The (Surprisingly Good) Emptiness

A therapist I saw in London at some point last year ventured that I may have spent a lot of my life running away from The Emptiness – avoiding the repetitive drudgery of everyday existence by escaping in different ways – usually into relationships. There are other ways of escaping too, travel and constantly moving being the most benign of options!

Get off the rollercoaster of drama she said, and learn to live outside the realm of constant crisis, conflict, change and hedonism. What you will be faced with is yourself, and this is what you’re escaping from. Do some deep work, go home and explore your family dynamics, face your past and then face The Emptiness. If you ever want a family, she added, you will have to be comfortable with a quiet and unrelenting repetition.

Obviously that sounded terrifying and boring in equal parts.

Anyway, I’m in the bit now where I’m facing The Emptiness. When I first got back to London I was on a total high – fuelled by an excitement at seeing my friends, a cheerful panic induced by needing to find a job and a place to live, and the return of my libido after a long grief induced absence. And, I suppose, a fear that if I stopped and spent a night in, I would be met with the crushing realisation that I am on my own here. It’s been a bit of a process – all of the old escapism instincts kicked in over the first couple of months I was back. I had a bit of a moment where I realised that they were causing more anxiety than they were alleviating – particularly in regards to being in weird ambiguous potentially romantic situations that were more annoying than they were rewarding. It took a while to realise it doesn’t have to be that way. So I chose to spend some nights in, cook myself some healthy food, do some exercise and focus on myself. Now when I engage in hedonistic behaviours, I feel I’m mostly able to do it for the right (fun) reasons rather than running away from something. The choices I make about the people I will let into my life and to what extent are clear, solid and I make no apology for them. The red hot, molten anger that had been flowing through me this year has cooled and solidified into the boundaries I should have always had. The amount of fucks I give about a range of things and how much of my behaviour is driven by shame or ego are in proportion, and overall I just feel really calm, grown up and for the first time in a long time, generally happy. Happy being single! Weird and alien but such a relief. I feel desirable because I think I am desirable, not because anyone else does or does not. The sexual experiences I have are clearly defined, and only good communicators who are committed to mutual, respectful enjoyment are allowed. I’m being super picky and focusing on quality over quantity.

The thing about The Emptiness, now that I’ve stopped railing against it, is that it’s actually quite a lovely peaceful place. Sometimes I get a bit lonely (a night spent in through a lack of opportunity feels different to a self-enforced night in) and sometimes in the quiet, the lid is lifted on painful things that I had to lock away for a while. A few nights ago, out of nowhere, I had a dream that my dog had come back to life, and he had to be put down again. I woke up crying and I’ve found that after going through a period where I could talk about him with some bravado, I’m now in a place where I can’t look at pictures of him, or talk about him without crying. I think it’s important to be able to open that box of hurt that I had put away and ignored for a while and tackle it in manageable portions; on Saturday night my friend was saying it’s important to be able to  have feelings in a way that doesn’t overwhelm you. If I have a cry every now and then about Dudley, or about anything else, it’s OK and I’m OK.

One good thing that’s come out of having more time to myself is the amount I’ve actually been able to focus on my own interests. Through living in West Hampstead again I’ve been able to reconnect with the group I used to get together and make art with every week – I hadn’t been for 3 – 4 years and I was welcomed back with open arms. I feel like I’m learning new things and challenging myself and I love it. Emptiness, you’re alright x

 

 

 

 

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Somehow it is March 10th and I only have two and a half weeks left in Perth before I fly to Cambodia for a fortnight, then back to London for a friend’s wedding. I feel like I’ve been here for no time at all. The first month involved me being in an intense state of shock, burnout, grief and exhaustion. However, it also a time of happiness catching up with family and other overseas-based Perthites while we had the chance. It was a time of wildly fluctuating emotions – having a really nice day-trip to Rottnest Island for example, despite hiding the fact I was silently crying on some of our bike rides. Having a ball celebrating my Dad’s birthday dinner before being hit with a wave of low mood – kind of a low pressure system for the heart, and retreating to my room in an attempt not to ruin everyone else’s night.

The smartest thing I did during that time was go and see a GP, who asked me to give him a rundown of what happened. I delivered a matter-of-fact summary of the end of 2016 re: work, money, relationship, dog and living situation (i.e. residing with my whole family in the suburbs with no car and no job). I think the poor guy thought I had finished after the first couple of things, but his eyebrows rose further up his face as I went on. I wrapped things up as quickly as I could, and he slowly leant forwards and typed into his notes ‘situational life crisis’. ‘OMG yas’ I thought,  that is exactly right. He went on to explain that as my anxiety, depression and severe stress symptoms (I did that scale thing) were due to external factors, he did not want to put me on any antidepressant medication. I was cool with that. He also said he could write me a mental health care plan which would give me six bulk-billed Psychology sessions. I was definitely cool with that! I was about to stand up and leave when he said “I’m going to write you a medical certificate for Centrelink”. Say what?! He told me that he thought it would be good for my mental health if I had a break from working…but that I needed money for my self esteem and to reduce stress. When I arrived I had sold some employee shares that Woolworths had given me at the age of 19, and that had given me a boost of cash when I first arrived. To see it steadily dwindling away, however, created a tightness in my chest about having to find a job when I badly needed rest. The thought of re-inserting myself into the Perth Speech Pathology scene when I had been out of the loop for 5 years was intimidating and triggered off all kinds of ‘I’m not good enough, I’m not worthy’ kind of thoughts. Although going through the initial process of signing on to the dole was arguably not great for my self esteem, I can see now that it was the best thing he could have done for me and I’m glad I stuck with that plan without giving into the internal monologue of “You’re a total loser”. I started working at the age of 14 and have not stopped since (besides a few months when I was travelling), so decided to (try to) stop judging myself so harshly, let myself get better, and take that sweet sweet Government cash. I knew I had another two months to start catching up with everybody else, so besides doing a few fun things, I kept my head low and just focused on getting better. I spent a lot of time with my Mum during the day as she took some time off work, and I gladly let myself be looked after. I caught up with my friends slowly and one or two at a time to keep things manageable.

At some point in the second month I stopped carrying my dog’s collar with me everywhere I went and moved on to another stage.

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Transition

Once again I come back to my humble blog after a long absence, like returning home to see a friend. I haven’t had the ‘voice’ for it for a while – for me it was always about being filled with wonder and excitement about the changes I was experiencing in my life, and for a long time things have been static. Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but plodding along with a settled in predictability. After going through a transformative time leaving Perth and settling in London 4 years ago (earning buttloads of cash as a locum Speech and Language Therapist and therefore travelling loads), last year I took two part-time jobs with normal salaries and began the same daily grind as most of the other people who live here.

Life is no longer a holiday; short-term hedonism has been replaced with long-term goals and sacrifices in order to land the end result – higher up the ladder, spread across more rooms and up the duff. I may not be able to go out to nice places for dinner as often as I used to, but I have jobs where people actually know who I am and where I have the same ‘rights’ (locums aren’t allowed to access training, work in the holidays or get any leave entitlements), as everyone else. I have cred, I have gravitas. I commit to things and I can wish my colleagues a happy holiday and know I will be there to see them when they get back. I have been off my anxiety and nerve pain medication for 6 months and I am managing it well because I do grown up things like exercise and meditate and do therapy and eat healthily and buy milled flaxseed.

In a way embracing long-term goals has in itself been exciting. Never before in my life have I looked further than, well…. 0 years ahead. Money was for spending on things that you wanted right then. You could just get more if you ran out. I’d never had a boyfriend where marriage and children were more than just abstract, millions-of-years-away things that happened to other people. My disdain for authority and work politics meant that I never wanted to be involved and competitive. Settling down and being earnest was for losers. Swoop in, shoot out the lights and leave. Hurricane Jill.
Now though…what’s changed now? I want children and a big fuck off house and an awesome job that gives me enough money to be able to live like a grown up. I guess this just happens naturally. I’ve lived in London for three and a half years and in the last year I have halved my income and doubled my rent to live just with my boyfriend in a flat in Zone 1 so he can commute up to Bedford and even though we are both professionals we have no money and no space and WHY DID I LEAVE AUSTRALIA WHERE I COULD BE RICH AND HAVE A 5 BEDROOM HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DESERT?! What have I done? I’ve delayed growing up and now suddenly here I am in the middle of what was supposed to be a huge adventure, grown up and in the words of Snap!, as serious as cancer. Is this a good place to be grown up? If it weren’t for my fizzling out ovaries would I be growing up? Why didn’t I save some money to freeze my eggs? Why didn’t I save any money for anything? Where are those anxiety meds again?!
So fine, if I have to be a grown up, then I will plan out our new grown up life. You want long-term plans? I will give you the most comprehensive grown up plan you’ve ever fucking seen. I will get my coil taken out in February, then we will be pregnant by April. I will finish my 3-day a week fixed term contract in June and then in July we will move to Bedford. I will keep my 2 day a week Highly Specialist job in inner-city London and get some locum work in Bedford and because the rent is 50% of the price for 400% more room we will live like a King and Queen and we’ll have enough money saved for a house in no time! Growing up is easy, I will own it like I’ve owned everything else. As soon as I want things, they happen. That’s how it’s always been.
But the thing I’ve learnt about plans is that they don’t go the way you want them to, even (especially?) if you are sticking to them with laser-like focus and an all-encompassing, scary-to-other-people rigidity. You realise that doing locum work again means that you will be the expendable person at work who is far more experienced than most people but who is as distant and invisible to the team as a satellite circling the Earth. Even though you now want responsibility, you won’t get it. Anyway, ignore that feeling. You didn’t save any money and now this is what you have to do. Suck it up. You still have that two day a week job in London.
But then you find out that you and your partner are going to have some trouble conceiving naturally. This was not in The Plan. I bought a baby shirt on sale and it’s past April. Oh well, we’ll take some vitamins and change the way we eat and make sure we exercise properly and look I’ve bought an ovulation app and there’s this fertility gel and did you know X, Y and Z had trouble and now they’re fine and if we just try enough it will be fine…then your boyfriend breaks up with you.
Oh. The Plan. The Plan has taken over everything and snuffed out the spontaneity and light. You’ve been ignoring the fact your boyfriend has feelings and you’ve been so focused on The Plan that you haven’t been listening or acknowledging anything he has to say that doesn’t support your version of the next few years. You’re still together but all of a sudden you’re in couples counselling so you can actually see each other as people. Blergh. This is why I never tried to look ahead.
So, that’s where things are at now. Trying to find a balance – a moderate path that lies somewhere between floating aimlessly through life and squandering my eggs and my place on the property ladder, and being so preoccupied with these things that I can’t enjoy my life and I secretly resent my friends for having these things when I do not. When does the easy bit of life happen?
I’ve realised that immediately before I came to London, I spent a month in Edinburgh then went on a two week Camino de Santiago through Portugal with my friend El. As I come to my final months in London, I have unconsciously and serendipitously planned the same ritual – going to Edinburgh for a couple of nights for the Fringe then going and doing a shortened version of the Camino in August with El again. I think it will be good to compare how I feel about myself and my life to last time I did these trips – my body and mind are stronger and in a lot of ways I feel I’m a much better person than I was back then. Although I have a new set of challenges and a new unknown facing me, I am once again in a state of flux and am wondering which of those figs I can actually have. This way of being is scary and uncertain with no guarantees, but somehow, I feel as though I have woken up and am relieved that life refuses to be predicted and controlled.
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig-tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions… and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig-tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest,and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
– Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar)


Self Portrait April 2015 – put through the How Old Robot website. London has aged me 56 years.

Time is on my side

Well well well! Six months since my last post…pa-bloody-thetic.

Where was I in my last one? Ah…Lithuania. And whinging about my (lack of) job prospects. I’m going to have to fish out my 2013 diary to remember what happened after that. My guess is that I continued being stupidly busy, blowing my money on holidays and stressing out about getting a permanent job. Back in a second…

Well WATTYA KNOW?! I was right. After hitting ‘Publish’ on August 26th, my life continued much on the same trajectory as it had been on for the whole of 2013 (which, the consensus seems to be, was pretty shit for most people?).

Don’t get me wrong, there were some pretty awesome events including both mine and my loved one’s 30th birthdays. Jim’s came in September, 3 months before mine, so I wasn’t really feeling the ‘pinch’ when we celebrated his. I made sure to pull out all the stops because I know I can be a bit shit when it comes to doing things for people’s birthdays, if I even remember them in the first place. So that’s why I arranged dinner in the gorgeous private dining room in The Oak pub and restaurant in Notting Hill for us and 10 of Jim’s friends. I also spent ten…yes TEN hours making a cake in the shape of a cricket bat. My housemate Heloise watched me for the last 2 hours or so, observing in some kind of transfixed horror my botched attempts at icing. In the end, I don’t think it turned out too bad! The little presents I got him as well as the party we had at our place were the icing on the…oh, I guess I can’t use that analogy now. Jim and I made hundreds of canapes for everyone which we were really proud of, though we were happy to finally serve the last ones and get on with partying.

Jim’s party was a double-fun-bonus as my very good friends from Australia – Casey and Charles – arrived in London that day and I saw them for the first time in years in my very own kitchen. They stayed with us and a few other friends during their trip, and I had an awesome time hanging out with them and remembering the good old days as well as making new memories. Casey, Bianca (who lives in London) and I have known each other since we were 14/15 years old through working at BIG W! Together we have such a bevy of ridiculous stories from our time there; we are the original disaffected fucks. I ended up staying for 6 years – well into my Uni days.  I still have stress dreams about not doing my night ‘routining’ (tidying) properly and forgetting my log-in code. Grim. To spend some time together, we went on holiday together at the end of November/start of October to a random holiday destination – Transylvania. We had a LOVELY TIME! Although we had grand plans to travel outside of our Transylvanian base Cluj Napoca, we ended up lazily wandering its pretty streets and spending time catching up in ancient squares, cute little cafes and bars. I would thoroughly recommend giving Romania a visit – people were so outrageously friendly and there were enough markets and tiny shops to keep our touristy selves happy. I feel so lucky to have those two people in my life (though I’m secretly a bit glad our impulsive and wine-fuelled plan to get some kind of tattoo to symbolise our friendship has not yet come to fruition).

Not long after that it was time to ‘pop’ back to Perth for 8 days to surprise my Mum for her 60th birthday! As far as I can remember I have NEVER surprised anyone, so I was pretty chuffed with myself when we actually managed to pull it off. My dad and brother were in on it, and helped to arrange the logistics so that I could casually walk in and surprise Mum at our favourite restaurant – Restaurant Amusé. We’ve been visiting them since they opened a few years ago, and all their staff were really on board with making the surprise work. I arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning, my brother David picking me up from the airport and kindly giving me his bed while he slept on the couch. He had even bought my favourite soft drink – Passiona – to help me feel at home. Aww! His lovely girlfriend Sofi had bought me the most gorgeous Salus handcream, which was wrapped and waiting on a lavender pillow on the bed! So thoughtful and relaxing after a long haul flight. I slept in while David played GTA 5 and his cat Cereal stared at me and occasionally tried to sit on my head. Later that evening after I caught up with a friend, David, Sofi and I got spruced up and arrived at the restaurant early. We made sure Mum and Dad had their backs to the door, and I was smuggled away down a hallway right next to the kitchen. Finally the maître d’ (who is co-owner with her husband and Head Chef), signalled that it was time and I walked out, casually sat down in the extra chair, and apologised for being late. I’d been a bit worried that Mum would keel over at this point, but luckily her blood pressure meds worked perfectly and she let out a scream of joy and shock 🙂 Seems I almost messed up the whole thing by sending a jet-lagged Facebook message from Singapore, which obviously then told Mum that I was contacting her from Changi airport! She told Dad in puzzlement, but he managed to convince her that Facebook was hardly ever accurate due to signals bouncing off the wrong satellites and…stuff… Phew!

I have never experienced such crippling jetlag as I did upon returning to London after being in Perth for eight days. It was awesome spending time with my family, catching up with friends and touching in with the little people who have sprung up all over the place from the loins of those I know. But, your parents only turn 60 once, and I’m glad I’ve been able to be there for both of my folks’ celebrations.

Once back in Perth, my attention turned to a certain looming milestone. I never thought I’d be the kind of person to worry about getting older, and in some respects I’m quite comfortable with it; I’m more confident, relaxed and happy than I’ve ever been in my life. But on the other hand there are certain things that I expected to have achieved by the time I hit 30. The choices I made throughout my 20s came into question – has all my travelling and loving been worth it? My peers from University are now running hospitals, or are married and have (numerous) kids. And here I am – living what feel like the right choices for me…but not the right choices in terms of where I’d dreamt I would be as a little girl. Getting a permanent job didn’t turn out to be as easy as I thought it would be. I’m not as skinny as I used to be, and there are lots more dark circles and bags and general wrinkliness than before. And above all, the biological clock is ticking. Shit! Probably for that reason, I became grossly neurotic about having as nutso a party as possible down in a rented house in Brighton for my 30th. This coming from someone who initially, honestly, did not want to have a party at all. Luckily my very good friend Shaun (who proves to me that boys and girls CAN be friends), was also celebrating his 30th and came over to London (his previous home), with his girlfriend to spend the weekend with the crew. We had an amazing time – “I’m Keith Richards bitch!”

I was immediately relieved upon actually turning 30 on the 8th of December; the anticipation was infinitely worse than the event. I had been asked numerous times ‘What does it feel like to be 30?’ I decided I should probably ask my friend Shaun the same question, since that seemed to be the done thing. “What a fucking stupid question”, he replied. And that’s why we’ll always be friends.

A bunch of stuff has happened since then. New Years Eve was great. I took a WHOLE MONTH off drinking alcohol, in order to test myself, be a bit more healthy, and most importantly raise £600 for the Epilepsy Society. I finally got a permanent job at a Highly Specialist level. In other words, I finally got what I wanted. It was a hard fucking slog and I know it’s odd that I add it on almost as a footnote, but perhaps I’m not keen to talk about how much it means to me. Perhaps I’m sick to death of talking about it since it felt like that’s all I was talking about with my friends and family for a while. My stress levels have dropped dramatically since the start of the year, and one of the biggest things about my newfound stability is the prospect of mortgages and maternity leave. Oooooo-err! 2014 is lookin’ pretty good so far.

Casey, Bianca and I in Cluj Napoca


Mum, Dad and I just after the surprise!
The day I turned 30.

Summer

As I sit here on my crisp white sheets, bright hot sunlight pouring in through the window onto the pink peonies my new housemate brought home for me, it’s hard to imagine that the last 6 months have been so grim. I feel like I’ve surfaced from underneath grimy bathwater in a sharehouse tub; the weather having the same affect on my outlook on life as it does on the London streets that in the sunlight look cleaner, longer, wider, and invite you to look up rather than down at your (wet) feet.

This ‘Blah’ period started back in January when Jim and I touched down in London after our 6 week amazeballs holiday to Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. Leaving the warmth, love and cuddles with the mini versions of my friends that had sprouted in Perth made the sting of the London chill even harder to handle. Still, Jim and I instagrammed the shit out of our huge jumpers and laughed about what a shock our bodies were going through transitioning from temperatures upwards of 40 degrees (Celsius), to subzero, ear-biting, nipple-hardening conditions (even through layers and layers of clothing – what’s with that?!).We even looked forward to the prospect of snow, since it’s still a novelty for me and really, who doesn’t like snow? I decided to try my hand at reviewing some of the exhibitions, films and theatre productions I have the great privilege to see on a regular basis, and my new goal solidified in my mind – finding a permanent job.

I enjoyed the fact that I had a couple of days off before returning to my contract work. In fact, if I had gone back the day after we returned, I probably would have died when a helicopter crashed into our street after colliding with a crane atop a high-rise building. It hit the ground at 8am, the exact time I would have been walking to the tube and passing the usual people, considering saying ‘Hi’ and not doing it. I heard it happen and at first thought the strange metallic boom was a piece of metal falling off a truck, or even worse, a piece of infrastructure falling off the railway lines that pass overhead near the crash. Then the sirens started, more kept arriving, and the traffic stopped flowing past my window. I dragged myself out of bed in curiosity and looked in amazement at the fireball burning a couple of blocks from my window. In the next couple of days it was announced that two people had died – the pilot and one pedestrian. People told stories about how they had seen the helicopter catapulting towards them and had run for their lives, narrowly avoiding death. The main footage used by the BBC was shot by my friend’s boyfriend who had been knocked off his bike by the impact. I wondered who the victim could have been, and worried in particular that it had been the bin man. On the way home from my first day back at work, I opened the Evening Standard on a busy Hammersmith and City Line train and saw the face of a man I walked past on my early starts. He was notable for his neat beard and for being morbidly obese. As the article explained that everyone who knew him thought he was a fantastic guy, I tried not to cry. I started to wonder what the point of everything was – one minute you’re walking to work, the next you’re burning to death in a pool of aviation fuel. I realised that, like the survivors, he may have seen the helicopter coming but had been unable to run away because of his size.

After the road opened up again I walked to work every day as usual, except this time through the charred remnants of the crash and the photos of the victims pinned to the buildings’ temporary walls. I diligently avoided the mysterious blackened circle on the foothpath. The crane was slowly rebuilt as every day I ducked and weaved my way through commuters into the tube. There’s something about the Underground that can really grind you down if you’re not particularly sure about your decision to be in London. I remember cramming myself into a carriage, feet barely touching the floor, the train trundling forth while everyone desperately tried to block out their surroundings with kindles, phones or bad morning papers. I was face to face with a glum (as in actual upside-down-smile) looking woman in a grey pant suit wearing ill-fitting Apple earphones that loudly blared Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham! The juxtaposition between that catchy 80s party fave and the picture of abject human misery before me made me want to either burst into tears or peals of laughter. I found out that day that my so-called accountants had been acting dodgy and had fucked off back to Australia. This meant that a) I had a massive tax debt, b)  my finances were an incomprehensible mess that I had to find another accountant to take on and c) a few of my friends were in the same boat. Great.

A few weeks after the helicopter crash, a 16 year old ex-student of one of the secondary schools I work at was stabbed to death in a street near the school in the middle of the day. I didn’t know him, but the thought of that happening to one of the kids I work with and just the fact that it happened at all made me feel sick. Some of the students put up a poster of the boy in the corridor and I couldn’t help but look into his eyes every time I walked past. There is evidence that youth offenders and people getting excluded from school largely have undiagnosed speech, language and communication needs. Obviously it’s not the only reason that kids have behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, but it’s been established that people with trouble communicating are at a higher risk for those kind of things. For a while I was looking at the young kids I work with and wondering What’s going to happen to you? I felt a bit helpless. To round it all off, Jim came home one day and told me that a lady in his office had gone down to the basement, locked herself in a rarely used disabled toilet and killed herself. My usual resilience and ability to deal with crappy things was on the verge of disappearing. One day I looked out of my kitchen window and thought Fuck this God forsaken place. I flagged with my Doctor that I wasn’t feeling the best.

Obviously some good things must have happened during that period, but misery breeds misery and my frame of mind only allowed me to see the shit. I suppose I went into survival mode, just keeping my head down and focusing on one thing at a time. Which was scarily similar to the state I was in before I left Perth. Our prolonged winter didn’t help at all – icy winds from Russia combining with grey skies sent from on high to irritate and oppress. I wrote a few pieces and waited to become the next famous blogger in London, which would obviously cure my existential funk. I went for a couple of job interviews and despite getting good feedback and gaining enough points to get the jobs, ONE OTHER PERSON would do better than me and get them. Inconceivable! I realised that up until now – all the way through high school, university and my early career (thinking about it, probably back to primary school as well), things have always come easily to me. I achieved academically whilst distracting everyone around me and misbehaving. I did well at Uni without having to try too hard and I had never, ever been turned down for a job. How things had changed since I bragged about how easy London was for me. What a naive, patronising twat.

Slowly the days got longer and the layers of clothing required to step outside grew less and less. Gradually my usual frame of mind crept back – I decided to see the position I was in regarding my career as a lesson to be learnt – instead of avoiding challenges and coasting along at a B+ level, I had to lift my game and learn perseverance and patience. On the surface I had assumed that as soon as I wanted something I would get it…though I guess deep down I had always worried that if I tried for something I really really wanted and didn’t get it that it would break me. I guess that happened on a lesser scale, but despite being rattled I was OK. And what’s more, I realised that everyone else had similar things happen to them after living in London for any period of time, and you just have to suck it up, get over yourself and get on with it. It still hurts not getting something, but it just makes me want it more and makes me try even harder. I want to do anything I can to stop kids in London going down that horrible path to crime and substance abuse, even if sometimes it’s hard. I want to dedicate myself to them and make sure they’re alright. Jim and I have finally moved in together and now instead of Sainsburys and a main arterial road, I open my window to the sounds of birds singing in the garden and kids laughing over the fence (it hasn’t gone all gross and suburban though – we’re still in Zone 2!). I understand tax better and am with some great accountants, and have finally paid off my debts. Importantly (for me) I have been on a couple of holidays, one of which I will be writing about soon. I’m writing again because it’s for me and I love it, rather than wanting to grab the attention of anyone in particular. Instead of taking the sunshine for granted I love and revel in it like other Londoners and keep in mind how different things can look in the grey. I’ll keep applying for permanent supervisory roles and when I get one I’ll appreciate it so much more. Things aren’t perfect but they’re OK and I feel like I’ll be better mentally prepared when winter rolls around again. Phew.

 

The one year mark

I can’t believe it’s been over three months since my last entry… very shabby effort indeed. I guess I’ve gotten into a routine and have been working fulltime in a job that leaves me exhausted at the end of the day.  However! I am now on school holidays and have had plenty of time to a) sit around and do nothing and b) do things that I enjoy.

So, not long after posting my last entry (in which I announced how great everything was and how rich my life is here), I got hit by a wave of homesickness that lasted around a week and a half. It was quite strange as I’d never felt homesick before…and there wasn’t one particular thing I was missing. I guess I just felt lonely and was lacking the company that I’m so used to having at home. I come from a place where there is probably one degree of separation between everyone aged 20 to 35. For a while I’ve seen that as a negative thing… and in some ways I still do. But  I’m beginning to realise how special that is and how lucky I’ve been over the past 10 years. Conversely, my desire to move back has virtually disppeared. It’s quite confusing. I have a couple of friends that have permanently moved away from Perth and return for extended visits every now and then. I always suspected it was a bit hard for them, and I’m beginning to grasp how bizarre it would be to return and have things essentially unchanged on the surface, but for dynamics to have shifted enough so as to be quite alien to you. I guess if you love a place and the people in it, even though you don’t want to live there, you go back and have a good time and deal with any weirdness. Having always been the person based in Perth welcoming back so many visiting emmigrants, I know that when I return I’ll be dealing with my friends  being excited initially and then it being like I never left. Again… both a good and a bad thing.

There are so many things to say about my life in London… I suppose one way to look at it is through the infallible opinions of Kelly (Deborah Mailman) from the Australian TV series The Secret Life Of Us (circa early 2000s). It was supposed that a person in their mid-20s should have the TRIFECTA; if you have happiness in your work life, home life and love life then you have achieved a trinity guaranteeing satisfaction. My work life is positive overall… I work as a sole Speech Therapist most of the time and can feel a bit professionally isolated. I’m aware that I am not getting the same Professional Development opportunities or admin time that I would as a permanent staff member. On the other hand, I have been working in schools for 7 years now and this job allows me enough autopilot ‘I know what I’m doing’ confidence whilst casting up enough challenges to keep me learning. For the last term and a half I’ve worked in a secondary school as well as in a couple of primary schools, and I’ve really enjoyed it. I am interested in the prospect of working with adolescents in the future now (particularly the inner-city, highly multicultural population of the past 6 months), and perhaps even getting involved with youth counselling/pastoral care. I do a lot of paperwork (can’t escape the fucking paperwork), but I work hard, I get paid pretty well, so I have a comfortable life here.

I’m living in a light, airy and spacious two-bedroom apartment in Vauxhall which is immediately south of the Thames and therefore in Zone 1…hurray! My housemate is lovely, I live opposite a massive Sainsbury’s and I use the huge kitchen to cook a lot more than I ever have. I finally have a room that feels homely to me and  I can take my time to decorate it, knowing that I’ll be here for a while (well, if my 6 month lease gets extended past June). Finally, I have been with a lovely guy called Jim for the past 4 months, which has made my time in London all the more special. So, for the moment, the trifecta is complete! Though I would argue that there is more to life than those three areas… I have been making friends slowly but surely, and trying to recognise and do the things that make me happy. It would be a shame to be living in this amazing city and not be taking advantage of all the opportunities here. It is sometimes all too easy to fall back into old, unproductive habits and behaviours and I had to remind myself to be proactive during that malaise of homesickness a few weeks back.

I’ve sort of given up on writing the Portugal diaries at the moment, just to keep up with what’s been going on lately! I’ll try to summarise some of the fun things I’ve done over the past few months:

 

Cute store in Reykjavik

ICELAND! A friend from work, one of her buddies and I went to Iceland for 4 days in February. We stayed in a 4 star apartment in the city of Reykjavik, and huddled our way through the coldest weather any of us had ever faced. I was able to fulfill all of my winter wonderland fantasies in the beautiful snow. We went husky riding, did the Golden Circle Tour, walked around the picturesque city with loads of cool design and fashion stores, and of course went out looking for the Northern Lights. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see them, but we agreed that it just strengthened our resolve to get out there and see them one day, maybe even from somewhere in the Arctic Circle! It was good to get to spend some more time with new friends and see a place that is like no other. I also ate whale, and puffin, so also feel a bit guilty as well as happy when I reminisce… which is sort of standard for me anyway.

 

Huskies!
Geysir
Walking north to Sacre Coeur

Another month, another holiday! Towards the end of March I caught the Eurostar to PARIS to meet Jim for a few days. He had just finished attending a conference and I wanted to take full advantage of a romantical holiday. So, I searched and searched and found one of the hottest boutique hotels in Paris – Hotel Amour. Just to give you some examples of its chic nature, check out this tittilating calendar and the New York Times write-up. We had a great time, wandering around the city in GORGEOUS weather, not pressured by sight-seeing requirements as we had both been there before, and revelling in some straight-up hipster douchebaggery with our Lomo cameras. We ate well, drank well (with probably the best bottle of Bordeaux I’ve ever tasted, a 1999 vintage) and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Check out some Lomokino videos here and here on Jim’s Flickr.

 

Me innit
Our subtle hotel room

 

Shaun in the red light district

Lastly, I went to Amsterdam for a few days last week to visit my friend Shaun, who has been studying in the Netherlands for the last 2 years. It was his girlfriend Alice’s birthday and she had just returned from Italy the day before I arrived bearing kilos upon kilos of delicious food. The weekend was full of partying, eating, drinking, gawking at red-lit windows and of course, a tiny bit of coffee shop smoking. I got a good insider’s view of the city as well as doing some touristy things. I only had one near miss with a tram and only came close to rolling my borrowed bike into a canal once… which I thought was pretty good! Being in a big group of Shaun and Alice’s European friends was so refreshing and reminded me how much I love meeting new people, something I need to focus on more in London.

 

Canal loveliness
Rooftop salami
I have very vague memories of this.. in front of the Eye Film Institute

Last but not least, here are three of my favourite fun things I’ve done in London recently:

– The Lucian Freud Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Amazing.

– A Taste of Creative Writing, a one-day course at CityLit, hopefully my new London hang-out zone (did I just say ‘hang out zone’?).

– Swamp Juice – a play that sold out continuously in Edinburgh last year and is now having a run at Soho Theatre. A wonder-filled funful performance.

Beaut.