On Tuesday (11th August) I celebrated something very special. Not a birthday or a religious festival, a new pet or a new choice of cereal (although I have started eating Sainsburys own brand Wheetabix instead of their cheap Basics brand, that was a big day). I didn’t even celebrate National Presidential Joke day, that’s how important the 11th day of the eighth month meant to me.
All hyping aside Tuesday marked a year since I moved to the town of Swindon to start my first post-university job (i.e. the moment I became a ‘proper’ adult). Now when I say adult I don’t mean the moment I came of legal adult age as specified by the British Government (no one believes the tosh that being 18 makes you a grown up, well unless you’re a pub or club owner). No, what I’m talking about is the moment I sat behind a proper desk, handling proper suppliers and paid, to much weeping, proper taxes. It was the moment I was dragged kicking and screaming out of my cushy student bubble and into the real world people live in.
The transition into the real world was by no means an easy one. When I found out that I’d got a job in the Heritage sector I was sky high. I was literally dancing on the kitchen tiles for days. I became a groupie of the organisation I was working for, I stalked the living daylights out of their webpages to get a solid idea of what they did, where they did it and why they were doing it. If they had offered me a free tacky t-shirt I probably would have worn it every day.
The search for rental properties was the first adult challenge I experienced. Looking back, it was actually more of a mess than the perfectly structured, rose-tinted, plan I was convincing myself it was and if I wasn’t so hyped up about my job I may have struggled with it more than I did. As someone who has never lived or rented in Swindon I was faced with an uphill struggle from day one. Single bed, decent, apartments were a nightmare to find, especially within a walking distance of my office. Those I did find either vanished before I had chance to view them or were blocked from viewing by agents who didn’t feel comfortable showing them to a young, single, female. Reassuring stuff. Luckily the day before mumma Bennett and I were due to travel to Swindon for rentals I found a website called Spare Room. A bit of searching and a few calls later I had three places lined up. Housing dilemma solved? You’d think that…
The day mumma Bennett I travelled to Swindon just had to be the hottest day of the year in Swindon. It also just happened to be the day Google maps decided to throw a tantrum and not work
and the day all the First Great Western trains were delayed. Sorry, correction, train wise it was a normal day. The first property was located at the top of the steepest hill in the world, we had no idea where we were in Swindon and the pair of us were very much close to passing out. “Go ahead, go ahead!” cried mum, “I’m not going anywhere without you!” I yelled back while gasping for air. It had the makings of an emotional scene for a land-based Titanic film (you know where I am James, just think about it). We then had to go all the way back down that hill and cross the train tracks (getting lost again) to view a house in Bridgemead. At this point we were way behind schedule. This would be property I’d end up choosing, however at the time it was rush rush to get out and onto the next place. Only a couple of streets away yet we still ended up at the wrong end of a very long street. By lunchtime we’d seen only three houses but were sweaty, physically exhausted and mentally shattered. When mum pulled out Kirsty Allsop’s property rating method in Costa I came very close to banging my head against the table. That was the point I realised that being an adult wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows and it was at that moment I learnt my first life lesson as an adult:
- In urban areas they have these mysterious things called taxis. Use them.
Rental property sorted, I moved into my new house on the 10th August. I met one of my housemates, mermaid Becki, for the first time which was actually a scarier experience than anticipated. Not because Becki isn’t a lovely person (she is/was), it was the pressure to get on with this random stranger. In my student days I was renting with friends, people my own age who I already knew. Chatting to Becki I was actually relived that she was a normal, nice human being, even though she knew nothing about me and was 30 years old compared to my baby-faced 21 years. Second lesson learnt:
- Living in a houseshare with random people doesn’t mean no one is friendly and social.
…And third life lesson:
- Mermaids are actually pretty cool in real life.
Started my new job the next day. As with any new environment I was an absolute bag of nerves, I was introduced to what felt like a million new people in the space of five minutes and I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. How do I work this? What am I meant to be typing? Can I go home for the evening now? I really had not a clue what was going on. I found myself asking what felt like endless questions to team members and feeling like I was getting no where. For the first couple of weeks I walked out of the office feeling stressed, tired and guilty for slowing everyone up with their work. When I was studying at university I was fiercely independent with my work, I knew when and where my lectures were, how to use the online resources and where to find books linked to my course. Simply put I knew what I was doing. In my new job I was entirely dependant on the help of strangers. Independence to dependence, I felt like I was going backwards. After the first few weeks I started to pick things up at a quicker pace, I could remember names and faces, and I started to relax more knowing that the people around me did care about me and wanted to help. After a three month review with my line manager I reflected on my progression and with it a fourth lesson:
- Everyone is the office newbie at some stage.
With the house and work side cracked, I still felt the personal side very lacking. Work, watch tv, eat, sleep, repeat, that was how my life operated. As crazy as my lifestyle got was watching Dave instead of ITVBe. When I started developing favourite Real Housewives (Teresa from New Jersey is a cow, and Phaedra from Atlanta is as sassy as – not that I watched much of it…), that was the point I had to do something. I started walking around the local area with the aid of a Swindon A-Z purchased on the advice of papa Bennett. While I started off wandering around the local paths and parks I almost always ended up in a housing estate a bit confused as to how I got there. While I enjoy getting lost in certain environments, wandering around housing estates at dusk with only an A-Z is hardly a joyful experience. Lesson obtained:
- When they don’t understand the context of the situation, local residents really don’t like it when you stare at road signs and their houses before saying ‘ah hah!’ and wandering off in the opposite direction.
Following my feeble attempts to spend my evenings doing something I thought I’d try a different approach, I decided to get involved with Swindon’s clubs and societies. Now, for your own sanity I’m not going to go into much information right now about this aspect of my life in Swindon. I’ll talk about this later. What I did learn from the whole experience is a valuable lesson *spoilers!*:
- You make your own happiness
And so one year later here I am, still sat here, in Swindon, in my houseshare, typing a new blog post. My deep rooted modesty makes me want to say not a lot has changed, but actually a lot has. It has been a roller coaster of emotions, it really has. From the highs of getting my job to hitting the low point of loneliness and dependency in a strange concrete town. Those who have a basic understanding of British towns and cities may argue I should have known what I was getting myself into when I decided to move to a town whose name derives from ‘pig market on a hill’. At first, yes, I did pin my uneasiness on the fact that I was living in Swindon and not the buzzing city of Southampton where I had spent my student days. However, as I started to integrate myself in to the proper adult pace of life and work I realised that it wasn’t me struggling with Swindon, all along it had been me struggling with the acquired taste of adult life. I was sat in my room with a cup of tea when this revelation hit me and I didn’t move until a sip of cold tea shocked me into spilling half the cup over me (some things I’ll never grow out of).
Tuesday marked a milestone in my young adult life. As I served up celebratory butterfly cakes to my colleagues on my proper adult birthday several asked “what’s the occasion?” I told them it was my one year job anniversary. “Wow! Where has the time gone?” They responded with amazement. To many of them it also felt like only yesterday since I’d started working with them. While we all sat eating my cakes and talking about children, weddings and everything in between I glanced out of the window to see the sun shining down outside. From this I can now add my most recent (and waffley) lesson to the list. Something I wish I could have told myself many months ago:
- Life after university is like the British weather. There will be rain, you will feel feel rubbish and at times it may feel like you’re the only one in the world going through it. However the sun will come out. It may take weeks or maybe even months, but it will come and trust me when it does arrive the glorious sun will be worth the wait.
- Less waffley version – life will get better so man up and get on with it.
(You can throw up now).