Sunday, 29 August 2010

Marriage Part One: Ding Dong...Shut Those Bells Up!

Enough about jobs for now! A change of pace is in order. As well as being on the career train, it seems those wedding bells have been a’ chimin’ all over the place recently. Yes that time has come; that early twenties phase when everyone is getting down on one knee and hopping up that aisle. So it made me rethink my thoughts on marriage in general.

One thing my mother has said to me in the past is that marriage changes everything. What I once viewed as just a big party and a piece of paper to make it official has now evolved into something much more real than that in light of my friends all getting hitched. What exactly does make us take that next step?

The first of my old school pals to take the plunge is doing it for some reasons that I very much admire. We all knew she’d be the first, and I would like to take this opportunity to say congratulations, just over a month until the big day! Her and her fiancé both come from Christian backgrounds, and this has remained the central focus of their lives. Marriage for them is so much more than a bond between themselves; it also encompasses and is a huge part of their faith. Having held Christian beliefs in the past and knowing quite how much it means to her, that’s the very reason why I would never get married in a church. Out of all those people sitting there and watching them tie the knot, the most important of all for them to stand witness is their God, and I would feel like so much of a hypocrite for doing the same. If you don’t believe in a Christian God, why would you stand and take vows that involve Him? I would just feel like my whole wedding was a complete sham! I understand it’s tradition and all, but aren’t we past tradition now? It’s also tradition to not have sex until after the wedding but most of us overlook that part. For me, if I ever did get married, it would be about finding someone I wanted to spend the rest of my days with and exclusively about that. God wouldn’t be a part of it because if He were not even thought of in any other part of my life, why would He be so on one of the most important days I ever have?

 Don’t get me wrong, of course when I was little I dreamed of wearing a white dress and having my father give me away. That just makes me think though, is there just something out there conditioning us little girls to think that way?! Is it expected at some point in a relationship we will need to take the next step and get married? I guess that’s tradition again, but as far as I see it there is still some kind of social pressure out there even though times have changed so much when it comes to relationships. I think that nowadays there’s just no need for that progression into marriage when our views on sex and love are becoming more liberal. Of course I’m not damning the whole concept and I’m so happy for my friends that have thus far got engaged, but I think it’ll be a long time before you see me heading up that aisle as a bride and that advice from my Mum will stick with me for a while yet. If I’m happy in a relationship I’d like to keep it that way and not over-complicate anything for as long as possible! As far as I see it, what’s the rush? I always thought the idea of having a ‘We’re not getting married!’ party in which I will wear an (off)white dress would be more my kind of style. Plus it’ll appease that little girl inside of me who always wanted that special day.  

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Mind The Gap...

Most of you have probably read in the last week or so the huge drop in successful University entries for 2010 in comparison to previous years. Working with three students who just got their A-level results bought it all back to me; the nerves, that envelope that doesn’t seem to open because of your shaking hands, reading the information far too quickly to actually process the grades you’ve achieved. It was that day back in 2006 that I knew I was headed to Lincoln University to study English and Media in a matter of about three weeks. Even though I did enjoy my time at Uni, I for one wish I had slammed on those brakes and taken time to think about it more. So I’d like to say for all those guys out there who are unsure… ‘Hooray for the Gap Year!!’ Lord knows I wish someone had told me that.

I can hardly complain too much, three years of horrendously boozing, socialising and roughly 15 hours contact time a week wasn’t exactly tricky. However, my main regret was that I wish I had know more about who I was then; I look back now and think ‘Geez I was an idiot and so very very young!’ Maybe that’s the whole charm of going to Uni sooner rather than later in that you’re thrown out into the wilderness all alone and are forced to give a cold hard stare at who you want to be and what kind of impression you want to give of yourself to all these strangers. Granted I did love my course (eventually) and if I had waited I probably would have chosen the exact same thing. But looking back I now value a little life experience more than being thrown into Uni at the tender age of 18 and 3 months with not a clue.

If I could do it all again, I’d take my brother’s path. (Pretty sure he’s got a grin on his face now, yes a special mention James!) Once finishing A-levels and getting accepted into all those Uni’s, my brother took a second to realise that wasn’t entirely what he wanted to do. So, for the past six years, he’s been working and travelling and gaining more experience than most people do in a lifetime, and all before his 24th birthday. Whilst it may not be an academic achievement, he’s probably got a lot more sense in that little noggin of his than he did when he’d just finished sixth form. And now in 2010, my big brother is packing up his life and heading to get his degree, in a completely unrelated subject to his first choice back in 2004. Now, is it just me or does that sound like a much more appealing option? Granted he has been very lucky to be able to afford the things he has done. I know a few people that are forced to go to Uni if they have the grades because it’s just more financially stable than trying to get a decent full time job right now. (Did I just call being a student financially stable?!)

I’m sure there are thousands out there who just cannot wait to get on that student booze train and I know for sure they’ll have the time of their lives. But I wish that I had been a bit more world-savvy when I enrolled. In such a case, I would have had more of an idea of what I wanted out of Uni rather than just going for the sake of it along with the tidal wave of other hopeful teenagers. I think just having more of a sense of who you are, what kind of people you want to socialise with and what you value as important would help a lot of people really make the most out of University, more so than students straight from school who hardly have time to think about it outside of what kind of cutlery they want to bring with them.

So lesson learnt. And whilst I try and live my gap year now after I’ve finished my degree, it’s just not quite the same. With my education under my belt the expectation is that I need a steady job as soon as possible and I’m just not there yet, as you might have read in my previous posts. Only one conclusion I can come to I guess; life experience here I come, sorry I’m a little late. 

Monday, 23 August 2010

Job Satisfaction: Part Two

My second part to considering job satisfaction is what I originally intended to sit and write about, that first section just kind of evolved into something different! I’ve worked in retail now part and full time since I was 16, so 7 years. Two months ago I made a vow that 2010 will be the last year I ever do so. There’s something I’ve realised that is important for me in the work I might do in the future is that I want to feel like it’s important. Whatever kind of mask you put over the world of retail and what it contributes to society, all it is there to do is make money. I’m sure all those coffee companies like to think they’re business is about making good beverages for people to enjoy, a clothing shop might say something similar about what they produce, but let’s face it, it’s all about the money. Of course you need money for any business to keep afloat, and I find it a shame that money can have such a grip on us all and prevent us from doing the things we want, but such is this life we all know.

A girl I met whilst doing my volunteering at the Wildlife Trust made a point that pretty much sums up what I’m trying to say here. She works at part of the education team there and that particular day she was leading a bug hunt at a special needs school and a friend of mine and myself helped out. Whilst talking about jobs etc. she said ‘The way I see it is that if I had an office job and didn’t turn up one day, the work would still get done, no one would miss me. If I hadn’t have turned up to my job today, none of this would have happened.’ That’s more or less exactly how I feel about my job at Animal. If any one of our members of staff didn’t turn up to work one day, the likelihood is that we’d still make the same amount of money, which is essentially our goal. Why on earth would I want to stay in a job where I’m not needed every day?! Granted yes we’d be understaffed, the work might be a bit more difficult and trying to find someone to fill in might be a bit of a pain but surely these are all just minor blips, it’s not going to threaten the business too much!

Someone I specifically wanted to talk to about this was my manager at Animal, as he’s been in retail for 14 years, so I asked him for some input as the very opposite of how I feel about it all. After being unsuccessful in joining the fire service, and then having aspirations to become an outdoor pursuits instructor, he started working at an outdoor shop just to earn some money whilst he qualified. Lo and behold he’s still in shops to this day. There’s so many people I think that go into retail at 16 just like this and then end up getting comfortable and sticking with it. The one thing my manager has at least done is that he always said that whatever work he did find himself in, he set goals to achieve and always aimed to become higher, and that I do admire. I guess that’s what I’ve found myself doing the past year working in retail is thinking ‘Well I’m here, I may as well learn something and try to do the best job I can’. But I just find it so sad that some people get a bit stuck and then so many years down the line are still there. It doesn’t make sense to me why you wouldn’t get out of it whilst you can and try to do the things you’ve dreamed to do. That’s certainly what I’m attempting; my job at the moment is a means to an end. I don’t know, maybe some people who work in retail do think they’re job is important and I’m just not getting it?!

When I do (eventually) find a job that’s in any shape or form going to be my career, I’d like to think I’m making a difference each day I’m there. Nobody can change the world single-handedly, but I think that you can contribute much more than you realise to the environment around you, and that will eventually have a knock on effect and make a change somewhere, even if it’s just a small one like making someone’s day more bearable. I think the reason why I’ve started writing this is mainly just because I like creating; producing something that I hope comes across as thought provoking. For the minute it’s mainly for myself, and as I do it more I’d like to feel that one day I might get somewhere with it. If I inspire anyone in any way by what I write, that would be one hell of an achievement.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Job Satisfaction: Part One

Don’t be too put off by my outwardly boring title to this post, I swear I’ll make it interesting somehow! The reason why I’ve chosen to write about job satisfaction boils down to the fact that I myself am not satisfied in my job. I’m currently a supervisor at an Animal store (the clothing brand and not some kind of pet store, although that would probably be more exciting!) and although Animal is probably one of the best retailers I’ve worked for, I still find myself wishing away my working hours. This past year has been the first in which I’ve had to work full-time, and it’s made me realise a few things about the direction in which I want my working life to go. There’s two main points I want to make about this so it’s now become a two-parter!

Jobs are funny things I think. Some people shape their entire lives around their work i.e. doctors, lawyers etc. Others just use work as a means to an end; a job is a way to make money, which enables them to live life. Of course there is nothing wrong with that first option, in that if you’ve found something you love and getting paid to do it is just a bonus (in the case of doctors or lawyers, a pretty big bonus!) then what more could you ask for. But what if you don’t love the work you’re in? I remember the days in Sixth Form when we were all applying for Uni, and I asked one of my friends why is it that she wanted to do Accountancy. ‘For the money’ was her answer. Huh?! Is that the only reason you’d want to work killer hours is a high-pressure atmosphere? Perhaps I just don’t get it as I put more value on experience  than I do on making money (although the catch-22 in that is that most of the time I need money to do the living i.e. travelling that I want to do. Psch!) Or there's the other situation in that people find themselves stuck in jobs they hate as they have to support family etc. Or the fact is that money makes you happy. All of these situations make me feel sad for these people, especially those with no hope of getting out. Essentially aren't these people sitting round, not grabbing life by the balls and seeing what's out there, and dare I say it just waiting to die?! My worst nightmare would be sit on my death bed and think ‘Well, maybe I wasn’t all that happy in my job that I've done all my life and didn’t get to do half the things I wanted because of it, but damn, people thought I was successful and I made a tonne of money!’

I guess what I’m saying is that for me, at this point in time, the way I earn money to live doesn’t have to shape my life. I’ve never really thought I’d have a particularly successful career (as much as I loathe to use the word) and it’s only now that I realise it’s because it doesn’t seem important to me. Yeah if someone gave me the opportunity of a job that paid me a sweet sum to do something I love (for example sitting her in my pj’s yapping on and drinking tea) then of course I wouldn’t turn it down. But right now I don’t feel like there’s a need for me to get on and really settle down with something. I’m working at Animal to save up and do some more travelling, a hobby which becomes more impossible to do when you’re tied down with a ‘real’ job. I’m trying to take advantage of the fact I’m young and can afford to do something like that for now.

In a way I’m doing exactly what I just said I hate, standing in a shop for 40 hours a week, but I like to think of it as a short-term means to an end and I know it’ll all be worth it when I’ve booked those plane tickets to wherever it may be. Volunteering on my days off keeps me sane and gives me a bit of experience to fall back on when I do decide to get a job that might lead somewhere! 

Monday, 16 August 2010

Speak Up Ladies!

Although I don’t want to harp on about India too much, I have had a few things pop into my mind since returning that are worthy of getting down on here. Most of these have come from talking about my experience out there with friends, particularly at work when we’re standing round doing nothing! Whilst talking to a few of my work colleagues about my admiration for the simple kind of lifestyle I encountered in India, a couple of them didn’t seem so convinced. One of the girls I’m close to at work is a lesbian, and she explained how she wouldn’t enjoy a place like India due to the fact she would feel the people there wouldn’t accept her for who she is. This triggered some thoughts that I had whilst I was out there with regards to the Indian gay community.

On a particularly rainy day, probably in Chandigarh where there was literally nothing to do other than traipse around trying to work out bus routes, me and George were flicking through the channels on the TV in our hotel room and came across a news piece about the growing gay scene in India. It would be fairly obvious to state that this of course has hugely struggled to become accepted, and only in recent years has it started to be tolerated, and only really in big cities such as Mumbai. There are so many factors that affect this, one being that it is still illegal to be homosexual. Such a close and intimate tradition of family, specifically a patriarchal one, also stands in the way of one being able to come out as gay; if you were rejected by your family, many people would be left with nothing. What struck me more whilst watching this programme, and something I turned to ask George was ‘Where are all the women?’ The story was exclusively interviewing and discussing the male gay community.

So I had a little mooch on my much-beloved friend Google to see why this might be, with little results. Many of the websites I looked at only really used a bracket term of ‘gay and lesbian’, when I thought there might be a bit more info out there as to the difference between acceptance of male or female homosexuals. I would have thought, and I might be speaking in very basic terms here and not strictly just about India, that being a lesbian would be more acceptable than a gay man in the eyes of a very traditional family in that gay sex holds so many more risks with disease etc. Coming out as a gay woman in India seems so much more hush hush than coming out as a gay man. Is it a case that men have more power to express themselves? Is there more coverage on the news and such about gay men because it could be deemed more controversial? 

In Mumbai an openly gay night is held in a local hotspot once a month, and the organisers were more than pleased when they reached numbers of around 350 gay men attending. For one, this just seems so crazy that they a) have an event only once a month whilst we have dozens every night in Britain alone and b) that they were happy that 350 people came. This illustrates the struggle they’re having with trying to get the message out that it’s okay to be gay. I for one am happy that it’s finally starting to occur. The case is sadly not so happy for a similar event for lesbian women in which no one turned up. Are women more afraid? With so much focus on family, do Indian women feel that if they came out as lesbian their own family would be utterly disappointed that they’re not settling down and procreating, as a woman should do?

I guess it’s something that I can’t answer myself. Having gay and lesbian friends and not thinking of them as any different to each other in terms of their sexuality means I probably couldn’t get into the mindset of someone who does. This subject in particular is a hard one to conclude, as there are so many striking differences between my experience of homosexuality and India’s. One thing I did come across is the idea that it was the western colonisation coming to India that actually brought along with it the prejudice against homosexuality. Let’s not forget the good old Karma Sutra, a piece of Indian history that seems to hold no boundaries when it comes to sex. Did we just ruin it for the lot of them?!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Those Old Town Blues

So here I am, back in old Blighty, and even though it was only a two-week trip I took this time, those post-traveling blues hit me pretty hard. It has been just over two weeks since my return and I’m still struggling! Regardless of the brief nature of my travels to India, I think because it was so far removed from what I’d ever experienced before and I’d started to get used to that, it was still just as strange coming home as it was when I returned from my trip to Europe last year after two months. Even just seeing actual lanes on a road was bizarre on the drive home from the airport, as we got so used to the ruthless rickshaw and taxi drivers swerving all over place. I guess the fact I felt like a zombie due to severe jet lag probably didn’t help me adjust either.

Luckily a friend of mine from Australia happened to be in England to entertain me the next day, and we started to talk about that feeling you get once you get home from a stint of traveling. She was away from home for about a year, and I actually met her in the middle of her trip in Budapest. We both agreed that there’s nothing worse than coming back home, realising nothing’s changed. Everyone you left before is probably in the same job; your parents, family and friends are still plodding along with their daily routine. There’s that daunting prospect of having to go back to work, back to reality, back to actually finding a job. You can’t wake up and think ‘Today I’m going to experience something new, meet some more people from all over the world, hop on a train to another county.’

There’s something to remember in this, in that you are not alone! Just to see what everyone else thought, I typed ‘post-traveling blues’ into Google, and up popped endless blogs giving tips, advice and survival guides on how to beat this horrible feeling. Wikipedia even has a page on ‘PTD’ or ‘post travel depression’ (although of course the credibility of Wikipedia should always be questioned!) There’s the fairly obvious solutions like create a detailed photo album, catch up with old friends and show them said photo album, put said photos on Facebook and reminisce about the times had with people you met along the way. I actually could hardly bring myself to look at my photos from Europe as my vivid imagination took me back to those moments and my longing to return was too overwhelming!

I myself have one way of coping with being back home when it’s the last place I want to be. I’ve lately been thinking about how I believe to continually set myself goals, and this doesn’t necessarily just apply to beating home town blues; I don’t think I could get through most days without knowing I’m standing at work doing nothing productive (I work in a clothes shop, inactivity and boredom are occupational hazards) for a very good reason. Since I returned from Europe, my target for November 2010 has always been to go the Canada for a few months. India was a nice little ambition to keep me going in the middle but now I’ve returned from this, it’s not long until I should be hopping over the pond and kicking back in Vancouver for a while, at last! Every second I find myself losing the will to live at work, I look ahead to pay day and work out how much I can save for my eagerly anticipated trip, and the fact I’m financially right on track fills me with the positive attitude I need to know that it’ll all be worth it once I’m out there. Until then, you’ll just have to read about my fairly mundane life at home, I’ll try to make it as interesting as possible I promise!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

India Part 3: The Simple Life

This final section on India sprung from my thoughts written in the previous entry. I’m at a point in my life now where the word ‘job’ is constantly on my mind. I’m 22, one year out of Uni and am desperately trying to work out what I’m good at and enjoy that could make me a living! (Any possible publishers or magazine folk out there reading this, it is now your cue to email me. Will write for food.)  Having gone straight from GCSE’s, to A levels, to Uni and dozens of career options thrown at me, now is the time to act on them.

As I’ve explained previously, having a job, no matter how menial it may seem, is highly respected in India, and that’s your life’s lot. The likelihood is that you will continue to do that job and get by for the rest of your life. I considered two ways of looking at this. In our western culture, many of us are encouraged and pushed to always achieve more. We’ll strive on through life trying to earn more money, respect, status, fame etc. I for one can say that this subject has definitely been on my mind recently. What can I do well and what job can I find to be the best I possibly can in that field?

Part of me considers it a shame that people in India just don’t have the opportunity to share this kind of dare to dream attitude. As a male, you’d probably end up taking on the family business, a trade you’d be born into, some turn out luckier than others! The only opportunity of work you’d have would be to tag along with Pops and hope for the best. Women would be a slightly different case as I guess you would help your mother in the home and use the things you’ve learnt from her in your own household once you are married. At times I found it sad that this would be their only choice in life.

However, there is of course another way of considering this. You could argue that many of these people just don’t know any different; this is their way of life and the norm. It has to be said that Indian people are some of the most friendly and welcoming individuals I have ever met, and what’s the betting it’s because they’re ten times happier than any high-flying businessman out there? Whilst they might not have what our western world might consider success or ambition, they hold more important values very close the their hearts; loyalty, family and hospitality to name a few.  To me, these seem like basic human principles that the Indian nation seems to have got down to a tee, and yet with our readily available education, they are some of the things we struggle with most.  Have our careers got in the way of also being content with what we have around us? Being so focused on what we need to achieve in the future has perhaps made us forget the simple pleasures of just living; a tasty meal, and evening with friends, or even just waking up after a bloody good sleep.

Whilst I will still strive to set myself more goals to accomplish in my life (and of course being grateful that I have the resources to do so) I intend to be happy with simplicity at the same time. If there’s anything that every single British person could take away from a visit to India, it’s to be grateful for our cushdy little set up here on our side of the globe. With this in mind, I often sat at dinner over there with three of the people I most love and admire in this world, and thought to myself that whilst it’s amazing to experience this country, it’s a blessing at least to be able to just sit and have a giggle over something with my pals (usually Mikey’s complete incapacity to remember anything whatsoever). I can honestly say I have never laughed so much in two weeks, and that’s a simple enough pleasure for me.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

India Part 2: Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man…Thief?


Something that my brother pointed out at the beginning of our trip in India and also a realisation I came to was that at no point did we feel unsafe whilst being there. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a bit apprehensive for the first few days as so many people come up and talk to you, and when I traveled Europe this usually meant they were distracting you so that someone else could pinch your belongings! However I did just come to know that these were innocent acts of business or the locals wishing to practice their English and fancied a chat.

During my previous travels I got so used to padlocking my backpack whenever I left it out of my sight if there was anything of value in it. I went to do this in India and George pointed out that he hadn’t really bothered to do anything similar, and if there’s one thing he’d noticed in the three weeks prior to my arrival was that the locals just don’t tend to steal. Countless times I walked through the streets with my money in the very accessible front pocket of my bag and literally not once were there any attempts to take anything.

So I started to think why this is, and George made an interesting point that stuck in my head. Whether this is a general belief that Hindu’s have I don’t know (if any one does please enlighten me as I’d be interested to find out!) but you get the feeling that whatever you do with you life to get by, whether it be a shop keeper, a road sweeper, a chai-wallah (possibly my favourite Indian term) etc. then that is all you’ll ever be and you make it the best job you can. Just having a job, no matter what it is, and making an honest living is a highly respected thing, and come to think of it this is the impression I get from the Indian people I know who live back here in England also.

If you robbed a tourist, stole a few thousand rupees, yeah you’d have a few more bucks in your pocket but you’d go and spend it and then what? Back to running cups of chai. (Oh naïve little me I hear you cry! Obviously there are people out there who do attempt to make a living from stealing, and not just in India of course but for now I’m ignoring those cases!) I got the impression that the people there seem to think theft is pointless and it’s much more honorable to make a living by law-abiding means. This is of course the case in most countries and not just India but being aware that we do have more money than many of these people and standing out so blatantly as a tourist, I was surprised that pick-pocketing wasn’t something more frequently encountered there, and it’s hardly even mentioned in the guidebook as being a problem.

Another reason and something that’s just dawned on me now is that I guess it’s got something to do with the Hindu belief in karma and reincarnation. If you make the most of and do that best you can in sweeping those dusty roads in this life, karma will dish you out the things you need to get by and then you’ll progress to something better when reincarnated in the next life. Perhaps a gap in the market for some kind of after-life job seekers enterprise?! Maybe not.