Wednesday 2 January 2013

A1 : S4 - Life Lessons

Continuing with the second instalment of 'The Days of Silver Uncertainty' - the university phase. For reasonable reasons because of reasons, there are some people which I do not want to name, so they shall all be given stage names. Little-Asian-tuxedo-magazine-owner I am now going to refer to as Fitzwilliam G. Montgomery. Also makes everything a little more exciting. Makes me think of a murder mystery on a 1940's train.

Anyway, Fitzwilliam G. Montgomery turned out to be an invaluable contact, and my first dabblings with the idea of 'making it happen' were inspired by him. We made a lunch date to meet in a few months time to really sit down and discuss my life and career, and how we can help me to achieve that. That comes a little later in the tale. In the meantime, I completed my first year of university and in a wonderfully anticipated and delightfully extravagant fashion; failed. I'd grown a glorious hatred for my course and everyone directly and indirectly involved with it, and came to realise that the only thing I truly did not enjoy about the university process, was the learning side of it. I think that's probably when I realised I had a little problem.

Then, the next two extraordinary events occured, the restaurant events. I'd just started work in a local Italian chain restaurant as a bartender. Everyone there was lovely and the kitchen was full of these sweet old Italian men who looked out for me like their little sister. There was one guy I hadn't met though, an Egyptian chef who was away on holiday. I shall never forget the first thing he said to me.

It was a grey, drizzly boring day and a mind-numbingly dull shift, and I was wiping down the already spotless bar when he came out from the kitchen. He walked to the front of the bar and stood before me with his arms crossed. I'd been introduced to him briefly, but we hadn't spoken yet.

"What are you doing." It was not a question. He had the voice of Louis Armstrong or Tom Waits.

"I'm... cleaning the bar" I smiled.

"What are you doing here."

"Uh... working?"

"What are you doing HERE." My smile faded quickly as I realised what he meant. I had nothing to say to him. Out of nowhere, he says, "What is your dream, Katie."

"I'm not sure, um..." I said in a small voice. "To act?"

"Then what are you doing here." I began to speak but he interrupted me. "I don't want to hear excuses, I want to hear what you are going to do next. Do you not see that it is wrong for a person like you to be in a place like this? You could do anything you want, you know that don't you? How old are you."


"19! You have the world in your hands. Listen to me, Katie. 'This' doesn't last forever. What you have now is so precious, and you must not let that slip through your fingers. You do not want to end up like me. I am 52 years old from Cairo and I am here in Hatfield working as a chef in a chain restaurant. Do you think that was my dream?"

I said nothing.

"Just promise me one thing, Katie." He dropped his voice low and I just stared. "Don't ever let yourself become mediocre."

And then he was gone. It was straight out of a cheesy Hollywood blockbuster. I felt like I'd been emotionally and spiritually assaulted. The fact that he was almost a complete stranger too, just took me aback even more. That's when I started to wake up, because he was right. I felt like I'd been waiting to hear that my entire life. 

Trying to push university out of my mind and with the idea that I'd just re-take my failed modules when Uni started up again in September, I moved home for the summer. I'd managed to get a transfer to the restaurant of the same chain in my town, and started working full time there over summer, mostly just to take my mind off of the uni issue.

The other restaurant was just as enjoyable - there were more people my age and no randomly prophetic Egyptian Chefs. The days slipped by quite easily and I got a bit of money behind me. The only thing that was lacking was any iota of a clue as to what I was going to do about my life. That was when I saw the poster on the wall..

I'd come to the halfhearted conclusion that I was going to drop out of uni. But I had no conviction in that, it was nothing more than a possibility. But then I saw the poster, another sign from Lady Fate. It was in the staff room of the restaurant, I'd never seen it before and it had nothing to do with the business, it was just... there. And this one particular day, on the day that I really needed to see it, I noticed it. This may all sound pretentious self-help book drivel but this all genuinely happened to me. And when things like this are put in your path... I feel like they are put there for a reason, and you'd be a fool to ignore it. This poster was just words, and read:

"This is your life. Do what you love and do it often, If you don't like something change it. If you don't like your job, quit. If you don't have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop. They will be waiting for you when you start doing the things you love. Stop over-analysing; every emotion is beautiful. Life is simple. When you eat, appreciate every last bite. Open your mind, arms, and heart and to new things and new people; we are united in our differences. Ask the next person you see what their passion is and share your inspiring dream with them. Travel often; getting lost will help you to find yourself. Some opportunities only ever come once, so seize them. Life is about the people you meet and the things you create with them, So go out out there and start creating, live your dream and wear your passion proudly."

And that was me done. Literally done.

In a frenzy, after my shift I went home and started drawing up some plans as to what I could do instead. I was a little all over the place so I skyped Sam, the girl I went to the novel launch with who was currently in America. I stayed up til 5am talking to her, and mostly she just assured me that if I truly believed in the way fate seems to interact with me in strange ways throughout my life, then whichever choice I make will be the right one. I remember I started to cry. I felt I was at this overwhelmingly important fork in the road in my life, and the decision I now had to make would change my life irrevocably. The pressure was inflicting. Then Sam said something to me about one of our friends Shauna, which really hit home.

Shauna was a girl from our Uni who we both know through cheerleading. I was quite good friends with her but I didn't really know much about her, as they were all seniors and I was a first year. But although she was a senior, Shauna was a first year too, which I didn't really understand until this conversation.

"When I get down about the future or confused as to what I want to do and what I need to do, I think about Shauna. Shauna came here when I did and started this uni on a degree that she really didn't like. She stuck out two years of it, with her dreams firmly set on doing the study abroad programme and studying to America. She then went to America briefly one summer to meet some friends. But due to an error she outstayed her visa by accident. She was deported back to England, and banned from The USA. Just like that, her dreams were just stripped from her.
So do you know what she did? Instead of continuing on her course she hated and letting her dream slip right past her, she pulled right out of the whole thing in her second year, and started completely from scratch.She could have easily have thrown up her hands and thrown in the towel on everything, but she didn't, because that girl is strong. So whilst all her friends around her were graduating, she went right back to the beginning of first year on a new course that she enjoyed, with her heart firmly set on acing all her grades and studying abroad in Australia. All she does is work to get the best grades and work to save up money to get to Australia. She has three jobs and takes any temporary positions available, but do you ever see her spend that money on herself? Do you ever see her out partying in the forum? No. She is one of the most inspiring people I have ever met and I am lucky enough to call that girl my best friend. She has worked her way up from nothing, despite the odds being monumentally stacked against her, and she has fought and fought hard."

The very next day, I was looking through Facebook and saw something which warmed every fibre of my soul. Shauna had been accepted to study abroad in the Australian University.

Ever since then, two things have happened. 1. I now see Shauna in a light of such sheer respect that I never really thought I'd see someone so close to me . 2. Shauna will always remain one of the most influential people I know. I owe so much to her and she'll never even know.

More to come on the days of Silver Uncertainty to come, the next one features a celebrity date. Eeeep.