Prompt me

My blog and I are good friends.  Lately though, I’ve been behaving like the kind of friend that only shows up when life is shitty and I need a shoulder to cry on. I’m the type of friend that takes energy and gives little back. I’m not being a good friend to my blog-buddy and I apologize.

bad friend

Blogtober was too intense. Showing up because I have to is not how I want this to go. I want to want to be here. And I know I want to be here more often than I currently am, and maybe that starts with forcing myself to show up, at first(?). Inspiration is so hard to plan though….

And Daily Prompts aren’t inspiring me, either! I mean… Just one word? Why not set the scene a bit, like they you used to?

And what happened to the weekly Discover challenges?? I liked those!

Read Write Live‘s blog did inspire me though, especially when she (or he?? I don’t really know) asked her readers what she should write about. I’d like to be able to do that. The problem is that I don’t really have readers. I’m not even insulted. It is the way it is. I never really set out to have a following anyway, but for this specific experiment it would be nice…

But perhaps there is still a way to follow the same train of thought, but with just me, myself and I (and the handful of people that stumble upon my little corner of the interwebz).

How about writing what I want to read? And how about I base this on things I actually did read, like the blog I just mentioned? Instead of using the boring, standardized and uninspiring one-word-“you figure it out” Daily Prompts, I could pick a word or sentence from a fellow bloggers post and build on that… I’m sure they wouldn’t mind, right?

Yes, that’s what I will do. Now is the start, and it sounds like: Ladidada dada!

 

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BloPoMo conclusion

I’ve run out of October days, which means Blogtober is over. And just like the time I tried to post a blog a day a couple of years ago, I found it really hard. I don’t understand how other people do it…

At this point I am satisfied I managed an average of a post “(almost) every other day”.

As far as work stress is concerned, I probably should have chosen a different month… I’ve been really tired after work, feeling like I never get enough sleep, even though I did usually manage my 7-8 hours of shut-eye.

C&H timeout.gifSo maybe I should give it a go again in the new year, when things have settled back down at work and my energy levels are restored.

To all of you that completed the Blogtober “blog a day” goal: you are awesome!!!

 

Oh hi there, November… You sure sneaked up on me. Make yourself comfortable, old friend. You are most welcome here!

 

Help me understand Björk

My boyfriend and I often play songs for each other in the early morning. It has become an occasional part of our morning ritual, especially on those mornings when waking up is just that tad more difficult or when getting up just isn’t necessary just yet.

This morning, he grabbed my phone (he is one of those rare ones without a smartphone) and I watched as he typed “Venus as a boy” and I couldn’t help but blurt out “Oh god…”, which in turn made him raise his eyebrows at me.

I let the song play (almost) until the end, which I thought was quite an achievement… I just can’t handle Björk very well… 

I tried to explain why and I noticed how I started to raise my voice and was completely failing at giving him a good explanation. I think I just used a lot of words, starting with “What does Venus as a boy even mean?!” and ending with my piece de resistance: “she just weirds me out”.

So then he said: “you know what? maybe you should write a blog about it…”

Man, he knows me so well, doesn’t he?

So yah, I’m struggling here… Why does Björk annoy me so much and why is it so hard to put it into words?

What I’ve come up with so far:

  • her music is uncomfortable to listen to
  • it’s pretentious and unnecessarily complicated
  • I feel like it’s a “Emperor’s new clothes” situation, where nobody dares say they don’t like it, out of fear of being labeled musically dumb.
  • It just sounds like someone was doodling around with different electronic melodies and riffs and then accidentally added the audio of someone singing in the shower.
  • She always looks like she’s on the verge of a psychotic breakdown.

Luckily, there are more people around that “just don’t get it” and have turned to online discussion forums and blogs to vent and inquire. Some of the explanations people have given for appreciating Björk are:

  • Her (seemingly) very organic, unrestrained approach to singing, combined with the fact that her grasp on the English language is shaky at best, give her vocals a rough spontaneity that is refreshing in an art-pop artist.
  • You don’t have to be crazy to like Bjork but it helps. So do mind altering chemicals.
  • I loved the drama, the glitchiness, Bjork’s amazing vocal range. I find the combination of strings and the urgent, insistent song structure of Joga absolutely mesmerizing.
  • In a nutshell, “understanding” Björk is beyond my ability to explain. I’d just say that it starts with her voice. That’s the gorgeous lighthouse that you follow through the wonderful storm of her ever-evolving music.
  • [In a review on 2015 album Vulnicura] I’ll be the first to admit that, as a huge Björk fan since the late 1990s, I’ve often been at a loss with her music: I adore her experimental, deeply passionate approach to music, but my own appreciation of her music has become increasingly challenged.
  • [In a review on her 2017 video of the Gate] You know when you’ve been out all night, and you’re really fucked, and you finally decide you should try and sleep, so you curl up in bed, dry mouthed, and close your eyes for a second? And then suddenly all this weird shit starts spinning around your brain? Like geometric shapes and faces you don’t recognise and other, intangible stuff you couldn’t even explain to someone with words? Well, Björk’s new video for “The Gate” is kind of like that, but better, because it stars Björk.
  • Her eeeeks, and shrieks turn this little freak into a feisty contender for one of the most unbelievable performers of my generation. Bjork started off as somewhat of a meme in apartment 320, but I submit to you that I have rethought her status as just a meme. In fact she is, nay she will forever be one of the most interesting artists in this game of life we all play.

Hmm… none of this is really helping. Or maybe it is? It’s making me feel that I will never get it and that I just don’t belong in Björk club. But do try to convince me otherwise!

Odd Jobs #5 – phoney me

When I wrote my first “Odd Jobs”-blog in September 2015 I was just starting to settle in at the job I currently still work at and was still very much in the honey moon phase. Don’t get me wrong, I still love my job and am not planning on leaving any time soon, but things have changed since then, which is logical and good for my development (or so people keep telling me).

full-caterpillar-to-butterfly-transition

Looking back across my CV and the different jobs I’ve done, I see one big trend: the telephone. The odd one out in that sense, is my time at the notorious tax office (aka the most miserable you have ever seen me). And thinking about it now, I think I only said yes to that job because it involved no phonework whatsoever and I had decided I needed to take a big and conscious step away from call centery work if I wanted to move forward.

When I started taking my frustrations from work out on my favorite people, I changed my mind quickly and ran back to the first phone I could find.

My current job involves picking up the phone but is very un-callcenter-like in every other aspect. My previous work experience made this part of my job a walk in the park and very gradually shaped me into the company’s unofficial “phone coach”, as a surprisingly large group of people is either not very good at this or genuinely afraid of the ringing machine… Helping my co-workers find their telephone courage taught me several things:

  • Maybe, perhaps, probably, possibly, could and should are words that express doubt and avoiding them not only makes the person on the other end of the line feel more confident about the message you are communicating, but also has a positive backfire-effect on the person who speaks them.
  • “I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer (when it is true) and is more helpful than offering a solution you are unsure about.
  • A sincere “I am sorry to hear that” is sometimes all that is needed.
  • Words are powerful things and should not be underestimated.
  • There are many ways to say “No”.

An interesting transformation I have seen happening in “newbies”, that I recognize now in myself as well, is the following:

  1. The beginning:
    Internal dialogue: So much new information, I will never get the hang of this!
    I feel unsure / hesitant / overwhelmed / Argh!
  2. One month later:
    Internal dialogue: Customers are not calling to make my life miserable and I actually know quite a bit!
    I feel more confident / proud / relieved.
  3. Getting the hang of it:
    Internal / external dialogue: “Yes, yes, no need to finish your sentence, I know what you want. Probably better than you do. Let me get into my flow and tell you everything I know so you can be on your way.” Next!
    I feel over-confident / impatient / repetitive / superior / judgmental.
  4. Slightly frustrated
    Internal dialogue: I’m quite sure I was giving customers the information they needed but now that I’ve been told to try a different approach I feel like an idiot.
    I feel insecure again. I feel like my words sound insincere and unnatural. I feel rebellious.
  5. Telephone zen
    Internal dialogue: First, I’m just going to listen….
    I feel relaxed / open minded / self-confident / ready

What I disliked about callcenter work:

  • most-important-call-center-metricsScripts.
  • Being evaluated using silly standards such as
    • Did you mention the client’s name the right amount of times?
    • Did you ask the client if there were any further questions (even when the client has clearly said he / she had no further questions)?
    • Did you say all the sentences in the right order?
    • Did you manage to keep your average conversation time under 3 minutes?
  • Strict break times.
  • Good hair days turning into bad hair days after constantly getting entangled with headphones.
  • The constant buzz of people talking around you, for 8 hours straight.
  • The unhealthy air / lighting.
  • The clear limit there often is to the amount of critical thinking that is tolerated.
  • Crappy tea (and apparently also bad coffee, but that doesn’t affect me)
  • The fact that I can’t pick up my own phone without automatically mentioning my employer’s name as well.

What makes my current employer different:

  • No real script, apart from the greeting when you pick up. The rest of the “script” consists of general pointers and tips (that by now have mostly been written by me).
  • Break time is very flexible (up to the point that many of us forget to take a proper one).
  • Relatively small budget, so pretty crappy phones & underlying technique.
  • It is encouraged to come up with alternative ways to do things and every idea will be looked into seriously. Disappointment when your plan disappears into the bin after one (or two) looks, is not really allowed though. You must be able to get yourself together quick and move on.
  • No evaluation (or none that I notice).

What I hope to master in time to come (or at some time in my life):

  • Time keeping
  • Making decision with “the bigger picture” in mind
  • Making a plan and sticking to it.

My final conclusion is that call center work is often seen as the bottom of the career food chain, and yes, any slacker could probably do it… but people that are really good at it need to know so much about so many things, starting out with empathy. I think that it every human being would work in customer care for a while and would really make an effort, the world might be just a little more friendly…

Dutch nationalism: Je maintiendrai

Those who have ever been to the Netherlands and / or have read some of my blogs must already know this: we are not big on nationalism.

Sure, we have our symbols.

Tulips-in-Holland.jpgAs far as our flower goes, I suppose it must be the tulip, all though I don’t think that’s actually official. But the rest of the world associates us with it, and we carry it with pride.

Our national bird is somewhat of a mystery to me. I think we might not have one. All the cool birds of prey were already taken, I guess, and claiming a bird of paradise didn’t fit with our Calvinist attitude, even though we could’ve adopted one from our colonies

Our coat of arms looks like this:

wapen-van-nederland-met-motto-je-maintiendrai-2622a3-1024.jpg

….which brings me to our motto: Je maintiendrai, which is French for We will hold on

Yes, you heard me: French.

If we speak French in the Netherlands, you ask? Not a word! We speak Dutch, and if anything else it would be Frisian. Our English is pretty good on average, followed by German. Our French; deplorable.

I guess our founders decided it was better for PR to avoid the guttural sounds that are inherent to our own language when presenting ourselves abroad. And French is sexy enough, non?

But let’s proceed… Because let’s be honest, the choice of language is not the only thing that’s off…

Let’s look at some other country’s mottos:

  • Ordem e progresso; it may not be a very accurate description of the current state of the country, but it’s something to strive for: Order and Progress. You can do it, Brazil!
  • We’ve all heard of Cuba‘s: Patria o Muerte: Country or Death! A bit over the top maybe, but I’m definitely fired up! (no cigar and or rum pun intended)
  • And what to think of Egypt‘s: Ankh, uza, seneb, which translates to Life, health, well-being. Beautiful!!! Makes me want to move there.

Now, back to the Dutch motto: We will hold on.

crickets chirping.gif

Are you inspired yet? No, me neither….

It sounds like the motto of a slightly apathetic and bored teenager at her great-aunt’s 97th birthday.

I’m still hoping there is some historically interesting and motivational story behind it, but I think that what it all boils down to is a peoples that has struggled to make a living on a marshy bit of land that keeps flooding.

I mean, I get it. It’s super demoralizing to have to keep rebuilding your house and loosing all your livestock and all… But maybe that wasn’t the time to design that coat of arms…

Because look at us now! We battled the elements, built ourselves some pretty sturdy structures and have kept our fields dry ever since (*knocks on wood*), making it possible to feed and breed the best bloody dairy cows IN THE WORLD. And don’t forget the tulips!

So, we didn’t merely “hold on”, we whooped the sea’s ass! How about we write THAT at the feet of those fierce looking lions??

*pushing my luck here, knocking on wood again*

One of the Dutch provinces that we pumped dry, for example, has Luctor et emergo as a motto, which is Latin for “I struggled and emerged”. Something to be proud of, no?

I suggest we update our motto, as it was clearly written by the same people who thought our national anthem should ignore all things Dutch, and focus on some German guy, loyal to another king, as explained in a previous post.

First contender: If it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much.

Still open for suggestions…

Supporting Arnold Schwarzenegger

In my mind, Arnold Schwarzenegger never really rose above the status of “ambitious meathead”. I always joked about how tragic it really was he had reached a point where his English was now as good as it was ever going to get and that his German was actually not very good anymore either. There aren’t very many people that aren’t fluent in any language…

I know that he was the governor of California for a while and that people called him the “governator”. He seemed popular enough but I really know nothing about his political legacy, other than that he served two terms and is a republican.

So, when he dedicated a video message to president Trump earlier this summer, with an anti-hate message, I was very pleasantly surprised. He comes across as a very wise man, actually!

 

 

 

I’d vote for this guy based on this!

And then after Trump pulled out of the Paris agreement, he posted another video:

 

So yah, if he would drop his support for the death penalty, I would totally buy this t-shirt.

terminate hate tshirt.jpg

Margaret

The Canadian prime minister may look like a fairy tale prince, but it turns out he has a mother, just like the rest of us. And reading about her life and feelings in the interview she recently gave on a local US radio channel, made me respect him (but mostly her) even more.

The fact that he is one of the youngest prime ministers Canada ever had and simultaneously one of the most balanced and mature politicians at present, makes total sense. He has been a grown-up since he was a child. He had to be.

In the interview, his mother Margaret speaks openly about her life as both the wife and the mother of a prime minister. Her life in the lime light was especially challenging for her, as she suffered from mental illness, fueled by the frustrations that must come with such a position. She explains:

I was becoming a very angry woman. I felt used and not useful. As a wife of the prime minister — as opposed to your first ladies in America — there is no position, there is no office, no assistant. I’m just supposed to be, as I said, a rose in my husband’s lapel. But I really was fighting since I was a little girl for the right to be equal. My mother raised her five daughters that way. And then I found myself in this very old-fashioned marriage, with the press using me as political fodder, and I was angry.

I think she is very eloquently putting a feeling into words that many women have felt at some point in their lives, especially in that era. These are things that are starting to change only now and we are just learning how to discuss it fairly and openly. I can imagine there must have been people that thought she had it all made and thought her ungrateful for wanting even more.

One of the biggest fears in my life is probably to be reduced to something as insignificant as “the wife of”. I crave for acknowledgment as much as I do for social invisibility. It’s a miracle I haven’t gone mad, all though I guess it may be up for discussion…

All though I joke  about “going mad” in the previous paragraph, I do not suffer from mental illness in any (diagnosed) shape or form, all though some of my most beloved people have in the past or still do in the present.

And that is exactly why I applaud Margaret Trudeau for stepping up to the plate and broaching the subject of mental illness. Most of all, because of the encouraging words she spoke at the end of the interview:

So if you can stop both the denial and the blame, there’s only one person who can help you. And that is yourself. You have to find the courage to say, ‘I want to have a better life,’ and then you reach out for help. You don’t know how many people are out there just longing to help you.

margaret-trudeau01-1000x666

Such a beautiful woman. He has her eyes.