They Had to Drag Me Home…

Whilst the dark monster of unemployment was still looming above my head, I had another opportunity to visit California.  This state could quite easily steal my whole heart…

Wow.  It has been a while.  Contrary to popular opinion, RamblingsofasmalltownScot is still very much alive and breathing.  My absence was mostly down to lack of inspiration and when I write I actually like having something to write about.  Hopefully I can redeem myself somewhat.

Whilst the dark monster of unemployment was still looming above my head, I had another opportunity to visit California.  This state could quite easily steal my whole heart.  Last time I visited, I was under the legal drinking age so I couldn’t even benefit from the produce of being surrounded by so many beautiful vineyards.  However, I’m happy to report that I more than made up for that on my most recent adventure.  Wine will never be the same.  Seriously.  That’s coming from someone that doesn’t even really drink wine.

Another first for me came in the form of Yosemite National Park.  I genuinely had never seen anything like it.  So much beauty.  The winding roads are plentiful and the drives are looooooong but it is so completely worth it.  I didn’t climb Half Dome before you ask, but I got a pretty good photo of it.  So, same thing, yeah?  I’m not much of a hiker so was relieved to discover that this part of our holiday would not involve much hard core hiking.  But if that is your thing, then go to Yosemite and you can hike and hike until those cows come home.  As my wonderful friend Lara pointed out “why hike to see an amazing view when you can just drive to one?”.  We bonded over such logical thinking as well as our love of Car Karaoke and Pocahontas.

I’d like to inform you that this trip also involved a visit to prison.  Fortunately for us, this particular prison closed in 1963.  Yes, we got on a boat that unsuspecting Thursday morning and landed on Alcatraz Island.  Now, me being the skeptic that I am, had reservations about this educational experience largely due to my ridiculously short attention span.  However, by the end of the tour I was completely obsessed.  We were walked around the prison by way of an audio tour featuring the real  voices and recordings of prisoners and prison guards.  You could even step inside a few cells and listen to them rather morbidly slamming shut along the way.  To finish it all off, as we sauntered through the gift shop, we actually came across a former prisoner signing copies of his book all about his life and experiences in Alcatraz. (In case you’re interested, and if I remember correctly, he had been imprisoned for fraud).

A fun part of every holiday has to be the airport, am I right? *note the heavy sarcastic tone*.  If you didn’t need a holiday to begin with, after a whirl around an airport you most definitely will.  Unfortunately, our flight landed late meaning that making our connection was going to prove very difficult.  It was made even more exhilarating by the fact my mother decided she’d pack knives in her hand luggage.  Ok, they were cheese knives but still, knives nonetheless.  They don’t allow you aboard an aircraft with tweezers.  If you can take over a plane with a pair of tweezers who knows what you could do with 3 cheese knives. 

So, we have -0 minutes until our gate shuts.  The very pleasant but equally annoying security man is rummaging through Mum’s suitcase, Dad’s completely MIA and I make a pathetic yet frantic run towards the board to see our flight flash it’s final call.  I run back, (I did a lot of running for someone who doesn’t run like, ever) Mum’s finally been freed and reunited with those darn cheese knives but the moment is bittersweet as now Dad’s caught up in security.  So, we take the snap second decision to abandon father and husband (we shouted to indicate that to him, we’re not that heartless) and bolted down the escalator like a couple of baby elephants.  I’m glad we couldn’t see ourselves at this point, it couldn’t have been pretty. 

As we near the gate, the flight attendants are like “ARE YOU THE PARTY OF 3? HORSBURGH’S?- BUT WAIT, THERE’S ONLY TWO OF YOU”.  Yes, that’s a direct quote.  We explained the situation with the lost family member and they’re response was  “are you willing to fly without him?”.  Alright alright, hang fire there a minute, British Airways  (other flight operators are avaliable but whilst we’re here, BA does great plane food), nothing like promoting a united family spirit.  Just hop aboard, snooze you lose, every man for himself and suchlike.  I was imagining looking out the plane window and just seeing the look of betrayal and disappointment on Dad’s face.  Also, aside from everything else, Dad had the car keys.  Our hands were tied.  Just then, as our hopes had almost completely diminished, he appeared miraculously around the corner and again shouting and manic arm signals resumed. 

So, I don’t know if you’ve ever been late to board a plane before but don’t expect to be met with the sympathetic, understanding expressions of your fellow passengers. No no.  In all my 23 years on this planet, I’ve never been shot so many dirty looks and I made it through high school.  It was a shameful, long walk to our row and there we slumped into our seats, slightly traumatised for the duration of the flight.

That hiccup aside, we genuinely loved every second of our Californian dream.  I’ve realised I’ve written more about the airport than the actual trip.  Trust me, that bears no reflection on our wonderful two weeks in the golden state.  I’ve barely scratched the surface.  Truthfully, you need to see it for yourself.  I could tell you how amazing, interesting and beautiful it was till I’m blue in the face but you’re not going to appreciate that to the full extent until you see it with your own eyes.  Much like when that relative or friend decides to show you screeds and screeds of their holiday snaps and provides a running commentary on every aspect including temperature, altitude, exact time, the temperature and depth of the hotel’s swimming pool, the meal options, their taxi drivers name and his life story in its entirety to name but a few.  Who doesn’t want to poke their eyeballs out after that?  Just me…?

Things are tough all over, cupcake, an’ it rains on the just an’ the unjust alike…except in California. -Alan Moore

Lake Bass, CA
Half Dome, Yosemite

Facing the Lion

“My survival testifies to the fact that even young people can triumph over adversity, provided that their conscience is trained and that they learn high moral and ethical values.  It is my heartfelt wish that  my experience inspire others to face the “lions” in their lives with hope and courage”

Typically speaking, my usual book choice would normally consist of a thriller/mystery genre with plenty of plot twists and turns thrown in to keep it interesting.  Unfortunately, my attention span leaves a lot to be desired so if a book isn’t going anywhere fast it usually ends up in an unfinished state forever more.

Months ago, however, a friend of mine recommended Facing The Lion by Simone Arnold Liebster.  Last week, another friend actually bought said book for me and very kindly had it sent to my house.  I read it cover to cover that same day.  I was absolutely captivated by its contents and overwhelmed by the remarkable strength of character that this little girl displayed regardless of what was thrown her way and the burdens she carried on her young shoulders.  In short, it’s the autobiography of a twelve year old girl named Simone, living in Nazi Europe.  She tells of her experiences as her world literally crumbles around her, piece by piece.

I’m definitely not a book reviewer.  In fact, I scarcely read reviews myself.  If I’m going to read something, I’ll read whatever I want or whatever takes my fancy during that particular time.  Having said that, in my opinion, this book cannot simply be surpassed or forgotten.  When something has the ability to stop you in your tracks you know it’s something very special.  Her writing is so honest, matter-of-fact and emotive that it’s almost impossible not be inspired or moved by it.

Hannah vs Unemployment

Admittedly, I have been extremely fortunate not to have experienced long periods of unemployment.  Having said that, the experience I do have allows me to empathise somewhat with those of you that have.  There are very, very few things in this life more demoralising or soul destroying than being on the hunt for a job. You’ve more hoops to jump through than… than… than someone with lots of hoops to jump through.  It seriously can be a bottomless pit of irritation and disappointment.  Life quickly turns in to a hideously bleak cycle of weekly CV sprucing, lengthy application questions, the trolling of every job site imaginable, setting up endless job alert emails (irronically mostly alerting you to jobs you don’t really want), being over qualified, being under qualified, being too inexperienced, sweaty interview handshakes, sweaty interview rooms, general sweaty-ness, and of course, after enduring all that, lets not forget that delightful, bitter sting of rejection.

Interviews have never been a particular strong point of mine (understatement of the bloomin’ century).  My voice gets slightly higher and a great deal faster.  I fidget, uncontrollably.  I make awkward small talk, throwing in the odd awful “Hannah joke” to dissolve the tension (FYI this does not work.  Abort mission).  The worst part probably being my feeble attempt to persuade the interviewer how mind-blowingly-knock-you-out amazing I am whilst still sounding modest and humble, throwing in the fact that I’m a great team player and the usual other nonsense you would expect.  The whole process is about enjoyable as root canal (I’ve never had root canal but I can imagine it’s not that enjoyable).

So, as you’ve possibly gathered, I’m no expert. I don’t have the answers to successfully scoring that dream job of yours.  I certainly cannot tell you how to charm interviewers and breeze through the experience reasonably unscathed.  However, what I will share are some pointers that will help to keep at least some fractions of your flailing sanity during these stressful periods of unemployment:

  1. Get up. Pretty self-explanatory this one. It’s easy to lay in bed when you don’t have a job to get up for but it’s not healthy or beneficial to mope around, spending half of your daylight hours in bed. Get up, take a shower and face the day (even if that day consists of completing 10 mind numbingly boring job applications). I personally hate being confined by routine. However, even I’ve realised a measure of routine is definitely needed when it comes to unemployment. Mostly to prevent the onset of cabin fever.
  2. Be yourself. Ok, we all want to impress at an interview and project the best, super duper version of ourselves. It’s true, you do have to sell yourself in the most positive light. However, trying to keep up a facade is pretty darn exhausting. Interviewers are interested in your skills and experience but they are also interested in you as a person. The personal qualities and attributes that you could bring to a role make a large impression. How can you display them if you’re trying to portray someone you’re not?
  3. Don’t beat yourself up. You’ve poured your heart and soul into an application/interview and you believe firmly that you are the perfect candidate in every possible way and yet, the answer comes and it’s still a no. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s a massive knock. Yes, it’s ok to take it out on a large jar of Nutella. But being overly hard on yourself and allowing negative thoughts to bounce furiously around in your head for too long isn’t going to help further your chances of securing your next job. FACT.
  4. Learn to take constructive criticism and feedback on board. On the other hand, in contrast with point two, sometimes little or large adjustments are very much required. Whether we Iike it or not, there’s always areas for us to improve in and the sooner we identify them the sooner we can work at making those improvements. Sometimes its necessary for pride to take a back seat. (None of which is as easy to do as that was to write).
  5. Be realistic. Unfortunately, the ideal job isn’t going to fall from a sparkling cloud and land gracefully in a puff of pixie dust on the path just ahead of you. Good things tend to be the most time consuming of all and finding the correct job for you is no exception.

Five simple rules and five ways you can make things slightly more bearable for yourself.  Whilst I’ve not covered anything new or particularly ground breaking, dwelling on these gave me the little nudge that we often need.  Stay focused people.  Better days are coming.  Employed days are coming (hopefully).

Interviewer: “So, can I ask why you are interested in this role within our company?”
Me: “Well, I’ve always been really, really passionate about not starving to death”


L is for…

Lesson.  There are lessons in almost everything you do.  It’s up to you whether you choose to take something from them.

I would like to say that I had some groundbreaking news or a grand accomplishment to share.  However, truthfully, my days have largely consisted of application forms, awful daytime television, more Candy Crush levels than I would ever care to admit, numerous hot beverages and the occasional adult nap (like a regular nap, just more adult).  So, as you can likely imagine, my unemployed state has provided me with copious amounts of time alone with my thoughts.  Dangerous, I know.

In light of my last post, Departing the Big Smoke, here you have the follow up, the product of my most recent honest reflections- the main lessons I learned from moving out and moving on (I do realise I’m totally milking this whole moving thing and I’m not even the slightest bit sorry).  There were many, many more but fortunately for you, dear reader, I condensed them into 5:

  • It is true that living somewhere else does give you different experiences and new perspectives.  However, this does not mean you are necessarily smarter, superior, cooler or more mature than those who have decided to stay put.  Some want to travel the world, sail the seas and soak up different cultures.  Others want to feel settled, secure and surrounded by what they know and who they know.  The truth is, there is nothing wrong with either option.  Great things can be found in both.  Just because someone makes a decision that you personally do not understand doesn’t make it a wrong decision.  Plus, side note, what a snooze-fest it would be if we were all to make the same decisions anyway.

  • You could cartwheel in as Miss Independent herself and take everything in your stride but you will, at some point, miss home or at least aspects of it.  Even if just for fleeting moments.  So don’t be quick to cut your ties and/or neglect your relationships just because you’re in a new place doing new things with new people.  You will miss people and in turn they will miss you… probably… hopefully.  (RamblingsofasmalltownScot cannot guarantee this) *awkward silence*
  • It’s a pretty general, sweeping statement but you simply can’t run away from things.  Any issue or baggage you have (regardless of how minor) is coming with you wherever you’re going whether you like it or not.  Apologies to get all ‘Liam Neeson’ on you, but whatever “it” is, “it” will come and “it” will find you (“it”probably won’t kill you though).  You see, leaving and moving elsewhere doesn’t miraculously and automatically eradicate your problem(s).  Often, it can actually create some more.  So, fix and patch up where you can and at least attempt to make your peace with that which you can’t.
  • You need to be assertive.  No one really knows what you want and how much you want it except you and no one will be as sorry as you if you don’t get it.  So work hard for the things that really matter to you and remember, if you never ask, the answer will always be a big, fat, gigantic, resounding, slap-you-in-the-face NO.
  • Finally (well done for making it this far), you don’t always need to have everything and everyone figured out all the time.  Honestly.  You don’t always need a plan B as sometimes you won’t even have a plan A.  Take some time out.  Have a cup of tea and a digestive (other biscuit options are avaliable).  Walk.  Rant.  Read.  Relax.  Re-evaluate.  Repeat if necessary.

“There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea”~  Bernard-Paul Heroux


Departing the Big Smoke…

The rain battered against the window on that disappointingly bleak June afternoon as I shoved the last of my worldly possessions into an already overflowing box.  Sunday 12th June 2016- the day I left London.

Its hard to fathom exactly where the last 2 years of my life have gone.  Now as I write, the slides of memories all merge together in a blob of happiness.  Admittedly though, I can’t say there hasn’t been hard times.  I’ve been prone to the odd meltdown or two.  Lots of tears, lots of stress.  Unemployment.  Accommodation issues.  Moving 6 times.  I won’t bore you with the rest but I can wholeheartedly say I stand today as a much stronger individual so that can’t be a bad thing.

London.  London is a buzz, a hype of activity.  It’s fast.  It’s suffocating.  It’s exhausting.  It pushes you.  It beats you.  It teaches you.  It’s the type of place you need to experience yourself.  The city itself is amazing with lots to offer and ample opportunities.  However, what I hold higher than any of that is the astounding people that decended into my life, swiftly snapping me out of my small town mentality with a bang.  It’s extremely cliché, but it’s true what they say-  the people really do make the place.

One less desirable aspect of my London experience would have to be the great commute.  Three whole hours of your day completely and utterly swallowed by the vacumous hole of public transport.  What better way to start the day than being millimetres away from an armpit.  Or perhaps by giving up your seat to the pregnant woman because the 9 snotty businessmen are far too consumed with their Evening Standard to take notice.  Or maybe enduring the unecessarily loud, mind melting music emitting from that guy’s headphones.  Or just the general pushing and shoving of those of us with a certain height disadvantage.  Yes, the commute isn’t for the fainthearted.  You have to be prepared to use your elbows.

The diversity found in London is unlike any other.  Well,  unlike anything I’ve ever experienced as a small town Scot.  I truly loved that. Being surrounded by so many languages and cultures was certainly eye opening.  When I strolled by shops and markets or ventured through parks I would always hear different languages and being incredibly nosey (or what I prefer to call inquisitive), I’d let my imagination wonder about their story. Why they had come to London? Had it lived up to their expectations?  Did they miss home? Had they achieved what they wanted to achieve?  I guess I’ll never know.

Moving from Scotland to London may not seem like such a massive deal from an outsiders perspective.  Ok, agreed, it isn’t exactly Timbucktoo or the Australian Outback.  Although, let me tell you, Scotland and London may as well be world’s apart in my very humble opinion.  Honestly speaking however, it was never about the geography for me.  It was about proving that I was able to do something successfully, off my own back, completely for myself.  It was about jumping in with both feet and having no earthly idea what the outcome would be.  It was about growing up and learning the true meaning of responsibility.  It makes you or it breaks you and I would do it all over again.

There was a myriad of reasons that tied in with my decision to leave.  Most of which aren’t that interesting to read or write about for that matter. What I will say is that it was unbelievably sad and difficult to say goodbye to those who had become such a prominent part of my life.  However, I came to the realisation on my mammoth 9 hour drive back to the homeland that all of my experiences, my memories and my friendships wouldn’t just end because I left London.  Its not a subscription that you can just cancel.  They come along with you and they grow with you and they make you who you are.

Leaving London was by no means the end of the story.  It was simply the end of the chapter.  What’s the next chapter?  Well, that is still to be determined.  In the meantime, I will enjoy the rest, the peace, the fresh air (believe me, we’ve plenty of it up here) and the novelty of my mother’s home cooked meals.

“There is nowhere else like London.  Nothing at all, anywhere” ~ Vivenne Westwood