Middle-Aged Memory Loss: When You Need A Checklist Just To Leave The House

So apparently, the old man also experiences the whole dementia thing, which I had hoped was short-term in my case and attributed to menopause rather than a permanent decline.

Getting out of the house together can be a strain these days and the organization we require to remember everything we need has become an embarrassment. We are forced to run through lengthy checklists before we feel brave enough to open the front door and enter what is becoming a newly threatening world outside. While admittedly, I am known for putting my keys in the fridge and my attempts to boil milk in the kettle, I can’t tell you how often the old man has to go back to the house for his phone or wallet. And nowhere was this new level of senility more apparent than on holiday when we were outside the comfort zone of our territory for a whole week.

One day, we booked a massage at a nearby spa, because included in the deal was the use of the rest of the spa’s facilities for the remainder of the day as well as lunch – an offer that proved impossible to resist for cheapskates like us who had reached breaking point from the feral kids permanently adrift in the pool at our own hotel (as we waited for the Department of Education to turn up after an anonymous tip-off).

‘So all I need is my swimmers?’ the old man asked me five minutes before we were being picked up, and an hour into my own preparations’.

‘No, you need a hat, sunglasses, towel, your phone and something to read,’ I replied helpfully, trying to ignore the ‘CHECK HIS FUCKING BAG!’ thought pounding in my head because I decided it was disempowering.

Two hours later, fully relaxed after a wonderful massage, I suggested that we change into our swimmers in the massage room rather than allow the old man to put any teenage girls around the pool through the torture of having to watch him do his Houdini-style towel dance.

‘I’ve forgotten my swimmers,’ he said, sheepishly, before he went on to blame me for distracting him with all the other stuff he had to remember.

So, for your entertainment, (and as a small punishment for losing his marbles before I lose mine), I bring you a photo of the old man wearing the vintage-style bottoms to the most un-itsy-bitsy bikini (thank God!) you’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, I was forced to sit around the pool for the rest of the day in my underwear, to the mortification of all the poor men under forty.

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Is It Middle-Aged Women That Are Invisible, Or Just Women In General?

There have been a couple of incidences lately that have got my tits in a twist about how invisible women become after the age of fifty – unless we go around waving a banner that says ‘Look at me, I’m here.’ 

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Is It Middle-Aged Women That Are Invisible, Or Just Women In General?

Sadly, it is becoming commonly accepted that as women age and become less physically attractive (by society’s standards) and recognizable for their function as reproductive vessels for the population, they become invisible in a society where beauty is rated higher than intelligence for them. And while the optimist in me would like to believe that with progress and education, society cannot surely continue to judge half of its population on their physical merits alone – I’m not so sure, anymore.

 

I’m also certain that the majority of us middle-aged women don’t miss the wolf whistles from tradies and the comments to ‘smile, love’ that thankfully disappear around the time we became less ‘fuckable’ by society’s standards and more comfortable within ourselves. But ‘invisibility’ is not only an attack on our physical prowess, it is also a scathing judgment about our worth and contribution.  

 

At a talk about feminism on Saturday,  Tracey Spicer discussed her treatment as a female journalist and news anchor before the age of forty – when she was told countless times to ‘stick her tits out’ or the equivalent and reminded frequently that she wasn’t paid to think; when she had a baby, she lost her job. So obviously, there is still some way to go.

 

It appears that society expects women to work to retirement, to equal men in their contribution, as long as it is on its terms ie. in the jobs that suit its narrow-minded gauge of what women can do. And for older women, that gets trickier for roles in the media, the arts, or indeed any job where they are in the public eye. Even those mature women who survive the harrowed journey to success that culminates in high-powered positions in politics or the corporate world, continue to be judged on their shoe style, their parenting choices, and their work/life balance, rather than their input to the role.  And interestingly, this at a time when governments are doing their best to encourage mature women back into the workforce.

 

My personal beef about not being recognized as an equal member of society (because I no longer fulfill the ‘fuckable’ brief), has nothing to do with how people interpret my sexual availability, it has more to do with the acknowledgement that although I might not have the brains, beauty and youth of someone like Miranda Kerr, I still contribute to society and to the joint finances of my household, and that should mean I have a right to be treated in the same way as my husband.

 

A week or so ago the old man and I went to our local bank. Throughout the fifteen-minute process required to set up our two new accounts, I was completely ignored by the teller, (a woman, I should add), except for when asked for my ID to confirm my secondary citizenship and saggy tit status. I did check that I hadn’t left on my invisibility cloak – which I have been known to don when the bins need to be put out or the dog pukes on the carpet – but no, I had left it at home – so I can only assume that I was being judged for my gender. Now I know that banks can be a bit old-fashioned, but is that really an excuse? I can give countless examples of similar treatment in restaurants when the bill has automatically been passed to the old man, even after I have ordered our meals.

 

Perhaps I’m being over-sensitive, but when is this disparity in the way women and men are treated going to change? If I was the sole breadwinner of our family, I would be mightily pissed about it. I understand that it can be tricky in hospitality to know who is taking responsibility for the bill, but is it really that hard to ask ‘Who’s paying the bill?’, in which case I will quickly point to my husband. The assumption that the old man is paying is highly belittling to my contribution. I have always worked hard – apart from two short periods where my vagina was knitting itself back together after our two additions to the population – I have paid my taxes and I have striven to give back where I can to a society that no matter what I do, treats me as substandard.

 

We need to educate people, ladies. In the same way that we need to call out sexist comments when we hear them, next time you feel overlooked or made to feel invisible because of your gender, say something. Let them know that you have a voice, in spite of the lines on your face and high-pitched voice that perhaps like mine goes awkwardly a few decibels higher in the face of confrontation. Remind them that we contribute as much to society as men do, if not more when you take into account the taxes on sanitary wear, wine and chocolate.

 

Do you ever feel invisible? Is it an age or gender issue?

Manchester, I Am Angry

I understand that the conventional response to these vile acts of terrorism is not to admit defeat; to ‘never surrender,’ in the words of Churchill. And by golly, if anyone can stand proudly in the face of such adversity, it is the British.

 

I am also aware after years of therapy that anger is a reaction not to be encouraged, for it takes its victims hostage with little chance of escape until they are ready to address it, and invariably it offers little real consolation or answers, anyway.

 

But I feel angry about Manchester. As I sit here in front of my computer trying to engage my stiff upper lip, I am far more conscious of my trembling lower one, and what I really want to say at this time are all those things that we’re not supposed to voice because they are inflammatory and ultimately serve no purpose. And yet… I AM SO ANGRY for the victims, for the families, indeed for anyone caught up in yesterday’s latest act of terror, which includes medics and the police and the terrified bystanders, as well as the Moslems who I pray, will not find themselves targeted in the wake of this terrible tragedy.

 

Naturally, most of my anger is reserved in solidarity for the victims and their families, whose lives have been shattered so suddenly at the hands of this deviant – a man who believed that his warped values were worth more than the lives of innocent children, and who chose such a cowardly way to gain notoriety for his sad little cause.

 

And I know that there is a time for acceptance and stoicism and ultimately, for forgiveness, but those families need us to be angry right now as well, for what this man’s selfish act has done to them and for the way in which it will blight the generations of their families that succeed them – because it will.

 

Manchester is not a war zone. This atrocity has not attracted such extensive news coverage because the dead are predominantly white or privileged, it is because the choice of target is so inhumane.  Because as appalling and inexcusable as it is when innocents are caught up in the bigger picture of war, this perpetrator chose a pop concert in a safe zone to detonate his hatred. Many of those young girls leaving the arena were slaughtered taking their first independent steps towards adulthood, their parents waiting for them in the wings.

 

My life has already been able to move on, as it always does after such events. In the end, there is little I can personally do to change the actions or the face of such hatred. So there is a wisdom to that very British advice about ‘carrying on’ and not giving in, no matter what. And I will hold my head up high soon – just not yet – for it gives me no pleasure to know that I can move on where others can’t, and I’m coming to resent the sense of weary acceptance that we are forced to adopt about these assaults on our freedom.

 

No, terrorism won’t stop us from going about our business, but we have a right to feel angry. And I am angry.

How To Show Restraint At The Inclusive Hotel Buffet Breakfast

fried-1789962_1920I’d never noticed before that skinny women only eat fruit at the hotel buffet breakfast, but since NC kindly (?) gave me my FitBit for Mothers Day, I’ve become much more conscious of the number of calories going into my body versus calories being burned.

 

Due to medical reasons pertaining to my mental health, I have to allocate a large percentage of my daily intake of calories to wine each day, so I need to watch carefully how much and what type of food I put into my mouth – especially with the added complications of middle-aged hormone fuckery. And possessing that level of control is not always easy on holiday where the ‘fuck it’ attitude kicks in the minute you step off the plane and all traces of accountability disappear.

 

The old man and I haven’t stayed in a hotel with inclusive breakfast for years (because…children), so this holiday has provided me with the biggest test on the food frontline since my last working lunch, when our boss used to provide enormous catered trays of sandwiches and cakes and I had to physically pinch the skin on my thighs to stop eating.

 

Since the early days of our marriage, the old man and I have maintained the same strategy when it comes to the hotel buffet breakfast – which is to eat as much as we can so we don’t have to pay for lunch. In hindsight, a strategy that rarely actually works.

 

It took me the first three days of this holiday to work out my buffet breakfast plan for the rest of the week, after a few false starts where all my self-coaching on the plane fell apart as soon as I approached the breakfast area and my natural mindset of Labrador set in. Most women will recognize that it is almost impossible to resist a line of FREE food that you haven’t had to either plan, cook or shop for – particularly one which offers a smorgasbord of food you normally deny yourself, the morning after that first night of holiday drinking – another of those traps you swear you won’t fall into until Happy Hour swings around at 4pm and the lure of half-price cocktails proves impossible to ignore.

 

I’m being hard on myself. I did show some self-control in my choice of fruit as my starter, (rather than the huge bowl of Coco Pops I would normally berate Kurt for), before I headed for the full, cholesterol breakfast, finished off by toast, no Nutella, and washed down with three cups of Earl Grey.

 

Only four mini chocolate croissants made their way back to our room.

 

I’m not sure why we live this lie each hotel holiday that the buffet breakfast will suffice until dinner, because inevitably the ‘FEED ME!’ belly grumbles always kick in around 1pm as those first wafts of lunch make their way around the pool.

 

But today I demonstrated REAL restraint. I accepted that after three hours of hard work lying on a sunbed, I have a right to feel a little peckish around lunchtime, and I refuse to beat myself up about it. I am aware that lifestyle changes – particularly in regard to diets – need to be permanent, rather than half-hearted efforts here and there. And so I became a responsible eater this morning – mature enough to look beyond the sausages and potato croquettes, to think about the bigger picture of my health and weight beyond this week of testing temptation. And frankly, the bacon and eggs were enough.

 

 

Couples Holidays For The Middle-Aged – When Sometimes It’s Easier To Stay At Home

buoy-914766_1920The problem with going away when you finally reach that longed-for stage of almost empty-nesting is that anxiety tends to rear its ugly head at about the same time in your life, and it throws up all sorts of other issues. So although we don’t have to worry about remembering a long list of toddler essentials like nappies and sterilizers and portable beds nowadays, we do have to prepare ourselves for the mental anguish of dashed expectations, change, flying, other people and more importantly other people’s small children.

Sometimes, I wonder whether it would be easier to stay at home.

Somewhat predictably, I fear we have turned into one of those moaning, judgmental, middle-aged couples on holiday because there is definitely a pattern emerging each time we go away, where we spend more time waiting to get home than actually enjoying our holiday.

‘It’s a bit hot,’ the old man had commented, an hour into our holiday as we downed our second drink in celebration of our survival of the most tumultuous flight since London to Dublin circa 1995.

‘Stop moaning,’ I said, as I watched him squint at the sun because he forgot to pack his sunglasses.We’re making an effort to be grateful this holiday, remember?’ I reminded him sternly.

Because we know we should be grateful. A whole week without the kids at one of the nicest hotels we’ve ever been to – (because I got a deal) – and I had even managed to ignore the unspoken meaning behind the words of mine and Kurt’s doctor when she grabbed me by the shoulder the day before we left and said, ‘are you seriously leaving Kurt with NC?’ Surely, she should know by now that’s not the sort of thing you say to someone you are treating for anxiety disorder?

‘I’m never flying again,’ I had stated earlier that morning when we stepped off the plane on legs that refused to coordinate after two hours of non-stop turbulence on a three hour flight in which that whole scene when NC tells Kurt that the old man has left all of their inheritance to the Spoodle Sanctuary had played over and over in my mind as I decided we were going to die – and even worse, on a flight during which there was no alcohol with which to dull the demons of anxiety because it was breakfast time and society dictates…never mind.

But two hours later we found ourselves in paradise, and the effects of drinking wine in the sun at lunchtime and the knowledge that we might survive another week had given me some (false) hope, so we ventured down to the pool of our hotel. And lo and behold, two free sunbeds jumped out at us immediately (without the old man having to threaten or remove anyone’s towels) – in the shade, but as the old man informed me whilst setting his alarm for 5 am tomorrow, that would be the last time anyone put him in the shade – and so finally, we settled down to relax.

But if you believe in the Law of Attraction, you’ll know that it was almost inevitable that as soon as our eyes began to glaze over, those first cold splashes of pool water from about a dozen noisy kids who decided that the best part of the Olympic-sized pool to play in with big blow up toys and water soakers was directly in front of us, would bring us back to reality. Kids, we had assumed, would be at school at this time of the year.

The heat of hatred seared my body from the direction of the old man’s sunbed well before the sun had a chance, as he hissed a ‘fuck!’ under his breath. ‘Breathe!’ I said to myself as I pulled my towel over my head.

‘Look at how gorgeous this place is,’ I tried, looking out towards our surroundings above the heads of the feral children at the clear blue sky framed by palm trees and the crystal waters beneath it – my ears just about able to pick up the clink of Champagne glasses from the al fresco restaurant over the whining squeals of ‘Mummy, MUMMY…LOOK AT ME!’ in every other direction.

A tut came back in response.

‘Do you know how intolerant you’re becoming with middle age?’ I asked him, wiping the water from my legs.

‘Pfft!’ he responded. ‘We’re going to an over-18 hotel next time.’

‘We can’t afford over-18 hotels…’

‘Okay, well I’m staying at home, then,’ he said, jamming his earplugs into his ears, like a sulking teenager.

‘There’s still the buffet breakfast…’was my last-ditched attempt to save the week.

To be continued…

Motherhood, Togetherness, Warts and All

I’m not proud of the fact that I was so hung-over on Mothers Day that I was on diet soda for my celebratory lunch with my kids. 

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I could blame the friends we had lunch with the day before – a lunch that turned into dinner – although, in our defense, the whole idea of lunch was so we would be able to function the next day. And I might have got away with it if we hadn’t walked into the latest family crisis as soon as we opened the front door – a crisis that required instant love, cuddles and more wine to help us put the pieces back together.

 

It’s called being a mom. It’s not about being perfect and waiting around for the balls to drop, it’s about doing your best when the shit hits the fan. It’s about when your Mother’s Day lunch – meticulously planned by your daughter – goes pear-shaped because everyone’s tired and emotional and one child still hasn’t got over his crisis, turns up an hour late and eyeballs you with genuine hatred throughout the meal. And you feel his pain viscerally – almost as intensely as when you gave birth to him – and want to help him even if he is an adult and has hijacked the one day of the year that should rightfully be yours. Again.

 

But you also know that there is only so much you can do, and your head still hurts from those countless bottles of Rose you succumbed to the day before because kind ears wanted to listen, and although the steak pie is hot and steaming and should be a comfort, there are more mushrooms than steak and it is still not as appealing as your bed.

 

And you look at those two beings opposite you at the table that you made and remember that they are yours, and even if you aren’t that perfect family in the soap powder ads, and those pink balloons above your table are likely to burst at any minute, a rush of emotion and gratitude comes over you, because you are together, warts and all.

Food Goals When You Work From Home

One of the main benefits to working from home, aside from the greater job security than that currently offered by the FBI, is the 24hr on-site cafeteria. 

I have instigated Google’s food policy in our house. They don’t allow their employees to be further than 200 feet from food at any time – a strategy that ‘inspires innovative thinking’ they believe, as well as a greater appreciation for food, in my experience. Particularly now, as we enter winter, and I’m cold and beginning to miss the luxuries of the modern office, (and in particular, ducted heating), and have turned to food for comfort.

Without the usual office time-wasting distractions of forming scrums around the coffee machine, bitching in the toilets, sending funny emails about the boss, kicking the photocopier and social media, food has become much more significant in my new working environment – perhaps too significant.

And the best part is there is no judgment.

There’s none of that pressure to take in the grossest, sludgiest green smoothies for breakfast; no need to hide my Nachos under my sprout salad sprinkled with caterpillar semen for lunch, which I then used to top up with Maccas when I was ‘doing the mail’. No, you see I can eat what the fuck I want to in my own home, and if suits my very busy schedule to eat ten smaller (hmmm!) meals per day, I have earned that right.

Even so, I have begun to see the potential pitfalls in this new partnership. The fifteen-pound weight gain (on average) of Google employees over their first year of employment, has been termed the Google 15, hence I haven’t got close to the scales in months. But I ask you, with no-one to have hour-long chitchats in the toilets to discuss current events, (the size of Jon Hamm’s penis, for example), how exactly is a girl supposed to fill the gaps in her concentration?

It has been said that the lack of physical contact with the outside world can be a disadvantage to those who work from home – research that I suspect was reported by someone who has either never worked from home or who actually likes people  – and I now see how that sense of isolation could lead to an eating disorder for the lonely writer. Chocolate chip cookies have been my support through several, highly stressful hours to deadline.

I’m lucky that I have been able to learn from the best when it comes to my WFGs (work food goals), my progress in which he will assess in my annual review. Because there has to be some biological reason that my husband, who also works from home, has to run 7ks a day to maintain his current weight.

He works at the other end of our house – the end with heating, (an issue that is escalating and as such has been added to the next team meeting agenda). His office, which doubles as a nap-pod and reading room – in fact, any room name he can invent to avoid me – is even closer to the evil magnetism of the kitchen and I hear him and his furtive rustlings in the pantry; the tell-tale timeout beeps from the fridge door.

The waft of melting butter on crumpets is all it takes to pull me out of my steely focus on work and straight into the cookie jar, a consistency which is certain to score me a 5 at my review, I hope.

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Versatile Muesli Cookies

Very occasionally, I like to remind myself (and everyone who reads this blog), that I am not perfect and that we can’t all be good at everything. It has been a while since I posted one of my epic cooking fails, but this one is a real gem that provided me with the invaluable life lesson that more free time does not a good cook maketh. 

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After Superglue

 

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Before Superglue

You see, now that I’m working from home full-time and the kids are older – although sadly, not any less demanding – sometimes I get this longing to be a ‘fifties meets modern woman’, who can earn a decent crust at the same time as knocking up a batch of something yummy during her coffee break. I must reiterate that this window of opportunity has only come about since the kids grew up and I can callously refuse to enable their Millennial bleats for help. Which means that aside from my 24hr nagging service (which is reinforced by my ‘when are you leaving home’ ringtone), basically I ignore them. Oh, and the cleaning.

 

Anyway, three factors brought on this strange desire to make my own muesli cookies last week:

 

  1. I am always hungry – a common complaint among those of us who work from home and find themselves within 24hr snacking distance from the kitchen. So when I discovered the recipe online, and the cookies looked kind of healthy, (because oats and fruit…) and I ignored the glaring fact that they are meals between meals with calories you don’t need, it seemed like a good idea.
  2. I got sick of paying $5 for them in cafes.
  3. They looked quick and easy, which meant I could slip them in between Facebook sessions.

 

I trust the TASTE online recipes implicitly, nevertheless, once a cheater always a cheater so as soon as I printed the recipe from the Internet I looked for shortcuts. I’m sure you can imagine my hilarity when I discovered that one of the four ingredients listed was ‘homemade muesli’, a requirement that catapulted me to Coles as fast as a two-for-one sale on Tena pads in search of the muesli-fail that looked as close to something I’d knocked up myself. And I found it, by paying a week’s rent for a European version – for which I’ve no doubt some poor migrant scaled the mountains of Switzerland for and was paid the minimum wage.

 

Another minor cheat was that I really couldn’t be arsed to weigh the butter (because then I’d have to wash up the scales) and at this stage in my Masterchef career, I think I know what 100g looks like. In hindsight, it was an interesting decision after flourless cake-gate last week, when somehow I forgot to add the butter completely – one of only four ingredients. Anyway, my generosity with the butter on this occasion was probably what contributed to the versatility of my cookies’, because as soon as they emerged from the oven I sensed they were special and came with a range of extra functions, meaning they could be used as a muesli breakfast cereal, drizzled over salad, used as a sweet version of dukkha (because be honest, no-one really likes the savoury version), drunk as a smoothie or added to houseplants as fertiliser.

 

That’s right, with the consistency of course sand, I needed a trowel to move them from the baking tray to my cake stand, so I can only assume that the egg and flour must have been having an RDO.

 

Perhaps I should have listened more closely to the sage advice of George Colombaris’ to one of the new guinea pigs on Masterchef this week, when he warned her not to go too far off piste in her cooking as she cried into her ice cream soup.

 

So weigh the fucking butter.

 

I’ve given you the recipe below and I’m one hundred percent confident that in the right hands, it will work.

 

Versatile Muesli Cookies 

Calories: Who The Fuck Cares

Ingredients:

3 Cups Supermarket Toasted Muesli (or 3 cups homemade if you’re ‘one of those‘)

100g Butter, melted and cooled

1 Egg lightly beaten

1/2 Cup Plain Flour

1/3 cup honey

Superglue (if necessary)

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees

WEIGH butter, then whisk with honey and egg.

Combine muesli and flour together then add butter mixture. Leave to sit for 15 minutes. Roll spoonfuls of mixture into balls and place on lined baking trays.

Bake for ten minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before moving (very important)

 

(Warning: When all the ingredients are combined, the mixture does feel really gross in your hands – kind of like when you find something soft and sticky down the back of the sofa. But the more you compact and flatten these fuckers, the more likely you are to get something hat resembles a cookie.)

 

 

I’m Sorry, Employers, But Resumes Don’t Tell The Whole Story

I’ve slipped off the wagon over the past few weeks and put my helicopter costume back on to help Kurt search for work, because unless the old man and I can both agree that we don’t need cereal in our life, ever again, we need to get the boy out of the house and into the workforce more permanently. alcohol-1683517_1920.jpg

Scaffolding him through the process has elicited hideous memories of my own job search when I left university, when only the nepotism of my father with the offer of a job in “The Firm” was to save me from breakdown.

 

I’ve watched as my son’s initial enthusiasm (to get us off his back), dwindle in the face of little or no response to the numerous applications he has sent out. Remember that Catch 22 of “needing experience” when you are looking for that prized first job and have fuck all? And how you had to make up stuff, even though every moral fibre in your body knew it was wrong? Not even NC’s brilliant resume, that has basically transformed Kurt into the next Mark Zuckerberg, has tickled the fancy of employers offering the most banal jobs.

 

As we left our local Centrelink the other day – not for him to sign on, I hasten to add – even I was starting to believe that a dirty sleeping bag, a feral dog, and a begging bowl might hold more appeal.

 

It hurts that young kids like him can’t get a break, and the more I investigate the limited support, the more I can see why there is a school to prison pipeline for our disaffected youth. I’m torn between watching my son wither in the face of heavy competition, lack of opportunity and the extra support that he needs, in comparison to the pride I feel at the success of my daughter, who is slowly and methodically conquering the world by working the system. I should also point out that she has worked bloody hard, or she might not share her expensive shampoo with me over the next month.

 

There is a healthy balance of discussion (I’m lying) in our house about how society needs to be more inclusive, to provide for all our kids, and where I see myself as an advocate for support for the disadvantaged, there is no doubt in my mind that the old man spearheads the “man the fuck up” school of thinking. Not that he denies or belittles the problems and ramifications of mental illness – even he wouldn’t want to regress to an era where the fucked up people are locked away in institutions to cost the taxpayer even more money. However, after a term in the corporate world – where innocent conversations at the coffee machine can be used against you later – he is now a fervent advocate of the Darwinian theory of ‘survival of the fittest’. A belief that must be problematic when half of your household are crazies, who would never be anywhere near that coffee machine in the first place – because they’d be outside having a fag – the weak and the arty-farties, who wear their emotions like ill-fitting clothes and have degrees in drama queen-ism.

 

TBH, I wouldn’t blame really him for the moments of regret that he must have about his decision to work from home, and it wouldn’t surprise me if on occasion he finds himself harping back to that inane small talk at the coffee machine with fondness – even if it involved talking to women. And as much as I would prefer to sever my left leg with no anesthetic than agree with him on just about anything, he has had more experience of the competition in the corporate world. Therefore, I can appreciate his argument that the vulnerable need to be able to cope with the evil in the world, his reason for believing that selection makes sense, even if it does make the hairs on my body stand on end with indignation.

 

The sad fact is, there are no progress prizes on the outside, particularly now, when the current job market our Millennials are dipping their entitled little toes into is so much more competitive – according to them. Sadly, we appear to have come full circle from the idea that work experience and gung-ho enthusiasm for philanthropic projects such as the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme are more valuable than a top-class degree with honors in philosophy. And with impending government changes to student borrowing, the dirty finger of exclusivity is penetrating the open wound even more deeply.

 

In Australia, we have a learning institution called TAFE for those who seek a more vocational career; one which also steers those late developers and the kids that don’t navigate school by the book, in the right direction. Unfortunately, there is a stigma associated with TAFE, (because it is much easier to keep on kicking someone when they are already on the ground), and many employers see TAFE as a cop out – a shame for those who have struggled to attain the same goals as their peers in the face of adversity. And even though those kids (and adults) will have had experiences that have shaped them, matured them and given them a toolkit that albeit might look different to Lottie’s, (who drove a 4WD BMW to school each day and never had time for a job because of rowing practice and trips to the snow), many of them have as much to offer.

 

Each candidate has the ability to offer employers particular skills, but their other qualities may not be apparent on a piece of paper – for example, the ‘hunger’ caused by poorer socio-economic circumstances or illness can make you more resilient in the long term and give you a sharper edge, whereas ‘privilege’ provides connections and an arrogance that compounds confidence.

 

Apparently, the latest must-have on your resume is to be able to demonstrate “direction”, which begs the question if that means the fastest direction to Centrelink?

 

When You Use Your Age As An Excuse Not To Chase Your Dreams

I went to a workshop on freelance writing on Saturday. Pursuing the dream, seizing the day, there are a number of clichés I could come up with to describe my final charge into a job that I love. adult-1868015_1920

I learned that journalism is not for the faint-hearted these days, with cutbacks and job losses and a sizeable drop in the word rate in recent years. And like many jobs in the arts, you have to be either crazy or passionate to go into it – and there’s probably a very fine line between the two. It’s also bloody hard work, and perhaps not something sane people ‘of a certain age’ should consider when they could be winding down with Ellen each morning.

Fortunately, there appears to be less of an ageist facet to freelance writing than in fiction-writing, where you need to be able to market your work physically as well as write it. Sitting on the stage of a writer’s festival, with knitting in one hand and inhaler in the other, is probably not the promotion a publisher is looking for when they try to sell your erotica novel. So the appeal of the freelance writing gig is that I can be back of house, slouched in front of my computer, clad in jammies, hair unkempt, toes being kept toasty by the dog in winter.

I’m not naive enough to believe that you can be anything you want to be at this, (or indeed), any time of your life. I suspect that it is too late for me to become an Olympic athlete or an astronaut for NASA, but then again, would I ever have really pursued those goals with such a distaste for sports and heights?

There were about fifteen of us wannabe writers in the room – an eclectic, somewhat motley bunch, each with aspirations of making money from doing something we love and at different junctures of our writing career. The full spectrum of ages and personalities was made more evident once we were asked to share an imaginary pitch and those different views, politics, idealisms and sensitivities sliced through the room with as much subtlety as a hot knife through butter. Most writers, I suspect, are opinionated know-it-alls who seek a platform from which their voice can be heard.

At the beginning of the session, our leader took full advantage of her position of power by asking us to introduce ourselves, and flashbacks of being picked on by my English teacher to transpose Shakespeare, flooded my brain.  Funny really – when all of us in that room were confident enough to put ourselves out there; had given up our Saturday to improve ourselves. I watched as each one of us squirmed in our seats as our turn got closer. Writers are not quite as gregarious when it comes to self-proclamation and hubris with the spoken voice.

One thing I have learned over time is not to downgrade myself in these situations. I refuse to apologize for who I am these days, when in the past I would make feeble, self-deprecating jokes or give reasons as to why I shouldn’t really be there – a habit women are far more guilty of than men. Typically, the person who protested too most about her inexperience went on to deliver the best pitch and we all hated her immediately.

Most of the group, however, spoke with humility and passion and openly admitted to the rest of us strangers that they were still chasing the dream, (the unspoken words being), before it’s too late. Many of the younger ones were already in-house journalists and about to set off on travels that they would finance through their freelance work and some were already published authors, branching out in different directions of the writing industry – one they hoped would pay the bills. Several, like me, were scratching the itch.

‘Change’ is exciting and terrifying and in these situations when you have committed yourself to a situation, (and ‘flight’ is still a tempting possibility),  it would be easy to cave in to those ‘what the fuck am I doing here?’ fears that mess with your brain. So it’s good to be with like-minded people, with similar goals; to be reminded that you’re not alone.

There are millions of us still searching for ideas and answers for ways to improve ourselves, and I know that I’m lucky to have this opportunity. There will be days when it is impossible to eradicate doubt from my mind, and in the same way that those progress prizes at school marked me as being not quite good enough, the old fear taunts me that I will always be known as Louisa The Trier, in Viking terms. But that’s okay.

I’ve stalled several times over the last few years in relation to taking this step, so I wasn’t surprised when ‘you’re too old for this’ rang in my ears as I walked into that meeting room on Saturday, pretending to feel confident. Youth and beauty are equated with success in our society and once you get past fifty, it is easy to disappear ‘over the hill’ unless you fight. 

It turns out that I wasn’t the dinosaur.

It’s time to change that internal rhetoric.