The awkward turtle

Celebrating the failings of a successful person


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On my mother

Mum to tell you that you have always been there for me would be to remind you of a truth that you and I well know. You have been there guiding, supporting and nurturing me consistently from my first breath and that is why it was so inconceivable for me to imagine a world where you were not for the first time this year.

Just the thought of such a world sent me to a dark place. A place where I had to bring my own light instead of looking to the one you have constantly held up for me. For you have been the light in my life. All those times you tried to push me forward when I held myself back. I was too afraid to shine and I wish I had taken some courage from you back then. For you have been courageous. There have been decisions you made that I couldn’t understand but if there is one thing that I have learnt about you is that you forever march to your own drum and I wouldn’t never change that about you.

So for all those times I rolled my eyes when you were showing me off to every random stranger. Because you were proud and for some reason I couldn’t find the same pride reflected in myself. Thank you.

This year, even breast cancer couldn’t make you conform to this world around us. Seeing you in the hospital you looked so small and I thought, as I think more and more these days, how vulnerable you were. I wanted to roll you up in bubble wrap and keep you safe. Is this how you felt when you first saw me? As much as I love you and could not bear to see you leave my side, I never had the heart in me to make you feel guilty about your unconventional approach. Everything you have made in this life, all the good and even the bad, has come because you followed your own truth mum. You are truly beautiful.

Thank you for having me. For nurturing me. For loving me.

You are forever imprinted in my heart.

Love Thai

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That moment you realise someone is checking out your boyfriend…

I saw you. Yeah you! You checked out my boyfriend whilst we were walking hand-in-hand. You even had the audacity to give the confused “are they really a couple look”? It’s not just in my head!

Not to seem big-headed but there has always been an unsaid mutual agreement that I was the hot one of the couple. Buoyed by this I had only ever previously been aware of when I was getting the once over by a guy, it had never occurred to me that meanwhile girls were checking out my man. That was until we got to Barcelona. I don’t know what it is about it here, maybe the fact that the more stereotypically desired tall, dark and handsome (maybe not so much of the tall) is on tap so my fair-headed boy stands out all the more? Or maybe its the glow of his sun-tanned skin than has blown new life into his complexion (a true phenomenon to me as I’ve only ever known him as pasty under London’s grey skies). Whatever it is I am now conscious to it, like the spotting of the one yellow car and suddenly realising ever other car you see is also yellow, I cannot undo the seeing of eyes lingering over him. Anytime I witness it I look at him in amazement. Who are you?

My suspicions that other women might actually find my beau desirable were finally confirmed at the beach one hot afternoon. After many rounds of volleyball we were all bathing in our sweat when a bubbly lady came over to our group and directly speaking to R opened with, “I just wanted to say I was watching your volley game and you were really good.” Embarrassed he replied thank you and the conversation continued. We learnt she was a Swede who also played volley and when we all finally exchanged names he gave her his. “Oh that’s my husband’s name too”.

The husband was nowhere to be seen!

New-girl-shows-how-women-check-out-men
Jess from New Girl shows how subtle women can be

 


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The life less worked

At first giving up my job in London was inconceivable. I craved the stability of a regular wage and I clung to the order of routine  like a baby to its comforter. Logistically I couldn’t take my job with me to Barcelona so instead a picture was painted of a life in the sun where I could redefine my career path at my leisure. The first question everyone asked me when they heard I was moving out here was “But what will you do there?”. A sensible question by all means but one that I had no concrete answer to and I only ever responded with, “I’ll just be”.

Fast forward 3 months and I am still just being. What scares me most about this is that I’m not scared about not having found a job yet, I’m scared at how comfortable I am with just being. Everything that has propelled me towards this moment in time has taught me that somehow what I’m doing is wrong: my upbringing, my education, my further education. Every step I have taken was supposedly working towards something…something more like work. But at 25 and not knowing what I want to do in life I’m starting to question whether this is not rather a problem with how I have been moulded to think than my joblessness.

Falling into being is not as easy as one might imagine. Like an ageing boxer watching younger generations claiming his titles and who wants the world to know he still has strength in his arms, I too was desperate for people to know that I had skills, knew how to work and could earn my own keep. For an entire month, living in our first shared apartment, when I wasn’t looking for our own flat I spent the days feeling dejected and useless. I took the disappointment of missing out on this or that flat as a personal blow to my ineffectiveness: in short I judged my worth to what I contributed to society and without a formal occupation I felt worthless. This self-evaluation was intensified by my constant comparison to other housemates who had jobs or who were looking. One evening during a communal dinner the flat owner chastised me harshly over my lack of job prospects as he couldn’t comprehend that at the moment it wasn’t my plan to have a job instantly. I had not expected to be put on trial for my life choices especially as I had not anticipated them to offend anybody. It wasn’t until the arrival of some new housemates, two lovely Argentinian girls on a long-term sabbatical, that I was finally able to own my state of joblessness that had previously caused me such self-doubt. In true argentine fashion they were totally upfront with their position and announced it to the world in an “if you got a problem with it go fuck yourself” way. I jumped right on their bandwagon and from that moment on I was no longer made to feel guilty about just being, nor faced to give an account of my day.

Work is good. A good job keeps your mind expanding and doesn’t allow you to fall into full idleness. There are many things I miss about working the regular 9-5; seeing the same friendly faces, knowing I had something to do with my day, getting paid. That pretty much exhausts my list. I would welcome some consistency since I have moved to a new city and a job is a great way to make new friends. Mostly I feel like I was just spat out of the university machine albeit with great memories, many fond essays and a handsome amount of debt.

 


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The Funeral

She died. My grandmother. On March 4th 2015, my 25th birthday. She died. I was not there because I had moved my life to Barcelona less than a week before. I did not know because by some strange chance I had received my new spanish sim card, cementing my intention to be here, and in my excitement had changed it straight away unknowingly halting any messages from finding me. In the end Facebook told me the news. The day after my birthday I was scrolling through my news feed having thanked all those people who had taken the time to wish me happy birthday – an ever dwindling list – and I caught sight of a status a cousin had posted: “RIP to my grandmother the strongest woman I have known”. Part of me thought she was referring to her other grandmother, the one we do not share. But then I remembered that my grandmother has been dying for a while now. It was her.

I asked my sisters, “Did I really find out grandmummy is dead from Facebook?”, and most importantly “Is it true?”. Yes. Sorry but nobody could get through to you on your birthday. Whilst they were all converged in my grandmother’s room in my aunty’s house, next to her freshly dead body, I was frolicking around Barcelona looking forward to starting a new life here and contemplating what my 25th year would bring me. I had missed the event.

Her body is not fresh anymore. Its been on ice for a month waiting for the church calendar to be freed up after the Easter festivities. Soon they will hold her funeral and put her in the ground and I will miss it. This is a decision within my control but one  I have made nonetheless; for selfish reasons, out of fear. I don’t want to return home to inter my grandmother who died once that day and not again. I’m not sure what a funeral has to offer me, closure, solace, companions in grief? I’m not even sure I experienced grief. As if in missing the event of her passing I had missed the time to grieve. Part of me believes the grandmother who I knew is not the same as the grandmother who is no longer tied to her failing body and this other grandmother doesn’t need to a funeral to be dead, nor a soft bed in the ground to be in peace. I believe she found it in the moments before her last breath left this world. She found her peace when she escaped the pain of her body by shedding this life. And as she lingered between the realms of here and the beyond she called out to her own mother whilst her children looked on.

There she found peace. I am left to believe that whilst it may be my grandmother’s funeral it is not for her; she will be the last person in that congregation seeking solace in our being there. The funeral is for us, the spectators. So that we can be witness to the life that was lived and say that we saw it. And we take comfort in the knowing that when we die we too will be remembered, because what is more scary to any living person than the idea of nobody knowing you had existed in the first place, that eventually you shall be forgotten? The dead do not fear.

Cemetery

 


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Welcome to Barcelona: The Flat Hunt

Welcome to Barcelona, the city of dogs and their devoted owners.

I’m qualified to welcome you to this vibrant European city now that I’ve been here for a month. This month has seen me busting out my rusty Spanish and inflicting grievous harm on innocent spanish speakers as I attempted to secure our new permanent digs in the city. My morning routine looked a bit like this: wake up at 8.30 am, pick up the laptop sleeping next to my bed and scroll through my go-to piso search sites (Idealista, Habitaclia, Fotocasa), send off initial contact requests for anything I quite fancied and, if it was a particularly dry day of fishing, things I just vaguely liked. By 10am my phone would have started ringing; calls from agents I contacted the day before to arrange a visit. A normal conversation would go like this (rough translation into English but imagine the speed at x5 in Spanish): “Good morning you have contacted us regarding a property with 2 bedrooms is about 60m2 and it’s unfurnished…”, my only response to the initial onslaught would be “Donde?”. I would send so many email requests that by the time people got back to me I couldn’t tell one property from another, all I could say was “Sure I’ll come see it”. On the occasions that I had to initiate contact (and this happened daily) I would have to do my prep: giving myself the “you can do it talk. They don’t know you, it’s completely fine. You can make yourself understood just pick up the phone.” Going over my opening sentence in my head whilst listening to the ringing tone. I tried a more hands-on approach which saw me walking around different areas with my head tilted up at a 45 degree angle trying to spot alquiler or en lloguer signs on buildings. Whilst I did end up with a stiff neck I would recommend this method as it’s a great way to explore the city and stumble upon hidden gems.

Now 4 weeks later, 3 apartments that got away and only 2 days left in our designated Airbnb room,we have finally found a place. Albeit, we won’t have it for another Continue reading


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I can’t hear myself

When the daily traffic finally subsides inside my head there is no sudden reconnection with my inner self, there is no hearing of the very beat that pulsates through my body. And there is no nothingness. I don’t know what there is but I reach the frontier where my inner self resides peacefully beneath all the noise and still I cannot hear myself.

Instead I am met with fantastical new fears, obsessions, dislikes and disappointments. My imagination plays a slide show of recently collated images of a funny joke, a friendly face, an embrace; a skillful trick to distract me from hearing myself speak.

And what do I hope to hear you wonder? I hope to hear my true dreams; not the false ones that are centered around the gratification of my ego who is forever seeking adoration and victory. True dreams that once upon a time may have looked me in the face in a pure form without my anticipation of failure clouding any attempt to fulfill my destiny. (Everybody has a destiny and the Universe helps anyone who strives towards their own.)

I hope to meet my true feelings. There are times when I don’t even know what I’m feeling after straining my ear to the door behind which my inner voice resides. I don’t know what I truly feel so I make it up. I ascribe something that I think I must be feeling and take this impostor as truth. My true feelings I imagine to be like an intuition; an organic gift which we are all blessed with. One that if we were to listen to carefully could prevent us from veering off our chosen path getting tangled in the forest of lost time and wasted energy.  There are some mistakes that we should never regret making and those are the ones where we have learnt something more invaluable than whatever we may have lost.

But who should I blame? I can’t blame my inner self, she has always been there inspiring me, healing me, encouraging me to be brave loving cautious. Even in those moments when we are both aware that I have some free time I reject her company in preference to catching up with my TV shows, a duty I take far more seriously than living my own existence. I get lost in books, the very incarnation of those who could hear their internal voice. And when all avenues are exhausted and I come to the realisation that I am bored I sing and dance in front of the mirror.

Next time I hope to simply sit and have a conversation with myself.


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Appreciation

 

I keep a gratitude diary. It pretty much reads “Date xxx. Today I’m grateful for xyz.”

The entries range in banality but I keep it to remind me of all the blessings that I have in my life in the form of family, friends, love, possessions, opportunities. The simplicity of the gratitude diary is that every night before I turn off from the world I put the world back into perspective once more. If I spent the day complaining that someone didn’t make me feel good about myself, I’d write that I was grateful for all those people who make me feel wonderful, if I was annoyed that I couldn’t buy that really overpriced coat to add to my collection, I’d write that I was grateful to have a collection at all.

Simples 🙂

So even if you might find it hard to show your gratitude sometimes, why not write it down on a scrap of paper? It can be a little secret between you and the Universe