As it’s the first day of a new year and a new decade, it seems like the perfect time for some self-reflection. Yesterday, I posted my lists of top films, books, and audiobooks for 2019. I normally manage to get through a lot of films each year so 2019 was nothing new. In terms of reading, I’ve really outdone myself. 2018 was the year that I set my first reading challenge. I put it at a fairly meagre 30 books but it was something that I only just managed to pass before December 31st. This year, to be on the safe side, I put it at 30 again. As you’ll know if you’ve read any of my recent bookish posts, I surpassed the 30 mark with a quarter of the year still to go. So, I upped it to 50 and managed to finish 58 books in total. I know compared to many people in the bookish community that this isn’t a great achievement. It is for me. Last year I struggled so much with reading slumps and not wanting to open up the book I was reading. In the last few years, I’ve spent months trying to get through single books. This year, I was normally reading about one a week. It begged the question: what had changed? Well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I think I know.
Yep, that simple thing that we all take a little for granted. I realised that this year I’ve been happier than I’ve been since I graduated from university in December 2011. The reason? I got a new job. Not just a job but a job that finally gave me a start in the industry that I wanted. It was also a job that took me away from the place I’d been working since I was 16. The job that was only meant to be a weekend thing but ended up slowly chipping away at my soul and joyful spirit for the next 14 years. I know this sounds melodramatic but I’ve thought about it a lot recently. I always knew I was unhappy where I worked but I don’t think I ever admitted to myself, or anyone in my life for that matter, just how hard it was on me.
In 2015, I applied for the role of trainee manager even though I didn’t really want it. My boss had convinced me it would look good on my CV and that I should definitely go for it. I got it because I was basically already unofficially doing the job. Before I accepted, I questioned him about whether it was the right choice. I didn’t want to work in catering and never had. Yet, I had beaten a lot of people who wanted to progress. He told me it didn’t matter and that it would be a useful step. Looking back, I realise he wasn’t thinking about my best interests but his. He didn’t want to hire someone new to do the role because he’d have to train them. It was easier to get me to carry on doing it.
I was in the role for just over a year before the powers that be all but forced me to step down. A decision that I didn’t mind really but it all came about when they found out my future was in marketing and not catering. They reacted as if I had lied to them all when taking the job and started making my life even more difficult. Just one indication of the way that the upper management team treated their employees. But that isn’t really the important aspect. That year and 3 months was the worst period of my entire life. I was utterly miserable in every aspect of my life and I genuinely dreaded going to work. I was expected to do the job without any one-to-one training, which was fine for most of it but there were important parts of the job I’d never done before. My boss left to go to another branch so we were short-staffed. This meant I was taking on more responsibility than a trainee should have done and I was constantly having to work extra hours unpaid to help out.
And it was incredibly difficult to manage. I had no social life to speak of at the time. I barely slept because I was so anxious about going to work. I ended up crying alone in my room every night. The sound of my alarm going off in the morning just made me want to crawl under the covers and never come out. I was emotional, tired, and stressed and that all came out in angry bursts every now and then. I wasn’t a nice person to be around at that time. And I wasn’t up to doing things. I didn’t want to read or do fun things. I just went to work, got home, watched Netflix, went to bed and repeated the process. It was a bleak time but all I could do is keep going.
When I said I never spoke to anyone about it that was a lie. In one of my appraisals, I told my boss how awful I was feeling. I told him how miserable I was, how much I dreaded work, how stressed and anxious I was, how I spent all my spare time in tears. In fact, I spent a lot of that meeting in tears too. He was the first person I told how I was really feeling. His response? “Everybody has problems.” And to be fair to him, he did also have problems. His problem was that his girlfriend had found out he’d been cheating on her. But, yeah, everyone has problems. That was the point I realised that the people I’d worked with for 12 years couldn’t care less about me. I’d actually opened up about my mental state and I’d been told to suck it up. I realised at that point that I really was working for a heartless company that didn’t care about anything but profits. I was working for managers who didn’t care about anyone but themselves. I never felt more alone than I did at that moment.
Which is why I spent the next few years absolutely hating the place. I stepped down from being a manager (or was pushed off the cliff) and, for a short while, it was fine. I was a little happier, I cried a little less, and I was able to leave on time for a change. But the atmosphere never changed. The lack of empathy or understanding from the people above you never changed. It all started to creep back and everything got incredibly bleak. It wasn’t all the time, obviously, because it never is. I’d just start referring to the bad days as my “dark days” because creating euphemisms meant I didn’t have to come face-to-face with the fact that something was probably wrong. If it was just a mood for a few days then it wasn’t anything to worry about. I didn’t have to think about it.
But it was always there. I’ve always cried quite easily but this was a lot. It was during this time that I watched About Time for the first time. I know it’s an odd thing to bring up but I found myself relating to it. Or at least the scene in which Domnhall Gleeson’s sister tells him that she is the family’s “faller”.
Maybe, just maybe, I’m the faller. Every family has, like, someone who falls, who doesn’t make the grade, who stumbles, who life trips up. Maybe I’m our faller.
Suddenly, I had heard something that explained me. I was the faller. I was the one who hadn’t done anything with her life. I hadn’t succeeded with my career or with relationships. I was the disappointment that was there to make everyone else look good. It spoke to me so much that I added it to my WordPress profile and it’s still there to this day. I cried for days thinking about that quotation.
And it made me feel even worse about myself. I already criticised myself for wasting my life. I did a Postgraduate degree that, in the end, hadn’t helped me with my career. I hadn’t got the job I wanted after finishing university. I was spending my precious time alone in my room and crying. I had been given the gift of life and I wasting it at every turn. I felt as though I didn’t deserve it but I didn’t know what I needed to do to change that. But that led to more self-hatred because it felt self-indulgent to be thinking about my problems so much. So I didn’t have the job I wanted? There were people way worse off than I was. What made me so special that I should sit here and cry about my lot in life? There was so much inadequacy. I couldn’t trust my decisions or abilities any more. I wasn’t getting any jobs because I wasn’t worth hiring. So I had to really force myself to apply for new jobs.
But this year something changed. I got a new job. In March 2019, I applied for, interviewed at and accepted a role with a new company. A job in my chosen field that will finally get me on the path that I wanted. I left my old job and started my new journey in April. The change was amazing. I was happier. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off me and I was finally doing something worthwhile. Yes, I still have problems with anxiety and I don’t always trust my abilities. But I’m sleeping more and I don’t fear the alarm going off in the morning. I like the people I work with and am so grateful for getting this opportunity. It’s genuinely changed who I am. I can’t pretend that it’s my dream job but it doesn’t have to be. It’s helped me in so many ways.
And I finally want to do things again. You can see it in how much I’ve been reading and how much I’ve been going out. I get in touch with my friends to arrange things instead of making excuses not to go out. I’m less snappy with family (less snappy but not completely un-snappy. I am a 31-year-old who still lives with her parents after all). In just 9 months, my whole outlook on life has changed. Yes, I still have dark days and I still get excessively teary about things. But I can watch that clip from About Time without weeping for days now. This is a post that I would never have been able to write until now. Until I was at a point where I feel okay about things. Until I was happy.
2019 has been a great year for my family and friends in so many ways. Most importantly for me, it was the year that I came back to life. And even though the situation with the world looks bleak, I’m looking forward to greater things to come in 2020.