Levelling Up

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I decided long ago that I would no longer age. I “Level Up” now.  Each year conquered, I view as simply another level. This way, aging is less  daunting.

It’s not that I really care about the number. It’s just that everybody else does.

I am convinced that agism is the new homophobia.  People don’t give a rat’s about your sexual orientation any more – but gain a few creases on your face, or let your grey roots pop out to see the sunshine, and suddenly you become both controversial and obsolete at the same time.

In that respect, agism is probably worse than homophobia, or even racism, for that matter. At least if you were somehow different in skin colour or partner preference, you were somewhat of a threat to the norm.  When you start showing your age, people just overlook you. You cease to be relevant. You disappear.

This is even more prevalent in this modern era, where preteen girls are sporting makeup, and mini versions of fashion meant to highlight the assets of young women. Poor kids.  They’re obsolete by 25 these days.

I cringe when I hear people over 40 facing redundancy, and they’re spouting the standard lines fed to them by those banal outsourced HR consultants, brought in by management to convince them their life is about to take a wonderful turn. Bullshit, it is.  These HR zombies are akin to disaster cleanup crews, so that the doors can open tomorrow without having to step over the debris.  The bald truth is, despite your years of experience, if you don’t have contacts in high places, you’re embarking on a heart-aching, gut-wrenching couple of years of anguish and uncertainty.

The zombies start out rebuilding your CV, and one of the first things they tell you is to cut out all but the last decade or so of your work history. It’s not relevant any more. Too ancient history. So you manage to snag an interview, and some 20-something kid shuffles uneasily in their chair across the desk. They were expecting someone younger, based on that work history. Someone without creases.

Then there’s the birthday minefield to tiptoe through.  Well-meaning younger friends say “It’s just a number!” with awkwardly disguised sympathy for what they perceive as an ailment, rather than an achievement.

Older friends, on the other hand, buy you a birthday card with an obscenely large number printed on the front … or even worse, one of those “I’m 40 (50, 60) and FABULOUS!” badges. And they insist you wear it.  They hug you in congratulations, but inside they bear a devilish grin, and rub their hands together in glee.  Now they don’t feel so alone and pathetic themselves.  These ones say “Welcome to the pension club!

Stick your pension club. I got me a lot more living to do.

No, I don’t do birthdays anymore. I just level up.  I know how the world works,  new wars don’t scare me into foolish political decisions, and interest rate changes don’t find me giving a shit about my diminishing bank balances.  I welcome every year’s end with smiles, pride and peaceful knowledge.

… and more creases. X-)

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Today I went shopping …

Today I went shopping.  Nothing marvelous about that, I know.  But usually when I go shopping, it’s last thing on a Sunday night, or 7pm some evening after work.  The routine goes something like this:  Race into Coles (I know, I hate them too, but they’re everywhere and open all the time), grab a basket (try to find a clean one), throw in bread, milk, meat and a few veges, work snacks, use the self-checkout and race out again.  It’s a dull chore

Today there was no such rush, since I quit work last week.  I love doing my own scanning, and my own bagging, so I headed over to the self-checkout.  I like to take my time organising things into appropriate categories, and bagging them accordingly. Today, for the first time in decades, I had all the time in the world.

We still get free plastic bags in Australia.  Go to Europe and Tesco just flicks your goodies through the scanner and leaves them piled up on the counter.

First time that happened to me, I was in Freiburg, Germany.  I didn’t have a lot, but it was certainly more than I could fit in my pockets.  I paid the checkout chick, and she gave me a receipt.  Then I stood and looked at the pile of groceries, as she just started flicking the next person’s stuff through after mine.

I gave her a quizzical look.  She responded with “Gehts und spacken sie unter inten” … or words to that effect.

What?  Where’s the bags?  I have to do this myself??”

She was not amused and raised her voice.  “Spacken hoonten shmeeren vassen!!”

I was staying in Freiburg with a Tunisian guy, whom I was tutoring through his exams/assignments for his degree in Tourism and Event management.  I had met him some years before at a hostel in Freiburg where I had gone to boycott Christmas.

The hostel had put on a German movie in the common room and I sat in the second back row of the makeshift theatre.  I had been learning German for over a year before I first traveled there, and was keen to see if I could keep up with the movie.  I couldn’t.  It was crap.

Just as I was about to give up and go to bed, a rich, Arabic voice whispered into my ear “Want to get out of here?”

I turned to see if the picture fit the voice.  In the dim light,  I was met by a seven-foot, attractive young man with olive skin, dark hair, and brown eyes that sparkled with the changing light of the screen.   “Hell, yes!” I whispered back.   It was one of many expressions I had to explain to him for years after.

We snuck out of a side door, and went down to the local pub to partake of the local brew.  I found out this amazing Tunisian spoke seven languages fluently.  It was the first of many lessons in humility I learned travelling the globe.

Now, three years later, we were shopping in that same city. The German-seasoned Arab  and me.  Just as he had saved me from the dull movie, he stepped up again, tutting and shaking his head, produced a back pack, and loaded up the groceries.

We left with the German checkout chick scowling at my stupidity, me muttering about bloody scabby Germans not even providing grocery bags,  and the Tunisian telling me off for being a spoilt Australian.

How are you goin’ there?”

I looked to my side and there was a Coles service lady looking at me like I was handicapped and required assistance.

I’m fine, thanks

Oh, ok.  I just thought you  required some assistance to finish up.”

I realised I had been staring at the scanner, reminiscing about Freiburg, and the stunning Tunisian.

No, I was just distracted a second.  But thanks for the bags.

She looked at me like I was not all there.

For a few seconds, I wasn’t.

Salem_14May2013Blog

I quit …

Last week I took a leap of faith.

I have worked all my life.  There hasn’t been a choice, really.  I wasn’t born into a wealthy family.  Nope.  Definitely not a lot of anything  came from there.

Anyway … last week I quit my job.  I thought about it for a whole day.  I thought about how hard I worked for the company.  How many extra hours I put in.  About how I just got docked a day’s pay because I took a sick day on a Friday, and somewhere in a plagiarized staff policy document it apparently says that I need a doctor’s certificate if I take a sick day on a Friday. I didn’t get one.  I had already worked 40 hours that week without working the Friday anyway.  They took 8 hours’ pay off me.  I worked them, but that didn’t matter.  I wasn’t going to get paid for them.  So I quit.

Strangely enough, my employers never spoke to me about it.  They called my immediate superior and asked him about it.

Why is she leaving?”

You docked her pay.”

Oh, surely there’s more to it than that?

Nup. Not really.  I hate getting screwed over. I have principles.  They don’t.  I quit.

Once I posted on my Facebook that I quit my job, my dear friends all jumped to my side with “OMG?!” and “WTF?!” comments.  But one friend in particular reminded me that it’s time to write.  I have been saying all my life I am going to be a writer when I grow up – however the opportunity never came my way.  Well, it did … but generally in the form of articles for press, annual reports, prospectuses and advertorials that were published with the bosses’ names on them.

God knows – as does this friend –  that I’ve had a big life outside the box.  So there’s a wealth of experience to fall back on.  Writing a novel takes discipline that I don’t have, though.

Not in the least because my ADD won’t let me concentrate for more than a few seconds … to give you the picture:

Once upon a time there was a princess, and she lived in a castle.  Like the ones I saw in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic was invaded by the Russians. I went to Russia once. There was only one castle in Saint Petersburg, did you know that?  The rest are all palaces.  Wierd place.  Everyone was sad.  Like Beijing.  Everyone’s sad there.   Maybe it’s just because I was there in the dead of winter.  The lake at the Summer Palace was frozen.  We walked over it, and I played bowls with blocks of ice, using Chinese people wandering across the frozen lake as pins.  Wonder if anyone filled the ice trays so I can make a cold drink? …

… and it takes commitment to work on it every day for years.  My  plot would tac every third day.

When I was young, a valuable old friend, then mentor for my dissonant life, once wrote to me about a paragraph in Anais Nin’s diaries that he said reminded him of me:  “Ordinary life does not interest me. I seek only the high moments. I am in accord with the surrealists, searching for the marvelous.”  (The Diary of Anaïs Nin , Volume One 1931-1934).

He was dead right.  That quote was me in a nutshell.

So I’m blogging to try and discipline myself into writing regularly.  ‘In Search of the Marvelous’  I’m calling it – in honour of my life creed.

Ironically, I started setting up the blog, and chose a “theme”.  Next step is to Preview.  I hit the ‘Preview’ button and got this:

InSearchOfTheMarvellous

Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn’t there.” Well, there’s an ominous piece of advice to start with.  Good thing I don’t give up easily.

So, welcome to my marvelous life.  Time to get back to my defrosting fridge …