30 December 2010

Delusional December

Today being the last Delusional Thursday of 2010, it seems fitting to point out that December really is one big delusional month. Or at least we treat it that way. I don’t know if things are as bad everywhere, but at least in my neck of the woods December tends to be the month where we try to prove we can do everything, all at once. Just have a look at my December:

It started off with me being in recovery mode after finishing (and celebrating) my master’s thesis. It takes surprisingly long to get back on one’s feet after having spent more than two years working on a project (did I mention the celebration? Yeah, that took a while to get back on my feet from too).

Just as I thought I was getting my head above water, however, I wasn’t. You see, that’s when the marathon at work started for my part. Between the 1st and 23rd of December I had a grand total of four days off (including weekends). And those days weren’t really off. I’ll get back to that in a sec, but let’s focus on work first.

I know I’ve written about this before, but work in retail in the holiday season is nuts. Here in Norway, where we don’t do Thanksgiving or even extensively Halloween, it’s exclusively directed at Christmas. Then again, Christmas is the big It. In my shop alone we tripled and quadrupled our income compared to regular earnings every day the last few weeks before Christmas. The shop was packed with customers, with boxes with books we hadn’t yet gotten to unpack, and with the mania that only occurs as a result of pre-Christmas stress. Working long shifts in this chaos definitely wasn’t the best way to find the peace of mind Christmas is supposed to be. However, I needed the money. You see, the reason I agreed to such outrageous hours was the impeding post-Christmas stress. In just a few weeks I am leaving the country. But I am getting ahead of myself again…

My days off from work were not spent sleeping in. While the written part of my thesis was done in November, I still had to “defend” it. Thus I had time off from work the day of my exam, and the day before it, so I could prepare a little bit. After all, an exam to conclude two years of hard work only requires a grand total of 24 hours of preparation, right? Fortunately, this was stuff I knew well, so despite the minimal preparation and despite the other stress that preoccupied me, I managed to do well with my exam. All finished I now know that all the hard work paid off. But a part of me wonders if I couldn’t have done without some of the stress?

Anyway, with the exam over with, there was finally time to consider the other stress factor that’s been weighing on me lately. The job market isn’t the easiest these days, and thus many students leave university without having a job or the slightest clue what they’ll be doing next. I almost envy them. I was one of the fortunate one – I already have the next six months figured out. I’ve got an internship to look forward to. The problem – and the perk – is that the internship is in Tokyo, Japan. 

I applied in October, thinking I wouldn’t get it. When I did, I was thrilled (deep down I’m highly competitive). But now I’m getting anxious. There is a whole lot that needs to be done before you leave for something like that. For instance, how do you find an apartment in Tokyo? (No, really, how? Any ideas would be appreciated…) Considering that my financial situation hardly will be extravagant, and the area of Tokyo I’m primarily looking at (since it’s close to my workplace) is the most expensive there is, it’s not an easy task. I also had to book flights, to get a visa, and to familiarize myself with the workplace and coworkers. I’ve been living overseas before (in fact, I’ve been living in Japan before), but everything seemed to fall into place quite quickly then. This time it’s been bugging me considerably, and often resulted in the question “do I really want this?” The answer is of course yes, most of the time, but there is a tiny voice in my head wondering if I wouldn’t be better off with some quiet around me for a while. I probably could use that. I probably won’t get it.  

Thus my remaining two days off before Christmas was spent packing and moving. The apartment I lived in was partly furnished, so I didn’t have as much stuff there as I’ve had other places I’ve lived in the past. But still. When you pack to move, you realize how much you manage to accumulate in a short time. I’m starting to look forward to eventually moving in somewhere (at least semi-)permanent, so that I can finally get all my stuff out of storage (where it’s been for two years – I’ve basically lived in various sizes of suitcases ever since), build a proper bookcase, and LIVE somewhere again. It’s about time. Yet due to my upcoming adventures in Japan, the life in the suitcase will have to go on for at least another six months. Perhaps I should take the time to learn how to get by with little? I’m a material girl, without doubt, but living without much money in one of the world’s most expensive cities might have some educational effect… (Then again, the shopping in Japan is GREAT…)

On top of my heavily scheduled December, I also tried to squeeze in some catching up socially. I managed to attend a few dinner parties, I had lunch/coffee with some long-neglected friends and I spent some time with my family. I even got to make the traditional gingerbread house with a friend. I also had to do all my Christmas shopping (though to be frank – most of that was done at work – one of the benefits of working in a bookshop is that I can get most of my presents from there), send some Christmas cards (but not as many as I’d liked. I’ve made a compromise with myself this year – people I planned sending stuff to that didn’t get it will have to wait ‘till I get to Tokyo. Much more interesting to get something from Japan anyway, right?), watch some Christmas movies (okay, that one was entirely for myself. I needed some holiday spirit), get a massage (again, all for me, though it was a present from my sisters, so I felt obliged to use it before I left Oslo) and clean my desk at the university. Returning all my books to the library is quite possibly the most liberating thing I’ve ever done, and I managed to not get a single fee all through December (which is saying something, since I’ve practically financed the library singlehandedly these last two years)!

It’s been a busy month. Now, I realize that my December has been rather extreme – hopefully yours haven’t been as busy (and hopefully my future Decembers won’t – I hereby swear I will never ever finish a master’s degree at the same time as preparing for moving to another country and working full time ever again). But December is still frequently a busy and stressful month, and I think a lot of people end up feeling inadequate because they are trying to “do it all”. This is the delusional part. No one can do it all. I ended up getting a terrible cold the second I was finished with my thesis examination. It really kept me under the weather for a week or so, but there was nothing I could do, because I had already committed to so many things. Thus I went to work being sick, I went to parties being sick and I managed to spread it to some of my family members (sorry mom!). The consequence was that I didn’t even enjoy the good things that happened in December as much as I should have.

Hence, my lesson to you all is this: don’t be delusional (other than on Thursdays). Okay, so there is a lot to be done in December. Do the things that make you happy. Every once in a while we have to pull the strength from deep within (I know I did this time) and get heavy loads done, but it eventually pays back. And not everything is worth fighting as hard for. Sometimes you just don’t have the strength or energy to wash the entire house before Christmas (well, it’s probably not as dirty as you think, and who is going to care if the attic is spotless anyway?). Certain years you can’t find the imagination to give intensely personalized presents to all your family members (buy something generic that everyone will like – chocolate, or coffee or a nice candle!). Try to be realistic with your expectations for what you can accomplish, and don’t feel bad for the things that just will have to be crossed off the list. (A nearby example – this post was supposed to go live at 1 pm my time, but that simply proved beyond my capacity. I hardly doubt anyone will care that I am half an hour late…)

That being said, I am VERY glad that Delusional December is finally over! 
(Now don’t forget that New Years Eve HAVE TO be the BESTEST party EVA'. Otherwise December is a COMPLETE WASTE!!!) 
((Just kidding)) 

Happy New Month!


Jules said...

I'm so excited about your move to Japan and cannot wait to hear the tails of your travels :) The fear is just the unknown but all great explorers stood right where you are at point. :D

Try a local travel agent for the apartment. They may at least be able to point you in the right direction.
Happy New Year!
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

LTM said...

Wow! I'm SO behind!!! You finished your masters AND you're in Japan?!?

Did I fall asleep for 100 years? ;p No, it sounds supercool! Can't wait to hear more of your observations on Japanese life~

Happy New Year! :o)

Golden Eagle said...

It's exciting to hear about your internship in Japan! Looking forward to hearing what it's like.

Happy New Year!

Amber T. Smith said...

I don't know how you do it, I really don't. *is awed* I'm glad your crazy month is basically over, and I hope you have a fabulous experience in Japan (and then entertain us with Mari-esque tales of said experience. *winks*).

Happy new year!

Danette said...

I think you had a EXTREME Delusional December but it is no doubt that most of us do too much. In our house all the birthdays fall between October 30-Dec 13 so by the time we get to Christmas we have had MANY celebrations with Halloween and Thanksgiving. And there is just no putting them off, is there? So what to do? Wear yourself out shopping and then face the post Christmas blues like a good soldier, I guess. :)
Cheers! Good luck with the move!

ViolaNut said...

From 27 Nov to 24 Dec I had 0 days off, so I hear you! Guess I'll be mailing your present to Tokyo, eh? Good luck, dearie - and get it done before you're old like me! ;-)

Hart Johnson said...

I'm so excited about you going to Japan--you regularly made me laugh until I cried last time you were there, though I am still mourning that Professor Wedgie will not be a part of it... perhaps there is a Diplomat Naked? Or an Ambassador Pants?

You are in that crazy whirlwind part and you'll get through it... What I WANT is for you to ENJOY IT!

February Grace said...

I still have flashbacks to all the holidays I worked in retail- my sincerest sympathies!

Look at all you accomplished amidst the craziness though! So much to be proud of.

I hope the internship brings lots of wonderful adventures and that 2011 is your best year yet.

Delusional Thursdays...hmm. That should be a routine blog event. I like it!