Being an adult is hard. It really, wasn’t what I signed up for. Not only do I want a refund, but I also want compensation for all the hidden fine clauses, as well as a free emotional support animal who is <unlike my recently adopted pet> a lap cat.
My mum was once off work for an extended period of time. She was recovering from breast cancer, and the chemo had taken a real toll on her in many ways. As she was veering towards the end of her recovery, my mum, the truly inspirational woman, was attending gym classes on the regular, and had even made a new circle of yummy mummy gym pals.
“I just feel like there’s not enough hours in the day!” She’d tell me. I’d listen to her relay back her day, feeling tired by proxy as she did so. Yes, being a full time cat mum sounded quite exhausting. How the hell had my mum coped before, when she had a full time shift work job and a child??? (I’m talking about yours truly).
But now, as I find myself in the depths of unemployment in a foreign country, I am finally understanding all the things I somehow couldn’t before.
Yesterday, after making a breakfast bowl, making the bed and putting away the washing, I rocked up to the mall at 10.30am, mentally prepared for the long day ahead cancelling contracts at DU and Etisalat. The lady at DU informed me, that I wouldn’t be able to keep my number – which I was pretty sure was incorrect, but before we even got to that point, there was one major issue – my ID card was out of date, despite the application and a newly updated visa. For some inexplicable reason, my new card just hadn’t shown up, and without it, she wouldn’t be able to help me at all.
This card is connected to everything – my phone line, my contracts, my medication… everything. Onto the next adulting job of the day… Nothing was going to be achieved without me hunting down that little piece of plastic. Cue me, trekking across Dubai, to my old office headquarters on a mission to find this Houdini card before I’d have to rush off to a doctors appointment.
“If you didn’t receive an email, then it’s not here.” The mail room guy and I were at loggerheads, and I was getting nowhere, despite the thirty minutes of phone calls to the ID office tracing it back to the work mail room.
“It was collected and signed for, by <insert name here> one the <random day five weeks ago>. It has to be here.” I threw my arms up in despair. “It cannot be anywhere else!!!”
He slammed a piece of paper against the glass. “Contact them, I can’t help you.” I was getting nowhere.
One hour later, I was sat in my work’s basement, amidst the deepest darkest depths of the mail sorting room which I hadn’t even known was in existence, before. The man opposite me was rooting through a box filled with envelopes and cross checking numbers with a spreadsheet, wiggling his specs up and down as he went. “Is this you?”. Finally, ninety minutes later, I was in possession of that little white envelope with my updated valid ID card. “It had the wrong phone number on it, and we tried to call but… wrong number.” As I looked down at the phone number typed on the envelope, it was nowhere near similar to my own number. I didn’t dare say that surely they could have exerted a little more effort, like crosschecking my staff number or emailing me when they couldn’t reach me by phone… but that would make too much sense.
“I have to say Pamela, I think you’re handling this whole ‘situation’ remarkably well…” the doctor said to me.
“I must say, it’s some feat, having a head as small as mine, and yet still managing to count twenty-eight pimples (on my chin specifically) at one time.” I replied as she threw her head back laughing. But it was true – I was here for my medication, as well as a referral to a dermatologist for my acne – one other bulls*t thing that I didn’t sign up for in adulthood. Acne – wasn’t that supposed to only affect teenagers???
“It’ll be stress, hormones, and not to mention that those masks really won’t be helping…especially in this heat.” She said sympathetically as she handed me the letter. I felt ugly, and my face actually hurt. I could never officially be a beach babe who was au natural so long as I had skin like this. “I think the dermatologist will prescribe you Roaccutane, but Pam, it’s a strong drug. You’ll need monthly liver checks, and you cannot get pregnant on it. Any ‘mis-haps’ and you’ll be offered a termination.” Fanbloomintastic.
I left the clinic feeling at least mildly optimistic that there was at least some option for my skin. Every time I looked in the mirror lately, I was actually thankful for the blue medical mask, and the fact that it hid most of what was happening on my face. I didn’t even want my close friends or boyfriend to see me without make up on – not that the make up did much in the way to cover the damage. Or what was it… that I just didn’t know how to apply it?
I looked through the rest of my to do list. I had to collect my glasses which were in for repair, downtown, as well as organise the logistics of a second hand oven that we’d got for the new house. Complicated, since we didn’t yet have the keys. Another headache of adulthood – moving house. But first things first, boyfriend urgently needed a printer, and so I headed back to the mall with a quick stop at the supermarket to buy essentials that couldn’t be bought from Kibsons.
I was laden with bags, and my handbag which was gradually giving way at the handles from the strain of constantly lugging around my MacBook. “How many pages will you print?” Erm… “Well, this one is good – it’s six hundred dirhams though. But if you’re not going to printing a lot of stuff, this one is good enough too, and it’s only one hundred and thirty. It’s completely set up and ready to go.” Sold. Ready to go! That’s what I needed, efficiency. So, laden with my handbag, shopping bags and now a big printer, I heaved my way out of the electronics store and through the mall to the taxi pick up.
I was clock watching, since I had a phone call about a potential work thing… and I wanted to read over some notes for it. I had to call my mum and help her set up something too, plus I had to organise the van man. I had to message the girls about splitting the bill for the internet, and then call back the company. I had to schedule dropping my uniform off. My head was spinning with one hundred thoughts. I also had to book the dermatologist. That one was URGENT!
I got home at seven, and as a joint effort, we set up the printer .”Ready to go!” Yes. This day had indeed been productive and I felt, dare I say it, useful. I beamed a big smile.
“Where’s the paper? You got paper, right?” ….
Shit. I had not.
By 11pm I had fallen asleep on the sofa, and when I woke up, my not-so-lap cat, was miaowing in my face.
“Security won’t let me in.”
My van man was texting me just as I was pulling up. Christ Almighty, I was going to have to hustle my way in here with this van, and me? Not a natural hustler. Ten minutes later, I had finally talked my way into the compound, (aswell as caused a small tailback of grumpy morning commuters) and was stood in the hallway of our new house trying to avoid the ladders and wet paint that the decorators had everywhere.
My van man wheeled the oven into the kitchen, and delicately placed it in the allocated space, and stepped back to admire his handiwork. The pair of us stood there in silence, staring at the blaring lily obvious too-small oven, the gap between the stove top and counter as big as The Grand Canyon.
Moving house has all sorts of surprises and not good ones. Things like, hidden costs, little bits that need fixing, packing etc… It’s a pain, and despite the fact that I have moved eight times in six years, it would appear that I am still not a pro.
Where rent is simple in the UK, one month deposit and a monthly direct debit for rent, it’s a bit more complicated here, and I have been fortunate that in my entire time in this country, my work took care of everything accommodation related. Never in my life, have I had to buy a fridge, or a freezer, or a cooker… I have never personally owned any form of ‘white good’. The first time I had ever set up the internet or the gas in a house was just a few months ago, so while, I am an adult in every sense of the word, when it comes down to some things, like buying major appliances, clearly I lag. Most people I know are at an age where they excel in this field.
While it had crossed my mind, that the cooker space might be too small, it never crossed my mind that it would be too big! Shit shit shit.
I felt like a failure. I had lost my job, my livelihood, and now I couldn’t even organise a cooker! Or remember paper for the printer. And who the hell was thirty one and couldn’t drive!? Even Carrie Bradshaw could drive – she just didn’t own a car!!! And, maybe it was all in my head, but I felt this cloud looming over me that surely, if I was unemployed, I should all the time in the world now, and thus be even more productive! Especially as I was childless.
I called my mum in tears. “Oh Pam. The exact same thing happened to us in our first flat! You won’t remember, but great Gran and Granda bought us a cooker, and when it got delivered, it was like a midget sized one!!! I had taken the cheapest one because I didn’t want it to be too expensive for them! And then I also ordered a fridge freezer, and when it arrived, that didn’t fit either! Imagine!? Your Granda had to come and saw the kitchen work tops off just to make it fit, and we both know that DIY isn’t his strong point…”
“I feel like a crap adult.” I wailed. It felt like for everything I tried to do right, I just messed it up. “Here I am, with no job, and nothing else to do, and yet I can’t even seem to get this stuff right. It’s basic!!! What’ wrong with me?” Was I lacking common sense? Was I one of those vacant people who’s eyes glazed over when anyone spoke to me, because in my opinion, they were the very worst.
“Pam. You have a degree, on your own merit. You’ve had good jobs, all on your own merit. You’ve lived by yourself for years. On your own merit. You have fabulous friends. You have great fashion sense. You have travelled the world, alone. You are not a loser! Do you think I want a daughter who is a loser? I didn’t raise a loser! And if I thought for one second that that’s the route you were headed down, I wouldn’t even allow it. You’re independent, and you have got this. It’s a learning curve in adulthood – you’ve learned never to buy an appliance without measuring first, just like I did too. It’s your first time to buy a cooker, and you made a mistake. You’re in a foreign country alone, without family around you to help you out with these things, as well as worrying about jobs, visas, etc etc. Give yourself a break and stop being so hard on yourself.”
She’s right, my mum. I love her. On a good day, I’d have laughed at my own stupidness and shrugged it off. Fuck it, I do have this, no matter what anyone else thinks. “Is that a small smile?” Even adults still need their mums sometimes.
Starting with my face – that’ll be fixed, it’s a temporary thing – like this entire COVID situation. The oven, well – I’ll get a new one (the right size this time) and sell the smaller one, I mean, we have enough space to store it temporarily – no issues. And the job, well, that will come. Until then, I’m going to keep my polka dot face up high, and not let anyone make me feel like I can’t do something, just because my thought processes don’t align with theirs.
You know, the funny thing is, that there’s been many experiments conducted on plants, which measure the impact of telling plants positive things vs negative things, and I have to say, that the results are quite remarkable. (Read more about it here). I’m pretty sure the same goes for people, and then some. I guess the trick is to filter our own thoughts and interpretations of others comments. So I guess, in the mean time – I’m away to find myself some noise cancelling headsets and a thicker skin. Maybe some magic confidence fairy dust too…