Wake up, and Smell the Coffee

When I was in the USA, I lived in the midtown area of Atlanta…which was lovely! I was told this was the “gay area” by someone in hushed tones, but honestly I didn’t see the problem – all I saw were friendly strangers who liked to give compliments, and some great brunch establishments! How could anyone hate that?! Certainly always put a smile on my face!

50 Cent Patrick Stewart GIF

But anyway, this was a little far to travel for some friends who lived outside of the city, so I would hop on the MARTA train and meet them half-way at Bankhead Station…then we’d drive out to some random diner, restaurant, or coffee shop for a catch up on the latest shenanigans…

One of these times stands out, and has been turning over, and over, and over in my head recently – I’m sure it won’t take a genius to work out why…

On this occasion, four of us pulled into a quiet roadside place, and piled into one of the cushioned booths to get warm. A chirpy waiter came over immediately to take our orders…we were all pretty exhausted, so there was only one obvious choice for most! “Black coffee, please!” “Black coffee for me too!” “Yeah, black coffee – thanks.” 

He nodded and smiled, as he jotted it all down – before turning to me.

“Errrmmm…” I murmured, a little unsure as I stared at the menu. “Can I have white coffee please? I don’t really like it black.”

Buffy Staring GIF

There was a silence. A horrible, agonising silence. 

Everyone had their eyes fixed on me, I instantly turned the brightest of reds – as if a volcano had erupted in my face, and was attempting to force its way out through my ears…I had no clue as to what crime I had committed, but I was sorry all the same. I looked desperately at the faces of my friends, hoping one of them would throw me a life-line…all they threw me were looks of complete, and utter disbelief.

“Is that supposed to like…be funny? Because its not.” cautioned the waiter,

“Erm, no…not at all – you don’t…you don…you don’t have white coffee? I mean…wha?!”

The waiter looked across to my friends, as if to say; “who is this no-good piece of shit, and why do you even hang around with him at all? Can we shoot him in the head, once my shift finishes?” I wished that I hadn’t been so choosy, I could have just said “black coffee for me too!” and all of this mysterious awkwardness could have been avoided. I wriggled, and writhed in my seat – the leather sticking to my sweaty backside, as I prayed for the ground to swallow me up whole. I gave it one last try…

“Sorry…I want a WHITE COFFEE, PLEASE!” More stares, now there were some who were shaking their head – as if I had gone too far with a bad joke…this was past the point of humiliation, doubly so as I didn’t have a fucking clue what was going on! “Black coffee…you put milk in, and it’s white coffee. What…you don’t have milk in a coffee shop?!”

Crazy Pills GIF

“Ohhhhhhhh!” everyone chimed together, which instantly broke the awkward deadlock of silence. But I was still completely dumb-founded, my head bobbing from person to person hoping for an explanation. They laughed (a lot), but eventually told me I had incurred a rather regrettable mistake – and that it was probably best to not repeat it again, even if it is an everyday phrase in England. Ask for a coffee with milk, or a latte…or…anything but a fucking WHITE COFFEE! Well, you didn’t have to tell me twice! Jheez!

After all this they dropped me off at the station, and I was just looking forward to getting to bed – so I could forget about how shitty a person I was without even knowing. And I was in luck! The train was right there! Everything was coming up John, after all!

Not quite…ten minutes later, and I was still sat there – the train hadn’t moved an inch. I put my phone away, after all it was all full of white coffee jokes from the friends I had just left. I glanced to my left, and did a double take as I caught sight of some commotion in the opposite carriage…I moved for a better view, maybe this was the reason that…oh Jesus…fucking hell… 

There was a black man, lying there lifeless – with a puddle of blood around him. There were policeman murmuring into their radios, and a paramedic still desperately trying in vain to save the poor man…with blood all the way from his hands, to his elbows. I couldn’t make out much more than that.

I held my head in my hands, tears began to swell, as I began to struggle to breathe. I looked up at everyone else in my train carriage, I watched for their reactions which were basically just to glance over shrug, and go back to their phones, their books, their whatever else. “Babe, some guy’s dead. So I’ll be late.” I heard someone announce in a bored tone.

So wait…a man dies in a bloody fashion, and no one bats an eyelid? But I mistakenly use the wrong phrase when talking about a cup of coffee, and everyone loses their minds? Something’s wrong there, surely.

You see…I didn’t link the two like this till recently, they were just separate events in my head. But the two are unequivocally intertwined, I see that now.

We can’t just stress, and worry about words…and being “politically correct” or appearing to be a person of true compassion. REAL equality comes about with REAL action. Not just talking the talk. All of the horrendous news stories we have seen laid bare recently, SHOULD be sparking something inside of you…and that something shouldn’t be disdain for well meaning people like Benedict Cumberbatch…but more horror for corrupt, or racist individuals.

Please, don’t just look away – wake up, and smell the coffee – BE the change. 

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Happiness – What Could Have Been…

I am fascinated with life, and the idea of each and every person having their own pathway on which they follow… 

It’s not that I believe in fate, or that I think we have any kind of predetermined outcome by some fella upstairs…instead I think of us as paving our own way – desperately struggling to lay the yellow bricks in front of us as we attempt to navigate through our lives. Sometimes we stumble across good eggs like Scarecrow, Tim Woodman, and Cowardly Lion – and then occasionally there are sadistic witches and flying killer monkeys who rip off all of your limbs…

Wizard of OZ GIF

Swings, and roundabouts I suppose…

 I mean granted not everything can be cheese, back rubs, and new posts from Storytime with John, right? There are shitty moments too – it’s just all about finding those happy moments, and treasuring them, whilst also trying to derive some purpose from our small window of life (wherever, and however that may be!); after all we all want to be happy!

But you know what? I have some rather backward advice (which just so happens to work!) when it comes to being happier with your present situation…it’s not particularly to look at the things that you are lucky enough to possess; a loving family? A great set of friends? A job you actually enjoy? A really comfortable pair of socks? Whatever! No. 

Although naturally…good for you – especially the socks thing.

But I do find that spending some time considering what could have been (for the worst), really helps pump you up, and give a greater perspective on your life as a whole. It’s basically like you are looking backwards down the yellow brick road, and viewing the different paths that you see were no available…but you didn’t take. And as you are older, and hopefully a smidge wiser you now see they would have led to doom and gloom. I find this gives confidence in going forward…PUMP UP DAT CHEST, BRUH! 

Judge GIF

For me I look back at past relationships that would have anchored me to one spot…limited me…and kept me in a closed community, with a minimal amount of opportunity – so I look back at that, and then examine the present day…and I feel more positive about meekly edging forward. Or perhaps I peer pack down the yellow brick road again, and see friendship circles centered solely around drinking, drugs, and a lack of ambition…then again I look at the now…and feel a stronger person for being where I am today.

If I had made certain other choices, my reality would be totally different. 

I could of course ramble more about this for a lot longer, but it wouldn’t make much sense to you…after all life isn’t always a cohesive narrative, it is actually a very personal story which is only ever reported as a polished epilogue – one with which we can perhaps relate, but never truly experience – each of us walk in our own shoes, on our own path. 

But just try it, look back and see where your life could have taken you…not for the better, but for the worse…it should bring a wry smile to your face – and hopefully more faith in yourself, and your future…

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You’ve got this my friend!

(This post is dedicated to my very good friend over at Pixelated Lifestyle – keep going, just keep going…oh and watch out for the flying monkeys.)

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Mixed Messages

You can’t win em all…

MIxed Messages

Play good music at my funeral, and have a few drinks in my honor. That’s all I ask.

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Lost Marbles

I think I may have just lost my marbles…not literally obviously – I mean I don’t even own marbles in the first place, so it would be impossible to literally lose them. Also I’m quite careful with things, especially with particularly precious items – and I’m guessing they must be pretty fucking special marbles if people bemoan misplacing them quite so much. And make such a huge hullabaloo even when other people do the same with their own…

So yes…metaphorical marbles. I may have lost mine. Although I must say I wasn’t certain – so naturally I turned to the glorious all-knowing oracle we know and love – The Internet…she had this to say:

Losing Marbles

Well I’m not living under a bridge like poor Jimmy, but I do still feel slightly mad. I left my house today needing a change of scenery, I told myself I’d find a cafe so I could continue. But I didn’t find a cafe…well I did actually, I found several – but I didn’t stop. I just kept walking, and I was like “well, that was a cafe? Why didn’t you go in? What’s going on here?!” But I wasn’t listening to myself, or more to the point – I was, but I was ignoring my own queries every single time I passed a perfectly good place.

Just wandering around, then waiting for the lights to change – and then across the road I’d go, then down a street, then around a corner, and on again…and again, and again…sometimes seeing the same faces of stranger’s – who looked bewildered at having spotted me three times in fifteen minutes. I tried to look like I had direction. Like I had an urgent appointment. A business meeting…a lunch date…something that normal people do…

I feel deranged. 

And all of this was poorly glossed over by the music that trickled out of my earphones. A droning crooning…about hearts falling off things, or into things…or something along those lines anyway. It began to grate on me, so much so that I would shut it off completely, if it wasn’t for the fact I’d hear the world’s external sounds. Better this, than that. 

But where do you buy marbles? All this coffee, and no fucking marble shops – I haven’t even heard of a marble shop now I come to think of it, have you? 

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Fight Club

I would like to think I am a lover, and not a fighter…after all, usually physical conflict doesn’t really solve much when you think about it. Obviously some people make it very tempting, but more often than not, non-peaceful ways to shut them the hell up, are somewhat frowned upon!  Naturally if your dear old Granny was being mobbed by a set of escaped rampant ostriches, you’re probably okay to get the broom out. But in most cases, you’re just likely to get yourself into trouble…

But I was forced to think about this by a guy today – and thanks to his inane question regarding the matter, I’ve been mulling over past bouts ever since…

I only really had one big proper fight at school – which is quite a feat as I went to an all-boys secondary in the North-East of England – not sure how I escaped, I guess I was very good at running away. Anyway, I used to be very embarrassed about its living memory – but now that I look back on it, it was a pretty funny situation, and one which I should have laughed off immediately – rather than getting all defensive about;  you know – blushing, and shrugging whenever anyone asked me about it.

Godfather GIF

But back then I lived even deeper in my thoughts than I do now, I didn’t express much, apart from between my nearest, and dearest – stifled by shame, self-consciousness, and a bitter embarrassment regarding just about everything (like, literally.) So this is the first time I’ve told the story to a larger audience…so please bear with me…

It all started on an unassuming school day. I was with my friends on the smaller courtyard, where you could largely avoid the manic hustle, and bustle of the main schoolyard – by which I mean footballs being blasted off your face at every juncture, and/or birds shitting on you in passing, as they scrabbled for the scraps of leftover sandwiches.

That’s not to say it was totally peaceful where we spent our break-times. It was still basically a war-zone…

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Unwanted oranges, apples, and bananas (note: no chocolate was ever thrown) would fly from one end to the other – accompanied with blood-curdling cries, and bellowing swear word strewn sentences, that would even make Vinnie Jones wince.

On the day in question, it appeared to be particularly heated – and the various food items were flying with an increased ferocity. We huddled together, my friends and I, attempting to dip, and dodge any incoming missiles – before scraping them off the floor, and hurling them back. You could only pause momentarily to laugh, should it hit your target – because luxuriate in giggling for too long, and you can be sure that the dirtied tangerine segment would be SPLAT , back in your face!

Food Fight GIF

So it was quite a surprise when I was told that one of our sworn enemies (that day), now wanted to fight me…something about I had thrown a sloppy banana right off his forehead, and for whatever reason he wasn’t too fond of that fact. I didn’t even know who he was…so they pointed him out…of course, yup – just my luck – he was taller, and about four people wider than me. My friends didn’t care, the occasion had pumped them full of testosterone, and all of a sudden they wanted to see blood. A couple of them ran off to tell him I was up for it, as the others tried to make it seem like a great idea:

“He’s a year younger, man…he’s not even THAT big…well okay, he is…but you know – you throw like one punch, and then we all join in – then it’s like seven versus one! No worries  – YOU HAVE TO NOW!” 

NO! I wasn’t going to do it! No…but how to plot my escape out of this situation – could always go out the side-door, yeah…I began to walk away, with several friends still trying to convince me that it was a great idea – I wasn’t having any of it – “FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!” Someone randomly screamed to my complete horror, and disbelief – before I knew it a crowd had circled in, barring my way out – and there he was, this massive entity. There was no way out of this, I’d never live it down if I ran now…or perhaps I could fake a heart attack…nah, that’s be even worse probably. It was time to face the music. I turned to my fantastic friends, who had basically orchestrated this whole thing – the excitement level for them was clearly off the charts – on the other hand, I was so scared I felt like I may literally shit my pants.

Bloodthirsty GIF

I looked at my foe – clearly if he got his hands on me, he would literally murder me. One punch from him, and I’d be eating through a straw, for the rest of my life. Couldn’t let that happen. I’d obviously have to try some unusual tactics to avoid him caving my skull in with meaty fists. But what? I had no ideas, so just lunged in there – to no avail, thankfully he missed me too. I turned back to my friends, with a look that said “Jesus Christ – please fucking help you set of complete dickheads” – but no, they just made gestures for me to get a move on.

I was quivering with a fearful kind of excitement, everything was blurred in a mad frenzy – perhaps I would cry, that would be humiliating. Light bulb. I jumped in and booted him in the chest…I pretty much bounced straight off him, cue laughter from the blurs that surrounded me…I tried again, It was literally the only way I could think of to keep distance from this unnatural behemoth. It never worked, I just pinged back as if I was the pinball – and he was the strong flippers at the bottom. He attempted to grab me on numerous occasions, but never quite managed it.

So there I was – just flying in with useless kick, after useless kick. Like a demented version of Kung Fu Panda, but without any of the guile, or charm that makes him admirable. But I had no Plan B – I’d just keep trying this until a teacher would inevitably break it up…after all, there is NO chance any of the onlookers would do anything of the sort. That’d be way too mature, way too sensible.

“OI! WHAT’S GOING ON OVER THERE?!” 

“Oh, thank God” I thought to myself, with a sigh of relief:

Happy RElief  GIF

The crowd dispersed, in every direction – and we fled back to our respective corners. But there’s no real code, and soon someone, somewhere had snitched…and the teacher was over next to us, asking questions. “WHO WAS FIGHTIN’? HUH?”  Everyone insisted that nothing had happened, that he had been seeing things…“NO FIGHT? THEN WHY WAS THERE A MASSIVE CROWD? HMM?” One of my friends tried to cheekily claim that the crowd was to do with a Yu-Gi-Oh card, and that it was really rare, so everyone was crowding around to see…inventive, I’ll give him that – but the teacher didn’t buy it. And before long the truth came to light.

We were suspended for the day, the two of us. And while we waited for our parents, we had to sit together – which was awkward…I felt like at any moment he would smash my face through one of the glass cabinets, or at the very least strangle me to death with his banana stained tie. But he didn’t. Just stared at me non-stop, as I squirmed with unease.

Fortunately both my parents were out at work, so it fell to my Grandad to pick me up. Which was a lot less daunting. I slumped into his car, and he immediately wanted all of the details – did I get a good punch in? How big was he? etc, etc! I said he was massive, so I tried to kick him, but it didn’t exactly work out. I thought it best not to mention the fact that I was flying around like a terrible Hong Kong Phooey imitation. And that if I wasn’t so small, he would have probably crushed me to death…

Crushed Head GIF

Anyway, we drove on to my Grandparent’s house, where we had mountains of bacon sandwiches, and gallons of hot sugary tea. My Grandma fussed over me, as Grandmas do – whilst my Grandad made me laugh with Rocky impressions. Later on he called me up to his attic, where he showed me an antique crossbow he had kept hidden for years. “YOU BETTER NOT BE SHOWING HIM THAT CROSSBOW KEITH, IT’S DANGEROUS!” called my Grandma from the kitchen…

He lied, and winked at me – whilst trying to fight back a grin. Then we went back downstairs, and lounged around watching cowboy films for the rest of the day. I suppose in this life, you have to take the good with the bad – and this memory encapsualtes that message entirely for me…it was both the worst day, and the very best day. And for that reason I wouldn’t change it, even if I could. 

Well…perhaps…I wouldn’t have went with the lame kicking technique – would have been nice not to be labelled “Jackie Chan” for the rest of my school-days! But yeah, never mind…

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SANTA CLAUS IS REAL.

Well it’s beginning to look, a lot like Christmas…don’t worry, I am not about to break into song! I just love this time of year…that festive feel, that holiday spirit, that – well, whatever you call it! I just unashamedly still, love Christmas!

Patrick Bauble GIF

Unfortunately it has came to my attention recently, that many foolish souls have been spreading a rather hateful, and malicious message…something that isn’t Christmassy in the slightest! And this is something for which I will not stand…as a resolute Christmasist! 

What I’m raving about are those Scrooge-like fellows, who wildly claim that Santa Claus, is NOT repeat, NOT real! Which is of course crazy!  And I have a story to prove it!

I was six years old, possibly seven, when I found myself sitting on a train with my Aunt. I’d just visited her in London, so I had just enjoyed a couple of days of looking up at big things, and eating ice cream. I was quite content, just staring out of the window – and holding on to my new “Evil Cat” soft toy, that a nice lady in Pizza Hut had given me. You could squeeze his belly, and he would emit a chaotic “MUAHAHAHAHAHA” giggle.  Amusing for me, probably hell for all of the grown ups. 

Amidst all of this fun, someone caught my eye a few rows down. I instantly stopped squeezing Evil Cat’s belly, and stared. There was a man, he was maybe sixty…or eighty, well he was old anyway. And he was sat there reading his book, minding his own business…but for some reason I couldn’t look away. There was something special about him. But it is rude to stare so I tried my best to look down at the floor, and out of the window…but I just…couldn’t! I had to have one more peek..then one more peek…then one more…

Blackadder Stare GIF

It was strange, I definitely recognised him from somewhere. He wasn’t like everyone else, who were either sitting there with a bored expression…or eating a horrible looking sandwich, that smelled like sick. He had a little smile on his face. His cheeks were chubby, and red –  he actually looked comfortably relaxed in his seat, in between sips of his hot cocoa…

And that flowing white beard! Not many people have that, it’s usually jus-

“WAIT! …WAIT!” I shouted desperately,

“Shhhhhh, John! Try, and kee-“

“BUT…BUT IT’S-“

“John, people are trying to re-“

I didn’t let her finish whatever she was saying, and simply pointed (rude, I know!) at the man sitting a few rows down…Santa Claus”, I announced proudly.

Yes Santa GIF

She stared too, and I waited in anticipation for approval…“it is, isn’t it?!” I blurted out hastily without thinking. She then smiled, and said she wasn’t sure – and that perhaps it was best to just go up to him, and ask.

Now this sounded like utter madness, to me! But it seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity, I mean…how many kids get to say that they met Santa while he was off duty, on a train heading to the North-East of England? I haven’t heard that said, EVER! So there was only one thing for it, I had to go for it! I mean the worst thing that could happen is that he says, no – and then I burst into flames due to a severe embarrassment overdose…

I pulled off the chair, and began to shuffle slowly over to him – I turned back a few times, and there was my Aunt grinning, and giving eager thumbs up. Once I got to his row, I just stood there – transfixed. Thankfully he smiled warmly, and said hello.

“ARE YOU SANTA CLAUS?!” 

I couldn’t help it, it just burst out without me knowing! He maintained his smile, but I instantly regretted it, I wished in that moment that I had just stayed seated…that I had just carried on squeezing Evil Cat’s belly. I shifted awkwardly on the spot, awaiting his answer…

“Yes. Yes, I am.” he whispered in a hushed tone. I didn’t say anything, instead I immediately fled back to HQ to report the news:

“IT’S HIM! IT IS! IT’S ACTUALLY HIM!” 

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She asked what he had said to me; “well – I came back here to tell you…so, nothing…” I suddenly realised how I had missed out on so much in that opportunity, I had let so much slip through my fingers! My Aunt agreed to come along with me, to make right my wrongs. 

We had a lovely chat; I asked him why he was on the train – he said even Santa needs a break sometimes, to which I thought fair enough. He showed me some photos, of him and the guys (his reindeer, and his elf friends). His wife looked friendly on the photos, he said he missed her a lot but he’d be back with her soon. He actually remembered my name, once I told him – he said I had been pretty good this year, which was such a relief because I was half expecting my poor performance in maths class to affect my present haul that year!

My Aunt said we best leave him alone, that he had a lot of things he had to do for all of the other children…I nodded, and walked back to my seat.

Just before Christmas a card arrived from him personally, with a photo of him, and his wife on the front – they certainly did look happy to be reunited. It was nice to know he hadn’t forgotten me, because I certainly didn’t ever forget him…

Have yourself a very merry Christmas!

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Job Hunt

Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to have a job?  And when I say job, I mean the thing you don’t really want, but get up most days to go to, and spend most of your life complaining about – yeah, that thing. I am not referring to dreams, callings, or purposes – I am talking about the “it’s just a job” jobs…the largely “just for the money” jobs.

(You know…the ones that destroy your soul, and make you feel completely replaceable).

Stars GIF

Apologies for the pessimistic tone! But I have been on the job hunt as it were, and so far I haven’t caught much…if this was in the wild sometime BC, and I was a caveman…well, yeah…the family would be going hungry right now. A lot of things have just went wrong, or at least haven’t turned out right – whilst others have been an undeniable travesty.

So here goes:

* Summer 2014: I spent two months in England battling the Korean embassy for a work-visa…I had signed for a new school, but just had to get the legal side of things straightened out (for some reason they wanted to make sure I wasn’t a murderer…which I thought was fair enough). One delay came after another, and every phone call was met with “you should just wait!” Well…I had been waiting…and it was getting ridiculous.  Fortunately two days before I was due to be flown out, the visa arrived! HOOOOORAAAAY! Unfortunately the day after this, my school emailed me saying it was going to close down…so they no longer needed me as a teacher. Fucking fantastic. I flew out anyway, as I felt it would be easier to find jobs while I was actually in the country. GULP.

* Autumn 2014: Got a few things in the works, as you may have heard, but needed something more concrete to pay the bills, and you know – feed myself. So I began interviewing for new schools…the first one I interviewed for was in an old neighbourhood, which was kind of quaint, and interesting. The boss had a very errr…bizarre story for me though – whilst discussing the school, and the whole set up of the operation, he went on to inform me that the whole thing plays out like an unbelievable TV drama; he has one teacher who ran away to “get married to an Iraqi man”, and then returned out of the blue, but told no one what had happened – another who has been working there for seventeen years “because he won’t leave” – another who became pregnant, and continued to deny it (why?) even when she was in the later inflated balloon stage…another who…okay, let’s leave it there. I just thought: what the hell is this place?! And where is the exit?!

Run GIF

* Autumn 2014 (Continued): I interviewed at another school…which was weird in another way – I got there, and sat down with the chap…he nodded, asked one or two questions…well, no…they weren’t questions they were just vague statements – he then said I looked good so he had no problems, I had the job if I wanted it, and that we could sign the contract the following week. The whole thing took about five minutes, if that. I was pleased as the school was close to Taco Bell, which meant that I’d be having a splendid lunch for two weeks in a row! However…and it’s a big however…the week after signing the contract, the agent got in touch with me…and said that, that school l is closing down too! WHAAAAAT THE FIZUCKKKK?! It’s like fucking King Midas…except everything I touch doesn’t turn to gold…it turns to literal human shit!!!?? What is wrong with me?! ARGHHHH! Breathe…breathe…breathe…

* Winter 2014: I got a temporary position for a couple of weeks at a school, and so far it is going okay – actually they offered me a full time job come February – but the timing won’t be right. This when put with my private tutors…editing gigs…and other things, means that I won’t die of starvation, which is naturally a huge relief. I am excited to be going home for Christmas! But I am continuing on my job search…mrs-satan/ got in touch actually, and it should say a lot that I am tempted to return – they offered extremely short hours, and only with kindergarten too – so it’d be playing with kids, and then writing, and doing whatever I wanted for the rest of the time. Sounds sweet…but then again…I’d be in her hellish arena once more. Meanwhile, my Korean friend is trying to get me a job at his workplace – something about social media, I don’t know – it’d be a real grown up job…suit and tie by rule, not just because…arghhh, all of this hurts my head.

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That’s why I have day-dreamed about how fantastic it would be if we all just wandered around, doing whatever – naturally it is impossible, but still. I hope that one day, I can make enough money from the things I love, so that I don’t have to have all of these money-woes, and job worries. It reduces from the beauty of life itself, because you become fixated on money, money, money.

ARGHHH! Now Abba is stuck in my head…I have only myself to blame. Wish me luck my friends, I hope you are all doing well.

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