Musings of a 21-year-old

That’s right, I made it to 21 without any unwanted pregnancies, flunking out of school, or giving up on everything and becoming a full-time dog walker (though let’s be honest, the latter is something I’d be very happy to do).

21 has always been a big milestone for me. It seems the big ones in my mind were always the ones that are featured a lot on TV or have a lot of meaning attached to them, such as Sweet Sixteen in America. I thought when I reached 18, the legal drinking age in the UK, that would be the moment I became a ‘proper adult’. When I turned 18, I realised that was a load of bollocks and looked forward to not being a teenager anymore, whilst at the same time being absolutely terrified that I wouldn’t be a teen anymore.

So 21 was the age I had in my mind. Me turning 21 would mean that I would have finished university. Turning 21 would (hopefully) mean that I knew what I wanted to do with my life. 21 was going to be the new me, the adult me, the improved me, the me that has her shit together and goals written down on a checklist that I would tick off each day.

Well, in all honesty past-me and readers of this blog, 21 pretty much feels like 20. That’s the problem with birthdays; you big them up so much, have a countdown until the day whilst your excitement grows and grows like some great fire, only to be snuffed out on the anti-climatic day when you look in the mirror and think: I look no different than yesterday. Because your birthday is not the day that everything clicks into place. It is not the day where you feel like an adult or the day that your goals are all met or that you feel so much older than you did the year before. Those things happen in the in-between. I didn’t get more confident when I hit 20; it happened somewhere between my milestones of 18 and 20 without realising. I didn’t figure out what I wanted from life as soon as I turned 21, and I doubt I’ll fully know what I want from life if I just muse about it to a computer screen.

Birthdays in general make me muse more than often, and I wonder if it’s due to the fact that, as the years go on, events like birthdays, easter, christmas and other celebrations slowly start to lose their magic. All through childhood I wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before Christmas, or my birthday, imagining all the fantastic and wonderful things that were a few mere hours away. The next year is exciting and filled with the unknown, which only made it more exciting. Yes, the next year is still filled with the unknown, but it’s about as exciting as it is terrifying.

Still, I’ve made it this far – which in retrospect, isn’t even that far at all – so I might as well keep going and hope that, along the way, I live my life the way I want to. You’ll hear about, regardless.

On Being Happy: Christmas

Whenever I try to think of times that I’m happiest, a memory from a Christmas past always comes to mind. There’s just something about Christmas that I, along with many of the world’s population, have always loved. When I was a kid it was all about the magic of Santa and his reindeer, leaving out milk and cookies in the hopes that he’d leave lots of presents. (Apart from that one year my Dad told me to leave out a glass of wine, and I wasn’t at all suspicious).

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Nowadays I know that really it’s my parents who put the presents under the tree, but the magic is still there. When I was younger I was mainly excited about what I was going to get, wondering what presents Santa had ticked off my list and what surprises there were going to be, but these days I seem to find just as much joy, if not more, in giving presents to others and seeing them open them. Now that I actually earn some money, I’m able to buy some better presents than I’ve been able to in the past (the garden centre around the corner from the house used to be where most of the christmas shopping was done in my early years).

And although Christmas Day is where it all happens, it’s the build up that really gives me a spike in happiness. Yes, work now has the Christmas hours in place and I very nearly had to work Christmas Eve, but nothing beats that first chocolate from the advent calendar, or when you start playing Christmas music. Before December, I’m not a huge fan of Christmas displays or music – once Halloween has passed, it’s sort of alright, but come December everything Christmas is fair game.

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The first piece of Christmas cake, the first mince pie, present wrapping, Christmas parties, decorations, putting up the tree – everything is just filled with so much joy (apart from the last minute shoppers who plague our stores and near-attack retail staff in their panicked frenzy of being unprepared despite the fact that Christmas is on the same day every year). Once again the videos of cats attacking Christmas trees appear, and we stuff our faces with copious amounts of food. I normally start off pretty blasé about it, but then I realise it’s November and I’ve wrapped all my presents and watched Elf three times.

Yet it’s not happy for everyone. For many people Christmas isn’t a time of happiness and love, to which I try to check my privilege and remember everyone else at this time of year. And of course there are changes every year – like the fact that this is the first Christmas we’ll have without my Grandma and, although we’re all together and will undoubtedly have a lovely holiday, it’s tough going into it with that absence.

It’s a time of giving, a time of family, a time of happiness. One that I look forward to every year and one that I grieve every time we have to take the lights down. So, wherever you are and whoever you might be, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas or, if you don’t celebrate it, a lovely holiday and New Year.

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Retail Rambles

There is nothing I can talk more about, or even complain about, than annoying customers at work. I’ve talked previously about how everyone should be forced to work in retail at some point, simply because it would hopefully eradicate the vast majority of rudeness customers seem to possess. Today, however, I want to just ramble about a few things in the day of a life of working in retail. Luckily I just work weekends, so I have a solid five days in between each couple of days where I have to deal with people that think that I’m there to serve them (which, technically, I am, but that in no means makes them my superior).

I’ve worked in a bookshop for almost a year and a half now, and I worked as a hostess and in a pub before this. Without doubt working at the bookshop is by far my favourite, and if there were only nice customers I’d have so little to complain about that I’d probably have to shut down this blog. However, there are always awful customers – people who don’t seem to realise that they will be the subject of conversation in the staff room, and every time they come back we will warn each other and most likely not be that helpful. It gets even better if the customer thinks that they’re so in the right, that they’ll demand to talk to a ‘manager’, thinking that we’ll get a telling off, when actually we’ll get our manager who will be more concerned about whether we, the employees, are alright. I had one incident where a customer gave me their surname in order for me to find a book they had ordered in, and when I couldn’t find it they said “Are you really that incompetent?”. It turned out that they had a combined surname, something like Dean-Smith, so of course it was shelved under ‘D’ and not ‘S’, as they had told me their surname was Smith. Overhearing, my manager grew so angry that, once I had found this lady’s books, he took over the transaction and told her off, not letting someone treat me badly.

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Some customers also have this strange thought that they could do my job so much better, that they are above me in intelligence as well as status. (Seriously, whoever came up with ‘the customer is always right’ clearly never worked a day in retail in their life). I had a man last Sunday knock over a huge Christmas display of all the packs of Christmas cards. I went over to see what had happened, only to see this chap just standing there among the carnage. Sighing, I bent down and started to pick everything up, and he didn’t speak until I was literally on my knees trying to gather everything around his feet (he didn’t move out of the way or even try to help). Instead of apologising, he said “Well what do you expect to happen when you display them like that?”. I then went to put everything back the way it was, to which he started telling me how I should stack them – a way in which meant you couldn’t actually see the product. I told him this, and the fact that we hadn’t had anyone have any problems with it so far, to which he continued to tell me how the proper way to do it was. I’ve had someone tell me that I rolled wrapping paper the wrong way, only to have the person buying said paper tell me that they didn’t care. This lady then told me ‘she was only trying to help’, which is so insulting I don’t even want to get into it. Never, I repeat never should you tell someone who is working how to do something if you are the customer. Just let them get on with it, and if they are doing a certain job wrong it’s down to their managers or co-workers to point it out, not you.

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It’s gotten to a point where I can sense exactly what a customer is going to complain about. An easy one is on a Sunday, where the Sunday Trading Hours law means that we can only sell for 6 hours – and we state very clearly that we open at 12 for half an hour browsing time, then start selling at 12.30. We even have signs on the door and every single till point, but still you will have customers get enraged at you -even when you say ‘it’s the law, I can’t sell it’. Responses to this have included: “stop being stupid you little girl and get on the till”, “that’s just ridiculous I’m just buying ___”, and more. A lot of people have this habit of mumbling insults and profanities, but mumbling not in a ‘to-self’ way, but loud enough that you can hear every single thing. Why people think it’s ok to be rude to an employee at a shop in this way I’ll never know.

A favourite phrase of mine that customers use is ‘can you check in the back’. Honestly, it’s just fantastic and you get to just play along. Customers think ‘the back’ is this huge, cavernous space filled with all the products you have out in display, whereas really it’s a small cupboard in which we have some Christmas stock and mothers/fathers day, valentines, and easter cards. Still, you say “of course I’ll go check in the back” and you toddle off into the cupboard and have a bit of a sit down for a couple of minutes.

But really, the reason for this ranting is not just to get it off my chest. It’s because it’s gotten to the point where I expect rudeness, and any customers who are actually nice are very unexpected surprises. We have to take on this mindset of pre-empting how a conversation can go and what a customer will complain about, going through various scenarios and trying to figure out what phrases to use which will cause the least amount of problems. For example I only say ‘yes, we should have that in stock’ rather than say how many we have in stock, because more often than not if we only find 2 out of 3 copies, the customer will demand to see the other one and complain incessantly that we can’t find it.

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But let’s end on a nice note. There are several reasons why I love my job – the copious amount of books, the odd broken chocolate item I get to eat, the cafe where I can get free tea and hot chocolate – but the thing that makes me love my job, the reason why I feel sad whenever I think of the day I’ll finally leave my job, are the people I work with. Having great work colleagues makes any job ten times better, from having someone positive to motivate you, to having someone you can rant with about customers. Nothing is better than going to work and having your colleagues ask you about your week and certain events you mentioned in passing a month ago, or having someone leave you a note so when you start your shift you have a ridiculous drawing of a reindeer wishing you good luck.

So, yes, a lot of customers can be arseholes, and there are very few customers who are kind and respectful to you. But what makes it all worthwhile are the people you meet and befriend at work, who are there ready to support you and keep your spirits high – especially in the Christmas season, where jolly goes out the window and enraged unprepared shoppers storm in looking for a book ‘with a blue cover’.

 

December Update

With Christmas being under 2 weeks away, everything has suddenly sped up (or so it seems to me) with around a million and one jobs to do. But with all the craziness, there is always the Christmas cheer and, of course, a good ‘ol dash of Christmas luck – which I’ve had plenty of within the past week.

My first big piece of news is that I am officially Associate Editor of the December edition of PAN – the Musical Journal for the British Flute Society! I had several bits and bobs to do for the magazine, from sorting out the Events Diary to sourcing CD covers. My main point of pride, however, is my concert review of the Emily Beynon concert that I attended at the Royal Academy of Music in London. If you’re interested in having a read of it, then please let me know what you think!

Click here to read!

The second point of pretty cool news is that I’ve just received an offer from my first-choice university, which is great to have just before Christmas, but I’m not chancing jinxing it by saying anything more!

The third, and final (for now), bit of news is that my article for spiked-online went live today! I’d really appreciate it if you took the time to have a look and, if you’re feeling really generous, leave a comment on the article itself on spiked to let me know what you think!

http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/robin_thicke_is_misogynistic/14411#.Uqn5U_RdXPo

And on top of all that, I’ve been sent an early copy of a book that is to be released in January to review – so keep an eye out for that.

As always, thanks for reading and leave a comment if you’re feeling the Christmas cheer. ~Eleanor