My 2014 In Review

TL;DR: First half of my year was fine and fun, second half wasn’t very fine.

January-February: Got back to NL from the UK, spent time with an old school friend who I hadn’t seen in years and who lived in Amsterdam. Tried to find an internship and really was beginning to panic because my lease was expiring and I needed to find an internship so as to know where next to move. That didn’t work out, and I signed another 1-year lease and then started an internship in a different city (with free accommodation), 2 weeks later. Shout out to the friends who agreed to help me move (it was a 1.5 hour drive) when it turned out I was too broke to afford professional movers or a taxi, and had way too much stuff to just take the train. So, yay internship, but what about the house I rented? I had to sublet it so that went okay. Got broke, and then not-broke. Settled into my new life in the town-in-the-middle-of-nowhere where my internship company was located, sorted out carpooling to and from work, got a new computer, etc.

March-April: My Master’s program required me to do an internship while writing my thesis, ergo, I was writing my thesis at this point. I set a plan and everything, but the project I was handling was such that I wouldn’t be able to write a traditional qualitative or quantitative thesis. Also, the literature review was not going very well. I decided to be ‘AGILE’ – as opposed to waterfall – about the whole thing and was writing various parts of the thesis at the same time, and designing what I was supposed to be designing too. I took a Lean Six Sigma course – because that’s required for all employees of my company – and passed. I also learned, painfully, how to ride a bicycle. I think I already explained why I had to in another post, but basically, it was because the company is on a very large site (and ‘houses’ 2200 employees) and my office is 15 minutes on foot from the main gate, same for many others, so the company has lots of bikes for employees who may have cars but want to move around the site, and for people like me. Anyway, I learned how to ride a bike. I made friends with a very nice Spanish girl and her boyfriend, and she helped me. She’d go out of her way to come to my office the first couple of times, to ride behind me and make sure nothing happened till we got to the gate. Same for when I was going from the gate to my office (and this was possible because we carpooled together). I went to the UK too to see the boyfriend and for a 4-day break from all the nonsense. While on this break, I didn’t check my university emails and as a result, missed out on a job opportunity. Welp. I was still wearing a jacket at this point and wondering why it was still this cold in spring.

May-June: Thesis and project were going well with a few hiccups here and there, and I have to mention here that I think my thesis went as well as it did because I had the best set of supervisors, at work and in school. I’d have been so lucky if I had them while writing my Bachelor’s thesis, but let’s not even speak about that. I had to learn and practise Change Management here too. I started a social media management side-gig with a friend. Then there was my birthday, during which Spanish friend and boyfriend and Colombian friend (all working in my company of course, and now I wonder, really, if any of us young foreigners ever made friends with any one who lived in that town but didn’t work in our company…) made us Spanish omelettes and mojitos. It was summer (and I know this because I was able to wear short shorts) and we’d had a party of sorts the day before, organized by the company ‘country club’. Fun. I had begun to feel old by my birthday, but meh. (Really though. The years are just flying by, and what am I doing with my life?) I submitted my thesis in time (special shoutout to the boyfriend for helping out), had to rewrite some parts, defended and (shot myself in the foot but) got a good grade. The World Cup started in June, and we interns (all lived on the same floor in a hotel and) used to gather in the living room to watch, we’d make a mini party of it, with food and drinks.

July-August: Internship ended, began the search for a new apartment in another city, and I failed the second stage of an interview. I moved to another city, and loved it. How I chose this city? The mental equivalent of spinning a globe and things…only, I was a bit more ‘strategic’. Anyway, I moved, and then the house I moved to was quite rubbish. Falling apart. Unfit for habitation. (And people actually live there. No, I was not able to see detailed pictures before I moved.) So I moved again, after 2 or 3 days, and was quite lucky to find a much better apartment for the same price as the rubbish one. I went to France for my graduation and, when I think of all the rubbish that has constituted the second half of my year, I think back to my time in France and I regain some measure of peace, and happiness. The south of France is quite lovely (year-round, but especially) in the summer, and that, combined with good company, is the stuff that nice holidays are made of. It’s also funny that I didn’t appreciate it that much when I lived there.

September – November: Sorted my residence permit (because once you graduate, your reason for being in the country changes from ‘student’ to either ’employed’ or ‘looking for employment’), but first, had to sort out insurance (Nigerian one expired, and it is illegal to live in NL without insurance, among others) and move because of registration issues with the city hall. So in essence, I have lived in 5 houses this year. Wonderful. Kept getting bounced after interviews and stuff, for no discernible reason. I say ‘no discernible reason’ because my CV is quite solid (I’ve heard, many times), and I’m not terrible at interviews, if I do say so myself. Got another gig in social media management – which can’t pay the bills, but can buy groceries. Finally got a job in client support which I don’t like for shitty pay (but it paid the bills and I was grateful for that and for the opportunity to learn other stuff like account management). {Side bar: the reason I went for an MSc in what I got an MSc in, was because I’d tried the tech support/network admin shebang and found that I didn’t like it.} I got bounced from work after the probation period because I was ‘doing an excellent job but wasn’t integrating’. I never spoke with the person who fired me, so I didn’t get the chance to ask for an explanation. I was fired by proxy. Heh. Why I wanted an explanation? Because, while I always, always blame myself when things go wrong, I couldn’t find any way to blame myself for this one. So I was quite shocked, etc. Well then. Got betrayed. A bit broke. Etc. I got an instant camera, because I wanted one, and because it’s a nice thing that gets people excited, such that you forget your own struggles for a bit. I remembered, somewhere in all of this, that 2 years ago, I decided I wanted to become a Product Manager (for digital products like Gmail and Skype, rather than physical ones like Ariel or other FMCGs). But school and ‘the cares of this world’ made me forget that. I still want to be one, so I have taken (and am taking) courses to put me on that path. Also, I’m practising product management on someone’s yet-to-launch product, and I’m looking to practise all I can, for the experience.

December: Came to Nigeria, for a break of sorts. I’m still here, and it’s been nice to see people and eat food and all that jazz, but my mind is still quite troubled, and I’ve been a bit prickly. This has been my worst year so far. I’m grateful though, for family and friendship and kind words, thoughtful gifts, help, advice, and prayers on my behalf. I’m grateful for the lovely people who have chosen to love me even when I’m being prickly and rejecting offers of help. I’m grateful for the parents who have enough to help me if I’m ever homeless or something (God forbid though. The purpose of all the tuition money that has been spent on my head is not so that I can still be asking parents for money at age 25). I’m grateful for the opportunity to be a blessing to people. I’m grateful for the good things that have happened to my friends and family. I’m grateful for all the flatmates I’ve had this year, to whom I owe many interesting memories. I’m grateful for museums and music, books and instant cameras. I’m learning to think positive thoughts but that requires discipline. I’ve learned that I need to develop people-skills, because my normal self does not go out of her way to, for example, say more than just ‘hello’ to near-strangers. I’ve learned persistence, and to find joy in the little things. I’ve practised compromise. I’ve stopped being naive, I think. I’m going back to NL in a couple of days and I don’t know what’s going to be different, but we’ll see.

In summary, I’m not very happy right now, haven’t been for a while, but I’m very grateful. It could have been much worse, I think. I’ve coped by dancing, exercising (yay year-round summer body), by asking myself things like “are you the furst?” and “but did you die?”; I’m also hopeful because that’s probably all I have left. Hope that efforts being made will pay off, and things will get better. So here’s to 2015. May the odds be ever in our favour, and may the lines be arranged for us in pleasant places.

Happy Holidays (or what’s left of it)!

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A Collection Of Random Stuff Which, By Themselves, Are Too Brief To Be Considered Blog Posts II

  1. Oct 12: Remember how I said I want an instant camera? Now I want a Mercedes Benz 200. (It would have to be clean though, and look like new.) I suspect that something might be weird with me, because I have no clue why I would be wanting such a car. Maybe it has something to do with the state of my account? I feel like I’m too ‘sensible’ to buy such a car because, fuel economy, etc. I’ve wanted many cars over the years, and they’ve always been more modern-ish too. Meh. I’m a G-Wagen girl forever and ever, though.
  2. Oct 17: I read a bunch of short stories today, and a couple of them were written in first-person. When I read a story written in first person, the narrator usually comes off as the smart person in the group, or a smart person, period. Cases in point: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and this. I’m thinking it might be interesting to read something written from the viewpoint of the ‘stupid’ person. <Perish the unkind thought that just ran through your mind.> Not like a special-needs person, I mean a normal person who just happens to have a low IQ. Maybe I just haven’t read enough stories, though.
  3. I now have an instant camera and I totally plan to be a nuisance with it. I went out on Friday (October 24) for a thing called Museum Night (not in my city, but in a city 15 minutes away by tram), and this is a thing where you get to visit all the museums in a city for a small sum, say, €10. Bear in mind that museums, especially the important historical ones, usually have an individual entrance fee of about €12. So being able to visit ALL the museums and exhibitions and things for €10? I’m in. But I didn’t want to be wandering around a strange city at night, alone – not that anything bad is expected to happen, but I prefer to have a safety net of sorts when I’m in certain situations. So, I joined meetup.com. And I found this group that was planning to ‘meet up’ at the ticket counter for this event. Yay, safety net found (even though this was still just a bunch of strangers). I met up with them, made introductions, chatted a bit before the tours began – we were all expats in the group, and we all signed up for the expats’ tour. Then, I proceeded to win minor cool points by whipping out my camera and taking pictures of people and handing them said pictures; I was asked to sign said photos too, heh. One person even asked why I was being so generous, because film for the camera is quite expensive. But then if I don’t take pictures of people and make them smile, what will I take pictures of? The trees in my backyard? Or shall I take selfies too with this? (I tried that, by the way. Woeful results.) So, here’s to being a continuous nuisance/cool person with my camera. The Museum Night was pretty cool, being that I’m such a fan of museums and history and such. Learned a bit more about Willem van Oranje – that’s William of Orange to you. Saw the 2 bullet holes left in the wall from when he was shot. Y’all, bullets passed through the poor man’s body and entered the wall. I’m tempted to tell the full story but nah. Just be reminded that christians too are guilty of practicing religious fanaticism.
  4. I got an email at the beginning of October, to say that my university email address will be repossessed by October 31, because I have graduated and am no longer a student there. Just one more nail in the coffin of my carefree studenthood. Even if one decides to take up PhD studies, it will never quite be the same again, will it? Of course, I am now going to send out a mail to everyone I have ever contacted with that address, to inform them of my departure and to give them my normal email address. 26 days later, I still haven’t found the words. 😦
    [Update: I finally found the words, on Oct 27. Today’s the last day, and I’m going to go look at Blackboard one last time, for nostalgia. I have to say, again, that in all this, my school life in Finland was hands down the best. And, speaking of school, congrats RUJG, on your graduation. I know you’re reading this. #EngineerTheMaster]

    So, you have yourselves a wonderful – or scary, depending on your location and/or idea of fun – weekend now, you hear?
    À tout! :*

Birkenstock

The best pair of shoes I ever owned were… I don’t remember, but I’m quite sure they were not Birkenstock. Wait, what does a child know about these things? They were a pair of …oh, I don’t know. Let’s talk about the pair of shoes standing in my closet.

I have a pair of red stilettos, with a cute squarish bow in front.  My cousin bought them for me a few years ago. These stilettos, they have moved with me across states, countries and continents. Yet, in all the time I have owned them, I have only ever worn them once. Why? Because I am utterly hopeless at wearing high-heeled shoes. I try, believe me, I do. I practice in my room, with the effortless grace of a model at the Paris Fashion Week. However, when the time comes to wear these beautiful shoes out, my feet develop rebellious brains of their own, and make me look like I’m attempting to tap dance. You see, I am not a teenager anymore, and with old age comes the realization that certain aspirations are to be carefully wrapped and stored in the attic. But some of those aspirations simply refuse to go away. They stay with you in the optimistic days of childhood and adolescence, fade into the background while you tackle the exams, jobs and every other thing the fickle old woman called ‘life’ throws at you; but then they blindside you in those (rare) moments when you’re daydreaming, reflecting or even thinking random thoughts like “huh. That’s a gorgeous car”.

That’s what these shoes are to me. Aspirations that won’t go away. I keep hoping that one day, somehow, I would be able to wear a pair of 5-inch heels and strut about gracefully, at some sort of distinguished event. I’m also afraid that might never happen, seeing as I have developed an unbreakable affinity for ballet flats and plimsolls. I remember, at my graduation from university, how I donned a pair of purple heels and had to walk really fast in them. I can only hope my gown masked the madness my legs were performing that day, but I know how grateful I was to take off those shoes after the ceremony. I have since given out that pair of shoes. Maybe I’m stubborn – no, ‘tenacious’ is a more positive word- but now I am in the middle of acquiring a masters degree and once in a while, I take out my red stilettos, wear a suitable outfit and walk about in the comfort of my room, like a boss. Shameful, no?

These days, I hear there’s a ‘stiletto whisperer’ in New York who teaches women how to walk in heels. I’m about 7000 kilometers away from New York – but perhaps he can offer online lessons? Skype, anyone?

I don’t want to toss these shoes in the attic 😦

PS: I wrote this essay as an entry for a Birkenstock scholarship contest. Somehow, I can’t get the image to show, but please vote for me to win by clicking on the ‘<a href…>’ link directly under “Please Vote For Aixen”, or the black rectangular box under the text that describes what I’m doing. I hope this is not too confusing. Also, if you want to participate in this contest, you can, as the link is underlined properly in the box below.

Thank you in advance!

Please Vote For Aixen

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