Thursday, January 5, 2017

So... what are you gonna do now?




Months ago i wrote a thing on my phone about topics that made me uncomfortable when brought up, especially by strangers.
I guess i was getting the same questions a lot at the time, and i needed to vent.

The same topics aren't necessarily bothering me now.
Actually not much does, it's one of the few perks that comes with not caring much about anything.
But since i'm still a little too fucked up to really talk about my life these days, i thought i would dig into the archives and share some of my writing from that year, 2016, because as it turns out, i actually have a lot.

From the iPhone journal:

For what seemed like the longest time after leaving the tattoo shop, I was unemployed.
I was so lost and I was too scared to even sit down and write a resume, because it would mean admitting, and making very public, that I don't have any real education, and no meaningful skills that could easily lead to employment.
I was scared and embarrassed, and a lot of people just said mean things behind my back instead of trying to support me, or just accept the place I was in.
I would dread meeting new people, because for most people, the first question that comes right after an introduction is "so what do you do?"
And when you don't do anything, when you've been stripped of the identity that comes with having a job and a purpose, beings asked that question is beyond uncomfortable.
At first I tried out "oh, I'm in between jobs" or "not sure yet haha".
Then I tried "I'm an artist" but seeing as how I had sold maybe fifteen prints of my artwork in my life, I could never pull that one off convincingly.
So in the end I just settled for a sardonic smirk followed by "I'm unemployed, I don't do shit".
It would at least make people move along to the next victim quicker than the others ones, and it was the truth.
The question always terrified me though, I could always sense it coming.

In some situations, no answer I could give would make a person just lay off.
They'd keep going.
They'd ask "so what are you gonna do now?" 
And my brain would echo "OMG what ARE you gonna do now?! Fuuuuck we're so fucked!" and I'd have to smile awkwardly, and answer vaguely and politely, because even when someone asks you a deeply personal question that makes you highly uncomfortable, you're not allowed to make them uncomfortable back. 

So now that I am finally employed, now that I did what they all asked and expected of me, and took charge and found something to do, however pathetic it may seem, you'd think the questions would stop. But no. Now, based on recent experience, the question apparently is "so what's next?".

And I know, I know it's only small talk and they only say it to fill the silence. 
But seriously, that's some heavy fucking small talk!
"What are your plans for the future then?" almost makes me as panicky and uncomfortable as "so when are you gonna start a family" used to. 
Almost. 
Because obviously I don't know what's next. "So you're gonna stay in Berlin or...?"

There are some things that make people uncomfortable to talk about, and if in doubt, if you don't know whether the question you're about to ask just to fill the air between you and the other person will make them uncomfortable, maybe don't ask. 

So, just for fun, I present you with a brief list of topics that are making me highly uncomfortable these days.

Uterus. 

Asking a divorced or separated woman whether or not she plans on having babies... that might be a sensitive topic. 
And when she answers by affirming her current status, and saying she doubts it, maybe don't follow up with a list of the many ways she can go about having a baby without a man. 
Maybe I don't want children or maybe not having them is the greatest regret and sorrow in my life.
Either way, just leave it. 

Goals. 

I work at a call center in Germany. 
I commute for three hours a day, and I sit in a grey cubicle getting yelled at for another eight and a half. 
I share a flat with three roommates, and a hamster, and I only have the dog I've been raising since he was eleven weeks old part time. 
I'm not skinny, I'm not successful, my hair is stupid, and the few things I'm passionate about, I have no time for. 
Most of us have secret goals set in life, like "by the time I'm twenty five I want to be at this point in my career" or "by the time I hit thirty I'll want to start a family".
Well not everyone reaches those goals, and this is probably not where I expected to be at this point in my life, and it's doubtful I'll ever be able to make up for lost time and achieve anything substantial, so maybe don't rub it in.

Money. 

Don't ask me how I make them, how many of them I make, or what I spend them on. 
That includes asking me about how much I pay for my health insurance or how much my rent is. 
I don't really care how fascinated you are by the Berlin real estate market, or average salaries in the city. 
I'm Scandinavian, I find it rude.

Scars. 
I have a few, and one is particularly ugly and visible.
It's big and it never healed right. Went keloid instead.
My readers were there when I got it, they all know at least part of what happened, it's no secret. 
But I do like to pretend it's not that bad. That maybe you can't see it *that* clearly. 
So when a stranger or acquaintance asks "OMG how did you get that scar?" it not only reminds me of a very traumatic time of my life, it also shatters any hopes I have of it not being that visible. 
Side note: saying it's cool and it makes me look "kind of like a pirate" (actual things said to me by at least two adult women) is not a compliment. 
Stop. Just stop. 

Future. 

Bitch, I can barely handle my present! 
I don't know! I don't know if I'm gonna stay in Berlin for a few more years or forever. I don't know if I'll eventually move back to Denmark or if I'll wind up on a beach in South America, or in a Tokyo suburb. And given that none of us know the future, I don't know if I'll be dead long before any of those things even have the chance to occur. I don't know if I'll be able to get another job that's better suited to whatever talents you think I might possess. 
I fucking hope so and I'm fucking trying. 
You can go ahead and assume that I'm fucking trying based on the aforementioned commuting time. 

Language. 

Learning German comes easy to some of my friends and not so easy to others. 
People sometimes assume that I'm some kind of prodigy because my English is good, but no, I'm just Danish, we learn that particular language early in life. 
I struggle. I've been trying to learn Japanese for two years and it's a waste of money. I suck at it!
And I am trying to learn German, but it is a foreign language, and despite any similarities, it's not the same as Danish.
This summer someone (who doesn't live in Germany) actually said to me "I think German is so easy! It just comes so naturally to me... why don't you speak it?" 
Well maybe because I'm not a linguistic genius, but hey, at least I possess good enough manners to not ask a question like that one.
So that's something.

If you've read this far, hi! 
And also, i encourage you to share your own list of panic topics in the comments, i'd love to hear what kind of questions make you freeze when a stranger corners you at a social event.

Photos are analogues from California in September 2016, because i still have many to share.
It's kind of heavy on sea lion cuteness.
My phone broke and I couldn't take photos, so i kinda overdid it with the film ones.
I'm happy I did, though.
Who doesn't like sea lions?
















3 comments:

  1. For many years it was a question I hated the most. "So what do you do for living?". At times because I didn't have a job, at times because I had a boring one, and at times because the people I talked to found my current jobs more interesting than I did myself (working as a photographer, for instance).
    After I spent a year being ill, after one of my best friends suddenly died and after I lost my 20 years long relationship due to my husbands affairs, lies and all the horror that comes with it, I found myself changed, completely.
    The truth is, today I don't give a damn about people's questions, whether it's about job, money, future, kids. I answer, politely, indifferently, with a smile and try to change the topic.
    Another truth is: I'm struggling as well. Still. But while the others might have been living their lives, content with who they are, what they do, who with... I've been working on the things inside of me, that haven't been apparent. Maybe without a job, without a partner or trying my luck with a new one, I HAVE BEEN busy, I've been having a project of my own. Self analyzing, healing, growing, falling and rising hundreds of times, learning, surviving, find and losing myself over and over again. And there is not job, money, future, dreams etc. that's been more important to me for the last couple of years.
    I talk about it. And I don't. I tell some and I don't. And that is what I'm holding onto these days. Everything else, I consider a small talk and I just don't give a damn.
    We are not writing to each other, you don't hear much from me, but you should know I'm following you, your life, your thoughts. I know you're going through the similar things and for how you deal with everything I can only tell you: you should be proud of yourself.
    Love, Monika

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  2. Yeah, all of those questions are fun. Although I find it worse when they come from former colleagues or people I went to university with, who all seem to have built a solid career and expect the same from me. They all seem work at some great magazine with all the great people you read about and it's so fulfilling and exciting. Good for you then. "Have you tried sending samples of your work to xyz?" - No, I haven't. Maybe I feel I'm not good enough, or maybe I don't want to suck up to people. You don't know. "What field are you interested in?" - Hm, puppies and tattoos? Yeah.
    But isn't it weird that so many people only define themselves over their jobs? The older I get the more irrelevant it seems to me. It's like what I do to live, not the other way round. Not everyone gets to find their dream job, a passionate career. Or maybe my idea of success is just a whole lot different from yours.
    Looking forward to hearing these again now that I recently lost my job. Here's to hoping I just don't give a damn anymore this time around.
    All the best to you!

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  3. In this moment, the questions I can think of that bother me the most from strangers and known people are: "Why are you so skinny?” " Do you actually eat?" or things like "aw your so skinny" when they first met me. By the way they say it it makes me feel super uncomfortable. Maybe its my bad but I start to think that I am unpleasant to look at or that people thinks I have an eating disorder and I hate it. Even in high school some idiots said to me that if I wasn't that skinny they'd sure date me, like if I wanted to date them... Fortunately and besides the fact that these questions keep upsetting me I think I've learned to accept myself more.
    Also there is the question: What are you gonna do when you finish the Uni? or You should start looking for a job related to what you are studying. Honestly I don't feel capable at this moment and I feel I lack of creativity sometimes which is an important aspect in my career and that scares me a little.

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