Baby Steps…

…Back into the World!

The timeline for recovering from a breakdown is not a finite thing. It’s different for everyone. For me it’s taken a good two years (and by a good two years I mean nearly three) to get fully back in touch with the real world.

There is a buddhist saying that new beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. In my last blog I mentioned that I had lost a contract. Whilst this was very upsetting at the time it prompted me to go out into the big wide world in search for new employment. For the first time in two (nearly three) years I found myself employed in a place that was not my house. I now have to leave my safe home office and venture into the real world at least two days a week and surprisingly enough, I’m loving it!

-New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings.-- Lao Tzu (1)

I’m actually almost enjoying the days I spend not in my sheltered little office more than the ones I do. Well not all of them…

Last Monday I arrived at my place of work and had to open up for the first time. To make a short story relatively shorter security alarms AND panic alarms were set off, a fundamental piece of security equipped became irrevocably lost, causing two call-outs from two separate security companies, a whole recalibration of systems and the arrival of some mildly annoyed/amused policemen. All this happened on the same day that a kind passer-by informed me that my arse had been generously displayed to the park during my walk to work. My large M&S skin-tone knicker-ed bottom. Knickers that would put Bridget Jones to shame. Needless to say that when I got back home I had a very large sherry, a big cry and was in bed and fast asleep by 8pm. But the next day I was fine again.

So that was not a great day and one that wouldn’t have happened had I been in my home office. However, I’d take one terrible day like that if it means I get all the other perfectly lovely days I’ve had working in a place where other people are. I actually like being round people now. Even the ones that I don’t know! I really never thought this would happen. I thought that I’d be cooped up in my home office for the rest of my working life. That this would be the only way I’d be able to earn a living.

Despite all this I am glad that I’m not working away from home full-time, the days that I am working from home are really good recalibration days. The down days are as important as the up days. My advice to anyone else recovering from any kind of mental health breakdown would be to take baby steps. Sometimes it takes people two months to feel ready for the world again and sometimes it takes people five years. The important thing is to take your time and do it bit by bit. I’ve taken a couple of big steps forwards only to have to take several back again. This time I took some tentative steps and now I’m pretty excited about all my work! It’s a lovely, scary, odd, fun, tiring, but most of all hopeful feeling.

It all begins with one step

How To…

…Dress for Work.

I work from home, so technically I could wear whatever I want to work; my cape, my onesie, my pyjamas (not that I’ve ever done any of the above…ever) but there does come the occasion when I have to leave my home office and venture into the outside world to meet with other business people – for business purposes.

Previously I’ve always known what to wear because I’ve known what was expected of me by the business I was representing, but these days I’m just representing me which poses the question, how should I dress for work?

How to dress for work

Because it took me a while to get into the swing of what I really should be doing with my life I have had the benefit of working for a variety of different types of business, in one of my first jobs out of uni I worked in an office where my immediate boss came into work every day looking like a cross between a slightly musky teenager (despite being around 30 years of age) and a painter and decorator, it seemed all he could do to change out of the t-shirt he’d slept in before moping his way to work to sit with his hood up (I kid you not) in front of his computer screen. Now this didn’t sit well with me, work is important, and you have to get yourself in the zone mentally, if I was to go to a meeting wearing tracky-b’s I’d be in my ‘watching Geordie Shore zone’, which I don’t think would be entirely beneficial. I think it might also appear that I honestly couldn’t care less about the meeting and that would also be very bad.

However, I have worked in a couple of suited-and-booted, office attire, pencil skirts all-round, offices and I have to say that didn’t sit well with me either – quite literally, pencil skirts are not great for spending a day sitting in – they’re not so great for walking either, really not sure why they were invented other than to make bottoms look good, which was probably the crux of why I didn’t like wearing them. I felt a little bit too sexy, in all honesty I probably looked like an incredibly tired mum desperately trying to be smart and fit into her pre-pregnancy, slightly sicked-on work clothes. But I felt quite sexy, and I didn’t think that was the right mental zone to be in either. Heels make your bottom wiggle when you walk, and pencil skirts are tight on your bottom – I’m kind of fine with that on a night out but not really in a business meeting.

I have met many women throughout my life who have had the opposite response and encouraged me to embrace the sexy side of business (in a completely non-illegal way – I’d just like to point out). And I do understand that there are arguments for using ones feminine wiles to a beneficial business outcome (again, I’m talking non-illegal, like cleavage, nice legs and some gentle flirting wiles, not “well they do say I’m great with my hands” wiles) and it has been described to me before as using all the weapons in ones arsenal. I’m not sure how I feel about this and it certainly is a larger subject for another blog post but me myself, I prefer not to think of business as warfare.

Having thought about it, I very much believe I’ve found the uniform for me – Smart Casual! The middle road of every dinner and party invitation, the ultimate cinema attire and the I’m hungover but having lunch with my parent-in-laws today outfit. You may think that this is not necessarily the right mental zone to channel during a business meeting but I have come to the realisation that how I present myself to potential clients must be a complete representation of the true me. I’m a smart casual kinda woman, even when the invite just says casual, I’m tend to turn up in more smart attire, when the invite says formal, I’d still prefer to be in slacks and flats (although I do tend to go all out – one mustn’t offend). It’s like handing over a business card – it has to represent you and what you do perfectly, and it’s no different with your attire. If I were to turn up to meetings in suits it wouldn’t at all represent what I’m all about. I’m a writer, writing isn’t what I do, it’s what I am, so if I dress completely like myself I’m kind of hoping that will come across! And if the person I’m meeting with has a lower opinion of me not turning up in a suit then we probably wouldn’t have been a right fit to work together anyway.

How to dress for work

So my advice to anybody looking in the wardrobe tomorrow morning and thinking “what to wear, what to wear” is wear what best represents you, lets perhaps go with the best version of you, not the I-really-shouldn’t-have-had-that-extra-glass-of-wine-last-night version. If you’re a suit-up kind of person then go for it, it obviously suits you (ha!) and represents all that you’re about, if you’re tempted to wear tracky b’s then you may be either need more sleep or to review whether the job you’re in is really right for you (if you’re a gymnast, or you work in a gym, or you’re some kind of sports teacher then you’re completely sorted – worry not). Embrace what you’re about, inside and out (rhymed), I honestly believe the day, and the business will be better for it!

How to dress for work

Hear ye, hear ye…

… all the poor!

Well! I have some quite wonderful news – I’ve finally found employment! Get in! 

To celebrate such an occasion I have ventured into the vlog once more. Here is how I celebrated finding work again AND a ‘haul’ of Matalan Clearance store clothes (I explain why in the vlog)…

P.s. There may be some sound sync issues, I haven’t quite mastered the art of recording myself talking to my own computer yet, but I will… hopefully…