“And the river grows inside of me”

When it comes to driving there are three things I am most afraid of – a collision when I’m driving (I see the aftermath of these too often on the road to work), hitting an animal when driving (see road kill too much too), and crashing into one of my co-workers cars when parking at work. (Well, I fear crashing when parking all the time, but most keenly at work. I do not want to have to face one of my co-workers everyday knowing I smashed up their car. It’s not something that should or does happen.)

Guess which one occurred yesterday?

I drove into the work car park and there was a small crowd of people gathered at the smoking point there, a couple of them hanging in the road. I was too aware of them. I didn’t position myself properly and as I drove in to the bay and felt myself coming too close to the car next to me I didn’t stop and correct it I just thought it should be ok because I wanted to get parked and away from the stares of those people. The two standing in the road, their jaws dropped as they watched me smash into the car next to me. I can’t forget the look on their faces. It was loud, it was obvious, it must have looked quite aggressive. I somehow managed to correct myself and get into the parking space, turned off the engine, then I covered my face with my hands and wished fervently for the ground to swallow me whole. I felt so stupid and embarrassed and scared. I tried to phone my dad but couldn’t get through, then I googled, became even more scared from the results, tried again and again to phone my dad and finally got through. The tears came then. I sobbed down the phone at him, but thanks to him I at least had a plan (and some reassurance, too. I badly needed that…) After the phone call I gave myself some time to cry and panic some more, then I forced myself to calm down. I took pictures, I went to reception and asked them to look up the details of the car owner, who was thankfully not part of my immediate team at work, and she came out and I had to tell her I had damaged her car. She took it well, seeming more surprised than anything else (who can blame her. Its a ridiculous situation) I took her email. Later, much later, after I had time to process and phone my insurance I sent her my details and the photos.

Now I wait. She hasn’t responded yet and she wasn’t in the office today. I don’t know what comes next.

I can’t believe this happened. I feel deeply embarrassed. I’ve spent so long learning to drive and I’m still…not very good at it. It was very hard to drive back from work yesterday, and then to drive again today. I feel vulnerable and scared. I’m worried for what I’ll do, what wrong judgement I’ll make next.

Mostly, have I mentioned that this is extremely embarrassing?

In the end though, as embarrassing as it is at least it is just embarrassing. At least I didn’t flatten some poor innocent animal or drive a car off the road or get driven off the road. I didn’t even dent either of our cars – it’s superficial paint damage only as far as I could tell. Nothing was hurt but my pride. (And, I fear, my reputation at work. I don’t think anyone else knows about it but I fear it becoming known…)

uri_mh1488118231382I went to see Cinderella last night. It was so good. Absolutely hilarious with a wonderfully talented cast. The music was stunning. The main actor / prince was played by a South African! The modern adaptation worked well, and wasn’t quite as surreal and experimental as Hansel and Gretel…I think I liked that it was more restrained when it came to the modern/digital effects. And did I mention that it was hilarious? I had a terrible view in the first half, blocked by those sat in front, but in the second half the woman behind me had somehow convinced those in front of me to switch seats with them…It was rather mysterious …. They didn’t seem to know each other and I don’t know how that happened. But my view improved too so I was pleased for whatever bargain had been made.

I went by myself but thankfully my sister let me text her as usual. It does make me feel a bit nervous going alone. A bit self conscious? At the interval I went to the bar to get a drink, I discovered you could get free water and ice to drink. Which yay. But . I stepped into someone before even getting to it, then I spilled the water, then I dropped my phone, then I managed to get my water and some ice in my bottle, picked up my phone and knocked into someone else on my way out. I get so clumsy when I’m feeling nervous. I was just so aware that everyone around me was in pairs or groups and it turned me into a clumsy idiot, making a fool of myself. I don’t mind doing things by myself, and I also like to use these outings as an opportunity to test/push my anxiety. If I can feel comfortable in my own skin when I’m alone, then I can surely feel comfortable around others. I don’t always succeed though. But that was just one small incident, the show itself was great.

Today I’m out in town. I went for my annual check up at the opticians (I’m that wierdo who actually goes every two years as recommended.) Thankfully my eyesight, although not perfect, is not so bad to need glasses. I’m in Starbucks now, writing this and treating myself to delicious things. :)

As usual the weekend is flying past. I’m sorta looking forward to the week as I’m out the office a lot…Nice to do different things and I get to go to site once which yes :)

“Warm spring that left, won’t you come back to me?”

The past weeks have been swinging between extreme highs and extreme lows. Work is…there is a situation I cannot talk about but which is crushing me right now. I am stressed out and anxious. But in other ways things are good right now – my flat is not looking like a complete disaster for once, I have been getting into reading again and enjoying some good dramas too, my neighbour’s cat has taken to coming into my flat and letting me play with him and cuddle him, and I’ve had some pretty good weekends spent actually doing stuff and not holed up at home feeling sorry for myself (see: work.)

One of my goals when I moved to this city was to take advantage of the cultural elements available to me, and take advantage of my salary, to see more shows. I love going to the theatre to see ballets, plays and operas and I don’t do it nearly enough. So I’m doing something about that now. Opera North are currently hosting a Fairy Tale season and I’ve got tickets to them all. I love fairy tales, especially the dark originals. For these shows too, I admit I was drawn in by the posters, which show the main characters in traditional costuming, although I have been confused as to how different the operas are turning out to the posters. (Very confused.) Anyway, I also bought tickets for Turandot in May. This gives me something to look forward to in these stressful times, and gets me out the house, which is also good (see: no moping.) It’s not too expensive either. After all, you can get a seat for just £15, and I bought a three opera package which meant that both Hansel and Gretel and Cinderella were £13.70 each! (Lets not talk about how expensive Turandot was even with a three opera discount – I wanted a good seat and I better have got one!)

So, the other weekend I saw the first of the fairy tales: the Russian “Snow Maiden”. My sister came up to my city and we went out to supper and then to see the show and it was all awesome. The Snow Maiden was extremely odd – it felt like it should have been sung in Russian, and the costumes were a bizarre mix of traditional and modern that made little sense (I don’t get why the Snow Maiden was in jeans for nearly the entire show whilst all the other characters got to change into different costumes. It was in stark contrast to the beautiful dress that Snow Maiden is wearing in the posters for the show. Shouldn’t the main character be the most beautiful, the one that stands out the most?) But it was short and funny and wonderful. My sister and I went shopping the next day which was also great fun.

I went to see the second of the fairy tales last weekend: the German “Hansel and Gretel”. This was a full on modern production of the opera. Again not as advertised, at all, though I did end up loving it. The music was stunning, and the opera itself was…surreal. It was very odd and slightly disturbing (young children singing happily after brutally burning to death a witch OK then) but it felt true to the dark spirit of the original fairy tale. I thought it was a more successful modern rendition of the opera than the Snow Maiden – the snow maiden swung between traditional and modern, which was confusing, but this one went all out modern. So OK. It was also hilarious… and I loved some of the odd details, like the witches wand being an electric beater (so random) and the use of video and cameras. It was really great. I also appreciated that it was also short – as much as I enjoyed 5 hours of parsifal, it can be a big demand on your time to sit through such a long show! I missed my sister, my default show-going partner, but she let me text her throughout the evening so it was like she was right there with me anyway. :)

I am looking forward to Cinderella, although I was drawn in to that by the gorgeous poster (the dreamy dress Cinderella is wearing, with bare feet) and from these two I can tell already that the actual product is going to be very different. Cinderella will at least be sung in the traditional Italian. Both Snow Maiden and Hansel and Gretel were in English. :( I can understand that for accessibility and drawing younger crowds (a goal of this opera season, if I’m reading the programmes correctly) it makes sense to present the operas in their English versions, but one thing I enjoy about the opera is getting to hear different languages. I would have loved to have heard Russian. Oh well.

This weekend though I am…actually holed up at home. I had plans to go out and buy some more fish, but it’s too cold and miserable. Winter is starting to get to me – dark mornings, grey, dull days and then it’s only a matter of time before its dark again. Last weekend there was actually some sunshine and I felt optimistic that spring may have finally started to come…the bulbs are starting to show… surely it should be time? I need some sunshine already. I’m starting to get cabin fever. I pace through my own flat, filled with restless energy. That’s maybe just the anxiety though. I wish work would be better. Then everything would be so great. I suppose it’s an impossible dream to want everything to be going perfectly well at all times. Come spring, hopefully things can settle down at least. Being pushed to these extremes, often quickly, is exhausting. I try on focus on all the good things going on in my life right now, those highs, but the stress of the lows leaves me so tired out and makes even being happy feel too effortful.

Europe

I am currently planning my next holiday.

Plane tickets are booked, and I’m waiting for my bills for this month to go through so I can purchase train tickets and book some hotels. I’m going to Copenhagen for a few days with my sister, then I’m carrying on alone to Germany. I am taking the train from Copenhagen to Hamburg, and from there to Lübeck, then Schwerin, before back to Hamburg and home. I’ve always wanted to do ‘Europe by train’ but that’s unfeasible, so doing it on a small scale like this is also exciting. It’s been a while since I’ve travelled on my own and I’m not familiar with Europe so I’m a bit nervous, but also excited! It’s going to be quite a whirlwind trip, just 10 days, as I can’t take too much time off work but I’m determined to do and see as much as I can. I’m not even fussed about spending time on the train- I’m looking forward to experiencing German transport and seeing what passes me by through the window. (Not even commuting by train can destroy my love for high speed overland travel, which is ideally what trains are.) I’m going to have to pack light though, which is making me nervous. I like having lots of stuff! Being overly prepared to the point of paranoia in other words.

I also can’t believe I’m going on holiday twice this year. The last time I travelled so frequently was when I lived in Malaysia, where the cost of living was so low and the places I wanted to go so close I could afford to. As much as I love the far east and am planning on returning to South Korea and Japan, and likely checking out Taiwan and China at some point, I’ve always wanted to explore Europe more. It’s so close by! And yet I never had the opportunity, but mostly the money. Cost of living is high in the UK, and being a student is financially as it’s reputation holds.

I love my job but obviously, like all jobs, it’s not always exciting, and it’s not easy. It can be nice to remind myself of the outside benefits of working- namely earning money,and all the doors and possibilities that opens up. I’m not particularly financial stable yet, not this close out of uni, and I’m fairly poor with money anyway but I keep my bills paid and i try to keep my debts low and contribute to my savings as much as I can. Whatever is left, I play with. It’s so nice to be able to treat myself to holidays, to a couple of Starbucks a week, to take away food and quality shoes. (Its the best being able to afford proper shoes, not cheap thin ones that fall apart quickly, which you have to keep wearing anyway because broke.) I have a good job, a good home, and am leading a comfortable life style, through my own work (and ok, a small contribution from my bank…) It’s a nice feeling- this independence. It has its downsides, but I’ll focus on the positive today. I’ll leave it there.

Basically, I’m seeing more of Europe and I’m so excited!

Modesty

A weird adjustment to working is dressing for work. I find myself getting quite sick of wearing the same things all the time, but still wearing them all the same, stuck as to what I should be wearing. I try and look at what the other woman in the office are wearing but their styles vary so widely that it’s not actually that helpful. If there is one thing that strikes me as the common theme: modesty. I was told about the importance of this in engineering before I started working as an engineer, but you can really see it in the office – dresses and skirts are just above the knee or below, no one wears very high heels, no one wears heavy makeup, bare arms and low necklines are also out.

I’ve always thought I dressed fairly modestly. I like my t-shirts to come right to the neck both front and back, I don’t wear v-necks and I button up all my shirts right to the top. Yet, I miss wearing shorts and miniskirts. I’ve always hated midi skirts, and preferred shorter a-line skirts. I feel so frumpy in an a-line midi though, that I’m left with stretchy pencil skirts only. I become very aware of my figure, in these new tighter, but longer, skirts. Heck, I really miss slouchy clothes. I used to live in loose fitting clothes, hating the feel of material against my sensitive skin, hating my figure and wanting to hide it. My office isn’t formal, but turning up in jeans, a baggy sweater and a mens hoody is, obviously, not acceptable. Suddenly, half my wardrobe is sitting unused because what chance do I have to wear it anymore? I have to keep buying more clothes even though I’ve already got clothes, simply because so much of what I have is not appropriate for every day anymore. Thankfully my office isn’t formal, so I don’t need to wear suits or shirts or heels, on the flipside I then also find myself worrying about looking too dressy. If I wear a dress, or an a-line midi skirt, will I look too done up?

The singular a-line midi I own is clearly haunting me. I want to wear it but I’m totally afraid to. I don’t feel quite ready to take “risks” with my office wear. I don’t want to look slouchy, but I also don’t want to look too formal. I really don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. Finding the balance is hard. I find myself having to learn how to dress all over – suddenly trying to work out how to wear fitted sweaters, midi skirts and of course the office staple, the cardigan. Thankfully, all my basics are still OK – all my plain t-shirts and long tops – I just need to learn to restyle them for the office. Thankfully, I am making my cotton only with a hint of viscose wardrobe work for the office environment. I’m not dressing how I like or how I feel comfortable though, and it’s hard not to feel like I’m playing dress up, and badly. It’s hard not to feel self-conscious. It’s hard not to worry about looking fat and frumpy.

I still sometimes pull on an outfit in the morning, just to take it right off again, change into something else, struggling to find something that feels right.