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I am 31, almost 32. My years of being called 'young lady' are numbered. I don't mind this; a year ago I would have minded.

I don't know how this happened. I am married and I go to work and do proofreading. I have nice friends. I have enough money to buy shoes.

Finally my career is going my way -- I have a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful boss.

Two months ago he asked me in my 1:1 if I was quiet at work because of confidence issues -- he brought this up hesitantly, almost as though he was scared of my reaction. I said I was just quiet, but yes, certain social situations scare the hell out of me. He left it at that. But the fact that he'd picked up on this bugged me.

A few days later, he burst into my office to ask me if I had any copywriting experience -- obviously I don't. He asked me if I had any interest -- but I assured him that I liked editing just fine.

The minute he left I thought -- wait, this is me being scared -- this is what he'd picked up on. This is me doubting myself because I've spent too long not having been given a chance career-wise, and too long looking at all the other talented people around me and thinking I was shit. This is me hiding, because when you create something you have nowhere to hide.

So I thought -- just trust him. He hired you. He's always supportive. He brings his pitches to massive clients so you can edit them. He knocks on your door when he's designing an important ad and doesn't know where to put a comma. He knows how to listen. He's always started from a position of faith.

So in our next 1:1, I said, 'I think there's some truth in what you said about confidence.'

His eyebrows went so high they were practically buried in his hairline.

And I told him about how I'd like to try writing. That I was petrified, but I would like to try. And I told him I was scared of creating things -- because then they would be judged. And I was scared that I wasn't quick-thinking enough, because clients want things done within a few hours most of the time. And there was absolutely no judgment.

He said, 'Do you think that's something you have in you? Writing?'

And I said, 'I don't think I'm the most creative person. I don't think I'll be the super amazing freelance copywriter that you dream of. But I am a better writer than most of the dunderheads in marketing. And I think I could save the company some money on some things. And I'd like to make a go of it. If I'm really crappy, you can tell me in a year to stick to the editing.'

And he looked really happy. And he said that he'd come up with a little project for me for the new year -- something low-key, something internal and within branch only -- basically something that I wouldn't have a complete heart-attack over. He said we'd take a 'softly, softly approach.'

A week later, I asked to speak to him privately for five minutes about a work-issue. After we'd spoken, we were walking up the stairs. And he said, 'You know, I'm glad it was only that. I was really scared for a second that we were going to lose you.'

I could have kissed him. Thank you, thank you, thank you Mark Smith -- for believing in me career-wise when no one else would. I wish I could say it to your face, and not just livejournal.

Cross-stitching!!!

Well, I didn't get a chance to edit anything for the Packt Publishing.  I'm surprisingly okay with this, because I know they lost someone who would have worked their eyes out for them.  I have another interview in August to work as a tutor with special needs students at the local college which I'm looking forward to.  Onwards!  I've sort of settled myself to the fact that if I do get married the wedding will be in a barn and everyone will play Cranium while eating J-ello.  Whatever. :)

I've started to get broody so I've taken up an old, old hobby of mine.  Cross-stitching.  I liked doing it as a kid, and I'm pretty damn good at it, if I do say so (ah, another unmarketable skill to add to the collection :) ).  At least all the cross stitch ladies at the shops always said so, complimenting on my astonishing backstitch and ability to count.  But I've always felt disappointed with the cross-stitching world, because even up to mid twenties the selection of patterns was pretty much limited to Jesus, alphabet samplers, flowers, or pictures of houses with flowers around them.  This was the norm:






Walk into any cross-stiching shop pre 2005 and those were your choices.  But it seems the cross-stitching world has exploded in the 5 years I've been away.  Apparently there were people like me who were also fed up with designs from 1842, and now there's the most insanely beautiful patterns out there.  I found one company called Maia, and I want to do absolutely everything they've put out.  Here are some of my favourites.









They're all so gorgeous.  As someone who can't paint, draw or sketch, the ability to create something beautiful through stitching appeals to me.  I like big bright colours - more happiness and more fun to stitch.  And they're cheaper than paintings. :)
Well even if my job search is going terribly it's nice to know that Dan's isn't.  He wasn't even looking for a job, but last week the owner of the company sent out an advertisement saying they were offering a secondement for a manager's position.  As far as I can tell, his company hierarchy is like this:

House Workers---->House Head----->Managers----->Owners

Right now Dan is a house worker.  He decided to go for the interview even though he was fairly certain some truly terrible sounding woman named *Clarisse would get it, which she did.  He was really sad for a bit.  But then the owner offered him Clarisse's house head job for three months :D, since apparently he'd been impressive in the interview or something.  Whether he keeps the job or not is dependent on how good Clarisse is at the management secondement, but either way Dan gets management experience and  a nice little bump in pay for at least 3 months.  And his boss told him to apply again for the management position at the end of three months as well! :D 

I'm very happy for him, but also annoyed that I've been sending out stuff and actually LOOKING for a job, while Dan was contentedly working and a promotion just fell into his lap.  I'm a terrible person.  Must.  Be.  Happy.  For.  Boyfriend.

I hate this.  Eight months is too long to not work.  Also, any potential wedding is going to be at a registry's office if I don't find something ASAP.  Gah.
I love England.  I love the brick houses, the low walls that wrap along every street, and the churches on street corners that nobody goes to.  I love the pub trivia nights with the charming yet slightly-creepy-for-some-reason MC, the fact that nobody gives a damn if I bring a book to a social event and read it, the gyms filled with ladies who look like bags of dough and think I'm a sporty person because they once saw me dive for a shuttlecock.  It's sort of like Kingston, without the self-entitled Queens students and the lake.  It has everything - there's a giant library, a gym, a theatre that is truly hideous from the outside but is lovely and modern inside, two supermarkets up the road, the truly ridiculous statue that's supposed to represent DNA in the town centre (Francis Crick was born here, who knew). It's a town that has all the essentials and stops there. If we really needed the high life, we could be in the centre of London in an hour.  If we want to slow it down, there's our pick of the cutest villages all around us.

I'm somewhat lonely.  I know that will largely be solved by getting a job, but I still feel hopeless about the whole thing.  I had to wait until a few weeks ago to get my National Insurance Number, the UK equivalent of a SIN, before I could start applying to most jobs.   Luckily the city is currently restructuring their library system so they're hiring like crazy, but I haven't heard anything from the 5 different library jobs I've applied for, which depresses me.  They're basically asking for a high school education, experience working with books, and experience running kid's programs, all of which I have.  And I know for a fact I could out customer service anyone in England.  You're lucky if you're grunted at when entering a shop. The whole thing is so frustrating.  I know I'm not worthless, but after 8 months of no or sub employment coupled with no work for 6 months before I got the Japan job makes me wonder about myself.  I've always received glowing recommendations from "actual" jobs.  I want to know why I have so much trouble landing the most basic of positions.

I'm avoiding the publishing company up the road.  They have admin jobs posted on their website, but I'm petrified to apply.  If they don't want me, there's no other publishing companies that aren't pretty much family affairs in Northampton.  I want to work for them - I think the shit ton of experience I have working with and studying kids would actually be somewhat useful to a children's publishing company.  Apparently applying for publishing jobs is covered in my editing course in 2 weeks, so I wonder if I should just wait.  Those jobs have been posted since before I got to England.

But anyways, I do like it here.  When Dan is around we have so much fun.  We're working out a lot.  The other day I was shaving my leg and felt a hard mass where my calf was, and for a second I though I had calf cancer (yes, calf cancer) or something before I realized it was a muscle.  Toned muscle.  I've been hitting up an aquatics aerobicizing class on Thursdays, then a yoga class on Saturdays with a spaced out hippie lady.  And once again, I'm walking everywhere.  It adds up I guess.

I've also been exercising my cooking skills, being as bored as I am when Dan is gone.  I've made chilis, stufffed peppers, cabbage soup with chirizo sausage, stir fries, toad in the hole, brownies, and loads of other stuff.  This nation is obsessed with cooking.  If Japan is weird game shows and Canada is hockey and reality TV, then England is cooking.  I've started watching this ridiculous show where a bunch of people try to outdo each other by having the best dinner party.  

I guess that's it.  I'm happy here.  Just need to fill in the day to day with more stuff.

Uncomfortable Things I Have to Do

"Would you like to donate your organs?  If yes, please tick which ones you are willing to donate."  That was the very first question in my doctor's registration package.  It threw me for a loop.  I've always been pro organ donation, had told myself that I didn't care if people picked over my body scraps after I was dead and gone.  And it didn't matter whether they took my eyes and heart or my lungs and kidneys.  All just organs and tissues of equal rank - unusable - when I'm dead.  But when confronted with a tickbox labled corneas, it became so much harder.  Seems I do subscribe to the notion that some organs are more "me" than others, and that even though I'm gone I don't like the notion of people cutting out my entire chest and throwing my heart into someone else, someone else who is potentially a huge douchebag.  I tried to tell myself that even if my organs were given to a jackass, that only brought the next nice person on the transplant list closer to receiving a donation.  Didn't work.  I tried to read some information online to make a decision, but I found nothing particularly useful and cannot shake the sentence "You can contact us to make the special donation of your face" out of mind. 

I thought of talking it over with my parents, but I have no idea what their reaction might be.  They could be all for it, but my mother could just as easily break down into tears or my dad might have some religious objection I don't know about.  You can't just bring up organ donation into casual conversation - they'd know something was up.  I can't say anything to them.

I ticked the box yes in pen, banking on a certain psychological principle that we more fully support decisions once we've made them.  Didn't work.  The next question was if I'd like to be contacted to donate blood.  I wondered if they'd put that question immediately after a question on organ donation on purpose.  People are generally prepared to make a sacrifice if they've just refused to make a big sacrifice.  But anyways, I ticked no because I always feel quite ill and ready to faint when I've gone for routine blood tests.  My answers to those two questions looked strange side by side. I feel comfortable with my decision on the blood donation. I still don't feel comfortable with organ donation.  But I know I have to just suck it up.

The next uncomfortable thing I have to do is edit a paper about the Japanese earthquake last year.  It's something I try to put out of mind, because it's basically connected to all sorts of horrible things.  Entire cities were wiped out just 400 km away from me.  My  very kind landlord who owned the coffee shop on the first floor of our apartment building waited for contact from his friend in Tohoku. I watched him get sadder and sadder until he realized his friend was dead.  I couldn't watch Western media because it was terrifying, telling me I was doomed to die from radiation poisoning.  The very small trembles we felt were blown out of proportion by my fellow teachers.  "The chandeliers were swaying like pendulums".  "I was crouching on the floor terrified".  No.  The chandeliers were moving slightly and you were taking smiling photos with your students.  They're on facebook.  They acted like they'd survived Auschwitz or something, which annoyed the fuck out of me for some reason I don't really understand.  A friend found a pineapple a few months after the earthquake that was listed as being grown in the Fukushima area, with a notice to support the farmers.  I couldn't read kanji and wondered if I was buying radioactive produce ever day after that.  I wondered if I could get help in an emergency in Japan - as nice as Japanese people are, I'm pretty certain that they'd choose a fellow Japanese person over myself.  How would I communicate if I needed help immediately?  The creepily empty shelves for about a month afterwards, picked over by stockpilers and people shipping stuff to friends up north.   The earthquake wasn't devastating, and I'm not emotionally scarred, it's just something I'd prefer not to relive or think about. I just did it here and it makes me depressed.  But I guess I have to.

When my atheism lands me in hell I swear I'm going to turn the corner on the first day and find myself staring at Walkley Driving Centre.  Honestly, the place is horrible.  Filled with bitter, unhelpful government employees and ugly green parking posts with ominous yellow lettering, tricky medians out front and a very missable turn in....I hate the place.  My test was booked for the 13th, and after my driving instructor and I practiced for close to two hours we got to Walkley only to find out all lessons were cancelled that day because it was snowing.  It even wasn't that bad.  It was Friday the 13th (the only day open for weeks when I booked), and it was probably someone with a superstitious bent who saw the snow and decided to be extra careful. 

Anyway, I wanted to get to England and I didn't want to do that without my license, as it expires in July.  The centre told me I could come back on the 24th.  And that was a horrible idea, because my instructor leaves on the 1st of March and if I failed I would have had to wait 10 days and obviously not been able to use his car and practice with the person I was used to etc. etc.  So today we sat in Walkley on standy for 3 hours, waiting for someone to cancel.

Finally someone did.  I don't think I'm a bad driver, just a very nervous one, and that carried over to the test, with my leg shaking and my arms shaking and my lip twitching.  I did loads of stupid things (I got 14 mistakes) and scared the fuck out of the tester when I drove on the right side of the median.  My driving instructor had told me to go there, but the tester was all "What are you doing????  You should be in the centre!!!"  .  I was fairly sure I'd failed the test right then and there, but anyways, I tried not to cry and somehow got back and managed to do the only decent park I've done in my life.   I turned off the ignition and  the tester just looked at me for 15 seconds going hmmm....hmmmm...hmmmm.  Then, "Yeah, OK, I'll give it to you."  My driving instructor was gobsmacked, the most mistakes he'd ever seen someone pass with was 12.  Then again, 14 is a vast improvement over the 56 from my failed G test from 3 years ago, so yeah, good?

Anyhow, I don't like driving much.  I feel nervous in traffic.  But it'll be nice to be able to drive the 5 minutes down the road to buy deoderant and park at Fallowfield station and take the downtown buses from there, and not have to wait 30 minutes for the stupid Barrhaven buses that never fucking come.  My parents wouldn't let me drive with my G2 because that wasn't a full license, which is just retarded to me.  They'll probably still be dicks about me driving now as well, ("but you're only a new driver!"), but at least I have this license if I ever come back to Canada and desperately need a car.  I hopefully will never have to drive ever again.  Northampton is small enough that downtown is a 20 minute walk from the furthest areas.  

And now I can apply for my visa.  The UK Border Agency website says all visas in my category have been processed in 10 business days, and 3/4 of those were in 5.  So now I just have to do that, then book a flight.  If luck is on my side, I'll be out of here in 3-5 weeks.  

I also started my online course.  I don't really find the trade book industry terrible fascinating, but I really like the copy editing one.  Editing is actually quite logical, which I like, but at the same time I'm editing something new and interesting all the time.  It's only been a week though, so we'll see what happens.

I'm just happy.  Happy Walkley is a thing of the past and that I did something that I find petrifying.  I still find driving quite scary, but I'm much better than I used to be and I know I can at least drive to more centrally located bus stops, even if I'll always avoid downtown. :)
I was reading Sarah's blog recently and it made me consider what I've learned this year.  I think my life has seen some fairly major upheavals over the past 365 days, but I think I've been even more reflective than I usually am.  So -

1.  I don't want to live out my entire life in Canada.

Sure, I was terribly homesick by the end of my time in Japan.  But within two weeks of being back and seeing my friends and family, I could have left again.  I wanted a giant poutine, I wanted to walk on grass, I wanted to wear jeans with ragged bottoms and have no makeup on.  But after having those things, I looked around and realized Canada isn't better or worse than any other place I've been to.  It's got a lot of wonderful things to be sure, but it also annoys me in a lot of ways.  I'm not sure if it's because I've been in a country where people are fairly quiet about the good qualities they have, but I find people here have this obnoxious, morally superior attitude that annoys me.  We are so beautiful.  We have health care.  We allow gay marriages.  We have women rights.  That coupled along with the culture of "you have said something that I disagree with, I am offended, you cannot offend me, OFFENSE!  OFFENSE!  OFFENDED!" without consideration to the "offender's" intent drives me up the wall. I find it sets up a rather bad expectation - the world revolves around you and your values.  And while it would be lovely if the world could accommodate everyone's viewpoint, some values just simply clash with one another, and I feel like Canada is heading to a point where it's going to choose the route of everyone is equal over keeping the qualities that actually make it a nice place to live.  I find people live side by side with no cohesion, and I felt that doubly in Toronto.   But of course, any country is going to have a downside.  However:

2.  The only time I am not somewhat bored is when I'm in another country.

England will have its faults to be sure.  I've definitely noticed that Dan spends more time than I ever would talking about class, "poshness", and making fun of upper class accents, which is somewhat off putting.  Other English "English" teachers in Japan did this at well.  When I went to England, I found people fairly self contained and not as open as the average Canadian, not to mention the food was god awful.  But I know my brain will be moving again - I like getting to a country and not knowing how things work.  The money is different, people think differently to me, they talk about different things.  The houses look different and people do different things for pleasure.  And I know being interested doesn't wear off...in Japan I felt like I understood how things worked much better after 6 months, and after a while I didn't want to visit anymore temples, but I was always interested in how people could think so differently to me, and the things they considered important.  But none of this could happen if I didn't...

3  Surround myself with good people.

I think Japan became difficult at the end because I had no one.  I felt a million miles away from Jason and the few friends I made would keep leaving.  It's given me pause to think about how I interact with people, and especially consider my ideas on the individual and on the group.  I still agree with putting individual versus group needs first, but I think I've also mellowed towards the idea that it's OK to be somewhat dependent.  As I see it, Canadians tend to have this mentality that you need to be a fully independent, operating machine, who could survive without anyone.  Christ, you're not supposed to even consider getting married until you have everything in your life sorted - career, finances, personal fulfillment.  And when you're halfway through your life, you're supposed to magically tack on someone who has also operated for the first 30 or so years of their life putting what they want first, then throw yourself into a situation where you'll have to start making compromises.  Don't get me wrong, career, finances and all that stuff are great.  But since we have birth control kicking around, I think it would be worthwhile to consider that two people leaning on each other, and learning to do so earlier on rather than later might be advantageous.

I need people.  I've never felt more alone in the world than when my parents told me they wouldn't help me a month back.  Ayn Rand's idea of a person who functions in complete independence with no one is still retarded to me.  But anyways, after my parent's letter, and after seeing how busy my friends from high school and university were, I sort of realized how terrifyingly small my social circle is.  I know I'll have Dan and his friends when I get there, but I've already done a few things that will put me in a position to meet people - I've already joined a yoga class, a book club, and a general social group...in Northampton.  

4. I need a job I can do anywhere, that is useful, and that I don't mind.  I don't need to love it.

I need a job that I can do from anywhere because maybe 5 years from now I'll want to move back to Canada (doubtful though it is), or even somewhere else.  Things might not work out with Dan.  I need to feel like what I am doing legitimately improves something - this was my one fear with my teaching - I never had any idea if my students were actually learning.  With editing, you find a mistake and you correct it.  Something written is improved.  Also, I'm 28, and this great love I'm supposed to find over an interest hasn't happened, unless you count reading psychology studies, which doesn't really lend itself to a career.  I would also possibly like children one day and it would be wonderful if I could stay at home with them.  Now, I just need to hope I have a smidgen of talent.

5. Dylan Moran shares a terrifying amount of my life views, and helps me clarify my own thoughts.

Dylan Moran is an Irish comedian.  He looks like he stumbled out of a dumpster most of the time - disheveled clothes, hair all over the place, cigarette in one hand and drink in the other.  He's not the one person I'd pick out of a line up if I was choosing a new best friend randomly.  But I feel as though he was this uncanny knack of understanding how people operate to get themselves through the day.  Like Bruce McCullough, if you know him.  He is also insanely good with words, and his comedy is this bizzarre blend of philosophy and surreal mental images (a sinister looking piece of cauliflower playing blackjack in a casino).  Anyways, it always gives you hope when you feel your thoughts are shared by someone out in the world.  Anyway:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aunrJ5CXVMw
It's odd to exit a comfortable life with regular paycheques, occasional moments of fulfillment at my work, and then chuck myself headlong back into studenthood, and a program that I only might like. One part of me knows I've always enjoyed the company of people decades older as much if not more than people my own age. They're time travelers and they're here now! It knows psychology is bitching but I'm not the type who would do well in a research lab, researching whether and how optimism and propensity toward fruit flavored ice creams are linked for 30 years. I would stab myself if my job was to listen to people moan and bitch about their problems in a room filled with Renoir and Cezanne paintings. It knows that while the salary is terrible, it's enough provided Prince Charming makes the same. It sadly realizes that with said salary kids may not fit into the picture, but the occasional adventure to Mexico would still stand. It knows my prospects for jobs will only get better with every year. It knows what I enjoyed best about being a teacher is when I connected with someone and we brought something to each other's lives, even if that was just them talking about how much they liked their cat. It knows I'm a board game fiend and that while I cannot make the simplest of crafts, I would enjoy having ice cream parties out on the lawn.

But then every few days I wonder if I should become an editor, and then the next day I want to be a homemaker (for a bachelor apartment?), and then a travel writer, and then I want to go to Indonesia and be a scuba diving instructor. Or I return to my one memory of an old aged home, as a shrimpy girl in an ill fitting Brownie uniform singing in front of a very scary crowd of white haired sleepyheads, all of whom commented in crackly, cellophane voices on the smoothness of my hands as I served them tea and tried not to knock scalding water into their laps. And I wonder what the hell I was thinking in choosing a profession that essentially requires me to be an organizer and social butterfly.

And Toronto is scary and strange. And deep, deep down I know that I'm not qualified for life the way other people are. And what if those 2 first years in Japan is the highlight of my life, Corey Feldman's teenage years?
Today I hung up my laundry only to find the floor scattered with tea leaves and an empty tea bag at the bottom of the washing machine. I haven't drank tea in at least a month and am fairly certain I don't stuff my pockets with tea bags after I'm finished with them. Your theories?

Also I have a coworker that:
a/is in love with all the same British shows as me
b/thinks that the people I find annoying at ECC are annoying as well, before proclaiming that I was tolerable company

Lastly, I am annoyed that Daniel Ryan Spaulding is in Edinburgh at the same time as me, putting on a show. I find him annoying because he thought I was a lesbian and couldn't be convinced otherwise, and because he called me Diane for an entire fucking year, or rather the parts of the year where he remembered that I was, in fact, in the same weekly drama lab as him and was in possession of a name.

And real lastly, Sarah's cottage is deliciously close and I am going to have so much fun I may die from happiness. Yay!

Cryptic Enough?

Today I felt so genuinely beautiful and loved I didn't know what to do with myself. I told someone about all the people and things that tramp around in my head with what I generally find to be worrisome amounts of detail and they didn't give me a weird look or launch into how I needed help with that. Their face didn't click over to the standard "I am dealing with a psycho" and tell me I should seek medical attention immediately and ask about when I last took my medication. I was told I was fine. Fine! It didn't even stop the conversation. The conversation continued onto socks.

I still feel like there's a rule in the universe, a sub clause of Murphy's law that states "anything that Diana can fuck up, will be fucked up". And I know I'm a pretty gullible and naive person. But today there is what I consider to be a fairly large chance that someone genuinely thought I was fine, with all my cards out on the table face up with my thousand dollar bet for the taking. It's like they looked at the bet, looked at me, frowned at their own cards even though they had the winning hand, said "Fold", then pushed back my money to me with a big smile.

I will try to be as clear sighted as possible in order not to fuck this up by living TOO much in the clouds, but even if I do there is this lovely delicious moment in the space time continuum where I felt more cared for, healthy and downright great than I have in a startlingly long time.

By the way, the Doctor just said, "Well, I'm glad that's sorted then. You know, it's quite lovely living in this head of yours."

"You must feel trapped sometimes. It's not the whole of the universe. It's one brain, one person."

"Yes, but it's bigger on the inside."

Which I think is pretty hokey but he looks so pleased with his little joke that I don't want to say anything to spoil his feeling of cleverness.

In the messed up way of the universe, I actually feel more realistic after this conversation. I'm on a lovely high and actually think I might be able to feel and care for real people again. Maybe I'm bipolar. No no, I am fine. Fine. Fine!!!!!