Sunday 27th September, on a train travelling North
Late on Friday night I texted my father “I want to come home.” It had started with my washing machine. The washing machine in my flat is unusable, so I’m going to switch it with my own, much better one. Unfortunately my dad and I can’t lift it ourselves, so we need my sister to help. She was on holiday, so it was supposed to be this weekend once she had come back that it would be moved. Unfortunately my sister got sick. So no washing machine. I felt frustrated and started to long for home comforts. I love my flat but it’s still not quite my home. I wanted clean washing and to see my cat, and just for a time, to be a child again. On Saturday morning I woke to a text from my father-“why don’t you [come home]?”. Why don’t I? I thought, and impulsively decided to go for it.
I had a doctor’s appointment at 2pm, so I booked an afternoon train. I spent the morning cleaning and organising the flat and packing, and so after the doctors I could pretty much grab my stuff and go. I arrived in the city centre without fuss, but the city was busy and I felt myself beginning to panic as I wove through the crowds. There were too many people. Too much noise. I managed to sort out tickets and get to the platform, which was also packed. The train before mine was nearly full to the point I wondered if the station crew were going to have to start pushing people to fit, like they do in Asia. I was feeling sick and shaky at this point, and burdened by my heavy bags. I began to wonder if it was stupid, this impulsive trip. All I wanted was to do my laundry, see my cat and be nurtured, and how childish it all was. My train came and I squeezed on. I had to stand the whole way but I got home all right. My dad picked me up from the station and I couldn’t stop rambling on as we drove home. We stopped at the supermarket and drove on. Still I was nattering away, so happy to be home and to be with my dad. I didn’t get home sick like this at university. Yet I had spent my Friday night looking at pictures of my family and my cat and feeling so very alone.
I got home and we ordered takeout. We went to pick up the food and the whole shop smelled like chargrilled meat, and it took me right back to when I was living in Malaysia. I used to be able to buy a stick of chargrilled, spicy chicken with a freshly made naan and garlic sauce for very little. I used to love it as a late night snack after studying in the library for hours. I could hardly stand sitting there waiting for my food, the smell was so strong and familiar. The food in the canteen in Malaysia wasn’t all amazing, yet it was cheap and convenient. I sometimes miss being able to walk down in 5 minutes and pick up a large meal or a snack, without having to worry about price.
Anyway, after a delicious supper, I spent some time with my dad looking at his most recent pics. Then he dragged out the old family videos, much to my embarrassment. My father loved it though. In a surprising twist, it is my father suffering from empty nest, whilst my mom is fine. My dad was so happy to have me back. And it’s clear he is amazed and emotional over the fact that his little girls have grown up. He is so proud of my sister and me, but I think there is an element of sadness that we aren’t young and cute and fully dependent anymore. My father is protective, and you can tell he doesn’t quite want to let go (even if he is, this isn’t that kind of story). Look, he said, at the one video. That one (my cousin) is a vet, that one (my sister) is a chemist and that one (me) is an engineer. Who could tell at that time? He said. Which is, of course, true. I don’t think my parents really had a plan, or guidelines, they followed when raising us. They must be feeling quite relived it all turned out all right ;) My sister and I definitely surprised them at times. We both have elements of our parents in us, but I think we must have surprised our parents sometimes in just what their parenting was turning out (I believe in both Nature and Nurture.) Take that both ways – my sister and I both went through some rough phases. And of course, my father got very gooey over how cute my sister and I were, to my embarrassment and mock annoyance (“what do you mean by were?”)
Tuesday 29th September, a hotel room near London Heathrow
The next day my sister came round. Well, we picked her up and brought her home, as she was too sick to drive. She was pale and a little irritable, but otherwise good company for a sick person. Me, my dad and my sister squished onto the couch to watch some of her pics. The rest of the day followed as a quiet one spent with family and my cat, just as I had wanted. I was glad to go home after all. I needed it. I was a little sad to return to my new city, but at least the journey back was less crowded (I could sit!) and even getting from the train station to my flat turned out to be fairly painless.
Wednesday 30th September, a restaurant in London Heathrow
On Monday I went in to work, but only for a short time as I had a graduate Induction event on Tuesday and Wednesday which I was flying down to London Heathrow on Monday for. My flight was at 9pm so I didn’t feel too worried about missing it…at first. Monday was one of those days where everything, no matter how you plan it, everything goes just a little wrong. I was just a little late for the bus I wanted in the morning, so I had to wait 40 minutes until the next, and was subsequently late to work. I got home again OK, and I packed and left the house OK, but just didn’t make it to the bus stop in time and had to watch the bus I wanted pass me by. That bus was just a little early. The next was, of course, just a little late. I got on, got off, and then found myself stranded in the middle of the countryside waiting for my connection. By this point it was about 7pm. The bus was at 7.30pm. I waited, and waited and fretted if it would or would not come. But it did, and I got to the airport on time. I checked in and waited around then got my flight. The airport was so small that it was all extremely quick and easy. It was a short and relatively painless flight too and I got to London, where I exited terminal 5 and watched as the bus I wanted pulled away. Once again, I was just a little late.
Friday 2nd October, Home
I added dates and locations to this entry, to show how it’s come together. To show how hectic these past days have been, to the point I’m squeezing in quiet down time wherever I can.
Anyway, back to Monday. I waited at London Heathrow outside terminal 5 and eventually the bus came, and eventually I got to the hotel. The hotel was a lot fancier than I expected and I was a bit shocked at the room the company had let me have. It was no tiny, functional room like a Japanese business hotel. Unfortunately there was no free food, which I was really hankering for. I salivated over the room service menu then did the right then and went to take a shower and get ready for bed. I wished I hadn’t got in so late. I had to wake early the next morning, and when my alarm went off all I wanted to do was lie in the glorious hotel king size bed and continue to doze the day away. I dragged myself out with the thought of croissants and bacon and fresh fruit for breakfast at the hotel buffet, which is what did end up happening. It’s my typical hotel buffet treat…though usually I try adding more pastries.
Well, I guess the graduate Induction event was OK. I didn’t enjoy it, I found if far too stressful as a shy, anxious introvert- there were too many people there and what they were selling us was the extroverts ideal career path. But some of the talks were interesting. I also ate a lot of very good food, including over indulging in one too many fancy desserts (5 or 6 little rich morsels a meal…what), which made up for the sheer terror of it all. I did feel my confidence dip though. I had started to feel like I was beginning to settle in to my team at work, but the Induction event brought me right back to my first day- nervous, uncertain and utterly convinced that they’d made some kind of error, that it had been a mistake I was hired. It was a fairly depressing journey back, even if it was more straightforward.
I left the hotel and made the bus I wanted. I got to the airport nice and on time, and dropped my bags and went through security quick enough that I had some time to chill. I went to one of the restaurants and ordered one of the healthy looking meals to make up for all those desserts. I’m not one for salads usually, but sometimes you have to force that rabbit food down. The waiter was really sweet, and I feel bad for messing up the gratuity, even if I have a good excuse of it being my first time giving it. Now I have a salary I know it’s the proper thing to do, but I’ve not quite yet grasped it. Yes, my salary came through on Wednesday, and it wasn’t as much as I was expecting, but it was still more money than I have ever actually owned. Pretty cool.
After my meal I meandered around the duty free before boarding. It was a pleasant enough flight. The staff on my incoming flight were lovely, and then on the outgoing flight they were also really friendly and cheerful. I got back OK, and got a bus, followed swiftly by another, and got back home quickly. Much quicker than the outgoing, thats for sure.
But I was tired, and I did not really want to go in to work yesterday. I wanted to curl up in bed and stay there. I had had enough of dealing with the world to last a good while…but I went into work, and today too, and I did my best to work hard, even if I felt distracted, and demotivated, and negative. I feel a bit embarrassed about that latter one especially.
I’m glad it’s the weekend. I’m going to recharge my batteries so that next week I’ll be ready to throw myself back into work. And be more positive. I don’t hate my job, I am just living with the daily fear I’m not doing it properly, that I’m not good enough…that I’ll never be good enough. The anxious mind, that little traitorous part of my mind, is a little cow. And I found myself listening to it too much, as I retreated into myself to get through the Induction event. I need to rest and recover, as if with a wound to let heal. It will be OK though, of course. It has to be.
Saturday 3rd October, Home
Post title is Richard Siken again. During my foundation year I’d read through Crush on the train journey, again and again, and it soon became an embodiment of my fear and anxiety of that time. That book got me through that difficult year, where nothing was certain, and I was terrified for my future. And now once again I find myself on public transport, a bus this time, holding back tears as I read through those now familiar words. Once again, I find myself feeling those conflicted feelings – grateful to have been given a chance, pleased with my progress, but terrified of what comes next, of stumbling and ruining it all. A certain desperation, moving forward bravely, trying to find something, a clarity perhaps, or perhaps just a freedom from this constant anxiety and self-doubt. It’s funny how certain things come to represent certain other things and this is it with Crush.
I try to read through War of the Foxes the same way but it lacks the intensity, the raw grief, desperation, and let’s face it, misery of Crush. It’s still beautiful, with moments where the darkness of Crush shines through, but its themes are different and I can’t quite sink into it the same way I sunk into Crush. In the beautiful foreword to Crush by Louise Gluck, which I always read first before re-reading the book, she talks about the ferocity of Crush, the way it sinks its teeth into you. War of the Foxes sadly hasn’t done that for me. That didn’t stop me from purchasing the limited edition of it, but that was more to support Richard Siken and his agency, to give back something for what Crush has given me. It didn’t stop me from wishing there was a limited edition of Crush though, with the original, unedited poems (how I wish there was an unedited collection of the works that made it into crush!)