Our first flat party…

Last night my flatmates and I hosted our first real “flat party”, which ran from 3pm in the afternoon until around 2am in the morning. It was not quite what I had expected. The level of preparation my German flatmate put in was unlike any student party I had ever been to in the UK, though that’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable. It was.

It was an intense evening, spent switching between German and French and English due to the make up of the guests. I found it strange how easily this came to me, and at times it felt a little bit disconcerting; my Tunisian flatmate would speak to me in French and out of instinct I would answer in German. It’s an experience I haven’t really had before, but which I suppose is natural in a multilingual group.

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Today I am feeling a little bit worse for wear, but I’m also looking forward to the week to come. I have about four weeks left at school before the beginning of the Christmas holidays. I am hoping to finally finish the Couch to 5K running plan in that time: this week has been a bit of a set back as I’ve had a chest infection the entire week which is only now starting to clear up.

On the whole things are good. This is one of the first winters where I can say that I really feel content, with no worries about exams to come and no essay stress. It’s a good feeling. I’ve also managed to get my insurance company to pay out for some medical bills, meaning that I’m no longer as financially pressed as I was just a few days ago. Onwards…

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Feeling like Writing…

Since my last post on Monday I decided to set up a second blog, here:

grainnebaker.wordpress.com

On this blog I have posted a few bits and pieces, old and new, and will probably keep adding to it, with the aim of having a place where I could collate all my writing in one place.

I realized that I needed to give myself the space to deliver some kind of creative output, even if it isn’t up to much. Nevertheless, the act of writing, has, over the last few days, made me feel more energetic and purposeful than I have done in a long while. Despite being sick, and the weather being terrible, I feel good about it and about life itself, and have given some serious thought to the future and where I am heading.

On the whole I am enjoying my time at school, and I am blessed, even if the money is not so good, to have such an easy-going job which allows me to do such rewarding things without demanding too much of my time. I am not sure if I am cut out for the 50-60 week of a full time school teacher, but that’s something I still have time to think about, as well as everything else.

Trying to find a direction

The last couple of days, truth be hold, have been a bit tough for me. I spent much of yesterday languishing in a kind of depression. Finally I mustered the energy to ask some friends to meet me which calmed me down to no end. I bought a packet of cigarettes, chain smoked around 10 and threw the rest away. I am feeling better today.

What bothers me is something which I suppose has bothered me for a while: a sense of dissatisfaction and directionlessness in life. I had hoped that my time away in Germany would give me some space to think about things, and try to work out what I was really looking for. In large part I think I was always drawn to TEFL because of exit route it seemed to offer into another space, in which you could always reconstruct yourself, rebuild your life as something happier and more fulfilling. Although I enjoy teaching and find it rewarding, there is an inherent anxiety in this lifestyle which I am never going to escape. Instead of finding the liberation I sought I now find myself simply tied down in another jurisdiction, with all its bureaucratic encumbrances, the accumulation of belongings which will eventually need to be dumped again, the ties of contracts, and so on.

I am starting to realize how numbed and dazed I was by the whole Oxford experience. The last year has been one thing after another, a seemingly never ending torrent of stress. I survived it all but by the end I felt almost like a zombie, alienated from others and also alienated from myself. I believed I had recovered a lot of the sense of self that I had lost in my adolescence to various traumas and pressures as I was leaving Oxford, but I am starting to gain the awareness, more and more, that there are other things buried there which I need time to reconstitute and make whole again, even if it takes years or decades.

I would like to pursue writing more seriously. I have wanted to write since I was a teenager, but was always hindered by a kind of self doubt, a deafening inner critic, which told me that I was wanting so much in life experience and the understanding of others that it would be a futile exercise. With age and experience came greater insight; now it does not seem such an insurmountable obstacle. There have been many things in life I have held back from, restrained by a kind of ever-present anxiety. I wish to no longer allow that anxiety to restrain me.  I want to return to those days of my childhood where I could learn, enjoy culture and read for the sake of it without the threat of scrutiny and criticism, love without fear, and experience without self-loathing.

Good news and getting into the swing of things

After a difficult first few months, I have had a couple of small victories this week.

The first victory was finding out that that I do not, in fact, have skin cancer. Despite the difficulties I had in actually getting the doctor to speak to me, I managed to talk to him on Monday and got the news. After everything, it turned out that the mole was not cancerous but merely unusually pigmented. Of course, I now have a hefty bill to pay, but my insurance will refund it.

Secondly, I have started to get a couple of more concrete responses to my attempts to find extra work. This is encouraging, and is making me feel a lot better about everything. I had been very worried about what I was going to do about the summer, but my hope is that if I can take on as much extra work as I can manage throughout the year I should have the funds to cover it, and if I’m lucky I might even have enough to put a bit of it towards my CELTA in August/September 2018 (yes, my ever changing life plans have changed again).

On the whole, right now, I am trying to take things easy and get through them step-by-step. It is a change from me to try to adjust to not knowing what is coming in the future, not being able to plan everything out in minute details, but I think having this uncertainty in front of me and not allowing it to panic me is for the best in the long run. I am enjoying my job and my lifestyle at the minute, so why bog myself down with worrying?

Back home in Derry

I flew from Bristol to Belfast last night. The flight had a three hour delay, and easyjet compensated us by offering a £3 voucher, which given we were in an airport wasn’t even enough to buy a sandwich! Nevertheless, eventually I managed to get on a plane and escape back to Ireland, where my mother was waiting for me at the airport.

Today I am mostly relaxing, but also going through all my preparations for moving to Germany. It feels as though I am at the end of a long period of uncertainty and stasis and I can finally feel some mental clarity returning. I feel I know exactly what I have to do and I have no hesitations about working through it, even if that meant I was on the phone to SSE first thing this morning.

I also am working on reigning in my lifestyle and spending. I am off the cigarettes again and also trying to do some exercise. This was helped by going to the Brecon Beacons with my friend on Sunday, where we climbed Sugar Loaf.

It was a strange relief coming home; I felt better than I had done in months, as if I could finally get on with my life. Although it was very nice to stay with my friend, it seemed to continue, or even contribute to the sense of prolonged stasis I was feeling. For the first time in a long time, I am starting to feel like myself again.

Relaxing in Cheltenham…and turning 24

I am currently staying at a friend’s place in Cheltenham, sleeping on a futon in his drawing room, and will be until Monday when I fly to Belfast from Bristol.

KODAK FUN SAVER Digital Camera

(My current living situation. The whale was a birthday present.)

It it a strange feeling to suddenly have barely anything to do after the stress of moving in the last few days. I almost am starting to feel myself coming round to feeling human again. The stress of moving prompted me to smoke two packs of cigarettes but I’ve stopped smoking them again now, without much difficulty. My body still aches from carrying everything, but at least I feel some sense of calm.

I feel I am just about to start catching up on my friends, a lot of whom have been in work already for a year or two. But I suppose this is simply a peril of doing a four year course and then having a year out. At any rate, it feels good to no longer be “stuck”.

This sense of delay was brought home to me on Monday evening when a friend wished me happy birthday and gave me a present. It was very thoughtful of her, especially because I hadn’t mentioned anything about my birthday to anyone, being caught up with graduation and moving.

This has triggered something of a quarter life crisis, as I wonder what the hell I am doing, and more importantly what the hell I am going to do after my contract finishes in Germany. I suppose I can only wait and see…

Moving on: saying goodbye to Oxford

I am leaving Oxford on Tuesday.

I am sure I will be back to the city in years to come, not least because some of my friends will still be living here. But I won’t be.

My time at Oxford has been full of ups and downs, some of which I discussed in detail previously. 

Nevertheless, there is something distinctly bittersweet about packing up and leaving. It all came to an end academically with my graduation on Friday, which consisted of a rather impersonal two hour ceremony in Latin. I did get to wear the fancy hood with a white ermine lining, somehow symbolizing that I had, after all this time, progressed from the uncertain undergraduate status to that of a graduate. I have my 2.i. I can finally leave.

Right now I am in the throes of intensively cleaning my flat, something which is made rather more difficult by the fact my flatmates have both gone home. But I agreed to do it and it will be manageable. The worst jobs (cleaning the cooker hood and unblocking the sink) are already done, so there are some small mercies. But I will nevertheless have to be up early.

I have also got rid of most of my belongings. The entire contents of my kitchen will go in the bin tomorrow, which is a slightly depressing thought. It would be nice to able to take things to foodbanks and charity shops, but without a car that is necessarily a struggle. It is strange to see that everything I now own can be fitted into two rucksacks and two shopping bags. It is a mildly depressing thought, but also a necessity.

I will go Cheltenham to stay with a friend for about a week, who very kindly has offered to let me stay until I fly to Belfast next Monday. We are hoping to get to the Brecon Beacons at the weekend, but that will depend on a number of factors. Tomorrow will be taken up by cleaning, saying goodbye to a friend, and probably a final smoke on my balcony, just for old time’s sake.