Connection

It’s easy to be anonymous in London. It’s one of the things I like about large cities. I gravitate towards places where I can hide in plain sight. It creates the illusion of belonging without actually having to interact. The tube is an extension of this anonymity.

People cram into carriages, eyes straight ahead, glued onto the paper or their phone. The only goal is to make it to the final destination without hearing the words, incident on the tracks or signal failure. Commuters don’t really pay much attention to each other, unless it’s to deliver a withering look to someone who stole the seat they had their eye on.

So it shouldn’t have been surprising to me that no one had noticed the woman in front of me was crying. I’d had to double-take to be sure. Her mascara was running, she sniffed and shook emotionally. I felt a twinge in my chest and it grew when I realised the rest of the carriage was oblivious to her.

Most people are generally too busy with their own drama to notice anyone else’s. I don’t think it’s a London thing, just a human thing. I guess getting involved in someone’s sadness is messier than jumping onto the happy bandwagon. Sadness is awkward.

I’ve been on anti-depressants for nine months and am currently weaning myself off them. Having suffered from chronic depression as long as I can remember, I’ve always been strangely proud of the fact I’ve avoided medication for decades. But there comes a point when you can’t get out of bed, or get a job and you decide to take the help. It’s an act of kindness. Maybe that’s why I offered the woman the tissues.

I didn’t want to pry or give her a pep talk. I just wanted to be nice to her. To empathise. I’d been in tears on the tube days before and managed to pass under everyone’s radar, much to my own relief. We’re not meant to be unhappy in public. It’s something kept behind closed doors and smiling faces.

There’s a shame in being sad for some reason. I saw it when she took the tissues and tried to compose herself. I felt it every time I turned down medication. It’s like an admission of failure: I just couldn’t stay happy.

People distance themselves from sadness like it’s contagious. I’ve noticed it with my own depression. It feels like I have a shitty superpower that makes me invisible when I’m down. People want to laugh and get their endorphin high. So I spent years hiding it and trying to fit in with the rest of the tube.

I told the woman to keep the tissues. This led to a random stranger offering me several packs of Kleenex. It felt like a thank you for my intervention, and a little like handing over a joint to the nearest person in the circle when you can see the 4 0 coming. He didn’t want to be caught holding in the face of a crying woman.

Yeah, sadness is awkward.

 

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Jobless in London

Unemployment, my old friend…

I think that my job search has managed to go from bad to worse, today being the biggest disappointment since finding out Ben Kingsley wasn’t (and then was) Indian. It was a confusing childhood rife with misinformation. I blame Gandhi myself.

I went for a job today, expecting to sell myself for an advertising post. What I almost ended up doing was going to Worthing to watch someone handing out Beauty Salon promos for no basic wage. I probably would have got on a train had it not been for another girl piping up to say it wasn’t for her, giving me the opportunity to say “Ditto” and run off.

I should have twigged something was off when I caught a glimpse of their morning mantra/pep talk. Screaming and shouting in order to prepare for “sales battle”, and ruining Ali’s immortal ” I’m gonna float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee,” were definite red flags.

This wasn’t my sales approach. I’m more of a sarcasm over wine kind of girl.

I hope this spate of bad job interviews ends soon; it’s costing me a fortune in comfort shopping. Today I bought a DKNY purse. It’s blue. To match my mood.

I give up.

I mean who do you have to stalk to get a job in this town? it’s not like I haven’t put myself out there. There has been a lot of putting out, and none of it fun. IMG_5735

I blew my last job interview on the grounds that my interviewer didn’t think I would be a good fit.  I may have gone a bit overboard on the professional look, and was way more serious than I normally am. In my own defence, I’ve been unemployed for a month now and if I was emanating a serious, or even desperate vibe it was probably because I was sweating out the last of my deodorant stick, at the end of a travel card, in a suit that was about to fall apart at the seams.

With that image in mind, I actually respect them for not giving me the job; I must have looked constipated and severe. Who wants that in the office?

They tell you not to lie in interviews, and they’re right. When they asked me what I did for fun, tequila sprang to my mind. But reading sounded more professional. I didn’t know tequila was the right answer. I would have come to the interview in the Hooter’s outfit I bought off Ebay, and got them to do jelly shots off me if I had.

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Bet you’re glad you did all that

What did I know about the method to their madness? Did Mr Miyagi make any sense when he asked Daniel San to wax his car instead of teaching him to roundhouse Johnny to the face?

Maybe I’m just not the kind of person who can be measured by other people’s standards.

This is the moment when I realise that I can’t work for anyone else, and try to set up my own business, which then goes from strength to strength, ending with me admiring the cityscape from my penthouse, side by side with my gorgeous husband and a Martini.

Only I still haven’t figured out what I  can do that gets me a penthouse flat in London and a hot guy.

Call girl? Lottery winner?

I don’t think I’m ready to work for myself. I’d watch reruns of Fraiser and eat French Fancies until I felt like doing something more productive, like eating mini Battenbergs and watching Only Fools and Horses.

Unless an opening for French Fancy tester opens up, I will just have to suck it up and keep trying.

The Choice is Yours

Making a decision doesn’t come easily to every one.

The other day I was watching Master of None when Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar came up. It has been years since I read the book. It sticks in my mind because I started it on a comedy improv night. Unsurprisingly, all the suggestions I yelled out were pretty bleak as a result. They had to work for the laughs.

The fig tree has been playing on my mind a lot. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, Esther’s life is compared to a fig tree. Each fig is a choice she could make. She envisions herself sitting below it, unable to make a choice and watching each fig drop, black and dead; no longer an option. Hardly the stuff of which improv is made of. A good metaphor nevertheless.

I was 21 or 22 when I first read the Bell Jar. My attitude to life was to just let it carry me where it may. I made my choices on a whim. I would take a bite of the closest fig. There was no painstaking decision. My life was a series of happy coincidences. Until things started to go wrong.

As I got older and the decisions carried more consequences, it just became increasingly harder. Poor decisions can age you. I repeatedly made the same poor decision with an abusive ex. When I finally made the right choice I felt a hundred years older, and had no faith in my own choices.

From then on my go to move for any choice which carried a real consequence was to survey all my friends, until someone offered up an option that seemed manageable. I would then mentally decide to defer all my future life choices to that person, hoping they would just live my life for me because I was so terrible at it.

This was not a plan.

My  decision making is non-existent in relationships. The people pleaser in me comes out then all of a sudden every decision I make revolves around making someone else happy. I’m always looking after someone else’s tree, or eating the fruit they hand to me. When you are offering that much power over your life to the wrong person it has disastrous results.

Over the years, I have met so many people that would happily micromanage my life for me, and a few that returned the decision to me. Thank you to the latter for withholding judgement, and forcing me to adult. I feel like I am doing it more now than ever.

After my last break up I was bothered that no one had warned me about the immaturity and drama that came with him. As if I could have been better informed in my decision making. Transparency wouldn’t have changed anything. I would have given him the same chance. It had been my choice to make.

It had made me laugh when he informed me that I had no right break up with him without consulting him. He didn’t seem to grasp that I was allowed to make my own decisions. Maybe because I had spent a year letting him sway all of mine.

I still hadn’t understood there was so much power in a choice.

I empathise with Esther’s anxiety about making the wrong choice. I have to remind myself it’s equally bad to randomly choose anything, or to make do with the options people give you. It’s such a fine balance. So dependent on luck.

At 35 trying to get into a writing position is hard. I get told I am brave a lot, which makes me feel like I have some kind of terminal illness. Stupidity perhaps. I am sometimes overwhelmed with panic and shake that tree hard, scrambling to see what options I have managed to shake down. But that isn’t the way I want to live life, and I calm down soon enough.

My choices are simpler these days. I am learning to have more faith in myself.

I have to just trust my tree still has a few good figs left.

Image from Zen Pencils.com Check the site for the full illustrated extract from The Bell Jar.