Tuesday, 13 November 2012

"You're actually quite wise..." "Yeah, it's why everyone calls me The Owl..."

Firsts of everything can be scary; I remember my first day at school, holding my book bag like it was made of gold and not wanting to leave the house - I wanted to stay at home and watch episodes of Supermarket Sweep with my Mum, eating digestive biscuits on the sofa. My first kiss was in a field 10 minutes from my house, with my first boyfriend (his name was Demar), 15 minutes after my curfew...I was 10, he put his tongue in my mouth and I squirmed and said his tongue felt like a mushroom. My first day at a new school in Eastbourne. The first time I had sex (I was older than 10 and his tongue didn't feel like a mushroom). My first important exam. My first day at college. The first time I stayed at home without my parents. The first day I moved from Eastbourne to London, alone. My first day at a new job.

Although my brother also worked at the company, my first day at my new job was still absolutely terrifying. People had formed their opinion of me before I had even started because of my brother but I'm lucky because he's polite, funny and knows the expressions to pull so people think he's listening to them when they moan. I had been tarred with a good brush. Despite not having to worry about first impressions, seeing as my brother had sorted this for me, I still had a list as long as my forearm of "Things to Worry About When You Start a New Job" (#3 - hearing your manager go for a poo, whilst making conversation with you through cubicles). There was only so much my brother could do for me and given that the only thing we have in common is our eyes, I didn't want people to think I lived in his shadow. 

I'm a people pleaser so my main priority, whenever I have a 'first day' at something, is making sure nobody is whispering behind my back - and if they are, I want them to be whispering things like "Wow, she can handle her drink!" or "She's so cool and interesting and cultured, I need her in my life". These two things have never, ever been whispered behind my back, or shouted in my face either. Hence why I tend to try and people please to the maximum because I'm hoping that one day, somebody will take pity on me (or read this) and my quest to finally meet somebody who notices my drinking ability and my brilliant conversational skills will be complete. 
Whenever I hear that somebody isn't particularly fond of me, I'll do everything I'm capable of doing to change their mind. I'll never compromise my morals or my beliefs just so somebody will ask me to go to lunch with them but I am pretty persistent with my crusade. I won't stop until I have a reason for their distaste and even once I have this, I still attempt to alter their opinion of me. What can I say? I just like to be liked.

Just to clear things up, this 'new job' that I'm banging on about is at a debt collection agency. I've been working there for 7 months and I think I've won enough people over to feel comfortable in knowing nobody is going to put death threats in my locker or put laxatives in my tea. But, for the first couple of months, there was somebody who completely intimidated me, for reasons I'm still yet to understand, but I was petrified of saying the wrong thing because in my eyes, they were the coolest person I'd met (at this job, anyway). I didn't want to mess up, I didn't want them to see me as an awkward, chubby teenager and I most certainly didn't want them to dislike me.

My people pleasing tendencies kicked in and I sunk into "I'll make you like me" mode. Unfortunately, whenever I plan things, things seem to mess up even more and my first proper conversation with this person involved me hysterically crying and shouting "just don't touch me!" as they tried to comfort me. Nice one, Vick, doing well.

The more I tried to play the situation cool (or really, attempt to make this person like me without coming across like the biggest weirdo ever), the more I ended up embarrassing myself. I swear on the whole of John Lennon's discography that I have more trouble building friendships than I do relationships because I really do care too much about what people think. 
I'd heard that this person was quite similar to myself; similar music tastes, beliefs, opinions (except when it comes down to tattoos, Caitlin Moran and gingerbread) and hobbies - so I saw no reason for us not to get on...except, there was clearly something out there that didn't want us to be friends. So, I accepted that and I stopped trying to be cool, I gave into the stupid things that'd escape my mouth every time I spoke & over time, I accepted that sometimes people just aren't supposed to swap make-up tips & telephone numbers.

The minute I fully accepted that there was obviously something wrong with this person for them not to like me, was the moment things started to change. Suddenly, we'd start to talk about our weekend plans, our upcoming gigs and on one crazy afternoon, we even secretly ran to the shops for cigarettes and cake. It was on this particular afternoon that I realised that two things: the first thing was that this person understood me more than I originally thought as after 2 minutes of me non-stop rambling on about a pathetic work issue, she stopped me in my tracks and said "what the fuck are you going on about? Quit talking about work, you're so much more interesting than that. You have a life and you have ambitions. Talk to me about those." and the second thing was that sometimes you just need to chill out about a situation & things will slot into place; you shouldn't force a friendship, these things happen as & when and sometimes, the best sort of friendships are built on a little bit of a rocky foundation.

5 months later, we regularly go for lunch together, swap books and discuss our sex lives with no details spared. If you'd have told me the outcome of these events all that time ago when I would go home and literally spend hours wondering why this one person refused to like me, I'd probably have chilled out a bit more. 
As we sat in a pub/restaurant in Streatham High Road 4 weeks ago, drinking mojitos and swapping life stories like Pokemon cards in the 90s, I realised that inspiration CAN come from places we'd never expect.

When I originally moved to London, my plan was to meet lots of different individuals who would turn my world upside down. Individuals with ideas bigger than their very being. Individuals with passion and ambition flowing through their bloodstream. Individuals who are fearless, strong and excited. This is all because when I meet people like this, I begin to feel my blood boil and suddenly, I'm superhuman. I can write for days after a really cool 10 minute meeting and I question my whole existence for weeks, wondering how exactly I can grow into a better version of myself.

Now don't get me wrong, but I never thought for a second that I'd meet this type of person working for at a debt collection agency. I want to be a writer, it's that simple, and I'm inspired by people who appreciate the written word and authors like Harper Lee & Marcel Proust, people who have memorised Rainer Maria Rilke's entire work and people who don't just write because they have too but people who write because if they don't, they'll go mad. I know what that feels like and the minute I meet somebody who has to carry a pen around with them just in case they're hit with a perfect opening sentence for their book, I'm instantly encouraged. 

But as it turns out, the person that intimidated me the most happens to be my main source of inspiration during the hours of 9am to 5.30pm. What I find fascinating is that this one person's opinion, who 7 months ago had no effect on my life and my thought process, now alters how I think. I respect their opinion, their advice and most importantly, their time. It's not like we're particularly close outside of work, besides sharing a couple of rum and cokes and swapping a few drunken texts, but I've discovered that it's very rare to find somebody so extraordinary, somebody who inspires you so much in a situation that is so unimaginative.

Considering I work with my brother, I know I'm always going to be on the right path in terms of my day job. But meeting somebody at said day job, who does nothing but push me onto the right path in terms of my ambitions, my life and my mindset, is something not everyone is lucky enough to experience.
What's funny is that sometimes the people you least expect too suddenly have a huge effect on your life.

Most evenings, we share a 10 minute car journey together and it's on these journeys that I realise how lucky I am. One conversation in which I told her how I am/was completely besotted with a guy in a relationship stands out for me the most. This guy loves a few tears and when I explained this, the response is something that still makes me laugh;-

"Just fuck him and tell him to stop crying" - not the most moral, or in-depth, advice but the best advice I got given regarding the situation. He stopped crying.

My response to that? "You're actually quite wise." - "Yeah, it's why everyone calls me The Owl."

When I first started my job all I really wanted from it was experience, money to pay the bills and a few laughs between the hours of 9 and 5. The last thing I expected to take from it was somebody brand new who has changed, and shaped, my attitude to the point of no return. For once, I'm not even being dramatic.

First days are always scary. But, if I'd have been told on my first day of work that I'd have had my consciousness altered by somebody who isn't a writer, family or John Lennon, I'm certain I'd have spent less time worrying about hearing my manager on the toilet and more time on being myself. This being said, I'm really glad I put effort into trying to make somebody like me; sometimes you're put into really uncomfortable situations with people you're unfamiliar with to teach you how to become comfortable in your own skin. There's nothing more empowering than thinking "you know what? I am a rockstar" when the person you thought hated you is suddenly sat opposite you, drinking really sugary cocktails and giving you life advice.

There's also nothing more inspiring than being sat opposite the person you thought hated you, drinking really sugary cocktails, and realising they were in your position once upon time.
Not everything happens over night and a struggle is what makes the outcome so worth it. Listening to my very own "Owl" talk about childhood, aspirations and past relationships and realising we have more in common than I originally thought, everything started to slip into place. Sometimes, all you need is a good old test of character to encourage you to look back on where you've come from, work out who you are in the present and who you want to be in the future.