This Crazy World We Live In

‘Unemployed’ is a Dirty Word

I am not unemployed. I am “between jobs”, “still looking”, “settling into my new home“, but never unemployed. On drop-down menus I select ‘housewife’ because technically that’s what I am right now. If I get the option to type something in, then I type ‘psychology graduate’, because that at least speaks to my accomplishments. It’s been 2 months since I last held a job, but not once have I actively referred to myself as ‘unemployed’ – I can’t bring myself to.

Society as a whole tends to define individuals by what they do for a living. When you meet someone new, the first thing you tend to ask after you get their name is “What do you do?”. By giving “unemployed” as my answer to what I do, it would imply that I am, in the eyes of society, nothing… I am not nothing. I worked hard for 3 years to get my psychology degree. I have engaged myself in countless extra-curricular activities, dedicated hours to improving my skills, and worked hard to become a decent and moral human being. So I don’t think it would be fair to be considered as nothing, simply because I don’t have a job right now.

The word ‘unemployed’ is a dirty word. It conjures up images of some lazy scrounger who’s never worked a day in their life, and doesn’t want to, and yet for the vast majority of unemployed people, that’s simply not true. Nor is education or lack of it necessarily an indicator of employment success, as many graduates end up taking menial roles, or even not finding a job at all.

Everyone is always so supportive about my situation. They tell me “you’ll find something soon”, “your perfect job is just around the corner”, but after 2 months of hearing this, it’s getting harder and harder to believe it. At this point I don’t even care about finding my perfect job, I just want a job that I can do well. I am hard-working, I’m educated, I’m organised, I have great attention to detail, and I fulfil all those other buzzwords that employers love, but I lack the one thing they value above all else – experience. I just need one person to give me a chance, and I know I can shine, but I can’t seem to find anything, no matter how hard I try. It doesn’t matter that much to me whether I like my job, as long as I’m good at it. For me, success is my biggest motivator, so as long as I’m working my absolute hardest, then I can be satisfied. As a teenager I briefly held a job in a factory, and it was the most mind-numbingly boring experience of my life, but I still tried my hardest. I was building boxes so fast that the entire conveyor belt line was struggling to keep up with me; the supervisor came over to ask how long I’d been working in a factory, and she was shocked when I answered that it was my first day. I can cope with boredom, I can cope with anything if it means having a job.

I’m not a cynical person, and even though you hear all those horror stories about racist employers, I try to believe that my name isn’t part of the reason I’m not getting hired. However, I do sometimes wonder what would happen if instead of proudly reading ‘Melika Jeddi’ at the top of my resume, it instead projected a stereotypical British name like ‘Rachel Smith’ or ‘Claire Williams’. I know my CV is decent; I went to CV building workshops, and even got it checked by a career advice specialist. On paper, I should be pretty darn employable, and yet company after company keeps ignoring me. It’s frustrating, and each application that goes unanswered slowly chips away at my confidence. I’ve found myself battling with depression (a common theme amongst those seeking jobs), and fighting hard to keep my head afloat despite the constant dejection.

It’s such a taboo topic, nobody really wants to talk about it. They’ll give you encouragement and positivity, but when it comes down to the cold, hard fact of the matter, then sorry kid, but you’re on your own. So, like I said at the start – I’m not unemployed.

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The Quirks of Being Me

Moving House

I would like to apologise for the relative lack of posts recently, I am currently in the midst of organising everything for when I move house next week, which is proving to be a very draining experience. Unfortunately I am so exhausted by the time the evening comes, that most nights I don’t have the mental capacity to write anything worth reading, and my personal philosophy is very much quality over quantity.

For the past 5 years, I have not lived in the same house for more than one year, which is quite strange to consider because I don’t recall experiencing this level of stress 5 times. Then again, this time is very different, because not only am I moving house, but I’m moving town. Egham (“it’s a small town, just outside of London, you’ve probably never heard of it”) has been my home for the past 5 years, and I’ve grown so much in that time. It’s where I went to university, and so it’s where I really developed into the person who I am today. I may have lived in different houses, but my surroundings stayed the same, and for the most part I still socialised with the same people, whereas now I’m moving to somewhere entirely new and unknown, where I don’t know anybody apart from my husband. I don’t have that level of comfort and familiarity to fall back on, everything is going to be completely different, and so I am feeling the full brunt of the stress.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly excited at the prospect of the fresh start. I loved my university experience, but I’m not a student any more. Moving away from Egham will give me the chance to truly embrace adult life, to begin a new life in a place that I don’t associate with the past version of myself. I’ll be able to create new memories, and that’s awesome, but at the same time I’m really going to miss this place.

While part of the reason I feel so stressed is the fact that I’m trying to sort out all the official bits for the new house (arranging the check-in date, sending off all the documents for the tenancy agreement, changing the address on my driving license, getting a parking permit), a lot of it is also that I HATE packing. Most people seem pretty adept at packing, they just take their stuff, box it up, bish-bash-bosh – it’s done. But for me, each individual item is a memory, and when I pick it up, I feel all the emotions that I associate with it. I reminisce about the past, I recall when I first got the item, and how much my life has changed… Nostalgia can pack a serious punch. In the end, I end up taking so long to pack everything up, that I’m both physically and mentally exhausted. It’s even worse because I have to down-size this year as not everything is going to fit into the new place, so I have to try to detach any sentimental value, and think practically about whether or not I actually need each item. The other day I took a bunch of my stuff to the charity shop, and it was really hard to go through with it. At first I was confident that I didn’t need those things any more, but when I got there, it dawned on me that I would probably never see them again, and that all of those memories would be lost. It’s weird how we can attach such powerful emotions to objects. For example my wedding ring is insured, so I could probably get it replaced if it were to be lost or stolen, but even thinking about losing it makes me feel terrified. It’s not like I’d suddenly forget my wedding day, but the ring itself is so special to me, it’s a physical reminder of how lucky I am.

Honestly, I can’t wait for this to all be over, and for my husband and I to be settled into our new home. I’m sure this will all be worth it though, I love to live life to the fullest, and I’m about to embark on a brand new adventure!

Books, Films, and TV

The Trouble With Wands

I absolutely love the Harry Potter series, but when you take the time to analyse it, you realise that certain plot points just don’t make sense. For example, Hogwarts COMPLETELY failed Ron in his second year.

I’m sure all fans will remember the amusing scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets where Harry and Ron crash the flying Ford Anglia into the Whomping Willow, and Ron proceeds to snap his wand in the ensuing chaos. He tries to fix it by wrapping some Spello-tape around it, but the wand is essentially useless by this point. However… WHY did the staff just allow Ron to go the whole year with a broken wand?

You’re telling me, that in a school dedicated to magic, where having a working wand is paramount to basically every class, there wasn’t a single spare wand for students to use? That would be like a regular school not containing any spare pens or pencils. The lessons require wands! Are you seriously telling me that in the entire history of Hogwarts there hasn’t been a single case where a first year got their wand stolen by bullies, or a fifth year drank a bit too much fire whiskey and misplaced their wand? I refuse to believe that Ron has been the only student to get into a bit of wand trouble. Surely the staff should be prepared for such an eventuality?

I understand that ‘the wand chooses the wizard’, but it’s better to have a working wand that isn’t yours than your own wand that’s broken. Not only that, but there is a precedent for students using other people’s wands – Neville uses his father’s wand for most of the series, and not to mention that even the wand that Ron snapped used to belong to his brother Charlie. Plus, Harry borrows Hermione’s wand in the Deathly Hallows when his own one gets broken, and is able to produce perfectly decent protection spells, and when Gilderoy Lockhart steals Ron’s wand, he produces a memory spell so powerful that he spends the rest of his time in St Mungo’s because he can’t remember a thing.

Also, even if they didn’t have a spare wand for Ron to use, WHY didn’t they fix it? It’s not like the staff weren’t aware of the problem. Professor McGonagall even acknowledges to him that ‘that wand needs replacing’, after she witnesses him completely mess up a spell to transfigure an animal into a water goblet (her thought process must have been something along the lines of “I know, I’ll make the kid with the broken wand demonstrate the new spell, this should be good”). In the Deathly Hallows, Harry fixes his old wand by simply using the Elder Wand. We know that at this point in the story Dumbledore owns the Elder Wand, so literally all he would have needed to do is utter “reparo”, and boom! Ron’s wand would have been hunky-dory. Not to mention that even without the Elder Wand, fixing wands can’t be too much of a challenge, considering the fact that Hagrid had his wand broken by the Ministry of Magic, the whole purpose of which was to make it completely unusable, and yet he was able to have it not only repaired, but concealed inside an umbrella.

In conclusion, the Hogwarts staff deliberately chose to watch Ron suffer with a broken wand all year, presumably purely for the banter.

Words, Wonderful Words

Those Are a Few of My Favourite Words

One of the best things about writing, in my opinion, is the fact that I get to use whichever words I want. To me, stringing together a sentence is as much an art-form as using a brush to compose a masterpiece – the words used to create a sentence are just as important as the colours used to paint a beautiful picture. There is a vast difference between an informed and well-written article of prose compared to a poorly researched and hastily slapped together piece, and to me those differences are just as apparent as when comparing a Picasso to a painting by a secondary school art student. They say that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and I consider words to be truly beautiful.

One of my favourite words is ‘myriad’; I love everything about it. I love the way it feels in my mouth, as I roll the different sounds and syllables together. I love the way it looks written down – as if it belongs in a fantasy novel. It conjures up imagery to me of mystery and intrigue; it’s technically not an emotive word, and yet I feel emotion anyway because it’s so incredibly beautiful. Consider the difference between these two sentences: “My room has a lot of things,” or “My bedroom contains a myriad of personal belongings”. Both essentially have the same meaning, and yet the second sentence is so much more pleasant to read, and that to me categorises why words are so special, because they’re more than just their meaning. Using the right words can engage a potential reader, or bore them from the moment they start perusing your work.

When I was a child, I used to enjoy reading the dictionary (I was a very odd youngster, as my parents never hesitated to tell me when they walked in to find me practically crushed beneath the weight of the enormous Oxford English Dictionary). I would open it to a random page, and begin scanning for new words that I could learn, I loved expanding my vocabulary, because it gave me more ammunition for all the stories I wrote. Writing for me was the greatest escape from boredom, I could never be bored, because there were always thousands of worlds and characters that I could dream up to keep me entertained, and the more words I knew, the richer those worlds and characters could be. When I learned a new word I was always eager to show it off, and I endeavoured to use it in every possible occasion, which often resulted in amusing circumstances whereby I would completely mispronounce it while trying to sound fancy and grown up.

A strong vocabulary is the best tool for life – the right combination of words can get you out of all manners of scrapes; if you’re able to express yourself correctly then you can convince nearly anyone of nearly anything. The best sales people are the ones who can use the right words, with the right tone, to the right people. It’s not a case of manipulating people, it’s about building a rapport, and using your words to paint a clear picture, to describe to people exactly what you’re envisioning, and the only way to do this effectively is to know the right words for the occasion.

There are some words I try to avoid, though, because they just have no place in conversation. For example, instead of ‘conversation’, I could have used ‘common parlance’, but in my opinion that sounds elitist and unnecessarily frivolous. I never want to turn people off, and so I don’t use words that alienate others; my goal is to inform and entertain, not to boast about the words I know, and personally I hate reading books or articles that contain too many complicated words, as it detracts from the enjoyment.

Ultimately, words are our most precious resource, and the best thing is that they’re free for everyone, you only need to dedicate the time to learn them. The English language contains so many beautiful and fascinating words, and I feel truly privileged to be able to use them.

The Quirks of Being Me

Home Alone

My husband and I are one of those nauseatingly annoying couples who go basically everywhere together, however tonight he has been invited to a games night, so I find myself in the rare position of being home alone.

Being home alone elicits weird feelings for me. I don’t exactly recall the first time I was ever home alone, but it was definitely well into my teens. I was a suspiciously well-behaved adolescent, and I never felt the need to rebel against my parents, and yet I knew from my extensive experience of American high-school based shows that when you’re home alone, you’re supposed to go wild and break the rules. I didn’t exactly paint the town red, but I mustered the confidence to blast my tunes far louder than my parents would’ve allowed (sometimes I forget quite how much of a nerd I was… And still am), and that was thrilling enough for me. Today though, I’m no longer the music-loving teenager, instead I have become the grumpy old woman complaining about her noisy neighbours. And I think that’s partly why being home alone feels so weird.

I recall that sense of excitement, the childish wonder at the fact I can theoretically do anything, but the fact of the matter is, I’m no longer a child. I’m an adult, and I don’t need permission to do what I want, I just do it. Whether or not my husband is here is largely irrelevant to what my evening activities will be, and yet I somehow feel like I’m wasting an opportunity if I just do the same old thing that I’d do if he were here. A tiny, irresponsible part of me wants to break the rules, and yet I have no idea what that would even mean, because I am as goody-goody as they come.

So, here I am, munching on a dinner consisting entirely of garlic bread, sipping a Fruit Shoot, and deciding which cartoon movie I want to watch tonight… Maybe I’m not as much of an adult as I thought! It might sound ridiculous, but that’s good enough for me. I don’t know why I even get the itch to do something different, I love spending time with my husband, and I miss him when he’s not here, but in a way I’m glad that I haven’t lost my minuscule rebellious streak. Because, you know what? I like being a goody-goody. I like that I’m a nerd. And most of all I like that I know myself well enough to be able to balance those sides of me with a healthy amount of childish fun.

Words, Wonderful Words

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia. For those of you who don’t know, it refers to words that are named after what they sound like – BOOM! POP! OUCH! It’s also quite unique in that it contains 4 different vowels in a row. But my favourite thing about onomatopoeia is the nostalgic feeling of excitement it gives me. I first learned this word when I was about 9 years old, although I can’t remember my exact age; as I get older, my childhood blends into itself, the distinction between my different ages becomes more and more vague. I not only learned this word, but we had an entire lesson devoted to this word, and this word alone.

It might sound like wasted time, a whole lesson spent on a singular word, one that’s not even likely to come up in a conversation or piece of work, but I’m so glad our teacher deemed it worthy. Because even now, many years later, I still remember that class so vividly, I can still hear 30 excited school children singing the letters of its syllables, “o-n-o, m-a-t, o-p-o, e-i-a”. We deconstructed this word to its core, and I was fascinated with its structure, how the final syllable subverted what I knew about vowels, and introduced an entirely new way for me to connect letters to sounds. I loved that I spoke a language where we introduced a word specifically to describe a subset of other words. I can’t remember any other primary school lesson I had, but I clearly remember my passion for the word onomatopoeia, and how special I felt that I knew a word that even my mum couldn’t spell.

I can’t attribute my love affair with the English language just to that one lesson, I’ve loved words for as long as I can remember, even as a 3 year old I preferred reading books to any of my other toys. But clearly something about that lesson resonated with me, and it certainly gave me a new passion for the structure of words. Before then, I was mostly intrigued by how words came together to form sentences, and how sentences came together to form stories, but I think that lesson gave me a new-found appreciation for the words themselves, and for their etymologies. I’ve always had a natural talent for spelling, and I think I considered the word onomatopoeia as a challenge, almost like it was cheating by sounding so differently to how it was spelled. I also enjoyed the irony of such a complicated word describing the easiest words in the language, the ones whose whole purpose was to be spelled like they sound.

I’m entirely confident that by itself, that lesson did little to accentuate my already existing love for words, but I think somewhere deep down, I was motivated to continue exploring English, to search for other fun anomalies like onomatopoeia. So whenever I think of that word, I feel my heart lift in the same way as when I recall an old friend. Because onomatopoeia is the poster-child for where my love of words started, and my love for English is the greatest and most enduring part of my childhood.

The Quirks of Being Me

My Bucket List

No, I’m not dying… At least I hope I’m not. But the way I see it, there’s not a better time for me to write a bucket list. Why wait until I’m old and frail, and my body no longer has the versatility of youth? Right now, I can theoretically do anything, the only limits are the ones I impose on myself (and the ones physics imposes… Stupid gravity).

This past year has made me think a lot about my life, and where I’m going with it. I was a nanny for some great children, and I loved what I did, but at the same time, I felt a little useless. My day was full of routine, and although I worked hard, it didn’t really feel like I was exhibiting any skills that were unique to me. Realistically, anyone could have done my job, and I wanted to feel special. I know that probably makes me sound rather vain, but it’s the truth, and honestly I think everyone in this world, to some extent, has a desire to feel special. I don’t care too much about whether other people think I’m special, but I want to feel special on a personal level. When I’m 80 years old and look back on my life, I want to feel a sense of accomplishment, to feel pride at what I’ve achieved.

So, why a bucket list? I figure there’s so much to do in this world, and a lot of the cool stuff is going to require some level of physical strength and fitness, and so there’s a ticking clock counting down the time I have left to do those things; I think it’s important that I decide now exactly what it is my 80 year old self would regret not doing. I don’t want to climb a mountain, that’s too much for me, and I’d be highly surprised if I ever felt regret at not doing it, as it just doesn’t resonate with me. In fact, a lot of generic bucket list items that you can find online just don’t speak to me at all; I like to dedicate time to introspection, and so I have a good understanding of what is and isn’t within my capability. There’s some things I know I can’t do, and that’s okay; it’s not me having a negative attitude, it’s me being positive about my own skills. I’m never going to be a professional athlete, but I doubt many professional athletes can write stories as well as I can, and personally I love my imagination, and wouldn’t trade it for all the athletic prowess in the world.

A lot of the items on my bucket list are pretty small, seemingly inconsequential things, not that hard at all to accomplish, but it’s because they’re small that I wrote them; I don’t want them to get overlooked, they’re easy for me now, but my brittle 80 year old bones wouldn’t be able to cope. In fact, in a way, I prefer the small things to the big ones, as I love the thrill of being able to tick them off, it gives my life some more purpose. They speak to me so deeply, because they’re so unique to my personality. One item on my list is ‘use the car horn legitimately’, which I expect sounds ridiculous, but I’ve never used my car horn since I started driving. I haven’t used it, because there’s never been a time where I’ve needed to. I’ve had plenty of stupid drivers pull out in front of me, but it always happens in split seconds, and it’s far more practical for me to slam on my brakes than for me to beep the horn. Once it’s happened, there’s no longer a need to use the horn, as they know they’ve done something wrong, and using it wouldn’t accomplish anything. I refuse to use it, unless it would actively help avert an accident. It feels like such a rite of passage when it comes to driving, so I’m unreasonably excited at the prospect of having to use it.

I think another great thing about starting my bucket list, is that it helps me understand what is and isn’t important to me in life. I’m not just writing out things I want to do before I die, I’m planning the direction that I want for my personal development. I want to learn another language, which isn’t just a one-off moment, but will be the culmination of years of hard work. I’m currently learning to speak French, and although I’m only doing a small amount every day, it is every day. So I’m constantly progressing, and that feels incredibly rewarding, as I can physically see my improvement. I’ve already learned so much, and it gives me the confidence that one day I will be able to be fluent.

Ultimately, death isn’t something I’m concerned about right now, and certainly wasn’t the motivation for my bucket list. I didn’t do this because I was thinking about dying, I wrote it so that I could feel truly alive.