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.

Vicious Cycle

The only person you can change is yourself

Einstein once said that the definition of madness was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

You can fall into unhealthy patterns with certain people. I always thought if I tried harder, compromised and practiced patience, things would improve.

But people show you what they’re about. Ignore what they say. Mute and watch.

You’re not supposed to call it. You’re not supposed to change. You’re meant to perpetuate the cycle.

My relationship with my parents is a vicious cycle I have often tried to escape from. The stuff that Grimm Fairy tales are made of. I’ve always been quite wary of people and their intentions as a result.

If it was still socially acceptable to dump a daughter in a forest for not agreeing with you, my dad would be all over that, and my mum would blindly second him.

Why it’s like this is a mystery to me. My parents have always seen me as a troublemaker. My mother says it’s because I was a horrible child. Always crying. Having to defend why I cried as a baby was a particular low point.

I talk a lot. I have a fiery temper. I stand up for myself. I sing in the shower.

Not everyone likes that.

I was always pleasantly surprised by people who enjoyed my company. Growing up, being me was something I was told was offensive to others. The friends with ulterior motives, cheating partners, and bullying exes were to be expected, if I believed what my dad had to say.

It was easy to leave home. But cycles aren’t broken by walking away. You find a way to continue them.

If I kept asking people who didn’t value me what I was worth, I would keep on getting the same miserable answer and feeling bad about myself. There were better people to ask.

Saner people too.

I have had nothing but time on my hands in the last few months. Time to sort out my affairs, make plans for the future and readdress relationships I have had that have been one sided, disrespectful and disloyal.

It’s made me happier, albeit a few friends lighter.

There is no winning at home. If I’m not there I’m ungrateful, if I am there I wasn’t welcome in the first place.

You can’t argue with that.

You can put on headphones on and look for jobs abroad, or somewhere else to live.

It’s nice to be supported and liked by your parents. But not necessary.

My sanity and happiness, I can’t live without.

 

Main Image courtesy of Gratis Photography.

That Joke isn’t Funny Anymore

My expectations of the YMCA have been built up over the years by popular lore.  These expectations were only magnified by the fact that this was where my stand up comedy class was meant to be. There were ‘many ways to have a good time.’

I liked those odds.

Imagine my joy when I was met by a group of smiling people who then immediately started speaking to me in Spanish and offering me a seat. It was short lived when I discovered it was in fact the Alcoholics Anonymous group for Spanish speakers.

They were disappointed to see me go, and not altogether convinced I didn’t need their help.

The comedy class was in full swing when I arrived, staring at the course leader holding up a gap fill and desperately trying to elicit the ingredients for good stand up.

Hmm. Gap fill may not have been the way to go for that.

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‘Burn the seat’

It reminded me a little of when Homer goes to Clown school. They run through things that are funny. Oversized man on a tiny bicycle, kill wealthy dowager etc.

And so it began:

“Is a dog funny?”

“Yes.”

“Well, what I mean is, is it normally funny on its own?”

“Depends on the dog.”

“Really?”

“No?” I was starting to think maybe dogs aren’t funny…

“No! But a dog driving a car,” finds picture in worn portfolio “is ALWAYS funny.”

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Err, hell yeah. There’s no denying the humour behind a driving dog. What would be next? A list of funny sounding places? Maybe a dog who drove all the way from Cucamunga would be twice as funny?

I was learning a fine art.

The next thing we were asked to do was to think of someone we looked like and try to give it a twist to make it funny. One stunning integrant told us she was often taken for Penelope Cruz or Amal Clooney. After a lot of awkward staring and nodding in admiration the course leader realised there wasn’t a punchline and we moved on.

According to an online “Which celebrity do you look like?” test, I look 10% like Morgan Freeman.

Some people’s lives are made for comedy I suppose.

My friend Deepa said that she thinks of me every time she hears Smokey Robinson’s ‘Tracks of my Tears’. Maybe I look a bit like Smokey Robinson too. No one’s life is perfect. My little tragedies have been running gags for most of my life.

Well, you’ve got to keep it true to yourself and what you know.

Something that was actually on the gap fill that he was holding up at the start of the class:

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He got a bit carried away with the ‘make it a challenge’ aspect of a gap fill.

The class culminated with one of the students putting on a pair of underwear over his trousers, and duct taping his routine to his arms, before gurning out a few awkward sex jokes and pretending to have tourettes.

It wasn’t Dave Chappelle, but well done that man.

At the end of it all I decided to find my own dog free comedy stylings and wished the group the best with their showcase. Making a swift exit to avoid the AA group on my way to the pub…

 

 

Know your role

As I stood there watching the young man writhing on the floor, lip locked with a rubber IKEA oven mitt, I wondered what the hell I was doing here.

My friend Abner has been encouraging me to go to auditions, to network, make contacts with script writers. “You’ve got to get out there and follow your dream!” He was right.

Consequently, I’ve been signing up for auditions and taster classes. It’s been something to get me out of the house at weekends. Plus it’s free, which sums up my criteria for entertainment these days.

It’s definitely been entertaining.

At the writer’s workshop, I felt like a moody teenager. I was sat at the back, all dressed in black, screwing up my face every time someone bleated at the opportunity to read their work out.

I was grateful for the pair work. At least then the other person could strain their arm enthusiastically in the air, while I continued to slouch apathetically in my chair and text.

The activity was a silent dialogue, set at a party. Pradeep and I commenced our silent conversation. Needless to say, in real life Pradeep and I would a) Never be found at the same party b) Would never have commenced to converse because I would have been able to see his conversation coming a mile off and hot-tailed it to the bathroom.

Writing classes and workshops are a great place to meet a writing partner; your lobster.

Pradeep was not my lobster.

There weren’t any lobsters. Just people trying to figure out what their ‘love’ was. But maybe loving something wasn’t enough. Nor was Marcela. She gleefully shared her comedy creation, Paul: an extremely fat man good at his job. “Fat isn’t a character flaw. What’s his flaw?”

“He works too hard? But sometimes it’s difficult because… he’s fat!”

“So it’s funny because he’s fat?”

“Yes!”

This went on for a while before we all just gave up.

This would never happen at TGS

The following weekend I was amidst a group of actors. Some of whom found it hard to mask their disdain at the fact I was a tourist. ‘It seemed like fun’ is not what the competition want to hear at an audition.

They want the part.

They will even use a five minute break to try and get it, as I found when I was faced with the ridiculously energetic Eva. Her heart-rendering performance of the day she fell over in the rain went sadly unnoticed by the director. I think I’d asked her if there was a Tesco nearby.

I couldn’t bring myself to participate in the improv. The group of people on the floor fighting over a toilet brush, while one waggled his tongue in and out his heat protected hand, left me speechless.

I have no problems looking like a fool. I just won’t fight other fools to do it.

They really wanted this. I needed to have that ‘willing to pretend to make it with a glove’ type of desperation. But I couldn’t even make eye contact with anyone. Every line I delivered was aimed at someone’s crotch or my own cleavage.

I was their Pradeep. Their Marcela.

My friend got a part in the play, without having to romance homeware. I signed up for the comedy writing class.

I think my first piece will be a drama about a woman trying to write a play about an overweight man trying to make it as an actor.

Maybe IKEA guy could play him. He seems like he would commit to putting on 20 kilos.

 

 

The Line

“Do you know Colonel Gadaffi ma’am?”

I was sure this wasn’t a general question. It wasn’t your typical segue to an insult though. I was mildly impressed the kid knew the name. From what I’d seen in class, he didn’t know much.

It took a bit of willpower not to come back at him with an “I don’t know him, but I hear your mum does…” style comment. I hate low level disruption.

Being a teacher invariably means taking the high road, being reasoned, patient and understanding. Basically, keeping your comebacks and insults to the English office, or pub on Fridays.

Kids will say anything, do anything, push boundaries, take liberties. You teach them what’s acceptable. In my case, you also have to fight the inner child in you that wants verbally decimate them.

You learn to be a patient and controlled person.

The school I am covering for is quite small. An intimate setting compared to the sprawling, two site, jungle of hormones of previous inner city schools I’d worked at. It’s been a tame experience in comparison.

No shits in corridors.

No chairs being thrown.

I had been in two minds over returning to a classroom. Would it be one of those short term stop gaps that evolved into long term giving up on writing?

Would I be able to cope with the indiscriminate arseholery of teenagers? I hadn’t fared that well with adults…

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If you can’t beat them and don’t really care, join them approach. Bad Education

 

School was my social experiment, where I got to test drive the happier, more self assured version of myself. A version that stopped taking shitty behaviour so personally, left people to be responsible for their actions, and was honest about where my line was drawn. It would be the ultimate test.

When a student coughed Curry at an Indian TA the other day, I calmly handed out a detention.

The following class, Gandhi, Dhal, and other innocuous words were woven into responses to questions on Sherlock Holmes, in a show of camaraderie .

It was a banal attack of racially motivated tourettes.

It may seem funny in retrospect. Could even be brushed off. I mean what were they doing wrong? Being silly? Saying random famous figures and names of food? How was that harmful?

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The Snape approach to teaching was still met with subversion.

I’ve been told that as an intelligent adult I have to make concessions for idiotic behaviour, ignorance and those who weren’t raised better.  I was expected to take the high road. To be the better, more understanding person.

I remember discussing my ‘take the high road approach to life’ with an AirBnB roomie.

Why? Was his response.

“Why do you always have to be the adult one when someone else is acting like a complete child?  That guy’s allowed to be a dick right? He’s never called on his bullshit behaviour. But you are because you’re the smarter person. Fuck that.” And with that he disappeared into his room.

It was true. Not everyone is called on their bullshit. If you’re smart you make concessions and cut poisonous people out of your life. When you can’t cut someone out, you have to make a stand.

THE-LINE-MUSTAfter the third random mention of Gandhi  I decided to shine bright like a diamond, and rage on four boys in my class. Anyone ever seen me angry knows this wasn’t pleasant.

The arsehole who maliciously started it, blamed someone else for his behaviour and stormed off bitching with his mate, who had wisely chosen to stay out of it.

The students with a sense of right and wrong tried to apologise for offending me.

The rest watched and learned.

Then a kid who looks about 30 years old decided to hit another student in the face with a balled up pair of PE socks.

I handled it.

I think the experiment is over. Bring me the grown ups.

 

The choice is yours

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 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. Esther’s life is compared to a fig tree, and 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, and 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 then decided 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 my 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.

 

 

 

The Great Escape

In the last month I have been making a more concerted effort to find a job. A friend of mine pointed out to me that if I actually made an effort and a plan, rather than planning to escape as I always did, maybe I would get where I wanted to.

Fair point.

I am not the most patient person when it comes to my goals. If I haven’t made it work in a month it starts feeling like failure. The panic sets in and I start looking at the international teacher posts on TES, or escort work.

I get desperate.

In comparison, I am far more functional in a foreign country alone, with limited funding and only the clothes in my back pack. After 10 years of travel and living abroad I have grown to have more faith in that version of myself.

The woman stuck in her parent’s house isn’t to be trusted and is a proven flight risk.

After the last four months I needed to get away. Recharge. Try again. I needed Brazil.

My days would start with the view of Mount Corcovado and coffee. I visited The Selaron Stairs, Christ the redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, and relaxed on Ipanema and Copacabana. In the evenings I would have conversations with friends, grab a drink, have a laugh and make the best of my time in town.

I was pretty proud of how well I had managed on my own, a feeling that I’d forgotten after months of rejection emails and depressing bank statements.

In my short time in Rio I visited Paraty and Ilha Grande. My Portañol (Spanish/Portuguese mash up)  was getting me through the day and I was able to have conversations where I would normally be taught how to pronounce things, (that r is a killer) or how to swear.

Add to this the fact everyone in Rio seems to be a walking gym advert, and that they advocate for teeny bikinis and no tan lines, then you’ve got a city I can get on board with.

After talking to a few people, I found out that it might be possible to get a teaching job for the new year. So why not move there?

I’ve never had more reason to leave London. Everyone would understand if I gave up. If I went back to Mexico. If I went back to teaching. But things had changed and an escape plan, though great for the short term, would not get me where I needed to be.

On the way to the airport Nelson, my taxi driver, explained the meaning of the word saudade, a word unique to portuguese. He said it was the feeling of missing something you hadn’t felt or experienced in a long time. Like sadness and nostalgia, a longing for something that you didn’t have anymore. Though bittersweet it didn’t always have to be sad.

He then serenaded me with Girl from Ipanema before telling me all the beautiful girls lived in Rio, and I should come back.

I promised that I would when I had a job.