(not just) Facebook Bragging

A grown woman, young and slim for her age, posts a bikini photo. Another, 10 years older and in the obese range, is asking for the exact reasons for this post, adding that the former seems to be posting selfies much too regularly. She didn`t know her yet when she was big.

The same woman, who does not work, posts pictures of her immaculately kept home several times a week. As every year, she was first to show pictures of her Christmas decorations and home baking.

According to one of her working friends, she mentions a bit too often how lucky she is not to have to work and how important it is for a child to have her mum at home full time until well into teenage.

Another mother, whose weekends will usually revolve around her children, will always share live pictures of every single cocktail when she happens to go out once in a while. And then, of course, there are the selfies.

She who rarely finds the time to go out with her few friends will share a few too many pictures of her kids, and she who just cannot get pregnant will post excessive amounts of pictures of and hangover statuses after her weekly clubbing nights.

A woman who comes from very little and has married rich, and who`s conscious of her weight and will therefore not have her picture taken by the pool, will post loads of pictures of the swanky places where she ate instead. Her husband perceives those posts as bragging, but he`s had those holidays for all of his life. She however is still excited about them and doesn`t miss a single opportunity to talk about them, which annoys her colleague who hasn`t been abroad in three years.

A young lady who still resents the fact that she had to forego higher education reads highly intelligent things which she will frequently throw into conversations. She often sounds condescending when others don`t know what she is talking about.

And when someone asks the usual question about plans for the weekend, activities mentioned by one`s friends just the night before, are, without hesitation, sold as one`s own.

I know all those people personally. They can easily be seen as bragging, but if you know a bit more about them, it`s easy to realise that they are just desperate to make up for their perceived shortfalls.

Redundancy – Part III

For a while, I was wondering whether all I really needed was a break. Two weeks` leave, a 6-month Sabbatical or, after a particularly stressful day, just going off sick. I`d have as much time looking for another job, but I wouldn`t need to give up the security of the one I`ve got. But the thought of having to return filled me with dread. I wanted to get properly away, and the more I worked through all my questions and queries, the more certain I was of this matter.

I never felt I really had the time to explore other options though while still working; only letting go of my job altogether would make me actually do something about my desire for change – not least because I then have to. While still in my comfort zone, it`s just too easy not to. The more I thought about it, the more I came to see VERA (Voluntary Early Release Agreement) as a gift, a gift of time out and starting afresh without having to worry about money.

When the compensation was increased, there was no more question about what I would do. In fact, I was scared of not receiving an offer and having this door closed. Which made me think about money. Of course, I could still resign, I just wouldn`t get a package. So is it all about money, then? After some soul searching, I concluded that it is for me, and that`s fine. I`ve always been an extremely security conscious person.

Deep inside, I really want a break before getting myself another job. I have so many plans about what I would do with a break. I also thought about the importance of work in general. Where would I stand in society if I didn`t have a job? But many of my friends have been unemployed at some point, neither for very long, and neither was thought less of.

There was a scare earlier this week that I wouldn`t get redundancy, and this very fact told it all – the fact I was scared of not getting the offer. Once I had worked through all the the issues, I got quite excited about leaving. We also had more information about what the future (at work) will hold, and I was glad that I wouldn`t be part of it. Regardless of whether or not I`d get a package, I need a change, and the time is now. I may have needed pushed and enticed, but once I made up my min, not only did I feel free to go, I`m also feeling an increasing urge to.

£6.oo

Because my husband is now a pensioner, we`ll be saving £6.00 per month on our gym membership. That`s two coffee and a croissant to share. I think we should make a point to actually go and have those once a month rather than just letting this small sum go unnoticed. I`m quite looking forward to that.

Lisbon

Last weekend, we were in Lisbon. Just Sunday to Tuesday, but we were so lucky with the flights that it felt like a proper, three day break. We`ve been here twice before, and we both love it. There is something really comforting in knowing your surroundings. It doesn`t feel that way, but I think discovering a holiday destination can actually be stressful.

Lisbon greeted us with the smell of sun and cigarettes, something which always reminds me of a particular summer at home in Germany. We took a taxi. There`s a bus every 20 minutes for EUR 3.50 per person, but the journey to Alfama is brief (20 minutes) and cost us EUR 19.00. Going back was EUR 12.00 because the driver worked with the people we rented our flat from. We were later told that the bus would have taken one hour.

Different flat at the same little square. First thing we did (after dropping our thick jackets and me exchanging tights and boots for sandals!) was check whether the cats were still there, and they were. Same cats lounging on the same cars; fat and healthy looking cats – people really want them because they think they`d otherwise have rats.

The weather was beautiful, proper summer by Scottish standards. It felt lovely to walk our familiar trails and let the sun shine on us, knowing that at home, the forecast was once again rain and winds. My husband hadn`t known until a few days ago that we were going, for this was his birthday surprise, and he said he still couldn`t believe that we were here.

We found a little restaurant in one of the side streets where we sat for probably two hours, ate good, fresh food and drank sparking wine (Vinho Verde). That`s how I imagined it, and it feels great to be finally doing exactly that thing, and then have your belly full and sit that little bit longer.

Jimmy took the heads and innards of the fish, and we fed them to the cats on the square. After another little walk past the supermarket, we spent the night in the flat with a bottle of wine.

I was pleased to wake at 7.30am the next morning. I like a lie in when on holiday, but not when I`m at a place like this for only two days. I made coffee, took a shower and then did what I said last night: I took my coffee and sat at the square. Without makeup, just me and my morning coffee (and my phone to take a pic and post it on facebook. Must must!), watching the square come to life – workmen were fixing a lamp, a little boy was coming home with a bag of bread, and an old man walking his dog tried to strike a conversation. “Ingles.” I wonder how long it would take me to learn Portuguese.

We took the Escalator Santo Justa (always been put off by the queues before, but today, we were early!) to Bairro Alto, which I’ll never ever get bored of. We sat for another two hours in front of a little cafe, my husband drinking red wine, and me freshly squeezed juice. We had a lovely conversation with a Belgian couple that had claimed the other side of our table, and the woman photographed us.

Meanwhile, I was hungry, but because the cafe offered mainly drinks, we went elsewhere – a really traditional, down to earth place that seemed aimed at locals, and which was exceptional value for good quality food. But the food is good everywhere! I never ate so well as I did in Portugal! We were fantasysing about what it would be like to buy an apartment and stay here for at least part of the year.

Bit of shopping, and then we picked up some cheese and Port for a quiet evening in. We finished the bottle while taking about the rest of our lives and went to bed at the same time as we would at home.

The next day, we got up early again and made all of this last half day count. I sat in a street cafe until literally 10 minutes before the holiday ended, sipping thick, frothy espresso and eating cheese and oregano toasties.

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

Redundancy – Part II

… I was interested enough to look up on our Intranet the conditions for voluntary redundancy and who was at risk of compulsory redundancy. The former weren`t interesting at first, and the latter wasn`t scary, and I found myself strangely disappointed about both.

When I learnt that the redundancy payment was not taxed and likely to be increased, I sought confirmation that I wasn`t  committing to anything by noting an interest, and then I did exactly that. I didn`t want to miss the boat. I wanted to keep my options open while I was finding out more and weighing up the pros and cons, buy myself time.

Meanwhile, I started to look for jobs, found that there were plenty of things, and I applied for a couple. Neither materialised, but I discovered that I did indeed have other options than this average paying dead end job that takes me 3 hours a day to travel back and forward, and that`s increasingly annoying me. I`ve never been looking for years.

While the deadline expired and other people made further decisions, I had plenty time to think. Everything was pointing in just one direction:

  • My current job has not added to my CV in three years or so, and I don`t expect it to do so in the near future. I`ve been doing it for almost 5 years now, and its only challenges remain annoying people and politics.
  • The sheer fact that I didn`t have a clue until recently what I wanted to do instead should feel scary – I`m becoming institutionalised and eventually unemployable by anyone else.
  • I`m 40 years old. Still young enough now to start elsewhere – but not for much longer. After speaking to an increasing range of people, I`ve now changed my mind in the age thing. It`s the perfect age to start afresh. It`s only half time nowadays, and it` not unusual nowadays for people to have two careers. Man women return to work at 40 after raising their children. Prospective employers no longer fear that we are going to fall pregnant now, and neither do we suffer from the health problems associated with older age. I`m a grown woman who knows what she wants and not a young girl who`ll quit a job after a few months because she decides that she wants something else. I`ve got a lot to offer, and any good HR person will realise that.
  • If I`m not moving now, I probably never will and still be here on the day I retire. At least, only now will I get paid to leave. Is this a sign?
  • I expect working conditions to become less pleasant, and this has started already.
  • There are still people here that I`m attached to, although many have left already. The others will not stay just because I like working with them. Those who are really important will stay in my life.
  • Not so long ago I said if I didn`t work, I wouldn`t know what to do instead. Weirdly, the list is growing by the day now. Some of those things excite me so much that I want to quit work immediately so I can start right now.

(to be continued)

Redundancy – Part I

I`m highly likely going to be made redundant as per 31/12/15, and I have volunteered. This was a process rather than a decision, and I want to share it.

My parents have both instilled in me a big work ethic. Education, success and financial rewards were less important (although they would have been pleased), but you have to work, even when you`re ill, and when you`re on annual leave, you`ll have to work something else at home. Unemployment was unthinkeable for respectable people, unless you were a woman and chose to have a family instead.

I consider myself successful in my first job, and although I didn`t come to my current employer with promotion already in mind, I developed an, at times strong, hunger when people told me I could. I then fell out of favour, applied unsuccessfully six times, so I stopped applying and enjoyed having nice colleagues and easy work instead. Although I tried for a carefully selected few other jobs, I was never disappointed when those did not materialise – I had grown into a rather cosy comfort zone.

Every so often it occurred to me that I`d have to move eventually if I didn`t want to do the same thing until retirement, and it also occurred (and happened) that others moved on away from me, people who had held me back, because I was so attached to them. My work has always been dynamic and interesting in terms of the environment, and all those things distracted from the fact that it hasn`t added anything to my CV since 3 years or so.

We`ve known for a while that our employer needs to save a lot of money, and they`ve always been open about the fact that this would affect staffing and the way we work. For a while, I was wondering whether this was going to open up opportunities, but it then became clearer that the opposite will be the case.

I first started to think about the importance of work in general when a very beloved colleague resigned without a new job to go to. At the same time, my husband started to become serious about planning his retirement, and our financial advisor confirmed that we would be comfortable. Removing the need, the pressure, to earn a certain amount of money certainly opened up my mind before we were invited to apply for voluntary redundancy…

(to be continued)

Retired!

My husband retired on Thursday. He says it hasn`t hit him until he left work at lunch time to pick me up and then drove back to work for one last time. And then it hit him a bit more on Friday morning when he wasn`t just having another long weekend, but he hasn`t got a job any more.

He was never the kind of man who dreaded his retirement. He`s got a very rich life and loads of plans. Since legislation in the UK changed a few years ago, you no longer automatically retire at age 65 – you have to resign, which caused some people to delay retirement. They are scared of proactively letting go of a job they may like and that makes them good money. This bit was never in question for J (retiring on his 65. birthday was always a goal), but when he told a friend (who turned 65 a few months before and had not stopped working) this friend felt an intense pinch of jealousy, and he subsequently handed in his notice as well.

Anyway – Thursday. It was very, very special. We went into his office, which is a glass house in the middle of a production factory, and eventually, we could see everyone stopping their machines and walk away into the same direction, to where the presentations (double retirement, and my husband did the speech for the other guy, as he was his supervisor) were going to be held. This was a bit eery.

My husband managed to pass my camera to someone else, and then I was asked to stand at the front with him. Didn`t expect that, but knowing that he was nervous, I was grateful to be allowed at his side. The speeches were lovely, and since we met though work, they all had me and our relationship in them. I found this bit very humorous and loving and not embarrassing at all. We were still standing there talking to a decreasing group of people when it started to get noisy around us, as people resumed their work at the machines. There was something quite touching about that bit which I can`t quite point my finger to. Life and diary making goes on, but he`s got nothing else to do with it.

I wonder whether he`ll miss it after all, just sometimes, a wee bit.

Job Interview

I had a job interview yesterday – the first in three years. It`s pretty much the same thing that I`m already doing, although I considered that there was more room for progression with this other employer. Even though, I didn`t have the faintest idea re how to prepare and where to start, and I even caught myself self sabotaging by prioritising other things.

I was extremely nervous when I walked in (straight from my husband`s retirement presentation), and it did not start well.:The man in the middle looked at me over his glasses and shuffled his papers: “First of all, I need to clarify something,” he said slowly. I thought I had forgotten something important in my written application, but he slowly read out what I applied for. “Is that right?” I agreed, and there was silence. And I thought damn, they think there`s something wrong, that maybe I`ve fallen out with someone in my current job. “… and you see that as a progression?” he asked me later, and, everything contracting inside, I replied probably not yet, but I see more room for movement.

My interview was dreadful. I had prepared for questions I wasn`t asked, and I was asked questions that I was not prepared for. I gave an example of me making a mistake and someone else having to fix it, then talked about myself speeding and running into another car, and although this is a really good story to illustrate a particular thing, I left out the best part of it. Not good at all.

Something inside me however wasn`t quite as disappointed as I felt I should have been. Maybe the man was right, and the job was too samey – bit more money and better career prospects, shorter travel time but without my colleagues, whom I`d miss very sorely. It would definitely not add to my CV – the reason I want to leave my current job in the first place. It would have been handy, but it wasn`t what I really wanted.

Low and behold, I got a phone call today stating that I was unsuccessful. What surprised me, though, was that they really liked my interview and ranked me 4th out of 194 applications. And then she said they think I should go for something “much, much higher” than this post, for I`ve got good qualifications and good experience. And I discovered that I was delighted – delighted at being unsuccessful and delighted at this kind of feedback, which makes me feel no failure whatsoever. Opposite, in fact.