Raise Your P!nk-Tinted Glasses…

During my Study Abroad period in 2011, I discovered what it was like to live in a Small Town.  I used the capitalisation, because, you have not lived until you’ve lived in a Small Town of America.  I lived in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, which is a land far, far away from the rest of civilisation.  The highlight of socialising there for me and my friends, who had no access to transport of any kind (not even any buses or taxis in Huntingdon), was the weekly visit to Memories.

Memories is a sports bar, which hosts karaoke every Wednesday night.  I had never done karaoke before, at least not in public.  I mean, plenty of times, at home in the safety of my living room, could I be found beating PlayStation’s SingStar at its own game.  But to get up in front of strangers and sing, that is something completely different.

While I wasn’t the age of most other students at Juniata College, my time there can definitely be attributed to a coming of age.  Juniata was full of firsts for me; the place I first wrote anything that wasn’t an email or an essay (and what would eventually become this blog), the first time I ever got bollocked for drinking in public (on campus! at the age of 31! America sort your drinking laws out…) and the first time I slept with someone more than 13 years my junior…

Memories, ah….ahem, back to Memories the sports bar and Wednesday night karaoke.  While James Blunt’s 1973 became quite an anthem for me and my friends, Smooth by Santana featuring the lovely Rob Thomas became my favourite karaoke tune.  The song that will always remind me of Memories though is Raise Your Glass, by P!nk.  It’s a song for outcasts everywhere, a celebration of those who don’t fit into society’s place for them.

I have always seen myself as an outsider, and while there was an element of me being different from everyone else, I think for the first time in my life I didn’t mind.  I knew that I was well on my journey in life, and that I would enjoy its ups and downs, with those who chose to come along with me. Many of those had chosen to take further study, or travel the world, because, like me, Life hadn’t offered them the relationship, the children, the house, the car. They sought the future, like me, through rose-tinted glasses. Always looking for that guiding light to show them the way.

University, incorporating my Study Abroad period, was where my friendship ring truly went international.  At the University of Lincoln, I ran a group called MAPS (Mature and Postgraduate Students) which is where I met many students similar to my age and older, both British and international. Working in a London hotel at the age of 19, and working in a hospital meant that I had always been surrounded by people from different cultures and backgrounds, but it was at university where I really got to know people from different nationalities. While everyone has different issues, beliefs, ways of seeing the world, at the core, we are all just on the same path, wanting to carve a way through life with the support of those around us, be they friends or lovers. I am lucky to not only have the support of my family and my British friends, but also my worldwide family.

While I will always be an outsider to the world, this is a place that I am finally happy to be in. So this post is a way of celebrating those that choose to sit on the outside with me, and watch the world go by. To you, I raise my glass, and dedicate this awesome piece of karaoke (lyrics included!).

P!nk – Raise Your Glass

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The Twelve Week Challenge: Day 44

The eagle-eyed among you will notice that it is now Day 44, and haven’t we already had a Day 44?   Well as I  mentioned briefly yesterday, I’ve decided that since I’m now half-way through The Twelve-Week Challenge, that I would start counting down, towards the end, or rather the beginning, of the next chapter in my life.

The excitement of having my dissertation handed in has left me not really knowing what to do with myself, although tomorrow I won’t really have that problem as long as I make a start on my next assignment.  As I’ve mentioned already, having my handed dissertation in, while being a huge weight off, is an anti-climax when I have another four assignments to do before I can say goodbye student life.

This morning I decided I ought to get back onto the job search side of things, and called a publishing recruitment agency in London.  While the woman on the phone was polite, she told me there really wasn’t anything they could do for me without any publishing experience.  So I should seek out some work experience, then consider coming back.

I’m not sure I expected them to say anything else really, because I know that publishing is a very competitive industry.  One of my worries, over the last two years while at uni, was getting some “relevant work experience” and while I have done some extracurricular activities such as my radio work, I haven’t actually done any publishing experience.  While I have applied for work experience with some of the larger companies, I’ve never heard back from them.

After that, I did a search online for other, less specialised recruitment agencies, and got all over-excited about a PA job in Dubai.  Halfway through re-shaping my CV, I had to ask myself, do I really want a PA’s job?  While I love the idea of working in Dubai (23.5 degrees north of the equator!), when I think back to when I actually was a PA and…well…I hated it.  I realise I am not so good at organising somebody else, I’d much rather have a job where I can manage my own time and my workload.  If there’s one thing I learnt from working in London last time, it was that you shouldn’t do a job you hate.

I’m not talking about the job you do day-in, day-out, like the one I had in the NHS for so many years.  I’m talking about the job that really makes you so terribly unhappy, either because you hate the work, hate the company (or both), or because you know in your heart that actually you’re not so good at the job, and thus feel like a failure.  Having been, in my time, a hotel receptionist, a paralegal, a medical secretary and a customer service assistant (although I was told by the temp agency it was a data entry clerk), I realise that there’s no point in doing a job you don’t like, and I vowed never to do these jobs again.

The last time I worked in London was in 1997-8.  I didn’t even have a mobile phone, let alone the internet.  I remember one of my colleagues at the hotel where I worked was the first to get a phone; I used to ring my parents from the payphone across the street.  I had a nice collection of BT Phonecards at one point.  I worked in the hotel for nine months, before finally securing a job as a Paralegal for one of the big City law firms.  I’d been for endless job interviews, and finally got offered two jobs.  I chose the one working for the company with the big posh offices, although that was pointless since my office ended up being in the old part of the building anyway.  As a paralegal, I used to prepare documents, and take them to banks for signatures.  I don’t mean your average High Street branch, I mean real, investment banks.  I was basically a glorified delivery person.  And I hated it.

While my job was pants, I also rented a room from a woman in Brick Lane.  At first she was chatty but after a while she seemed to take to avoiding me.  It left me feeling really awkward, and I remember going to my room and crying after a horrible day at work and not feeling any happier once I arrived at home.

After spending a year living in London, which was the deadline I had given myself, I held my hands up in defeat, and made plans to come home.  My job was on a three-month probation, so it really wasn’t a problem for me to leave.  I had signed a six-month rental agreement at the flat too, but my landlord had no problem with me moving out after only four months.

I will never forget the conversation I had with the woman from HR.  She was asking me why I was leaving and I, of course, got upset and told her that I hated the job.  She asked me what I liked doing, and I told her that I enjoyed typing.  While in London, I’d gotten my Computer Keyboard Skills qualification from Pitman (the first, and last time, I ever got a distinction) and typing was the one thing I could do well, although as a Paralegal, I didn’t have too much typing to do.  She told me that I should have said, that they could have moved me to the typing pool.  But by that point, I’d made the decision to come home, and didn’t want to disappoint my parents by telling them I wasn’t coming back after all.  So I came home.  I did a few temp jobs before getting a permanent job with the NHS, where I worked for twelve and a half years.  I bought a house, got married, lost the house, got divorced (well, almost).  But I have always regretted leaving London.  I didn’t admit that for a long time, because it was as though I wasn’t grateful for what I’d found since I came back.  But really, I should never have come back.

My friend said to me today that I need to prepare for going to London this time, that I don’t want to have to come back if it doesn’t work out.  I agree that I need to prepare, but I won’t be coming back.  Except for visiting friends and family.  I don’t belong here, I have never belonged here.  If things don’t work out in London, then I shall head elsewhere (preferably somewhere closer to the Equator), but I won’t be coming back to Lincoln.  That much I know.