Posts Tagged ‘comfort zone’

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fortissimo.

July 15, 2012

This week has not been the kindest. I’ve been scared, depressed, challenged and exhausted. Scared that in September, I might no longer have a job; depressed that if I didn’t find a source of income within the next two days, that I might have to move back to Bristol (which isn’t terrible in itself, but would feel like a massive step backwards and super-frustrating when I am due to move in with Toby in a couple of months); challenged to step outside of my boundaries and comfort zone, and apply for jobs once again; exhausted by the emotional rollercoaster of all the above! Toby was away in Manchester for two days, so I didn’t have as many cuddles to keep me going as I normally would; although I feel that perhaps his absence was a good thing because otherwise I might have vented to him a little too much!

The reason why I chose the title “fortissimo” for this blog, is that it has a double meaning: normally, we think of the musical term, where it means to play very loudly, as if at the height of a crescendo. But it also means “very strong”, and this perhaps is the theme of the week I’ve had. In the blog I wrote last week, I wrote about wanting to feel more vibrant as a result of the summer weather, but I also want to feel super-strong. Vibrant and powerful in a range of ways. Fortissimo, if you will.

I had people yell at me over the phone at the start of the week; I knew I was not in the wrong in each siutation, but considering the circumstances they were in, I understood that they were distressed. However, the way I felt after they took their frustrations out on me was proof that I am still very much in the process of developing a thick skin.  Two years ago, coming out of the QCG at UWE, I felt somewhat invincible: I had a wonderful new boyfriend, a fantastic new best friend, I’d just landed my first proper full-time job and my body was still banging (I am hoping that my healthier summer focus will help me get back to this state). I also felt confident – that I could really go out and get anything I wanted, and do anything I put my mind to. I think that I have / one has always been able to do this, but not without a certain sense of self-doubt on the inside. That year, the sense of self-doubt turned into a sense of self-belief. As I look at myself this week, I realise that that sense of self-belief has disappeared somewhat – and I want it back. I have to be stronger, more confident and less deterred by what others may say or do or think.

It looks more certain now that my job is in fact not in jeopardy, but I also feel that (due to changes at work which I don’t really feel I can talk about in the public domain) my sense of security is far from unshakeable. I won’t be totally reassured until I’m holding my contract in my hand (which apparently should happen on Monday afternoon), but it’s an improvement on the uncertainty I’ve been going through recently. Part-time work during school and university excluded, the longest I’ve stayed at a job is one year; this position was the one where I initially hoped (even without realising it) that I would break that pattern. I wanted something on my CV that showed I had commitment to a role. In feeling forced to look elsewhere, I confronted a sense of fatigue at completing yet more job applications (most, if not all of which I won’t hear anything back from – nothing personal, just the way it works), but also some questions (raised also by the article I read in Glamour recently): by not constantly challenging myself to go for higher positions, promotions, jobs where I would (for example) have to travel abroad sometimes, am I really challenging myself? There is a lot to be said for being safe and being based in one city – it makes life easy, and it means that once the working day is done, my life is my own and I can spend it with my partner and my friends. It’s a lovely sense of security (there’s that word again!); but at 26, I should still be challenging myself and shooting for the moon, right? And what’s more important – something on a piece of paper that shows I’m loyal to an employer, or an attitude and confidence that shows I am loyal and committed to my own development and achievements?

It’s a change to my thinking that I’ve tried to get my head around before, but only partly succeeded: we feel a misplaced sense of loyalty to our employers, because they pay us for what we do and provide us with financial security. However, we are the ones earning the money, learning new skills constantly, and we should be less afraid to confidently negotiate positions and salaries as we see fit: if you don’t try, you don’t get! If employers don’t want to pay for our services, they don’t feel bad in saying goodbye; why should I feel guilty in looking around at what other options might be available to me, in case something better comes along? A professional relationship should work two ways.  Don’t get me wrong, I feel comforted by the fact that I probably won’t lose my job, because it makes things easier and more stable for me and Toby moving in together in the Autumn and being able to put a deposit down on a new flat, but I’ve been forced to think that while we are young, we should be confident and assertive in going for opportunities that present themselves, and in creating opportunities where none are immediately evident. Sometimes one is lucky, other times one must make his/her own luck. So contract or not, I’m going to keep an eye on what jobs come up (both internal and external), so that I’m ready to apply for something better that takes my fancy.

Another surprising development where I’ve really had to draw on some strength is in my cigarette consumption; somehow I’ve found myself promising Toby and a few other people that I will quit smoking in 2013. I’ve joked that this might be December 31st, but really, it is one of next year’s New Year’s resolutions. I’ve prided myself on my stubbornness, and I know that I will be able to do it; when reading Diana Ross’ biography, one of the things that stuck with me is her saying “I’m going to quit smoking one day without any whining or fuss, not like other people.” And that’s exactly what she did! I admire that single-minded determination to change one’s life without wavering even in the slightest. But when I told a couple of colleagues this plan of mine (they’re not colleagues I usually work with, because I certainly don’t want any kind of scrutiny in my office), they said “well, do you really want to quit? If you do, why wait? Start now.” I must admit that that thinking makes total sense, but while I am getting to the point where I truly do want to stop smoking, I still enjoy it somewhat that I’m not ready right now. However, after a Wednesday night out with Nick where we made a new Icelandic friend called Sigga (who smoked a lot, and I smoked with her), I woke up the next morning hungover and with a very husky throat. I really didn’t want to smoke, and I didn’t have a cigarette until 1pm that afternoon. I had a total of 4 that day (normally, I smoke between 8 and 10 cigarettes a day), and from then on, my colleagues’ words were echoing in my head. I really could quit sooner rather than later, and I’ve focused on reducing my cigarette consumption with the hope that I could stop. I don’t know what I will do at work, as I will still want my breaks every couple of hours (particularly considering I rarely take a proper lunch break), and there are social and time-killing benefits to smoking. But rather than a physical sense of addiction, the hardest challenge will be conquering the voice in my head that yells “CIGARETTE CIGARETTE CIGARETTE” when I become conscious that I haven’t had one that day. I had 7 cigarettes the following day, and today I bought a pack of menthols (rather than my usual Marlboro Reds), of which I have had 6. Menthols have a different taste and less nicotine, and my idea is to wean myself off cigarettes, or at least permanently reduce my consumption. As anyone who has tried to quit smoking before knows (I did quit once in the past after I came home from my year abroad in Spain, but I had only smoked for a couple of months, so it wasn’t really the same thing) I don’t know if I’m ready to completely quit and declare myself an ex-smoker, because sometimes I really enjoy it and I’m quite attached to having a cigarette with alcohol, or before I go to sleep. Plus, I feel like I would be betraying (there’s that word again!) Mike, or Toby’s colleagues who like to smoke, if I no longer want to smoke with them. I also believe that truly conquering one’s addiction to smoking, alcohol or whatever truly means that we can still do those things when we genuinely want to without feeling any compulsion. If I gave up smoking completely, I would still feel subjugated by my addiction if I felt a constant sense of fear to have a cigarette for the rest of my life, in case it opened up the floodgates and I couldn’t stop again. True mastery to me means that I am in total control of every cigarette I have, knowing that I can trust myself not to have another one if I don’t want to. At this standpoint, I can say that I feel ready to cut down my smoking by about half (and recapture my full vocal power and some extra spending power each month to boot). So I have also been gathering my strength to do that.

Living life to the full, being loud and proud, and being strong and confident is a daily work in progress. It’s not always easy, and we can’t do it 100% of the time – I fully accept this. But when I go through a shitty week like this one, I’m thankful for the support offered by my partner, friends and family, but I’m also encouraged to recapture my own confidence and desire to reach the stars. I have so many goals in life that I not only am working slowly towards achieving, but that I am fully capable of – but it’s easy to get worn down and distracted by the daily grind that we learn to settle for a little less and choose safety over excitement. As long as I have financial security, the love of my partner, family and friends, I can do anything I set my mind to. But it’s also important not to forget to actually set my mind to new ventures and projects, rather than the same old ish! I believe that this is what I mean by living “fortissimo”.

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Driving tips and tricks

February 23, 2011

Hi all! So I have now been driving for two and a half weeks, and I’m rapidly finding out that the adage “Once you’ve passed your test, that’s when you start learning to drive” is true. I thought that from my first couple of weeks (since I’ve clocked up a fair few miles in a relatively short space of time) I would share my experiences and things that I have learned.

  • Nobody can make you go faster than you want to, no matter how close up behind you they may drive. Don’t rush yourself. Stay in your comfort zone, and you’ll soon get more at ease with your car. If people want to go faster, they’ll overtake – they always find a way!
  • Do not try and do a hill start in 3rd gear. It will not work! So learn where your gears are. It’s best to have a practice drive around the block (over, and over, and over – I did!) to feel at ease with the car before you have to go somewhere specific.
  • Be nice. Sometimes life is plain unfair, but a lot of the time what goes around comes back around. So if someone is waiting to pull out of a junction, and it’s safe, let them. It’ll make you feel better about when you stall your car and the person behind you is patient, or when someone lets you out in front of them.
  • Learn the width of your car. Preferably not by bumping the end of your wing mirror against another car (although you’re unlikely to do any damage – I did it once and escaped unharmed). If in doubt, then stop and let the other driver come through.
  • At a roundabout, even if you think the car on your right will stop because you’re halfway across, don’t assume that they will. Especially if they are boy racers. Technically, even if they are idiots and are driving too fast, they have the right of way so just let them go ahead of you, and soon enough they will be out of your way.
  • Learn your routes, so that you know where likely problem areas are going to be. For example, on the way to work I always slow right down to drive through Tetbury because it has a ridiculous crossroads / roundabout junction, sharp curved roads with cars parked on one side, speed bumps and a lack of people who seem to know the basic Highway Code. So when you know somewhere is usually problematic, be aware!
  • If a pedestrian has arrived at a zebra crossing, even if they’re not near you, slow down so you can stop for them. Otherwise they will glare at you. And technically, they are right (unfortunately).
  • The turning circle on your car will most likely be different to that of the car you learned to drive in. So when you try to do a reverse park, be careful and don’t feel bad if you end up still two miles away from the kerb, or alternatively backing into the kerb. You got your licence – they can’t fail you now! Practice makes perfect.
  • Re. the above point: driving into a space is much easier than parallel parking.
  • If you’re parked on a camber on a downward incline, even when you put your car in reverse, it’ll roll forward a little bit. So leave yourself room to do this. If you have no room, get a kind parent to reverse the car while you push forward on the front to stop the car rolling forward and hitting the car in front. This is the kind of mistake you only make once (I hope!).
  • Learn where the speed cameras are. Once you’re more confident, you will learn when you can speed up a little bit (obviously not too much!) over the limit, and when you need to slow down.
  • Driving on the motorway is just like driving on a dual carriageway. It’s basically driving in a straight line at a high speed for an extended period of time. It’s nothing to be afraid of! Just use the signs along the way to your advantage.
  • Don’t sit in the middle lane on the motorway. It’s irritating.
  • Don’t leave your fog lights on for extended periods of time. Turn them on for foggy patches, turn them off when your visibility improves.
  • Don’t worry about being in the wrong lane. If you realise you are in the wrong lane, keep calm and indicate to get to where you need to be (or follow the road round if there is no alternative and try and loop back as soon as possible). Most of the time, you’ll get an opportunity to filter into the right lane – either because someone takes pity on you or because the traffic passes. I apparently have the directional sense of a wombat and I still get places in the end! Remember: even if you get lost for 5 minutes, it is quicker than getting the bus! And you can always buy a sat nav.

And most importantly: ENJOY driving! We passed our tests, we spend ridiculous money on lessons to get here, we pay a premium for petrol, insurance and the vehicle itself. We earned this. Have fun!

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the cool kids.

August 24, 2009

Today I had my induction at the hospital (despite the fact I’ve already been working there for three weeks) and I learned such valuable things as the different colours of bins and their bags, that you should never inject someone in the spine with vinchristine, and how to pick up a box.  Occasionally there was a relevant tidbit of information, but I could have quite happily skipped the induction without being any less the wiser.

However, I did make a couple of friends, which made the whole thing worth it!  Two girls, Kim and Hannah, ended up with me outside the building during a cigarette break, and we got talking – it turned out that Kim and I had both worked in the Galleries together (she recognised me from during my time at the Perfume Shop), and the three of us would giggle during the funny bits of the presentations (whether they were intentionally funny or not) and get filthy looks from a spoilsport old woman who was taking the whole thing far too seriously.

We got to know each other during the course of the day and its multiple breaks, and we had a good banter and sense of humour.  And the strangest thing happened… during the end of the lunch break before everyone gathered together again for the afternoon talks, people would come up to our little group and ask if we knew what was going on etc.  They said that they “recognised us from their group”.  I’m not entirely sure why, because we were no more prominently sat than anyone else, and we contributed just as much (read= little) to the morning discussions as anyone else.  But after our while, our group grew and we comprised 5, 6, 7 people who were smiling, laughing and conversing and swapping jokes about the day. It was something curious, but it made the day a bit more light-hearted and bearable in the midst of insights such as “Anger is an emotion”.

I got to thinking.  In our group, there were the obvious computer geeks and social awkwards who didn’t wash as often as they should.  There was a mixture of races, genders and personalities.  There was the annoying guy who kept kicking our chairs and feet as he sat behind us.  Kim commented more than once that it felt like being back at school, and I began to wonder what “group” or clique we would have been?  And it dawned on me that we were the “cool kids” that the others wanted to be around – we were young, lively and chatty, and people flocked to us one by one.

That strikes me as strangely amusing, because at school I never felt that I belonged to a particular clique, let alone that I was particularly cool.  I was brainy at school, so other people used to call me a “keener” because I would study; I was heckled for being gay for a little while; my friends were a little bit geeky.  These things together made me feel as if I were a nerd or a geek, and it’s only looking back that nobody probably thought that I was a geek, because I certainly wasn’t.  Even though they weren’t friendships that lasted, I was on friendly speaking terms with quite a lot of people, I got on with my teachers, and my musical ability and singing and dancing made me a celebrity in the school, singing in the corridors as much as in concerts, and winning a few competitions.  I even used to sign autographs for the younger kids!  We had a prefect slave auction, and I fetched the highest price; I got asked to do duets with other people during my last year or so.  It’s funny, and I didn’t realise until the end of school, but I was one of the ‘cool kids’ and I was popular.  And somehow I managed to achieve that while being myself, which is possibly one of the hardest things of all.

It sounds funny even to write it now, because I never felt popular – not once but twice, I had a massive disillusionment where I realised that the people I would mainly hang around with weren’t nice people, were phony attention-seekers, and just weren’t on the same wavelength as me.  It hurt, and needless to say once I left school, I never made any effort to keep in touch with them, let alone see them again. That part of my life is closed, and I am relieved to be past that, because it caused me a lot of pain and taught me a lot of hard life lessons for a teenager.  The friends from my school with whom I’ve kept up a friendship are all people who weren’t in my year group or original social groups, but instead were people both older and younger than me whom I met through working at the Bookstore in the summer, exploring different cliques and just getting to know people outside of my comfort zone.  Doing that is something I will never regret; all that I regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!

True friends are few and far between; I’m learning to let people drift apart naturally, because that’s healthy – some people are in your life just for a season.  I’m learning that the people with whom you keep in contact and who keep in contact with you are friends you never have to worry about making an effort to keep in touch with; that connection happens naturally.  But what is funny to me is that a lot of my old year group are on Facebook, and they add me as friends.  At first, I would reject them because I had absolutely no desire to be in touch with them and to see what they were doing, let alone for them to be able to browse my information and photos.  But after a while I just felt “fuck it, if they are desperate to add me on Facebook, why not? Let them boost my friend count if that’s all that matters to them.”  And a lot of these people are all friends with one another on Facebook, which makes me LOL because at school, a lot of these people either never spoke to one another (due to the social hierarchies of high school) or hated each other.  And now they are “friends”.   Bish please!!!  It’s so fake to me, and it just reinforces the fact that I don’t need that kind of energy in my life.  I know who my real true friends are, and although I might have been “popular” without realising it, and I may be “popular” now – which is a nice confidence boost and does make me feel cool, in a way – I don’t need to compete with anyone for who’s the most popular or who has the most friends.  I am confident in a crowd and in a smaller group, but I’m also at ease with myself and my own company, and I know that at the end of the day it’s not how many people are in your entourage, but who is in your entourage who really, truly has your back.  I’m complimented that I seem to give off a ‘cool vibe’ and I won’t put it down (certainly that rather than repel people!), but I am more blessed to finally have friends who are truly there for me through thick and thin, and for whom I would ride or die.  It took long enough, but now I feel popular – and my friend count is irrelevant, because my friends count.