This is a story about working during the summer...
My drive to work this morning was dreadful, despite leaving at the crack of dawn. The roads are clogged again as the little darling children get taxied to school in gigantic 4x4s. There's a notable change in attitude of people now that the new term has started. My colleagues are much more in work mode than holiday mode. The mood is very different.
This summer has been the 4th consecutive year where I've had to work and not take any holiday.
To be honest, I'm really glad the school holidays are over.
I want to visit some friends in Prague, but I didn't want to travel during August, because the airports would have been rammed with holidaymakers. I want to visit friends in Ireland, but it makes more sense to wait until the madness of the school holidays is done and dusted. August is a dreadful month to travel anywhere and do anything, because everywhere's teeming with tourists.
I'm utterly exhausted, but at least I have a huge advantage compared with previous years. 2016 was relatively settled and I had been earning good money for several months. I had a very good chance of getting back on my feet in 2016, but the project I was working on was terminated unexpectedly early. In 2015 and 2017 I had the stress, exhaustion and financial pressures associated with moving house. In 2015 I had to pay thousands and thousands in rent, deposit and letting agent fees. In 2017 I had to put all my stuff into storage and move to Manchester. At least all I have to do this year is keep up my well-established routine.
Seemingly "little" things can have an enormously draining and exhausting effect, because they're very stressful. Travelling back and forth from Wales to London and staying in lots of different AirBnBs took a lot of time, planning, money and energy, at a time when I had very little spare cash. Not having my own place - an oasis of calm - to return to after a week working in the City meant that I was constantly uneasy and unsettled. The demands of being a guest in somebody's home shouldn't be underestimated, if you're similar to me in that you feel like you need to live small, neat, tidy and provide some 'value' to your hosts. It's very different being in your own home, versus being a guest in an AirBnB or sofa-surfing with friends, even if you have 'your own' room.
I've tried to engineer my life to give myself the greatest chance of success. I stay in the same hotel every week and I have an identical room. I eat in the same gastropub. I wear the same shirts on the same days. I pack the same things in my bag. There's a system and a routine which makes things less stressful and unsettling. I still don't sleep as well as I would in my own bed, because of the unpredictable noises of other guests, although I'm very glad that the hotel is of high enough quality that loud snorers - and there are so many - are not audible enough to make sleep impossible, through the sound-insulated walls. I've chosen a hotel which mostly accommodates business travellers like me, so I don't have the din of a family of 5 all cramped into one room, opening and closing the door and shouting in the corridor for hours every morning and evening.
I'm not one of your "children should be seen and not heard" miserable mean-spirited people, but I have little time and patience for the imposition of other people's lifestyle choices which negatively impact me. I don't mind kids in restaurants and bars. However, I've made a very conscious effort to carefully plan parenthood, so it's not fair that I should have my beauty sleep impacted as if I was simply one of the herd of rutting beasts, mindlessly spawning brats into the overcrowded world.
Most employed people think that the unemployed should get jobs, simply because they have to get up early and go to work, so they can't abide anybody who's not suffering the same miserable slog of the rat race. Perhaps it's like that with me and the holidays - I'm upset that I've had to work all summer without a holiday, so I somewhat begrudge people who've had lots of time off during July and August. Maybe I'm more bitter and resentful than I'm fully aware of.
I'm not going to dwell on my sense of being hard-done-by, because I'm starting to get myself into a position where I have enough financial security and employment security, as well as the freedom of being unencumbered by children, to be able to do pretty much whatever I want. I'm starting to regain my wealth, which means soon I'll be able to have some very luxurious holidays, I hope.
It helps having my colleagues in more of a work-mode. The attitude change is important. I need to be busy. I can't stand being bored.
It's very cool that I've made it to this point and my life is much more stable and secure than it's been in the past, and commensurately my mental health is much improved. Even in 2016 - which I think of as a good year - I was desperately suicidally depressed and struggling a lot more, I think.
I've definitely managed to get myself out of the danger zone yet again, which I'm very good at doing, but my luck usually runs out and I'm quickly plunged back into the red. At least I have critical pieces of the puzzle in place this year - car, apartment, job, cash - and I've got my routine well established. Provided I can keep turning the pedals then I should be able to cement my position. That I was able to withstand an almost disastrous May and June with little lasting ill effects, was a really good test and proof that my recovery is starting to be a little more resilient to life's slings and arrows.
I feel like I'm almost on a level playing field with my peers now - the fun and frolics of the summer are behind them and we all have months of miserable hard work stretching ahead of us. It feels better to be "in it together" rather than jealous of my colleagues jetting off on their holidays. In fact, I even have a slight advantage because I can take my holidays whenever I want - I'm not bound to the school holidays.
It might seem like schadenfreude but I don't care.