As the weather was so fine, I thought a family outing to North Berwick was in order this Sunday.
Today I tried to do nothing. It was pouring it down outside and I wasn't keen to venture outdoors except to walk the dog. So instead I stayed indoors. Well I did do things. I made some vegetable soup and dinner for the family. I dyed my hair. Read a magazine. Watched Outlander. You know, important stuff.
I'm the sort of person who always bites off more than I can chew and I rarely learn. Slowing down and just being is against my nature. I'm always keen to try new things, go different places and say yes to everything.
But I have been feeling stressed out and spread too thin for the last few years. And I'm slowly trying to adjust to life back in the homeland but it's harder than I thought it would be. A few lazy days of looking after myself instead of gadding about town is exactly what was needed.
I find it really hard to switch off. I'm addicted to my iPhone and checking my emails and going to bars with my friends to feel like I'm part of something. I'm obsessed with Instagram which is a sad thing to admit as a supposedly mature adult but I am. All of these things contribute towards anxiety and comparing myself with others and just general negativity and losing myself in the moment. It's a sad sickness that milennials suffer from.
And now I'm going to read a book and maybe put a face mask on. More importantly, I'm going to make myself a cup of tea. Small steps eh?
Ah sweet unemployment. There seems to be a direct correlation between how little money and prospects I have and how fancy my already champagne tastes become. I should draw a bell chart noting this.
In an attempt to get my desires out of my system, here at a few of the things I desperately want but cannae afford.
1. Everything Le Creuset. In my heart of hearts I am a French chef a la the rat from Ratatouille. I long for these pots and pans the same way Gatsby longs for Daisy - he stares at the green light and I scroll through Instagram looking at charming French pots. In vain.
2. A flat in Bruntsfield or in the New Town. Two bedrooms. Authentic fireplace tiles. Wooden floors. My own bathroom. A bedroom bigger than a cupboard. My piggy bank is half full. I only need another two hundred grand for my dream apartment. I'm almost there!
3. Sophia Webster shoes. Can I walk in them? Maybe very slowly. Are they practical for the slippery cobblestones of fair but drizzly Edinburgh? Not exactly. Can I or indeed anyone afford to spend 500 quid on shoes? Ummm next question.
4. A trip to Iceland (not the shop which I can probably just about manage) to spend some time in Reykjavik which is the city of dreamers. And if there's anything I'm good at it is dreaming.
5. A private library full of books. Books I want to read and books I want to reread. I've been looking all over the second hand shops of Stockbridge and the New Town for a copy of Vera Brittain's A Testament of Youth. I refuse to pay full price as she is dead and willnae benefit from my coins. If only I had a magical library full of books I'd like to read and haven't even realised I want to read yet. I hear some people this a library and they are run by the council. Fie! Fie on you!
6. A coat that keeps me warm and looks stylish. I believe no such coat exists but that doesn't stop me ghosting the All Saints website.
7. Enough hangers. There are never enough hangers in my wardrobe!! Ever. I need an unlimited supply.
8. Spanish and Gaelic lessons. That make me fluent with ease; not confusing verb conjunctions. Why are language classes so damn spendy? All I want to be able to do is converse and read!
9. To be able to buy food from delis and independent shops and support wee entrepreneurs. But it's so much cheaper in the supermarket chains why are you tempting me Satan?
10. A book deal. If I got this I'd be happier than a pig in shit. Omg please publishers? Can ye no recognise raw talent?
What things do you lust after despite your wallet?
As I sit here in BrewLab in Edinburgh contemplating my future, I wonder how similar I am to Bridget Jones. I'm not in my thirties in London, sure, but I am an unmarried woman who is a wee bit overweight and prone to getting herself in awkward situations. I still relate to Bridget and last night I reread the second book after seeing the new trailer.
The trailer for Bridget Jones' Baby has just dropped and omg the magazine writers have chimed in with their thoughts. I think Helen Fielding would be amused (or exasperated) at the irony of feminist writers neurotically critiquing a film - which isn't even out yet - about a neurotic woman who is constantly lambasted for not fitting in with other people's visions of what a woman should be.
Bridget Jones, feminist literary icon and spinster, book series and film franchise is a satire. A satire! The first novel was loosely based on Pride and Prejudice and the second one Jane Austen's masterpiece Persuasion. Both were about a single woman in the 90s not living up to any of these imposed standards of success that we are supposed to achieve. She's not married and while she deals with criticism from family friends and peers about her 'spinsterhood' and is affected by it - she's not dragging Mark Darcy to engagement ring shops and pointing out which one she wants.
She has her urban family of friends, doesn't take her job too seriously but still tries hard and squabbles with her controlling mum while going on dates. She fucks up and she's brave and hilarious.
Is this not a vague template for all our lives? What I like about Bridget is that she's not perfect and she's not winning all the time but she's mostly ok about that. One of the reviews of the trailer I read (why are we reviewing a trailer?! What has click bait come to) is that getting married is not an aim in life for single women anymore. We aren't concerned by Smug Marrieds and won over by Milk Trays these days. Bridget Jones was very zeitgeist in the 90s but the first book is 20 years old! Is she even relevant anymore?
My reading of the Helen Fielding's books is not that Bridget is desperate to get married - it's that women, whatever they do, were criticised for their choices. I think that's still the case. Bridget isn't jealous of her married friends - she's hurt by being told that by being unmarried she's somehow less important.
I'm paraphrasing now but in the Edge of Reason, a stuffy Smug Married asks Bridget if she's sorted her life out yet. Outraged, Bridget's friend Shazzer says her life is fine and doesn't need sorting out - and points the finger at his less than perfect married life. I think most single women have endured this kind of crap at least once.
I didn't like Helen Fielding's third Bridget Jones book, Mad About the Boy. I thought it was a bit of a repeat of the first one and I would have preferred to read a book about Bridget's marriage to Mark Darcy. However, I quite like the look of the trailer which is a totally different story. Bridget didn't get married although she admits she would have liked to, has a cool job that she still makes mistakes at and has royally screwed up re her love life. Who is the father of her baby? Mr Darcy or MacDreamy?
Is Bridget Jones still relevant? Well this 27 year old is still interested. The second film was a bit rubbish but the director of the first film who is the basis for Shazzer is back. I think - and hope - we are about to see Bridget Jones back on form.
More paraphrasing - another great English writer, Winifred Holtby, wrote in South Riding, "I was born to be a spinster and by God am I going to spin!"
Let's take Bridget Jones out for another spin, eh?
My best friend and I were talking about money. If you are making money, she argued, you are often worrying about how to make more money. The world of money and possibilities opens up to you and it's a roller coaster you want to get on.
It doesn't make you happy, she said. I'm happier with no money.
Now she doesn't have no money at all. But she doesn't live extravagantly because she can't afford to. And she's ok with that right now.
Lifestyle inflation is when you make more money so your lifestyle changes to incorporate the new things you can afford. Lifestyle deflation on the other hand, is when you have to cut out what's not necessary because your circumstances have changed.
Whether its its through a new devotion to minimalism or because you lost your job or whatever - it can be very jarring at first but then it becomes your new normal.
When I was newly redundant and still trying to keep up with my friends whose socialising always circled around going out for drinks in expensive places, I was so unhappy. I didn't manage to convince many people to do cheap and cheerful things which were few and far between in the city and it made me think about what I actually like doing as opposed to what I can afford to do.
Hopefully now I am more sensitive to other people's financial situations, and I'm trying to embrace my own lifestyle deflation.
So you've been made redundant...What next? Here are some handy guidelines for you as you join Redundancy Club.
The only rule in Redundancy Club is...ummm....don't stay too long?
Remember, you're unemployed AND fabulous!
1. Embrace your new life as a hustler (whisper under your breathe "Everyday I'm hustlin'")
2. Reassure yourself that hobo chic is still actually chic
3. Don't send out CVs in a blind panic to anyone and everyone who will have you. Having a job is like having a boyfriend - you want the right one and recruiters can smell desperation
4. Instead, have a think about what you want to do WITH THE REST OF YOUR LIFE
5. Set up a Redundancy Club with any colleagues you like who have also been made redundant - mine is called The Barbie Club (saying Redundancy Club over and over again made me sad)
6. Plan free activities with your Redundancy Club, like going for runs, volunteering, watching Netflix during work hours (Barbie workouts...)
7. Don't under any circumstances spend money that is non-essential
8. Rely on your emergency fund
9. If you don't have an emergency fund, try and get a survival job to pay the bills
10. If that's a no go, dole office/parents/spouse/children's piggy banks/sell your stuff on Ebay (Someone please buy my bookshelves?)
11. Rewrite your CV so it illustrates your biggest achievements and remember, you are an achiever and this is a BLIP
12. Don't sleep in all day on your first day of not working
13. Sign up for a 10km as that gives you a new goal to work towards and something to focus on/take your mind off your impending employment at Burger King
14. Listen to a lot of Taylor Swift
15. Call up recruiters and arrange for coffee meetings
16. Don't panic or if you do panic, do it in a controlled environment (not your work's bathroom)
17. Don't feel embarrassed, this is a rite of passage
18. Stay as professional as possible. No ranting on social media!
19. Don't get drunk and emotional (rule for life)
20. Realise that this is the making of you
Anyone else got any guidelines for joining The Redundancy Club?
The long and winding road is now leading me back to the motherland. As an expat for the last five years, I have been subject to many pleas of "When are you coming home?" and now, I finally am (although not for good, but let's not tell my mother that just yet).
How do you pick up the threads of a past life? (Kudos if you guess who I just quoted.) Every time I go back to Scotland, I feel like I have changed immensely and experienced a hundred million things that I can't explain to people as it sounds like boasting - but everyone else is ticking along nicely and hasn't changed. Every city and culture has its own speed, of course, as does every person, but it's hard to adapt back to my original climate and culture. Why is it so bleeding cold?!
In some ways, it's a more difficult culture shock because I feel like I'm regressing. I've already been there, done that and got the t-shirt.
My parents were expats. I've now spent over half my life abroad (yikes) and I probably have a different perspective and attitude to someone who has spent their whole life in one place. I crave adventure, new experiences and fear complacency. The idea of living in the suburbs of some dreary town and going to Tenerife on holiday once a year is my idea of hell.
So why the hell am I going home?
It's a decision that is mystifying a lot of people. I've been in a tax-free, sunny and fast developing city state for years now, which has afforded me lots of opportunities. I've travelled all over the world (mostly on other people's dime) and had some career highs - I got my own magazine age 25.
But I'm bored now. I've outgrown this place and overstayed. It has a lot of downsides and they have all overwhelmed me. It's stressful and oppressive at times. It's not the place to live in long-term and a lot of my friends have left.
I also wanted to go back to the UK as I can't get a mortgage and therefore a house if I'm not a resident. But I can't get a mortgage as a resident without an income aka a job.
So age 27, after visa issues and a redundancy I am giving up the expat dream (which has taken a turn into nightmare) to move in with my parents and look for a job in the small economy of Scotland.
I'm in a good position to do so after living fairly frugally and have some savings (which is going in its entirety towards a deposit) and no debt (thank you, Scottish university system). But I won't have any income until I get a full-time job - and who knows how long that will take? And I am very wary of spending my hard-earned savings as I need that for the deposit...
Also, after working like a devil for years and not taking holidays, I am a little burnt out. I'm planning a nice holiday with my boyfriend before I leave the continent (I'm also going to be navigating a long-distance relationship) and I want to take some time off to travel to places with friends I've barely seen for years and volunteer and do some language classes...but I also don't have any income.
I don't exactly know how I'm going to manage this. But I do know that I feel (and in some ways have always felt) like an expat in my native country.
Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about mostly men who advocate financial independence and retiring early. They’re keen to talk about their investment portfolio and how they stopped work at 30 or 40 or 45 – earlier than the national average. They’re living the dream and you can, too! I do enjoy reading about other people's life choices, but honestly, I don't get it.
While a lot of what these retirees are proposing is good quality advice, like not treating your salary like your budget, saving, being frugal, reevaluating your priorities and philosophy towards money, there is something about it that makes me uneasy.
My problem with it is not the financial advice – I dislike the idea of not working ever again. I dislike the idea of seeing work as a necessary evil (although it often is).
Essentially, these people want to be a 17th century gentleman. Lots of investment money coming in, lots of leisure time and little or no working. Working was distasteful to someone like Mr Darcy – work is for poor people.
The paradigm here is that work is bad and we only do it for money.
Work takes up your time. It’s hard. It’s stressful. It makes you unhappy.
Work is hard work.
When I was going to university, I chose to study English and I got a lot of sneers and comments about how I would end up an English teacher – which I have never wanted to do – if I even managed to get a job. Even recently, a recent engineer graduate told me, albeit in a joking way, that choosing to study a subject I loved and enjoyed was “my first mistake” rather than something more financially viable. I’m not sure what my second mistake was – perhaps conversing with him!
I have an ex-boyfriend who told me he didn’t actually like investment banking, and chose it because it was the profession that would yield the most money and then he could retire early. I asked him what he wanted to do in retirement and he said, “Hang out.”
I just do not get that at all. This is beyond my comprehension.
I don’t like insane, demanding clients, bitchy bosses, backstabbing colleagues, unnecessary stress, long hours, overtime, commuting and boring tasks – no one does.
But I think working is important.
I definitely agree that mindlessly doing to the nine-to-five grind and going down the route of mortgage, loans and debt is not something to be advocated. I don’t think everyone’s end goal in life should be to retire – or to have money. I do definitely think you should strive to have money and retire at some point, but all your life decisions shouldn’t revolve around this as your end goal.
But there is something about passively accruing income with no other kind of work that rubs me up the wrong way. I’m not talking about the “honesty” about a day’s work that proverbs tell us about – they’re just clever ways for rich people to keep poor people endlessly breaking their backs so that they can profit. I’m talking about making money but not contributing to anything.
Does being financially independent reduce the need to work? Isn’t work important? What happened to passion? What happened to vocations? What happened to altruism? Or even creativity? What happened to the pursuit of learning and achievement and dare I say it, doing something to create a better world?
This might be the naïve, bleeding heart liberal in me, but I think that we need to change our relationship with work – and I do think with the advent of freelance work, virtual assistants, blogs, remote working and things like paternal leave and flexi-time work is changing too. We’re not baby boomers and that’s ok, so we have to navigate our own relationship with work.
In a lot of pop culture the only thing you can be passionate about is the creative industry – like being a musician, or a writer, or a singer. I think that there must even be accountants who enjoy crunching the numbers, and looking after the finances of companies they believe in.
I think that the point of living is doing – and doing something good (rather than an evil empire or a business that flourishes on other people’s sufferings). I think that we can all do more to make “the rate race” less of a race and more of a journey or a pilgrimage so that people don’t want to opt out.
I’m not about to tell people what to do – my philosophy is live and let live and tolerate things I don’t particularly like. Retire at 30 if you want! I’m going to keep working and making things past 30.
Does anyone else actually like working? What are you favourite aspects of having a job?
Pin Money Girl
I'm just a girl, standing in front a computer screen, asking you to read my work. Personal finance, university, careers and work life balance for the 20-something girl.