On Feeling Out of Place

You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know that something isn’t quite right. On paper it should be fine. In reality, it’s not. You don’t feel right. You don’t feel comfortable in that particular setting, with those particular people, at that particular time.

Why? Why do we feel out of place in certain situations?

These questions came to me when I was placed in a particular situation the other day. I have never felt more out of place.

The Situation

I’m in the process of changing career, so I’m applying for lots of roles and going for lots of interviews.

I apply to this particular role at 8:34am one day; by 9:27am I am invited for an initial interview that afternoon. Clearly, they are desperate to hire.

So, I turn up to the venue in plenty of time: a large office block in the city centre, which is shared by many different companies. I sign in and ask the receptionist for directions to the interview and he points me in the direction of the corridor behind him. Keep going, it’s the last office on the right hand side. Uncertainly, I wander down the corridor and, when I reach the end, I find a small room – no bigger than my lounge – that is filled with people.

No sign on the door. I gingerly ask the second receptionist of the day if I’m the right place. I am. I’m handed a clipboard with a form to fill out for my troubles.

Now, this may not sound unusual. But trust me, it felt it.

So I take a seat and start to fill in my form, but my attention is drawn to the people around me. I try not to be judgmental, but this is a long way from my previous experience of interviews. I, along with the majority of professionals, believe that appearance and first impressions matter. Therefore, I am wearing a white blouse, black skirt and black blazer as befits an interview. My fellow candidates, however, are dressed for the full array of occasions.

We have outfits for:

  • Playing tennis (a cap, baggy shirt and shorts, trainers)
  • A night out (sparkly top, tight jeans, knee-high leather boots)
  • A night-in in front of the TV (black tracksuit, Ugg boots)

Seriously?! 

Not only do I feel outrageously over-dressed, but I am also questioning whether this is the right job and company for me, even though these people don’t work for the company!

I couldn’t help it; I felt uncomfortable and left with a really negative feeling about the whole experience.

rubber ducky

I felt like this rubber duck. But worse.

This rubber duck may feel out of place trying to swim amongst a flock of swans, but imagine if the flock was made up of boots, fish and remote controlled boats. The latter was my experience. I was totally confused!

But in such a moment, is it just the rubber duck that feels out of place? Or do the others also feel that they are misplaced?

It is such a microcosm of society that throws up these strange juxtapositions that are not always obvious in every day life.

Isn’t society a rich and varied place?!

 

Nature or Nurture? Fate or Free Will? How are our lives shaped?

As someone from a relatively working class background who has managed to get a Masters degree and train to be a teacher, I often wonder how our identity is formed. Were my choices shaped by my parents’ aspirations for me? Or by my teachers? Friends? The media?

It’s a complex issue, and one which has long been debated.

Nevertheless, as I get older and I am continuing to change, I am growing to be of the opinion that everything we do and are is shaped by our experiences and the people around us. I have two case studies to exemplify my point:

1. I changed when I went to university.

Halloween (1).JPG
Just a normal night out in freshers…

Not only did I learn a whole host of things that none of my friends from school or my parents knew, but I was also immersed in a completely different culture. I gained  my first true sense of independence, which meant that I grew in confidence and I became willing to try new things. My friends and family were shocked by how much I changed. Hopefully for the better!

2. My personality changes depending on who I am with.

me and caitlin (2)
Me (left) and my flatmate (right).

Last year I shared a flat with one of my best friends. She is lovely, but she is most definitely a worrier. However, this had a positive impact on my own personality: to compensate for her anxiety, I feel that I adopted a calmer persona than I normally might.

The opposite is true this year. I have since moved in with my partner, who is so laid back he is almost horizontal. While this makes for a much more relaxing living experience, I feel like it gives me the opportunity to worry more.

 

I don’t like being a worrier. That’s one part of me that I desperately wish I could change. I wish I could live in the moment and let tomorrow worry about itself. I wish I could trust that things will sort themselves out.

And maybe I can…

I watched an amazing TED talk today from Amy Cuddy in 2012, which has given me hope that we can change ourselves for the better. She argues that if we change our body language, we can have a positive, measurable effect on our mind, and therefore our behaviour. I sincerely encourage you all to watch it – it will change how you think about yourself!

So, just as I feel like I’ve changed my identity within the British class system, maybe there’s hope that I can become less of a worrier. And more like this…

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3 Out of 10 Teachers

I don’t make a habit of following trends; I never have done. Instead of Gary or Mark, my favourite member of Take That has always been Howard; he’s different, quirky, and also not the most popular choice. I’m difficult like that.

But this most recent trend was unavoidable.

I have now become a statistic. I have joined the 30% of teachers who leave the profession within the first 5 years. And I find that fact deeply saddening. Not just because I feel my decision was disappointingly mainstream, but because I am a good teacher who sincerely cares about making a difference in young people’s lives.

I have spent a grand total of 19 months working as a secondary school English teacher. In those 19 months I have met some wonderful people, both colleagues and students, who I feel blessed to have had in my life. From my experience, I can truly say that teachers care immensely for young people and want the next generation to succeed.

However, as the workload and pressure both increase, the job is becoming less and less rewarding. And, although I care about young people and I am a good teacher, I am not willing to sacrifice my whole life to the profession.

So, I have left…

giphy

…and I feel about as excited as Jimmy Carr.

Although I’m relieved to have left the stresses and anxieties of school life, I feel slightly guilty about my choice.

So, what’s your experience of education? Why do you think teachers feel this way? And, most importantly, what can be done about it?

Mid-Twenties Crisis…

Many people feel defined by their career. For example, when I tell people about my parents, I generally introduce them as being a hairdresser and a carpenter.

We are what we do.

So, what happens now I’ve given up my job? Who am I? How should I define myself? What am I even going to do with my life?!

Well, for now I’m going to start a blog.

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