GIVE ME A SIGN

When I was six-years-old, I was gifted a pocket-sized bible and rosary beads. I can’t remember how they came into my possession. If I had to guess, I’d say I probably received them as part of enrolment at my first Catholic primary school. This bible didn’t have any real meaning to me until I grew older and started understanding what it meant to live below the poverty line. 

This tiny bible became my lifeline. I clung helplessly to this book, hoping it was the answer to all of my family’s problems. At night, I would read through the bible and seek meaning from His words. I would recite the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary fastidiously before bed and pray for divine intervention. When my dad lost a job and became depressed, I would pray to God to find him another job to help pay our bills. When my mum would cry at night thinking that no one could hear her, I would pray to God to ease her suffering. When we moved from one rental house to another, and I had to attend yet another school, I would pray to God to give me the courage to make friends. When we became homeless, I prayed to God to hear my cries.

At sixteen-years-old, that Bible no longer evoked the same power of belief. My parents had become bankrupt. We sold everything. The only house my parents ever managed to buy, and the place I called home for three whole years, was the first to go. I moved schools again and lost all of my friends, the few I had. My mum had to beg and borrow money from people to pay for a temporary roof over our heads. I stopped searching for a sign that someone from above was watching out for me. I stopped praying for divine intervention. I stopped believing altogether.

My mum implored me to return to Church. She begged me to believe in a higher being, even if it wasn’t to be the God I knew. My mum just wanted me to believe in something, but I couldn’t. To this day, my mum still reminds me of the importance of believing in something greater than ourselves.

And to be honest, from time to time, I do still find myself looking for signs. Perhaps not in the same way that I did when I was younger, but signs nonetheless. I look for confirmation that I’m on the right path in life and making the right decisions for myself and my family. For example, I’ve been plagued with uncertainty since I made the decision to end my career as a pharmacist to pursue a career in adult education. I’ve worried about my abilities to complete the studies required and the chances of finding work as a new mature-aged graduate. I’ve been searching for some kind of sign that this was the right decision to make. 

A few days ago, while having a hot chocolate with my five-year-old son at the local bakery, the couple beside us struck up a conversation. We talked about all sorts of topics, from pet ownership to school to work. Now, if you know me in real life or from what you’ve read here on this blog, you’ll know that I suck at conversations and can come across as a bit stilted and unfriendly. So, to find out that the couple were not only training managers at a teaching institute but for them to offer me a job as a teacher was unexpected, to say the least. We exchanged details, and the lady insisted I call her when I finish my studies and was ready for work.

While it might not result in anything, it was the sign I needed to ease my mind and reassure me that I am in fact on the right path. And while I am no longer a believer, it is comforting to know that perhaps there is someone out there watching over me regardless.

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LIFE IS A BLANK CANVAS

Do you remember the first time you started applying for jobs? What about the first time you received a phone call asking you to come for an interview? Better yet, do you recall how you felt when you landed your first job? I bet you were a melting pot of emotions – a little bit of nerves mixed with a heap of hope. Perhaps you were young and brimming with confidence, maybe even a little bit arrogant. 

I was 16-years-old when I got my first paying job. After completing two weeks of work experience at a pharmacy, the owner offered me a job. I remember feeling overwhelmed with happiness. At the time, that job was a godsend as my parents were struggling financially and we were walking the poverty line. Every dollar had counted. I worked for the owner, who was a gentle, supportive and wise old soul, for three years before I left for University. I don’t think I can express how much that man shaped my future. 

By the time I left University to seek my dream job at the age of 22-years-old, I was eager to make my mark in the world. I felt ten feet tall and bulletproof. I was confident in my abilities and knowledge, and truly believed people were lucky to have me as an employee. Gosh, how conceited was I? I blame being young and naive. 

For the most part, I had no trouble finding work. I jumped from job to job, desperately searching for the next best thing; the nirvana of all jobs. I was never satisfied to stay in one place for long, always wanting more – higher pay, better conditions, fewer hours, more status. Eventually, I settled for a stable and secure government job when I started a family. It lasted almost a decade until I had a mental breakdown and a midlife crisis, which coincided with the start of the pandemic.

My focuses for the last two years have been supporting my family and strengthening my mental health. The reprieve from working has also been an opportunity to re-educate and explore a new career. In all, the break has given me clarity and perspective that has sorely been missing in my life.

After a year of studies and with my youngest going to school next year, I am finally in the position to look for a job for 2022. At the ripe old age of 39-years-old, I am a new ‘graduate’ and essentially starting over again. Only this time I don’t have the misplaced confidence and arrogance of youth. 

Currently, I am trying to scrub up my resume and cover letter to better fit the requirements of this day and age. Long gone are popular buzz terms like ‘self-starter’, ‘hard worker’, ‘people person’ or ‘punctual’. It’s no longer acceptable to just list what you did in previous jobs. Instead, you have to use action verbs and examples to show how you have demonstrated a competency or skill. There’s a lot of work needed to get my resume up to scratch, but luckily, I have access to the University’s postgraduate careers service which offers help. Soon I’ll be ready for the process of screening and applying for jobs. 

The prospect of getting out there and starting again is terrifying and on occasion, self-doubt likes to gnaw at my subconscious. Sometimes I wonder what will happen if no one wants to employ me? What happens if I don’t have what it takes to teach adults? What if I hate teaching?

It’s a good thing that the overruling emotions are excitement and hope. While there are self-doubt and anxiety about the uncertainty of my job prospects, I know deep down that my rich life experiences and confidence in soft skills, and eagerness to be a working member of society, makes me as a worthy applicant for any job. 

Plus, I don’t have the burning need to prove myself to anyone, like when I was a young person. There are no expectations that matter other than my own. There is no pressure to accept or reject a job. If it doesn’t fit the bill, then I’ll move on. In a way, the world is my oyster. 

With that thought in mind, I’ll endeavour to see this opportunity in life as a blank canvas ready for me to paint in any which way I want. Hopefully, in a few years I’ll look back and admire the masterpiece that is my life and give myself a pat on the back for having the courage to start over. 

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MOTHER-IN-FLAWS

I’ll start off by saying this post is more of a rant than anything, so I apologise in advance for the unleashing of pent up emotions I’m about to heap on you.

It’s about my mother-in-law. I could probably just leave it at that and you’ll all be nodding your heads and expressing your commiseration. Well, those of you who have had or have one, and know of the pain.

I promised my children I would never end up like their grandmothers. I would not be overbearing, impose on their time and space, offer unsolicited advice, or suggest they should take up hobbies and activities just because I like them. My daughter told me it was bound to happen and that old people were silly and forgetful. I hope to prove her wrong!

I read somewhere that one in four daughters-in-law hate their mother-in-law, with half claiming to have difficult or uncomfortable relationships. Reasons for daughters-in-law resentment stemmed from their mother-in-law’s excessive maternal jealousy and asserting parenting dominance. From the looks of things, there are plenty of stories online about difficult, emotionally manipulative and outright batsh!t crazy mother-in-laws. You may even have one of those! Please do tell us in the comments section if you have a story or two.

I have always had a tedious relationship with my mother-in-law. We’ve never really gotten along. I’m too headstrong in my beliefs and parenting style, and I’m not afraid to voice my opinions. Similarly, my mother-in-law is stubborn, volatile and set in her ways. At times, it’s been a clash of wills between the two of us with surrounding family members becoming collateral damage.

Having children brought forth a multitude of tension to our already fraught relationship. As a new mother, I felt offended whenever my mother-in-law and my mother offered parenting advice, usually because it was often outdated and questioned my competence as a mother.

I raised so and so many children and they turned out fine. This is what we did when we had young children. Blah, blah, blah!

Can I just say, I hate it when people tell me how to parent based on their experiences, no matter how well-intentioned? Sure, your kids survived but it doesn’t mean you did a great job! My mother likes to remind me that I turned out ok, so her parenting must have been great. I turned out “ok” despite her parenting not because of it.

When my daughter was 2-years-old, tensions between my mother-in-law and I built to such extremes that we ended up in a major blow-up after she called my mother unintelligent. She was jealous my mother got to babysit while I worked a full-time job, and the two of them clashed whenever their time crossed paths. Being from different cultures and having a language barrier meant the two grandmothers could not find common ground. The blow-up caused a deeper rift in our relationship and I refused to have anything to do with her.

Several years later, the arrival of my son somewhat healed the relationship. We are now civil and respectful enough towards each other to make the relationship functional and comfortable for those around us and for her to have a meaningful relationship with the children. It’s thought that a poor relationship between grandparents and children-in-law results in a poorer relationship with grandchildren. I don’t want that for my children so I try, oh do I try.

However, every time they come to stay, I can’t help but feel anxious. I don’t like having my personal space invaded. Plus we have two bedrooms so our whole family squishes into one to cater for guests. Routines for the children are disrupted. Sometimes we have to host for their guests who come to visit them.

Next week, we will be breaking the rules to allow them to stay over. I relented despite feeling nervous about the consequences of being dobbed in by neighbours and fined. I can’t say no without looking like a b!tch because they’ve not seen the children since lockdown started in August.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate my mother-in-law. I just don’t relish spending time with her because I find the things she says and does grating on my nerves. My mother-in-law is a wonderful grandmother and is well-meaning. However, she is simply not a self-aware person. My mother-in-law repeats the same stories over and over, talks about people like we know them and care, is woefully ignorant, and occasionally racist. She also does what she wants and refuses to budge on anything once her mind is set.

For example, today I thought I’d be nice and offered to buy food for their stay and asked what dinners might suit them. My mother-in-law told me she wanted to cook a roast while she was with us. She insisted on paying and to avoid arguing over money, I suggested we buy the meat when they were in town. The supermarket is literally a 5 min walk, just up the road from us. But no, being stubborn, she insisted on buying the roast, freezing it, and then carting raw meat in an esky for a 7-hour drive instead. To say it set my teeth on edge is an understatement.

I can only pray for the Universe to give me the strength to hold my tongue and grant me an abundance of patience to get me through the next two weeks.

My husband says I can’t change people and there’s no use getting upset or annoyed. He says I need to look at this from a learning perspective. I’m not exactly sure what bulldust he’s been sniffing or what kind of learning he’s expecting of me, so I’m gonna have to throw a question into the ether.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to find their inner Zen while having their patience tested?

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