work

Promises to keep

Imagine the sound of a car passing you as you stand on the side of the motorway? It’s a little like a swoosh, It’s almost too fast to comprehend, but a wobble enough to notice. Regardless of your position of footing on the sidelines, you feel like you just survived something.

When you ask me how I am, this is your answer.

I sometimes think that every day feels the same, that if I miss a day it’s possible I wouldn’t even notice. My tedious working week begins and ends slow and quick all at once, and all I can really remember is a sense of dread.

Like most people, I struggle to get out of bed. I can’t quite face the anxiety just yet so I chose the snooze button over recognition that its time to get up. I wash, but only on my best days, throw my uniform on, brush my teeth, grab a fork and semi-jog to work just over a mile away. I arrive anxious and sweaty, with a distinct spray of watery mud up the back of my leggings or jeans. I check the time to make sure I am armed with the knowledge I am not late. I brace myself, wait for the door to be unlocked and for my daily pain to begin.

And so the swooshing properly begins.

Anxiety is like a claw that just keeps grasping. I know its wrong – to feel like this every day. I know I should just leave and trust me when I say this, that’s all I can think about when I’m there. I get the speech most weeks from my friends whenever we meet up for a scheduled chitchat. They encourage me to find another job, to leave and start being happy.

I live by this belief for others but I’m not faithful to myself. I encourage them to leave and find something better, they deserve so much more I tell them, and then they listen and eventually do it, and I am left alone with my own anxious grip burdening my every step.

But my friends are strong-willed and good. They don’t stop when I am still showing signs of stubbornness. They will ask how work is going with a defining frown and slightly raised eyebrows. They lean in because they know I have things to share. I always have things to share, but it’s rarely about achievements, it’s always about feeling sad, or a situation that happened that is unjust. How I tried to change things, how I stepped up and got knocked back down.

They question me – bold as brass. “Kyra, why haven’t you left yet?” And I give off my usual answer that I am tired of giving. Because I can’t afford to. I am stuck on a weekly pay system and my earnings would never cover me to change to a monthly payment system. I am one of possibly hundreds of thousands of workers stuck in the same mind-numbing position. I feel stuck and it is eating me alive. They tell me I deserve better and the conversation moves on, but my flesh still stings.

Truth is, I am not stuck. I know I can go out achieve great things because I have done so, so many times before. Because that’s a part of who I am – strong-willed and confident, but only when I feel like I can be. Right now, I am lost. I am women with a plan, who lost her notes.

Just like my degree, this side of me sits horizontally in the cupboard wedged between the wall and the Christmas decorations. Waiting patiently for someone to pull me out into the light so I can stand tall and sparkle. All because I have forgotten how to step up and do it myself. It feels embarrassing to admit.

So, as 2017 drew to a timely close, I made a promise to myself that enough was enough. I was overworked and vividly aware I had already used up all my holidays moving house and taking up an internship. I couldn’t take time off for more than two days at a time until mid-April, and I wasn’t sure there would be much left of me by then. So I forgot about my misplaced notes and I made a new plan. I called it PLAN B.

Christmas in retail for many of us means crazy shift patterns, a severe lack of days off and sleep deprivation – to name a few. But it can also mean overtime and bank holidays, and luckily at my work, we were entitled to at least two of these. The elaborately mundane plan was to keep savings my usual amount for bills, but start putting the extra money I was making into a separate account. It almost made another year of Christmas in retail worth it.

By mid-January, 2018 I had already saved up enough to cover at least the bare minimum of bills, and I had also got a job interview the same week. This was more than an achievement, I was convinced this was it. But to cut a paragraph short, I didn’t get it, and it wasn’t meant to be. And my sinking anxiety swooshed in once more.

And so here I am, as I watch my breath spread across the glass door of my work, trying to block out the view as I wait to be let in. Thinking to myself, that I will keep this promise to myself, that I will bite the bullet and go for another minimum wage job just to get out of my current situation. Give myself that paragraph ‘I did it’ satisfaction that I so crave.

But I stall, and I do the calculations. Will this make a difference? And what is the point exactly? and then the dwindling part of me shouts at myself for thinking such nonsense and I get stuck in my own head, battling an ever-growing painful situation.

Don’t get me wrong, I am trying really hard to get another job, it’s just that I am focusing all my energy on the ‘career job’. I spend hours writing what I believe to be the perfect cover letter or application. I even build up the courage to send them to friends for reassurance, I discuss it with colleagues at work just so people know I am trying and haven’t given up.

But all I feel is the shame of the broken promises that I keep making to myself, to others. That I will get out, that I will find the will to be passionate about writing again. And when I try to keep to this, I remember how hard it is, and the fact that I am not the only person who believes they have a chance. There is hundreds of us trying for just one job. Hundred’s of sad souls stuck in their own circumstances trying and getting nowhere, and it is BRUTAL.

Sometimes people even question why I haven’t got one yet. They can’t comprehend how. ‘But, you have a degree’, they will say with a slightly tilted resemblance of a person with a judgmental character. ‘AND you have such good experience’. YADAYADA. ‘Have you even been applying?’. They say it with such conviction, I feel myself wandering the same thing. Have I?

The audacity, I know. It hurts, It really hurts. They have no idea how many times I have applied for jobs and NEVER HEARD BACK. Or the fact that I have applied to 3 jobs that same week, and not one of them sent me a confirmation email. They have no idea of how long I spent researching the company and its values, no idea of my own moments of self-doubt, moments of excitement and hope and the mental cycle you go through every single time until you eventually hit send/submit.

To presume I may not be having much luck is the truth, but to presume I am not trying is an insult.

So I carry this with me and it feels heavy. As time goes on, more people start questioning what I am doing with my life. And then I start wandering the same thing. I find the guilt of going for another low salaried job while still trying to start a career is all too much for me. So where do I draw the line? When do I say enough is enough. And when will I stop the anxiety from filling my toes, take a step into the car and start driving myself forward?

 

 

 

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Beyond the gentle waves is where the real turbulence lies.

​I knew I needed time off work, but I didn’t realise just how much being there was causing these negative feelings I was experiencing every single day. I thought it was my just my general mood, because I was struggling to find my feet as a journalism graduate. I thought it was because of the mudane pressures that come with being an adult.

Still, a few days away was enough to put things into perspective for me. I went away to places I had never been before and I explored.It gave me a moment of pure calm as I looked up to the moody sky and realised for once I didn’t feel the same. I took a deep breathe and then watched the waves of Loch Lomond roll out and into the roots of outgrown trees.  As myself and my boyfriend crossed a wooden bridge we peered over like excited children, chatting about all the different kinds of pebbles. We discussed and challenged the easiest route to get around a slightly alarming puddle. We saw some ducks. I was content.

Walking is my therapy, so these trips became more than just your every day stroll. I ended up with the kind of soul-searching, outwith my usual boundries kind of walk which usually occurs when life is in the process of adapting around you.

Walking brought up feelings, and it was refreshing to break through the numb quiet I have become used to, a gentle reminder that despite my moment of calm, I am still struggling.

Most people in my life know this, that mentally, physically and financially I am drained. 

Though it may be unbelievable, I am still happy, I have very good friends, and I like coming home to my supportive and intelligent partner. (And of course my cats). But when i go to work, I become sad. It’s like a shift in personality. I stiffen, I expect negativity, to be talked down to, to be cursed at, shouted at irrationally. But I can handle that. It comes with the job and you find positivty and kindness goes a long way in dealings with these situations. But I become unbearably sad and it isn’t right. Work doesn’t give me any feeling of pride, I no longer feel a sense of achievement. I feel stuck, badly paid and unappreciated. I am not happy about the way things are run, or with some of the people “running it” I am unhappy not just because of me, but having to watch everyone else I have grown attached too struggle and feel just the same in varying ways. 

It is a workplace that is in no way shape or form forward thinking about the welfare of its employees, nor their livelihoods. Everything is a bother, or a problem. You request a day off weeks in advance and you are verbally called a pest. You work your socks off, you produce sales, instead of gratitude, you gain nothing. It is a still silence.

It is an expected silence.

And so you watch a manager get a hefty bonus for sitting in an office huffing about its awful staff and how everything is left for them to do, because we are incapable. While the staff and other management are hard at work serving, dealing with the everyday issues and nonchalantly working away, indifferent to the opinion of one on their individual abilities.

I spend most my time there, but this work is not my life, just my livelehood. And that is something I am made to feel ashamed of and restricted to. I did not spend 5 years studying journalism to be forced into a weirdly controlled working environment that tells you how to feel, or do, without reflection, a moment of creativity, a challenge or offer any prospects. It is not a happy workplace and I will never lie about that. 

So my time off has been very much a rude awakening. 

I already knew I was stuck and there is nothing I can do about that until I can find a new job.  While I never expected to be in this position, at least time off has confirmed what the problem is, that I need mental stimulus and respect. I need more than this and that is completely okay. It is a simple conclusion but a sign of a changing attitude, because if there is one thing I do best, it is that I believe I adapt well, even if I don’t realise at the time.