walls of the classroom didn’t look so familiar, the view from the window was completely different, and, in turn, we felt different.

I forgot this technique for many years and before I went on sabbatical last year, I was working on average 10 hours a day, 5 days a week and regularly lamenting the fact that I didn’t have time to do ANYTHING! No time to go to a yoga class, no time to catch up with friends and family, no time to write, or go to the cinema, just simply no time. And what was worse – a lot of the time I spent at work, there wasn’t actually a lot for me to do, I just had to be there in case anything happened so I could sort it out. When I look back at myself now, I am flabbergasted by my attitude. The truth is I had so much time but I just didn’t know what to do with it. In my downtime at work I would spend hours learning about the world via the ‘random article’ link on Wikipedia (of course I don’t remember a thing), or on Facebook. In the evening I would go home and watch TV. I watched hours and hours of soap operas and told myself I had no time. When I returned from my sabbatical I promised myself I wouldn’t get stuck in the same trap, but of course I did…then I remembered I had something special, my sabbatical had taught me a way of looking at life from a different angle, I had even remembered my teacher’s advice and had taking to doing headstands when the mood took me. I reassessed my daily grind and realised it wasn’t so bad. In my usual geeky way, I did some sums. There are 168 hours in a week. Most people work for between 40-60 hours of them, and sleep for an average of 6-8 hours a night so if we take the average of 50 hr work and 49 hrs sleep, that leaves 69 hours in the week to play with which sounds like a lot of time, and fun, to me!

I have now almost stopped watching TV, except for The Conversation, of course, and I avoid surfing the net aimlessly. I have achieved so much. I now write every night so I actually have something to show for my free time and meeting up with friends is much more of a pleasure because I feel as though I have earned it. I can’t believe I’m about to admit this but I also have a technique for dealing with boredom at work. I look to my working role model, CJ Cregg from the West Wing, and simply ask ‘what would CJ do?’ And then pretend I am CJ, I’m certain she would always find something productive to do.

For the first time in my life I feel as though I am living deliberately, making use of the precious time available to me and striving to achieve a goal. I am also making more time for family and that is making me feel more alive and grounded than ever. All these things and making the most of every opportunity afforded to me, speaking to people I don’t know at a party instead of shyly cowering at the back, accepting invitations, even doing some exercise has given me a new perspective and joie de vivre. So, oh captain, my captain – myself, I salute you.

Bad Decisions

God. There have been so many I don’t even know where to start. I’m not talking about the life altering decisions we make which we spend days mulling over and which then turn out to be bad. Like buying a house just before the crash, or taking a new job and finding out your boss is a bully. I’m talking about the tiny decisions we make every day, the ones we know are bad decisions but we make them anyway out of some misguided wish to be rebellious and not do what we are supposed to do. I’m saying we a lot here because I really hope it’s not just me who does this, but if it is I apologise – you are all better people than I.

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The bad decisions I’m talking about are things like drunk dialling, getting off with a random, having one more beer or getting the night bus home – wait, these are all drink related bad decisions which we can hardly be held accountable for – I’ll start again. Things like wearing uncomfortable shoes when we know we’re going to be standing up all night, having a pizza when we know we’re going to have to run to the loo immediately after, or messing around on Facebook when there is work to be done. I like to think I’m quite sensible, at least I’ve got my head on my shoulders, I know right from wrong, I give out advice all the time, but when it comes to my own life it’s almost like I purposely want to mess things up…all the time.

Luckily my bad decisions don’t have any impact on anyone else. I am single, I don’t have any dependents so if I decide to go to the pub (drink-related again, I know) instead of re-writing my screenplay, I’m not hurting anyone except me but I worry that as I get older and if I do end up having responsibility for people, my desire to rebel and the ease with which I make a bad decision, could impact on other people and have far reaching consequences. With age, life takes on a more routine pattern and our lives are more settled, so the desire to do bad things becomes suppressed. We have finally reached a point of contentedness so why on earth would we want to mess that up – to screw with everything we’ve worked so hard to achieve? The thing is at this point the bad decisions get even worse. We’ve given up smoking, we hardly drink any more so with contentedness I imagine there can be a tendency towards boredom and maybe this is why people have affairs. This is possibly one of the worst bad decisions you can make, to break the bond you made when you committed to someone else and whereas in the past you were open about the bad decisions you made, and found them almost funny, when the possibility of hurting people that you love arises, the world becomes filled with secrets and lies. Surely it would be better to be upfront about your desire to make this bad decision and to talk through that desire with your loved one? I can’t imagine many people do that though. Call me naïve and I am sure there are a gazillion reasons for an affair, not just boredom and rebellion, but I am not sure there can ever be any justification. Anyway, I digress – maybe it’s the 3 margaritas I’ve had this afternoon.

I’m not entirely sure what makes bad decisions so attractive. Sometimes if we vocalise what we are about to do it makes us feel better about it, as if someone might tell us to stop and we would obey, which of course would never happen.

My latest bad decision may be a sleeper hit. Things are going pretty well with my writing and theconversation.tv seem to love what I am giving them. So I have written, and submitted, a fairly controversial piece about being an atheist. I even talk about the poppycock of creationism. Now, in the UK I wouldn’t have a problem with delivering this kind of article, but the US has a different attitude to religion. And I don’t know enough about it to gauge what kind of reaction they are going to have. They have told me that nothing is off limits, and I’m certainly not ashamed of anything I have said, but for some reason I have made the decision to push the boundaries to the limit, to find out how far I can go. So let’s see if they publish it. And if they do, whether I can handle the inevitable backlash. I’m fine with putting myself out there, but I don’t really want any death threats.

Back to the day job tomorrow then, with a determination to run there every day, eat only porridge and salads and not even check my personal emails during the day. So I’ll see you on Facebook at about 12:30, while I’m eating my fish and chips and wishing I’d looked harder for my trainers tonight. That’s just the way I roll so I better get used to it and as long as I continue to be honest about it, it’s really not that bad.