I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks.
Dizzying highs and signs of true contentment jumbled in with drama, confrontation, lies and all sorts of complications.
Something that’s been a genuine shock to me is my strength. Not physically and not in that weird, consuming “I’m a strong individual and I will prove this by aggressively pushing back” way, but in a calmer, tougher way. If I was to describe how I feel, I feel like a really old tree. I know, I’m an idiot.
But it has gotten me thinking about perceived “toughness” and whether people are actually prepared for you to be strong when you need to be. I’ve made more so-called enemies in the last two weeks than I have in many years, and I’m quite surprised at the reactions I’ve had given that my decisions have all been to protect myself and the people I love.
What it comes down to (in my eyes, anyway) is a total lack of respect for boundaries and the assumption that to be your friend or family member, I must somehow make a sacrifice that effectively places you and your priorities at the top of the tree. For what? Friendship? Love?
I’m an infinitely flawed human being, guilty of always being late, tending to be a little flaky and drinking a bit too much red wine. I have days and weeks where I don’t communicate with anyone at all, and it’s amazing to see how quickly my so-called loved ones turn on me during that time.
What’s interesting to note is that when I am not available for a few days, not one message of “are you alright?” comes through. Only messages filled with accusations, assumptions and demands.
“Call me or I will….”
“Respond to me or I will assume…”
“Do what I say or else risk the loss of my friendship…”
Like hell, dudes. My life is my life. Since when do I need to make an official announcement on social media to alert everyone to my desire to take a step back and be a hermit for a few days? And since when did we stop worrying about people and start expecting them to perform a certain duty instead?
The logical argument would be that, in order to receive the benefits of friendships and relationships, I need to also give back. Totally hear ya, I agree.
But you would think that the 99% of my life I AM available to speak, text, rescue or entertain my friends and family would be enough. Instead, I’m made to feel as if I should apologise for taking that 1% of my time and secreting it away for just me.
What’s different about me this time is that now, I don’t care so much. There was a time when I would have tied myself in knots wondering who needed me, who I needed to respond to and when. I’ve felt an intense need to explain myself all my life, to ensure no one is angry and no one is disappointed.
What I discovered over the last week, to my own surprise, is that being the bad guy ain’t that bad. Sure, people say bad stuff about you and there’s always the concern that rumours and incorrect accounts of reality are being shopped around. Words are twisted and people are manipulated.
So why fight it?
Life-affirming Pinterest quotes and self-aggrandising aside, it became time for me to realise that it’s perfectly acceptable (to me) to vacate my world for a little while and that it’s perfectly acceptable (to me) if people choose to flip their lids and hate me for that. Who wants to be beholden to other peoples’ expectations all the time? Not me.
There are too many issues, dramas, dilemmas and struggles that we all deal with in our lives. And I’ve had just about enough of everyone comparing their own standards to mine and expecting ME to be the one to live up to THEM.
If you choose not to allow me the choices I will make throughout the rest of my life, there’s nothing I can do about that.
What I can do is wish you well and hope that you enjoy every day from here on in. I’m sorry if I can’t live up to whatever standards you set for me, I’m quite happy with the human being I’ve become so the loss continues to be yours.
And everyone else needs to chill the heck out and start being nicer to each other. So what if someone doesn’t wish you happy birthday this year? Doesn’t make them an asshole. So what if the person you always call with your problems isn’t responding this week? Doesn’t mean they don’t love you.
It’s time for people to stop shouting ME ME ME and start wondering what they can do to make their own world a better place, instead of demanding it from the people who have kindly chosen to spend the limited amount of time we have on this planet, with them.
I expect nothing from you, and you expect nothing from me.
Everything we receive is a bonus and we both win.
Cheers to that.
We are but a trio of lost souls,
Looking for a light.
For when we’re asked what really matters
We only face outwards
For when we’re asked what we really want
We only ask it of you.
We are but a trio of lost souls,
Made of your hand, and hair, and breath.
But when we search for answers here,
We can only ask more questions
And when the sand runs out and our time is up
We can only say we tried our best
We are but a trio of lost souls,
Created by your good intentions.
And when the light is fading into black mist
We can only blame ourselves
For when the love is nearly dead
We can only apologise for our wasted breath.
We are but a trio of lost souls,
Just trying to keep your peace.
But first, I need you to understand that this is not a personal attack. Nor is it an attack on your skills, professionalism, source of income or subsequent success.
What this is about is friendship, and drawing a solid line between it, and business.
First, let’s get the obvious cries of “hypocrite!” out of the way. Yes, I have a small business, and so does my fiance. We both predominantly operate online and it’s a constant challenge to balance marketing and sharing of our services with multiple audiences. We have many different circles we operate within – the local community, other businesses, the general public, family and friends. It can be hard to get the balance right on social media, because the desire to promote what you do (and what you’re proud of) lies within most of us and should be encouraged. I usually limit my business interactions to a weekly share on my personal page, and of course the initial “call-out” for Likes when we first set the pages up. Now we rely on paid targeted marketing, community noticeboard interaction and word of mouth.
So now I’ve laid my cards on the table, I want to talk about friendship.
Friendship – and the social engagement that goes hand in hand with relationships – is one of the last hidden corners of life that need not involve any kind of “sale”. The whole world, everything you look at, eat, hear and experience is a sale in some way. Everything is geared towards money and advertising and what makes people tick. Working in marketing makes you realise exactly how twisted the world is in both a positive and negative sense. It’s amazing to watch the human race be manipulated, again – for good and bad.
So when I need to escape from the commercial nature of the world I live in, I crave real and genuine human contact. Talking for hours (or just a few minutes), sharing a wine with an old friend, making new ones and chatting to random people in the street. As many of you would know first-hand, I love throwing parties of all kinds and surrounding myself with great people is my way of shutting out the global sales pitch that is regular Western life.
And here, ladies and gents, is my beef.
I now have over 30 friends and acquaintances in my facebook list who are party plan salespeople. And I really don’t like it.
Wait, wait. Listen. Here’s why.
Back in my early 20s, I went along to a Nutrimetics party, not really knowing what it was all about. I had no intention of buying anything but thought I would go because a group of girls from work I wanted to get to know better were attending and I thought, why not? After all, most girls love beauty products and it’s a chance to jump into the henhouse for some clucking without the boyfriends hanging around.
After about 2 hours of being overloaded with fruity scents and having my face scrubbed by a total stranger telling me my pores needed tightening while I gazed up at her nose hairs and the bright orange foundation line around her jaw, I realised this was not for me. Politely, I retreated to the corner of the house reserved for antisocial smokers while the hostess stood behind the saleswoman, increasingly awkward at the realisation that she might as well have asked us to bring our bank statements with us.
“This is the fourth party I’ve been to in two months.” I recall one of the older ladies saying. “Mine is next week.”
I remember being surprised – I have a group of about 15 good friends. If I invited them all to my party, why would they want to have another one?
Then it clicked. Money.
I know, I was really naive at this point, I just thought it was a fun reason to have a party. 10+ years later, my aversion to party plan sales shows no signs of abating.
Well, just don’t go Nicky. Leave us to do our thing and be successful and you can sit in the corner and be a negative hipster on your own.
Fair call. My opinion is my own and I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this with outrage as they believe I’m questioning the very thing that puts food on their table and clothes on their kids’ backs. Well I’m not.
What I’m questioning is the use of friendship as a sales tool. When I receive an invitation to (yet another) sales party, my initial reaction is “how can I say no without lying or offending?” Many people would argue that honesty is the best policy, but after being on the receiving end of some very abrupt phone calls ending friendships because I’ve said “I don’t like the idea of being cloistered in a home while I’m being sold to”, I’m hesitant to say what I think.
So I usually come up with an excuse, or thankfully I have other commitments that allow me to beg off without offending.
I have one friend who doesn’t invite me to anything BUT sales parties. We were friends in our late teens and early 20s, and due to circumstance we haven’t seen each other in person in about 6 years. Until about 18 months ago, we used to interact regularly via phone, social media and email, so I still consider her an old, good friend.
But it would appear all I am to her is a potential customer. Another bum on a seat, another untapped resource that can be mined for another party, and then pressured into hosting my own party, and sent catalogues and once-in-a-lifetime offers.
No! I want to be your friend! I want to be invited to drinks at your house just because, not because you’re making up numbers. I want to be your friend, not because of my disposable income nor my desire to own a freakin’ thermomix.
On the flip-side, I also have a close friend who is an Enjo consultant. If I ever want to purchase anything from that range, all I need to do is ask. But I can honestly tell you that not once in the 15+ years we have been friends has she ever turned our friendship into a sales pitch. I know she does it, that’s it. We talk about work and she tells me about her successes. No money changes hands.
And then there’s the revolving door party seller, the one who is a Scentsy seller for 3 months, and then Tupperware, then Avon, then Oasis, and now Herbalife. How many times can you say to the people who have known you for years “OMG I have found this amazing new product guys!!!” before they start to smell the bullshit? Would you like it if I invited you to lunch and then spent the whole time talking about power shakes while I mentally calculated my commission?
As I entered my 30s I began to see more and more of my friends and acquaintances getting into the party-sale scene. It’s understandable, with children at home for many of these women it makes sense that they want to run a business that allows them to work from home and conduct business outside of normal work hours. I mean, you have to make money right?
Yep, totally. And you know, if it’s working for you, then great. I’m not here to question how you make your money, but I would like to highlight that you don’t need to be aligned with this type of direct-selling to be successful. All it takes is a little creativity, a lot of passion and hard work. And your profits can go directly to you, instead of a massive multinational corporation using you and your social network as peddlers disguised as friends. (As an interesting point, when you Wiki or Google “party plan” the word “peddler” is used in almost all the definitions).
I have a good friend currently trying out making gorgeous baby clothes. It might turn into something big, and it might not. But I fully support her because she is not trying to sell me anything, and yet she’s going to get my business whenever I need to buy presents for friends, or my own children come along.
I have another friend who has an incredibly successful online business that has branched into retail, and her products are now stocked in stores around the country. She is working on this business almost every hour of her life, and yet when she sends me a message it’s to tell me about her family and pets and travel. No spruiking.
I for one would love to see more honesty in these sales parties. Don’t hide it as a social engagement. Turn your lounge room into a showroom once a month and promote your opening hours for that day. I would come along to have a look, and to have a chat with you, and heck – I might even buy something. I’m prepared to support my friends’ businesses and I am hugely appreciative of my friends supporting mine (although I’ve never made a cent of profit directly or indirectly from a friend in business).
I know I can’t dictate how people use their social networking accounts so I won’t even bother going into the million things I see wrong with using your personal account as a branding tool. I can’t even, and there’s no point.
I was invited to four, yes, FOUR Tupperware parties last weekend. Each person who invited me was lovely and warm and not at all pushy. I don’t for a second think any of them had dollars in their eyes when they invited me. But it’s the big machine I hate – you’re all hosting these parties because you went to one yourself and along the way, you thought it would be a quick and easy way to be involved and the incentives are great. But now you’re in it and you need to find more hosts – so the call goes out and the pyramid gets higher and higher as more women (because yes, these parties are predominantly run by females and the concept was of course invented by a woman, Brownie Wise) join the ranks of the home sellers.
So please don’t take offence when I choose not to come to your party. I like you and I want to support you, but I refuse to put myself into a situation where I am embarrassed into buying more stuff I really don’t need. We have somehow let consumption drift into our relationships and if you ask me, I’m gonna say no.
If you have an original business idea or have found a gap in the market you think you can fill, I’ll be as supportive as I possibly can as a friend and as a potential customer. I’ll even help with your marketing. I love being your friend and what we offer each other as mates cannot be bought.
But if you just want me for my wallet, no fucking Am-way, my friend.
– Sidenote: if this blog hits close to home and you feel like I’m having a go at you, I’m not. I’ve just said there’s over 30 women know who are regularly pushing this barrow, so it’s not about you. It’s about all of you. BUT if you feel I’ve wronged you in any way, tell me. Send me a PM and by all means, yell! Let me hear what you have to say and let me see your side of it, because admittedly I have never been a party planner so I am looking at this through biased eyes. If I’ve missed a really obvious point that makes my entire opinion moot, let me know.
It’s Mental Health Week. We’re supposed to be talking about mental health, and bringing awareness to the plight of millions of people around the world. Hundreds of millions. So I thought it was about time I put into words the experiences I’ve had with my own mental illness.
If you want to follow me down this rabbit hole, I thank you for your time and for your withholding of judgement.
I don’t like the term “my condition”. Owning a mental illness, to me feels like I’m lumping myself with a burden I will carry forever, rather than being proud of who I am – mental fragility and all. I hear many people say “my bipolar” or “my depression” as if they’re referring to “my broken leg”.
Of course there are millions who would disagree with me, and rightly so. How you think about your illness, if you are so afflicted, is entirely your decision and you own that without justification.
I’ve never looked at the condition as a burden. In fact, it’s what makes me the likeable, intelligent and empathetic person you see today. I am eternally grateful for having being given an opportunity to be so awake, and so acutely aware of the way my own mind and body behaves. Many people go through life not listening to their inner voice or pushing it away because they have that luxury – they can ignore themselves.
I don’t have that luxury, and that’s alright (most of the time).
I remember the first time I realised there was something a little different about me. I was 16 and watching television alone in my parents’ house. The mood was peaceful and calm, we had just finished dinner and there was quite literally nothing wrong. I had nothing to complain about. No stress, no worry… I wasn’t being bullied at school, nor was I mourning the loss of a high school flirtation. I was just relaxing.
Suddenly, my hands were numb. And then my feet. I started to panic, the fear rising in my chest like fire. My whole body was hot instantly, and I couldn’t breathe. I sat there for a while, I’m not really sure how long. My mum came in to check on me and saw me sobbing quietly on the floor, terrified.
After a quick check over to make sure I wasn’t in any real physical danger, she explained to me that I had experienced an anxiety attack. “But why?” I remember asking. “I’m not anxious.”
Thankfully, my mother (and the rest of my family) had some experience with anxiety and understood that there is no rhyme or reason for these episodes – well, not in an immediate sense anyway. Another thing I am eternally grateful for is the open and honest way she explained what was happening to me, and why. I wasn’t scared anymore. I knew what to do if it happened again.
The next time I realised this wasnt just a one-off and that I might have to deal with this sort of thing for a long time was about 2 years later, out shopping late one night with my ex boyfriend. I wanted a pair of shoes and they needed to be a certain colour. The clock was ticking and the stores were closing in half an hour, but I couldn’t find what I needed. As I rushed, I started to feel irrationally angry and disgusted with the people and the environment around me. I was FURIOUS. Not only was I furious that no shops had JUST what I wanted, they didn’t have my size. I was FURIOUS with myself and my own body for not having feet that fit these shoes. I was FURIOUS with the stores for pricing any good footwear far above what I could afford. I hated, and I mean really hated, every person who passed by me in the shops. Don’t LOOK at me, you disgusting pig of a woman, how DARE you cast your eyes upon me while I’m having this moment of anger and frustration. I wanted to slap people, scream at them to leave me alone, rant and rave and wail at the world for things not being exactly as I needed them to be. I wanted someone to ride in on a white horse, present the perfect pair of shoes to me for the perfect price in the perfect size, and until that moment I would tantrum until I could tantrum no more.
My poor ex boyfriend. What a thing to have to try and support – this completely unhinged young girl crying and desperately trying to conceal her white-hot rage and anxiety. Because even at the most severe points in an anxiety attack, I know just how ridiculous I’m being. I know how I sound and I know I’m being irrational. I hate myself for it and that just makes things worse.
I’ll do my best to describe what it feels like to experience a full blown anxiety attack in my head. After years and years of therapy and counselling I think I’ve explained it enough to give an idea of what it’s like.
Imagine a locomotive. One of those really big, black, LOUD, steaming trains that has whistles blowing and track noises that make you wince as it hits your eardrums. Imagine being IN that steam, it’s hot and it’s loud and it just keeps going. This train isn’t passing you by, it’s making circles around you and no one can get through it. The ground is shaking. People are screeching and yelling and laughing and jostling and you want to snap your fingers and make it go away. Inside, you’re screaming at the top of your lungs. No one can hear you, but you will do anything to stop the noise and the heat and the pressure. I mean, anything.
If you’re like me, you’ll pull at your hair, you’ll slam doors, make loud noises and throw things. You see, the only thing that stops a train moving that fast is a sudden shock. A big bang. And then silence.
So there have been many shoes thrown at walls, many doors broken and many hours of lung splitting screams JUST to drown out the noise of this goddamn locomotive.
In more dangerous times, when I’ve been alone or without someone to stop me, there has been scratching. Many sufferers of acute anxiety disorders find their own ways to cope during a breakdown. Mine, it would seem, is to scratch the living shit out of my forearm, usually my left one, until I bleed and beyond. Contrary to many beliefs, this is not something I am aware of at the time, nor is it something I can stop on my own. When I do it, I can breathe. When I do it, I stop crying. I focus. I am “calm”.
Now of course, this is not healthy behaviour for anyone. I had to learn to control these experiences as best I could, or at least learn more about them to help educate the people around me, who continued to stand by me regardless of the horrible, awful things I was shouting at them. More often than not, these people were my boyfriends. It still is. While I feel no guilt about who I am or what I put my partner through, (and I think I adequately make up for it by being a pretty decent human being 99% of the time), I am once again eternally grateful that he sees through the drama and the pain and still wants to stick by me, even though more attacks are inevitable.
And then there’s the depression. Most people don’t even know I have a mental illness. I didn’t, until I began speaking to my GP and then psychologists, and then psychiatrists. Friends and family usually see “Surface Nicky”, a bubbly and warm, confident and charming person who seems to be able to see the positive side of most things.
When the depression hit, I really didn’t understand. I’m such a happy person! Why do I feel like opening the front door will bring me nothing but pain and terror? This is not me… and this isn’t even me when I’m anxious. This is someone else, this other person who wants to lock me inside and give up on everything and never see another living person again. This other person is the one who has made me quit jobs on the spot, pull out of activities on a dime, refuse social interaction and shut the door hoping to never open it again.
Thankfully, caring and compassionate doctors who knew more about this stuff than me, taught me that I have bipolar disorder, albeit not in the same vein as many publicised cases. When we think of bipolar people, we are instantly directed to images of crazy, out of control, alcoholic, drug dependent wild children with wild hair and wild eyes. Swinging wildly from emotion to emotion, hour by hour, unpredictable and dangerous.
Although this is of course true for SOME people on the spectrum, this is not true for me. For the large majority of my life, I am controlled and happy, even tempered and positive.
But there’s those times, and there have been many, when I have locked myself in a bathroom and contemplated some pretty silly actions. I’ve even been stopped a few times from doing things that I am really, really glad I didn’t do. Again, I speak only about my own experiences. For me, self harm and that always taboo word “suicide” is a call for help. I know that’s a dangerous thing to say, because so often suicidal people are branded as attention seekers. Well for me, it IS attention seeking. But I don’t want you to pay me attention for the sake of my ego – I NEED you to save me. You see, at this point, I’ve lost control. I no longer have a handle on myself or my actions, and I am begging for intervention. I need someone stronger than I to say “you are unwell, I am here to help”.
There have been many people in my life who have chosen to avoid this task, and understandably so. I’m not much fun when I’m screaming in your face and trying to break things purely because I need to, even though I don’t know why. A shopping trip is no fun when the person you’re with is muttering under her breath “stop fucking LOOKING AT ME” to every person who happens to walk by. A holiday isn’t much of a holiday when your travel companion is driving dangerously, crying hysterically and speeding down highways at incredibly dangerous speeds. So I feel nothing negative towards those people, and in fact I am so sorry that I did not have the opportunity to explain myself better. I can only hope they aren’t telling people about “that crazy bitch”… but who knows? They probably are, and there’s nothing I can do about that.
All I can do is listen to myself. Until I undertook a long course of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), I didn’t even think it was something I could control. I had been medicated in the past and hated it. 200mg of Zoloft is not really a great option for a 20 year old girl who wants to be present in the moment and feel the ups and downs of love, pain, fear and excitement. I hated it, but when my doctor suggested a few years ago that I might need some help in maintaining some semblance of a “normal” life, I agreed to go back to medication. I was pleasantly surprised, because the medication was just right for me. At only 25mg, I barely noticed it but the pills helped me get out of bed and go to work. I still cried at sad things, I still laughed at jokes. But my doctor saw that without help, my life would continue to crumble, and we all know that the deeper the hole the harder it is to pull yourself out. So he threw me a rope and I used it for 12 months.
During this time, I learnt a lot about how my brain works. I recognised that when my shoulders shake uncontrollably before I go to sleep, I need to get up out of bed and do something to distract myself for a while, or I will absolutely lose my shit and break down at 3am.
I learnt that if I am feeling fragile, I can tell myself to stop and cancel all plans, and that doesn’t make me unreliable or selfish. I learnt that my physical reactions are a direct result of the way I am thinking, and no one is in better control of that than me. So I learnt how to change my thinking and I now have a list of tasks I can do to stop the train before it reaches the station.
Because I’m human and I’m fallible. I will stuff up and I will push myself too far and I will fall down again in the future. Some will understand it, and some will not. I accept that.
Now for the positives! Because in all of this, there are some things that go hand in hand with bipolar disorder that are DAMN cool. I’m a confident public speaker. Job interviews are a doddle. I find I can relate to almost anyone, because my weird little brain is so attuned to the tiny, imperceptible truths that many others cannot see (or don’t want to see). I’m terribly honest about myself, so I guess that means I’m “open”. I’m exceptionally creative and I see beauty in so many things that at times, it’s overwhelming. I LOVE that I cry in sad movies, it makes me feel alive.
As with many bipolar babes, I’m more comfortable on a stage or behind a microphone than anywhere else. I’m safe up there, because I have the floor and all the mean, nasty people on the ground can’t get me. I feel powerful and proud and strong. Ask me to step down and chat to a group of 2 or 3 strangers though, and my mind races with fear. I’m much more comfortable speaking to a room of 400 than 4. Many of my life dreams have not been achieved because of this disorder. I have always dreamed of the stage. When I sing in my car, I am in Madison Square Garden. When I was in London last, I was allowed to step onto the empty stage at the Haymarket one quiet morning. As I stood there, facing the rows and rows of empty seats, I wept. Tears of regret and frustration spilled onto the boards – why, when all I’ve dreamed of is to be a performer, am I paralysed by a total fear of rejection, to the point where I have never been brave enough to make it happen on my own?
These are the low moments, and the times when I wish I wasn’t destined for a life of blindingly sunny days and the occasional, surprise hurricane. I wish I was “normal” at these times. I wish I could say I’ve never had an anxious moment, or an emotional breakdown, or tried to pull every hair out of my head one by one.
Thankfully those low moments are few and far between. I am learning to live with my regrets and my lost opportunities. I’m learning that there will always be a little part of me that’s unfulfilled and in that sense, I’m just the same as everyone else in the world.
Most of all I am thankful that I have an opportunity to educate, and perhaps enlighten the people who have known me for so long but who don’t really know me at all. Every version of me is the real one, I am far from fake, but I am also so deeply layered that only I will understand what exists in the depth of my mind and my soul. Happy Nicky, sexy Poops, the chef, the entertainer, the people pleaser – she’s me and I am her.
Thanks for reading, and please do your best to keep learning about mental illness.
Too many people are alive today without the support I have, and the amazing family and friends I am blessed to call my own.
Do not be afraid of what you don’t know, instead talk and ask and learn and listen.
Protect and nurture. Who knows what amazing people are lurking underneath their own private cloud?
And if you are suffering, if you need help, I am here. Strangers and friends alike, you deserve to live as happily as I do and I will do what I can to make that happen.
There’s been a lot of talk this week about reclining airline seats. Usually I wouldn’t bother getting involved in such a petty argument, I mean honestly – there are people being slaughtered a few hours away from us and we’re getting heated about angles? We’re truly a ridiculous species.
But seeing as I’ve just come back from overseas and had a pretty average experience myself with ol’ Captain Reclino himself, I thought I’d weigh in. (Geddit? Baggage? Weigh… oh never mind.)
I’ve long been a fan of the reclining seat. Airlines are right, it DOES give you more room. And if you’re a chunky, big boobed lass like myself, you appreciate not having a chin vs cleavage war for 5 or 6 hours straight. But people, please, there is etiquette.
This particular flight back from Denpasar to Perth (I know – Bali bogans… why did I expect anything more than grunts?) was only a shave under 4 hours, so there’s not a lot of hours there to really muster up a good slug of annoyance. We were in the second row because I value the Air Asia seat selection option more than I value running water and not having to wait in the aisle, getting slapped in the head by people’s hand luggage being brought down from the overhead lockers is the best $11 one can spend these days.
The Airbus was a standard 3 x 3 seating pattern, which meant the lucky folks in front of us had three seats between the two of them. We shared our three with a nice man who slept the whole flight (at least I think he was asleep…)
So we’re up in the air and it’s been about 20 minutes. The stewardess hands out the arrival cards, you know the ones with the impossible boxes and some sort of coating that automatically renders your handwriting illegible to all but 4th graders? I put my tray table down and fish out a pen and our passports, and lean forward slightly to fill out the cards.
The seat in front of me slams straight into my head. “Oww!” I say, none too quietly either. I’m rubbing my forehead theatrically, aware that the guy in front has given me a fair dose of side-eye. Fuzz asks me if I’m okay, again quite loudly.
“Yeah, I’m alright. Just trying to fill out these cards and the seat hit me.”
At this point, I’m not really angry. My head hurts and I’m a bit pissed off, but I appreciate it may have been an Accidental Seating, so I wait for some sort of “whoops” face from the guy or his wife. Nothing.
Okay, whatever. I go back to the forms.
The seat goes back again, even further this time. As if he was waiting for me to lean forward again. “Fuuuuck!” I exclaim. “Far out man, ease up!” Fuzz says over the top of the seats, while we’re completely ignored.
This… THIS is where I start getting angry. I am now without any real space in front of me, and my only option is to recline my own seat. I was planning on reclining a tiny bit later in the flight, once the people behind me have eaten and settled in. But of course, like a good human being, I turn around.
“Sorry, would you mind very much if I put my seat back a tiiiiny bit? I wouldn’t ask but the guy in front just put his seat back the whole way and…”
The man behind me rolls his eyes, and shakes his head that he doesn’t mind. Clearly he does, but he can’t really say no anyway and I’m being nice about it.
I recline my seat a tiny, tiny bit. I mean, less than an inch of the top of the seat tips back. Just enough to remove the inflight magazine from between my teeth.
Meanwhile, the guy in front of me with the drill sergeant hair cut and a severe lack of sideburns just sits there, a smug look on his face for the rest of the flight.
I’m not ashamed to admit it, I behaved like a child after that. First time I’ve acted that way after 30 years of flying (bearing in mind 10 of those years I was an actual, real live child). He got kicked, he got my tray table slammed up into the seat a few times. He got “awwww bummer dude” thrown at him a few times when the stewardess asked him to put his chair up for landing. He even got a good old fashioned stare down from my crunchy hippie boyfriend (oh, LOL).
And I’m sure when he got home, he told all his friends about how he was “punished” for simply reclining his seat. He would have loved it, regaling all of his middle management friends with tales of his amusing flight with the great unwashed.
Here’s the thing: Just ask. Just don’t be a dick and ask. Not for permission of course, because the rules say you can do what you want when it comes to reclining. But just give the person behind you some notice – let them get their shit sorted out before you claim your extra 10 inches of breathing room. We’re all shoved in there together whether we like it or not, and I’m getting mighty tired of people dropping their manners as soon as they get on board.
We are all going to the same place. If you act like a dick, I’m going to tell you, and if it’s a long flight, you’d best be prepared to hear it for a few solid hours. And when we land, I’ll tell you some more. And your family who came to meet you. And I’ll write a note for your hairdresser about those ridiculous sideburns.
I’ve always said I like to live my life without regrets. That doesn’t mean I don’t have them, I just don’t hold on to them for long, and I turn them into learning experiences (if I can). Regrets, to me, are a way of continually punishing yourself over time for choices you made with the best of intentions.
But now, for the first time in my life, I have regrets. Deep ones. So I’m going to list them, because this is a positive post (in the end, I promise).
– I regret that I didn’t spend enough time with my dogs, the loves of my life, towards the end of their lives. I should have dedicated more of my time to loving them, playing with them, and letting them love me. Instead, I worked.
– I regret that I didn’t spend enough time paying attention to the people who love me over the past 3 years, and as a result some very good friendships have become vague and distant relationships instead of wholehearted, laugh out loud, share everything friendships. Instead, I worked.
– I regret that I completely and utterly ceased to listen to my body and my mind, allowing this 32 year old masterpiece (ha) become a rundown, ramshackle and decaying shell with absolutely no street appeal. This body was well on it’s way to “renovate or detonate” status, and the latter was winning.
– I regret that all of the above took place for pretty much no reason whatsoever, and that it took a major life shift for me to realise it.
Ohhhh okay, this isn’t a Beatdown on Nicky piece, I am ridiculously happy and things have never been better.
Which begs the question: what’s with all the regrets, ya big idiot?
I think it comes down to a period of my life being so utterly destructive, so pointless and so disenchanting, that I almost gave up on life. Not in some big dramatic suicidal event – more of a slow decline into depression and simply not caring. And that’s a huge deal for someone who cares too much, 90% of the time.
I’m gonna blame it on myself, but I’m not being a victim. I’m owning the fact that I made some pretty stupid life choices that I thought were very smart ones. Why not work for a huge company, and let it run me into the ground? Watch me FLYYYYY! Quite frankly, my ego got in the way.
I’m a pretty proud woman, arrogant even. I know what I’m good at and I like people knowing it too. Nope, doesn’t make me a bad person at all, it just makes me a little blind when it comes to preserving some of the important things in life. I’m lucky to have people who keep my feet on the ground and help me see the reality of my actions (most of the time!)
So I found a job, and a workplace, that fed my ego dramatically. Daily, people would tell me how wonderful I was, and how much I had improved things. They liked my personality too, and all those little extra efforts I put in to make the office cheerful and bring smiles to people’s faces. Look at me go, bitches! Movin’ up in the world, winning battles, top of the world Ma!
Meanwhile, some of the most important things in my whole life (my boyfriend and my dogs), lay at home waiting for me to return, while I shopped ’til late buying stupid bloody plastic crap to decorate some activity or poster that I’d invented hours before. Aren’t I clever? Aren’t I creative? Aren’t I stupid?
Yep. Dumb as a doorstop. Wasted hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks of my life, and other lives, trying to please two or three people who I had come to see as the barometer of my success.
Hand in hand with that was fear. Ever present, cold and terrifying fear. Fear of being late. Fear of being humiliated. Fear of failure, trouble, apologising, and not being enough. I used to shake violently and cry on my way to the office, every Tuesday and Thursday morning, without fail. And yet I did it for two years! Why? Because I was damn good at the job. (I know, right?)
I have really only one or two people in mind when I think about this (and if you’ve known me well enough in the past couple of years, you’ll know who I am thinking of), and after 3 months of being away from that whole scene, I am quickly realising how little these people matter.
It doesn’t mean I don’t respect them, it just means they don’t matter to me. I wish them the best. I just don’t care if they like me or not.
Because really, what’s it for? Why do we work? Why do we drive 3 hours a day in heavy traffic to a job that makes you enough money to *just* survive the lifestyle you’ve built for yourself? It seems to me that the further I am from that life, the clearer it becomes and the more frustrated I am with other people who are just existing.
You live, you work, you play (if you have time, money, energy)… you share it all on facebook and people think you’re amazing. Woo-fucking-hoo.
So I’ll have these regrets forever, I’m sure of it. I don’t hate myself for it and I don’t feel horrible when I think about it. I’ve closed the door on that part of my life and I will never, ever behave that way again. Because all I’ve done is give myself a bunch of “learning experiences” to carry around with me for life, and even now on my “road to recovery”, I am always scared of the damage I did to myself in those years. Maybe I did irreparable damage to my body or my mind… or my relationships.
Probably not, but I’ll live with that forever.
And the positive spin on all this is: I figured it out early! I’m so, so lucky I have the people in my life who have waved something shiny in my face and said “hey maybe this is better”… and it is.
All I ask is that you remember this: Status is about you. Fame is about you. Recognition is about you. Praise and pride and stress and climbing that ladder and proving things is about YOU.
And no one will EVER remember that presentation you did that one time that absolutely killed the pig. Sorry, but they won’t. So keep working and keep living, but for god’s sake – go to the beach! Be late! Take a long lunch! Enjoy the money you’re making!
And don’t ever blame any of your poor choices on anyone else, there is ALWAYS a Door #3 and no one is stopping you from opening it.
Props to CMR Photography for the awesome headshot. You rock ❤