“We’re all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out”

Wednesday Night, I got back after a hectic five days travelling all over the country. I had an assessment centre on Monday in the North of England, and another on Wednesday in the South. Yeah.

I went home on Friday night, to see my mother and my cat and to break the travel north up a bit. My father is away on business, again, and I get the feeling that my mother gets lonely without him around, and finds it tiring looking after the house and herself whilst working long shifts. I can understand that. I get like that too, living alone. Some nights I come home and wish there was a meal waiting for me, that the dishes had been done, that the trash had been taken out. I don’t usually have anyone to pick up for me when I’m busy though, not like my mother has my father. So I went home and spent the weekend babying my mother a little – keeping the house neat for her, making sure she had nice food to come home too, listening to her. I had a good time – my mother was working so I had the house to myself a lot. Just me and my cat in a nice quiet, heated house- what could be better? On Sunday I hooked my phone up to our HD TV and watched korean dramas whilst ironing. I felt like a total ajumma but korean dramas, a mindless chore, the sun streaming through the windows and my cat sleeping on the mat nearby. It was wonderful. I needed that.

On Monday my mother woke me up early so I could catch the train to my first assessment centre. As the train pulled away she waved and blew kisses which was embarrassing, but also kind of cute and made me smile. The day turned out to be very long and tiring. On the way back I picked up katsu curry from yo sushi, because I did not want to cook but I wanted to keep my personal promise to myself that I wouldn’t let my mother do anything until I left. Then my mom picked me up from the station and we got home, planning to go straight to bed, food and all. My mom had to catch a call from her friend so I sat down to eat by myself – although the cat has started to climb up on the table to sleep at night, and that evening she took it to the next level – climbing up and sniffing at my plate, at my spoon as I lifted it to eat. I started to laugh, I couldn’t help it. I knew I shouldn’t encourage her but she was so blatant and cheeky, and so cute for it. I ended up reaching out with a chopstick, flicking it side to side and my cat started playing. I realised she was entering crazy time and abandoned supper to play with her, laughing and teasing her. I needed that too. My cat makes me so happy. My cat grew tired and gave up and my mom got off the phone so we took to bed. I curled up with my favourite stuffed toy next to my mom and we watched crappy TV and talked. We were both exhausted after our long days. This is how it’s going to be every day when you get a job, my mom told me, and I whined at that because I was so tired I could barely move – the whole day keeping up a mask, trying to be someone else (I read somewhere that if you are shy you should pretend to be someone confident you know when at job interviews. I pretend to my sister. It’s exhausting – we are nothing alike – but I definitely feel more approachable and less awkward when I do this) and I cannot even imagine having to do that every day.

I had Tuesday morning to myself where I planned to get up and do prep for the next interview, but I slept in and then rushed about to pack and get ready. My mom took me to the station again, with a quick trip to McDonalds before hand. Perhaps not the best idea as I had a long, stressful journey to look forward to, not that I had quite thought out how much it would be so.

There had been a landslide in the south of England, you see, which is causing massive disruptions to transport around it. For me, I then had to go via London to get down to the city I needed to be. The journey to London was quick but went slowly if you know what I mean – it was so dull. I tried to work but it made me feel travel sick. Well, that and the McD’s beforehand probably. I got to London and immediately I felt panicky. Where did I go? There were so many people too. I eventually found the subway, and then I had to ask for directions and then I got down into the labyrinths of London’s subway system proper and felt totally overwhelmed and out of place – a country bumpkin in my bulky northern winter clothes and walking boots and big bag. I got told off on the elevator by a pissed off Londoner for standing on the wrong side of it. On the subway now, I nearly fell over and my bag did and I felt embarrassed as hell. I was hot and felt dirty. I knew I looked like a tourist. Out of place. I made it to Paddington where my day picked up a little as there was a South African stall right there. This meant I could spend the next train ride – it must have been a diesel train as it had manual doors and windows which could be left right down! – standing by the huge open window in the vestibule, breathing in deeply the cold air after the filth and muggy heat of London’s underground, munching happily on biltong before downing a cold Fanta – with all the sweeteners left in, compared to the rubbish UK version. Eventually I made it to the city I needed to be, found my bus ok and even succeeded in making my way to my hotel without fuss. The hotel was amazing – look at that bed- but I had left all my charging leads at home which meant I couldn’t quite chill out and work on my thesis and job prep as I anticipated- I had even set up tethering on my phone to do so- but my phone was too flat and my laptop although mostly charged does not hold charge like it used to when it was new. Dinner was from lidl – cold pasta salad, strawberries and chocolate. A little dodgy, but cheap. It was all OK, but a little boring. I went to bed early as the next morning I had to get up early to make the breakfast buffet – bacon on croissants for breakfast remains one of the best things about hotels – and get myself checked out to be ready for pickup at 8am. Breakfast was so weird – there were all these business men in their suits and it hit me that there I was, in my shirt and pants, just like them. I was on business just like them. It was very, very weird. I felt like an imposter. Anyway, then I had to get to the company for another long, tiring day. This one was worse, as I wanted this job really badly…

After that I had to make me way home again. I wanted to avoid London so decided to risk the replacement bus going on my original route. Bad idea. My phone was flat. I had to get a train (OK), a bus (packed to the max and chugging along in heavy traffic), a train (cramped), another train(OK) and another bus(blessedly empty) and a short walk(which felt longer than it probably was) before finally getting home. A two hour journey turned into five hours. With a flat phone and a flat laptop so little to do but listen to music and stew in how miserable and bored I was. I was so tired when I got home. I slept through the next morning and could barely concentrate in my lecture in the afternoon. The next day I missed work and barely made my driving lesson, and only just got myself to do some work on my coursework.

The thing is, neither of my assessment centres went well. And it’s really knocked my confidence. I struggle to talk about it here – I don’t know what would be too much information, crossing boundaries. But basically I just don’t feel like I measure up. I don’t feel ready and I think they (companies) look at me and don’t think I’m ready either. I feel technically incompetent. It’s embarrassing having to admit to how badly my project is going right now. Its embarrassing how much I stumble when asked about basic engineering principles- my mind just goes blank and I end up saying something stupid, or nothing at all. I’m not good at the social part of assessment centres – lunch and breaks where you are expected to mingle, and I’m never sure if we are also being assessed then too. Either way, I do not know how to mingle. Pretending to be my sister can only get me so far, after all. On Thursday I changed put of my work clothes in a cramped bathroom stall at the train station even though I nearly missed me train to do so – because I just could not stand wearing my work clothes a second longer. I don’t feel like they suit me – as if I’m a child dressing up in an adults clothes. I don’t know how to carry on with uni when it feels so pointless now, when it feels like all my hard work is amounting to nothing. I have always believed that if I worked hard enough things would work out, but here is a thing – job seeking – where it doesn’t matter how hard you work. Sometimes, you just aren’t good enough. You just don’t measure up. Or “fit the requirements” to put it formally. And isn’t that terrible? I am beginning to wonder if I will be able to get an engineering job. But if not engineering, then what? Just what is going to happen to me after graduation? I don’t know, I don’t know. And I hate that. It is stressing me out, paralysing me with fear. What am I supposed to be working towards? What use is it working for a 2:1 when you can’t even get a job with it? All these questions go round and round my head. I know I need to move on, somehow. So I’ve set the deadline as Monday morning – come Monday I will work, regardless of how I’m feeling. I can mope now, but I still have things I need to do. Responsibilities. If nothing else, I owe it to myself to keep going and stay true to my own beliefs, even if right now the world is trying to tell me things don’t actually work like that. I tell myself that and try to believe it.

I have more lectures and labs next week. Another awkward meeting with my supervisor where we both wish we were somewhere else entirely. More driving lessons. Another assessment centre to go cross country to. I’m so tired. I’ve got to keep moving forward though.

Monday morning.

I’ll have gotten over it by then.

(NB: the pictures are lying slightly as the top one is from the North and the bottom one is my hotel in the South. Oh well. )