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Monday, 30 March 2020

Social Distancing & Mental Health Amidst COVID-19

By Waiching 

As things stand as of now, these are (still) difficult times that we are living in and most of the world's societies are at a distance and standstill, with the killer Coronavirus taking a hold of and taking away people's livelihoods. But those concerns don't just refer to the physical aspect: it also has exacerbated theirs and my very own mental health. 

When you socially distance - or to be more exact, physically distance, you stay at home and interact only with the people you live with. When you go outside, or at your workplace, you need to stay 6ft away from coworkers and customers at all times.

It is a tremendous battle and one that can be so massively disruptive, it becomes a struggle for many of us, who at this time are pondering when on earth this will come to an end and when a vaccine is readily available to all. Whilst we must be physically distant to each other, to help prevent the spread of infection, it is still important not to abandon all social contact and connection with our peers, friends and family. Social distancing measures are put in place to reduce the proliferation of COVID-19, and to a degree, from a medical and physical standpoint, these are working. 

However, research has also shined a light on how being isolated and secluded can have an adverse impact on one's mental health. Whilst isolation is every introvert's fantasy, social distancing measures also has dire consequences: for those of us who are depressive, suffer from anxiety or have any other underlying mental and/or emotional health problem, social distancing can trigger the likes of depression and PTSD, as well as various mood swings. 

Face-to-face contact and communication are things with which, we as humans, are hardwired to a) have emotions, b) to sense and express those emotions and c) to reach out to others. The ability to contact and reach out to others in need and support by undertaking hobbies or interests, spending time with them, working alongside them helps reduce our sense of disconnection and despair and replaces it with joy, a sense of belonging and the feeling that you matter to them. And yet these are the same things, as well as the hugs, holding hands, that have been taken away from us as they carry a health risk.

Here, through the lockdown, we are not self-isolating, we are not socially distancing ourselves and isolating others around us out of choice, but out of force, out of necessity to preserve our physical health - and yet this shouldn't be at the expense of our emotional well-being. What social distancing gives and offers to us on one hand, it also takes away with the other, and sadly not only is that unfair, it goes to show that it has its cons, as well as pros. Your mental health shouldn't be compromised.

Coronavirus has had an impact on global travel, airlines, stores that have to shut up shop until this is over, schools have been closed off, major events have been cancelled and rescheduled at a later date, and the alarming stats of victims go up every single day. But with mental health, it is the one grey area many have overlooked and wherein people have taken their own lives, they have also seen their mental health levels deteriorate, and right now, their voices are not being heard. 

At work (seeing as my line of work can only be carried out at my workplace - although with cleaning I do this at home when I have to), this poses a substantial challenge; the dread of being stuck in this lockdown with no end in sight until say Sept of this year, and trying to adhere to these social distancing measures, all whilst managing my mental health and emotions, in addition to preserving my safeguarding, or trying to safeguard my physical health, is a tall order. Especially as I would be putting myself at further risk. I am having to socially distance myself from my colleagues and as a depressive myself, this can take a toll on my own emotions and mental health. As I feel more isolated, I sense further anxiety and a growing frustration that comes with the unintentional 'brush off', and longing for that connection that I am used to receiving seems distant. At times, I feel helpless, not knowing what to do that my energy levels wear off. I cannot approach them or come into contact with them on a physical level; coupled with the fact that regular and daily duties have been minimised, means I have to think outside the box and come up with other ways to keep myself occupied, work-wise. The realisation with this is that I am thinking along the lines of what I am being forced to do and what I won't have access to: for me, I am forced to go to work, otherwise, I don't get paid, but I won't have access to certain things that would have been available, had it not been for the terrible impact of this pandemic. For some, whilst being at work can be a good distraction from being stuck at home, others like myself who are depressed or endure panic attacks, the fact that I can't hug or console my workmates or approach them, make it more of a burden. & with that, we deprive ourselves of the one thing that keeps us together, and that is interaction, but not any old interaction; rather good positive interaction. 

We are fortunate to live in this day and age whereby the internet and social networking and messaging, even video calling via Skype, Google Duo and Zoom, for instance, are available to us; thus, when it comes to active communication, we must take full advantage of these platforms and make the most out of them as and when we can and to get a hold of our loved ones and dearest. Social networking and social media have often been the brunt of criticism for many years, but during this time of worry, panic and fear and despite the (mis) information from all quarters, the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have the potential to help enable users to dispel the negative associations that have been banded around with social media, and thus forth, there is no better time than now to put aside those worries and fears. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

'I'm Being Hopeful - This Won't Be The End': Coronavirus & Its Effects On Global Travel

By Waiching 

The Coronavirus has derailed so many people's travel plans this year; the then-unknown virus, COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, mainland China, shifted its way to the city of Hong Kong (and later there was an upsurge in incidents and fear towards people of Chinese origin, fuelled by xenophobia and racism), & then onwards overseas when during the last month, things became so severe and serious with deaths spiking every single day across the UK, Iran, Italy and Spain - with the latter two dominating the headlines with the most recorded deaths -, followed by France, the US, Canada, Germany, India. Things became so heated when supermarkets saw their shelves emptied with selfish panic-buyers irrationally buying endless quantities of milk, eggs, toilet roll to name in bulk.   

Unlike SARS in 2003, Coronavirus's impact isn't regional or local, but global, so much so the WHO (World Health Organisation) declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic on 11 March 2020. COVID-19 has been unprecedented - yet abrupt the way it has exploded, it is alarming to see the rates increase and confirmed in every single nation, every continent that, but for Antarctica, there is nowhere in the world, right now, where it is deemed safe. Think about the array of nationalities of your fellow co-workers as represented at your organisation/company: be it French, British, Spanish, Italian, Korean, Chinese, Indian, American or whichever part of the globe they hail from; their very own people have been largely affected and impacted by the Coronavirus. 

Not only has it taken so many lives, but it also poses a major threat to the travel and tourism industry and affecting both its passengers and staff.

9/11 of 2001 was spurred on by fear, and here it seems the fear of being infected and transmitting Coronavirus onto others, is also what is driving so many people to cancel their flights or to put them on hold. It is frustrating to see that this virus is taking a hold on so many lives, but also causing people to stop travelling; the biggest concern is getting the virus - and yet they and we are having to self-quarantine and of who are not permitted to leave the country, - which is understandable as COVID-19 as it is known, can be passed on and spread from one individual to another. Other issues are that global and important events (such as the Tokyo Olympic Games and Euro 2020) have either been cancelled or rescheduled to a later date or be it next year. 

At this moment, the major and smaller airlines are struggling financially with flights grounded to a halt that without that money from the government and passengers, key workers will lose their jobs and companies will effectively go bust. Fewer people are content to travel, in case they get Coronavirus and become gravely ill. The travel and tourism industry is facing its biggest and toughest challenge to date with the lockdown, flight bans and cancellations wrecking havoc, the repercussions are far greater now than say 9/11, given as 9/11 was arguably a domestic crisis, whereas, with the Coronavirus, this is and has become a serious worldwide issue. Companies have considerable funds to run their businesses, but with the way things are going, they are incurring huge financial losses: hotels are not taking bookings, flights are not running, everything is closing down. The knock-on effects have been overwhelming. 

do think, however, that, like with SARS, COVID-19 will not last beyond say Sept of this year, and I'm hopeful it doesn't get to that stage. The current lockdown that has been implemented in Italy, Spain, UK and other parts across the globe has been used to curb the spread of Coronavirus and to help safeguard people - but this comes at a cost as they are confined to their own borders and homes and only leaving their houses to buy essential food or travel to work when working from home isn't feasible. Countries have closed their borders and with that, travellers can't and are unable to leave the country, until they have completed their quarantine phase. 

I realise, of course, that these are tough times right now. This would have been a good time for me to take time off work and go on vacation for a couple of days or weeks; that and visits to New York and Malaga in Spain were on the horizon. But that is delayed until later on in 2020, or be it 2021. I, and millions of other people, want this horrible and catastrophic crisis to come to a complete end with a vaccine, which - even with the handwashing, sanitising and social distancing measures - will be the best and only permanent resolution to this disaster, so we can resume our daily lives, as well as fulfil our plans in visiting our desired destinations that we have set our sights on and doing so without the fear of death looming over our heads through an invisible disease.

When we feel like we are stuck in a rut, yearn for something that excites, appeals to us that is different, or crave new experiences, by travelling, this is the ideal way to test yourself and to discover and find out about things, people, places that you know and never knew beforehand. That, and you'll develop a sense of appreciation and satisfaction of your skills, as well as the culture you have immersed yourself in. Which is why the likelihood of the idea that we will not only be able to fulfil this for the foreseeable future, whilst this can be a worry for many, this is not the absolute end. 

Yes, this is a sad state of affairs at the moment, yet as bad as it is, I am not giving up hope that the Coronavirus will be all over, be it this year or next. Whilst this came out of the blue and became a shock to everyone, this isn't the first time the travel industry and travellers have experienced a global crisis as severe as this; and as proven with 9/11 and its aftereffects, the world of travel has managed to bounce back, and coming back stronger than ever. & I see the same thing happening with COVID-19. Don't let something like this put you off from flying or travelling permanently. I know I am not. 

& when it is all over, I and so many millions of travellers can celebrate and smile on the inside, knowing I am and will be able to travel and see the world, again. Once we (and we will) come out of this, the world will be changed forever in ways of which we can and cannot truly fathom. & yet, there will be a greater demand and urge for lots of people to go on holiday, be it overseas or locally, and to make up for loss time, as a result of this pandemic. 

& quite frankly, given what has happened in the news and right now, we very much deserve one. 

Sunday, 22 March 2020

No Contact vs The Silent Treatment/Ostracism & Why The Former Makes Sense For Me

By Waiching 

No contact is not a ploy to get back at the person, nor to let them back into our lives; rather it is a way of removing or at least minimising almost no contact with him/her and is used as a last resort when all attempts at maintaining neutrality, fail. No contact falls more in line with the victim, whereas the silent treatment is what a narcissist does. 

We choose to establish a 'no contact' rule for numerous reasons, including preserving our emotional and mental health and allowing ourselves space and time to 'heal' from abusive, toxic relationships, -and not to exact revenge, to hurt or punish them. 

Full non-contact involves absolutely ZERO communication, correspondence and interaction of any kind with the other person who is having a negative effect on you, in under any manner and through any medium (phone, text, messaging, social networking, in-person). You need to make a clean break and cut off any communication with him/her and detach yourself from doing so. You need to free yourself, to feel and sense your feelings, one needs time for oneself and to mourn and to replenish your energy levels. Disengage from him/her emotionally and spur yourself from their pain. 

It is a way of setting boundaries, giving you perspective on yourself and your personal or professional relationship with that person and whilst it is not an attempt to change him/her, but letting go of changing them, letting go of the desire in changing them, it is more about preserving your needs and being happy within yourselves. The no contact thing applies mostly to relationships involving couples, married or otherwise, but it can also be applied to work relations and relationships with (increasingly) difficult, toxic and problematic employees, co-workers you are not working in direct contact with. It enables you to take the focus off them and to focus on managing your well-being and self and maintaining self-respect. 

No contact is often mistaken in an unfavourable light and is often viewed in a similar fashion to narcissism and ostracism and the silent treatment as manipulation and punishment, it is not a decision to be taken lightly, - yet I'd argue no contact is lesser of the three negatives. There comes a point in a working, professional or personal relationship with a so-called narcissist or otherwise, emotionally negative person, that one says to him/herself, ''that's it, I must remove myself from their presence, which is hurting me on the inside, as well as outside''. The very minute you choose not to interact and engage with him/her, refrain from speaking to them, not approach them, to go about your work or life as normal and as if s/he doesn't exist, your head starts to clear and you feel relieved and happy. Narcissistic or toxic coworkers or bosses, partners know what your emotional weaknesses are and they have no qualms in drawing them out and exploiting them by pushing your buttons to get a reaction out of you. By responding or reacting to their d***ish behaviour, you are giving them ammunition to hurt you further. I have no control over the stupid things they do and say and things that I'd never expected and ones that made me wish, ''I wish you'd stop speaking to me''. A seemingly small act of rudeness can have an effect on others that is unjust. 

Yet it is important to stand firm and not get sucked into their toxic and erratic behaviours and become affected by them. It is just as much a mental and emotional exercise as it is a physical one by means of being present with him/her in the same room, location, space. And it is tough work, - I have to remind myself there is no point investing any more of my emotional energy and giving so much more of myself to him/her when all they'll do is suck the joy out of me and replace it with trepidation and anguish. I walk away from them, I stay away from them. By establishing a 'no contact' boundary sends a clear message to the undesirable person that my emotional security is well and truly guarded -, and that it can't be affected in such a way that will hurt me. It also prevents you from demeaning and embarrassing yourself unnecessarily; like for instance, saying something to him/her that you might end up regretting later on. Cutting off someone, blocking them or at least giving them the brush-off, just because they are being an idiot towards me or they are mistreating me or in a manner, I feel upset by, means I avoid any escalating tensions that might come my way and in having to contend with him/her. 

Silence is golden that it speaks volumes, and as such with the no contact rule, this is effective: narcissists and toxic people feed on attention, control and yet when they don't get what they want or expect and crave for that, they feel restless and frustrated. Many will claim no contact is passive-aggressive - I'd argue no, it isn't. It isn't towards a toxic individual or narcissist. There is no intent to cause harm or hurt the other person, but it is a way to cancel out, defuse or oust feelings of fatigue, potential anger that might happen or depletion of an unpleasant situation & to stand up for yourself. Ostracism, in contrast, is passive-aggressive, is far more damaging and detrimental, considering that deliberate disengagement with colleagues, friends, family members (which this is) can lead to sadness, depression, further isolation and feelings of loneliness and anger.

For many of us, it is far easier by choosing not to utter a single word to him/her, rather than to address whatever issue or concern is going on -especially if all past attempts in doing so have failed -, and if one is not a confrontational person or someone who avoids conflict and drama. If you are suffering because of their attitude, and yet your compassion, patience, attentiveness and empathy isn't good enough for them, and they don't seem to care one bit, ask yourself, ''Is it truly worth going through all those emotions with him/her again?''. Resorting to the silent treatment doesn't mean everyone who issues it, are being petty or truly hates him/her. Let's face it - whenever I try to speak out or defend myself, I get shut down and I feel that no matter what I say, I will always get called out and I don't have a good way to reply back. On the face of it, however, one drawback with no contact or be it the silent treatment is without talking it out, face-to-face in a one-to-one setting, there is no way to define nor for the person to understand what they did or said in the first place. 

When someone goes 'no contact', the reason is not with or about the narcissist or toxic individual and what by going no contact, will do to them, but they do it for themselves, for their own emotional protection and well-being. They want to heal. They want to move on, not harbour ill-feelings with the other party in the long run, and hoping the next couple of days, things will get better for them and for their relations with their colleague/s, friend/s, partner, family member/s to improve. I am not a heartless person, I have empathy, I have feelings too; I also have my boundaries and so does s/he and I am aware that ignoring or shunning someone can have a detrimental impact on him/her. But it feels empowering to me to gain some confidence and knowing that on occasions such as this towards narcissists and people who might display narcissistic traits, it is best not to utter a single word at all to them. 

If someone at work or in your relationship is a strain on your personal or professional relations, I'd suggest to going 'no contact' - no talking, no speaking, avoid communication for several days (I read that for some couples it's 30 days), and when you feel able and willing to speak to him/her again, then do so. Don't shut them out, completely and for good - unless they are completely toxic and narcissistic. These toxic people thrive by feeding on their noxious behaviours and attitudes to the detriment of others. These types of people do not truly care about your feelings, no matter how much they claim or insist they do.

Extreme pessimists and antagonisers do not deserve your undivided time and attention. 


Saturday, 29 February 2020

'Setting Emotional Boundaries Is A Must-Do For Your Sanity & Well-Being'

By Waiching 

A boundary is a limit defining you in a relationship with someone or something. They can also be physical or emotional, tangible or intangible; at work, the boundaries tend to fall into the emotional end of the scale. Work-related boundaries go much deeper: these define how much of myself is shaped by my career and work and in discovering and forging relationships with your coworkers, colleagues and managers.

Emotional boundaries are distinguishing your very own emotions from someone else's; what you will or will not allow and tolerate for your emotional state such as opinions, beliefs, behaviours and feelings, whilst not compromising to and being subject to the issues of other people. Learning how to filter and weed out what are considered to be my and their issues, the hugely negative aspects, as well as implementing what you will and will not allow and accept.

Boundaries exist as a safe-haven to help protect ourselves by clarifying what is our responsibility, in addition to the other person's. Of them respecting my space and of myself respect theirs. Boundaries intend to preserve our physical, psychological and emotional energy, as well as one's personal and individual values and to maintain social dynamics in the workplace.

You are not responsible for the other person's happiness, emotions; one is not accountable for them. Some can't and may not help themselves for specific reasons -, yet you can't change and put a stop to how they act and behave towards you and others, rather you need to be aware of their personality traits so you can decide what is the best course of action to take to guard yourself, to take care of yourself and to put you and your needs first and foremost. If someone is having a bad day and s/he is taking their frustrations out on me, then that is their problem, their worry. Rather than to change them.

Once you put your foot down and state ''that's enough'', people will respect you; when you have boundaries and people intend to challenge, invade - or even violate them, when you put your happiness first, you know what's best for you. People of whom have good mental and emotional boundaries are self-aware about what they are feeling and when and they have a strong sense of identity and self-respect. They tell it as it is by saying ''no'' and not allowing and bowing down to others' moods and emotions, which would easily influence or affect their own's.

Therein lies an emotional trigger, a massive red button, a thing that when pushed, sets it off that you and I become activated or are provoked by somebody else's comments and actions. These could be in the form of words, people, situations, opinions or the environment that you are in. When this happens, afterwards I withdraw from him/her, emotionally and keep a (physical) distance and give them space and refrain myself from having any contact with them until I feel ready and able to do so.

Feelings of guilt tend to creep up on us that we feel obligated to him/her and is something us people-pleasers do instinctively. We find it almost impossible to say ''no'' that we agree to things and say ''yes'', because we don't want to feel guilty, nor be seen in a bad light and in letting these people down. We want to feel validated, respected, to be valued, appreciated, and I'd add understood as well. When really this isn't necessary.

There was one time at work last year whereby my emotional triggers got the better, or be it worse of me; I felt I was being dismissed by her, so I reacted instead of responding to the situation, and as a result, the outcome wasn't a good one by any means. Over time and to this day, in reflecting over the incident, it wasn't until I realised and identified where this emotional trigger came from that I sought to recognise why I reacted the way I did: she downplayed something I said. I felt as if I wasn't of worth, I was feeling ignored by her, I was trying to seek her 'approval', whilst she was practically speaking to pretty much anyone she was around. It left me feeling devalued, disrespected, devastated that in a separate incident, I lashed out in anger, which I deeply regret. I took on and was feeding on her pain and anguish as my own -, and in doing so, I broke down and struggled enormously with my emotions.

It taught me a valuable lesson... and that if I ever continued going down this path by reacting in situations, and dealing with emotional hurt through anger that leads to hatred, it would hurt me emotionally in the long run. Thankfully, and as of today, I have come to learn to better control my emotions and by placing these boundaries to prevent myself from being emotionally wounded; to take myself out of situations or not say a word during times when I dreaded that s/he would say something stupid or rude to either get under my skin, offend me or to hurt my feelings. I had to acknowledge that by reacting to situations instead of taking the time to analyse, reflect and address them and by making it a personal thing against her, I wasn't being a good person: that I was being spiteful and selfish: two terms I dissociate myself with. 

Nowadays, when someone is being sad, angry, toxic, negative, I choose to remove or detach myself from their presence - that or to respond in a conscientious and proactive or benevolent manner that says 'well, okay' and from there onwards, think of and say something to offset any negative emotions that may develop. And with the boundaries set in place, there is a greater sense of relief and protection that I deem of worth that their words, actions can't and won't hurt me, or won't hurt me as much. I stay silent, calm and not react emotionally and focus on my job role and doing the work the best I can.

Thankfully, being empathetic and compassionate and kind, as well as being kind to myself keeps me connected, grounded and sane amongst the difficult and toxic people I am surrounded by and whose paths I cross throughout my daily life.

Life isn't always easy and straightforward as it comes with its sets of challenges, hurdles, difficulties, issues - though sometimes the most painful, stressful, difficult situations that occur and challenge us at work and in our personal lives, the mistakes we can't undo and the lessons we learn through by going through them can become the catalyst for thriving work and personal relationships, introducing and setting boundaries and limitations, healing, change within ourselves internally and externally, and especially making us become better human beings. 

Monday, 10 February 2020

Attending The Company Holiday Party: My Experiences As An Introvert/Ambivert

By Waiching 

Introvert or introversion - two terms of which I have long identified myself as having and labels that, whilst I haven't been labelled with by other people, these are things that have, in a way, held me back from being the person I want to be, without judgement, mockery and the concern of what they thought of me. Though part of this also has a lot to do with me being the shy/silent one back in school and college, who wasn't very vocal and upfront and of whom lacked confidence. I had a small circle of friends in middle school, but when high school and college came along, I was a loner who focused on my studies. 

Being an introvert is something that many Asians can relate to or see themselves as - and whilst to most people outside of the community, it means we are obedient, respectful, that we mind our own business, we are frowned upon by other Asians if we go out of our norm and be exclusive, - and in doing things that are seen in their eyes as not 'culturally acceptable' and thus, it is crude. In East and South-East Asian cultures, especially (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Filipino to name), people are praised and seen in a far more positive light by remaining quiet - because 'quietness' and being reserved and closed off are qualities that have long been associated with being humble, grounded and mature, as opposed to being extraverted, rowdy, animated and attention-seeking. But then that kind of ties to the issue of mental health and depression and the suicide rates amongst Asians and Asian-Americans, Brits etc. 

It is well documented that Chinese people place a higher emphasis on studying and less on developing their social skills. When we don't socialise that much, Asians tend to stay at home to watch TV and movies, play video games or surf the internet. Or in the case of the Japanese hanging out in karaoke bars & belting out Western pop, J-pop and K-pop songs. A lot of Asians don't see the point in parties.... for me, the point of going to a party is to have fun, laugh, to loosen up, to get to know other people and to develop my social skills and enhance my confidence. 

Yet, adversely, introversion is also a handicap to your professional working life if you work with a set of people, and it can affect your personal growth as an individual and lead to anxiety. That's if you choose not to speak up, interact, communicate and break and come out of your shell that you become a recluse of some sorts. Due to the lack of social interaction, introverts have an inclination to hide & choose not to stand out. 

My younger sister is the complete opposite of me in terms of mannerisms & personality: she is confident, outspoken, has no issues in forming conversations and making small talk with others, whatsoever, whereas I tend to stay quiet and do my work, - although I speak up, correspond and communicate with my peers to get the job done. That is working life.

Yet when it comes to socialising and staff company parties, I become a completely different character when the music comes on (there was a DJ onset); well, when my favourite song is played, I became so spurred on by its rhythmic beats, I literally sprang out from my seat and started dancing the night away, without a care in what others think and of whom stare at me. I went about it as if I was in a music video and like as if no one was watching, I didn't have a care in the world that I was making a fool of myself, but also in trying to impress others with my dance skills that I learnt by watching music and dance routines videos on YouTube. I am living the moment, and I enjoy it a great deal. 

During the last party, I wore ankle boots whilst dancing and I didn't feel a greater sense of movement; this time around, I wore trainers/sneakers to the party. I prefer trainers to boots when it comes to dancing. I wasn't afraid of showing another or be it different side to my character to my peers (and one I don't display at work), and I didn't hesitate in doing so, and plus, as it was a party, it was going to be an energetic and upbeat affair. When I am not able to strike up conversations in a party setting, I turn to dance as my outlet to express myself and draw people's attention. 

Management was in attendance and I also mingled with several colleagues and made small talk with them, and so I wasn't silent throughout the whole night and a few of them, I didn't say a word but I just shimmied right in front of them! I retreated outside and sat out a few of the dances because I wasn't keen on the music that was played, and not because I didn't want to dance and that I was feeling overwhelmed by the atmosphere, my coworkers and the staff. 

All of a sudden I, of whom, at work I got on with work, of who doesn't have friends at work and who didn't talk as much - yet let my work do the talking, found myself to be the centre of attention on the dance floor by my colleagues. It was...surreal. I was embracing and unleashing my inner party self that was literally going to set loose at any given moment. 

When I left the party at past 1am or so, I didn't leave out of boredom (after all, I had a good time), not because I was completely shattered and felt depleted and my energy levels tanked, nor because I didn't socialise a good deal, but because it was getting really late and I had another shift coming up, and so I had to go home to get some rest, recharge my batteries and get ready for work, later on. 

Since working at Costco in 2018, there have been two seasonal work parties held: one in December of 2018 and the recent one this month of 2020, and I have attended both of these. Before that, I have never attended social gatherings, gone out to nightclubs or went out clubbing; it just wasn't a thing for me. I went to these Costco festive parties, not just to show that I am not as socially awkward as other people at work might perceive myself as, not so much as to prove a point in fitting in and being part of the company culture, but a) to grow in confidence as a person, b) by making an effort to connect with others, c) in my attempts to show there was so much more to me than just working hard & being relatively silent at work and d) find some common ground on their level through these corporate-based events and outside of the working environment in an informal manner.   

And so far, I have enjoyed myself on each occasion. If there were any things I wished that were different, it is that I was given an earlier shift and finished earlier, as I left work at quarter to ten on Saturday & headed straight to the party. If I started early and finished early, that would have been perfect, -or the party fell on the day I was scheduled to be off work, even better. 

Introverts are not necessarily shy and not all introverts are anti-social; it's just the nature of the social setting and situation can often be draining and a burden to handle in large doses. Whereas extraverts gain energy from parties and outings, introverts can only put up as much of it as they could handle and tend to be observant. Over time, whilst they are at opposite ends of the spectrum, I have found myself to be in-between introversion and extraversion. I'd probably even say that I am ambivert: by definition, an ambivert is a person who has a balance and mixture of both introverted and extroverted features in their personality. Thus forth, I am quiet and motivated, driven and focused when it comes to work situations and undertaking tasks. I like to take my time to process things and information through before diving right in, but during workplace parties, I look forward to surrounding myself with colleagues I feel at ease with and confident around and in being more outgoing. Whereas introverts avoid the pressure, I try not to let it get to me. In addition, I am at ease to let my guard down and by engaging in one-to-one or small group conversations, as well as to dance my bloody arse off!

I will admit that at times, at certain periods during work I disengage and remain physically and mentally distant from colleagues by avoiding conversations that don't appeal to or interest me. But that doesn't mean I choose to cut myself off completely, and I don't talk or converse with anyone at work- and besides, if you want certain tasks to be achieved communication on a work-level is key. I tend to talk to people when I absolutely have to.

The main argument from most introverts is that they don't like to be pressurised by others or their peers into going or attending social events like parties. They dread being in a large group. They prefer their own freedom, they like being left alone, rather than following the crowd and surrounding themselves with people & feeling as if they must be socially obligated to them. This is something I do understand: being forced to do something that one doesn't want to do, isn't fair and s/he is entitled to say 'no'. 

That being said, with work parties, by deciding that s/he wants to shun the party, that they don't want to go or they won't go because there are people they don't get on well with at work that they'd see just by attending, seems a bit, well, feeble. ''I don't like working with/for them, so why must I socialise or get on with him/her?''. Plus, it is virtually impossible for you to get on with and enjoy the company of working with every single coworker. This is not about making friends with colleagues and the idea that you have to be friends with them at the party (speaking from experience, I notice also that with some of them they drop the overly serious work-like persona and become more relaxed and a tad approachable): it's that by showing your face and getting into the spirit of things, not forgetting behaving yourself and conducting good etiquette, one is making an effort. It's not always about 'me-me-me', but taking into consideration the interests of the other people around me as well, who are in attendance at the party, and in putting yourself 'out there'. Plus, I didn't want to come across to my coworkers and bosses as anti-social. The other issue is they don't drink alcohol for religious reasons or whatever - I don't drink booze, because I'm not too fond of the taste, and I order a non-alcoholic drink, which isn't a problem to the staff (thankfully). 

We all have two different personas: 1) the work persona and 2) the social persona. Our work and social lives offer and provide different challenges and expectations - it's a matter of adapting our behaviours and mannerisms to suit the setting and environments we are in. 

Part-introvert, I don't hate people, but it is more to do with the conversations and banter that neither engage or interest me; if what they talk about appeals to me or of which I have some say in the matter, then I'll contribute or converse with them. 
After attending both work parties, I can practically look forward to the next one, and the one after, and then the one after that with little trepidation and a greater sense of ease and certainty. 

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

What Is It Like Working At The Food Court In Costco By Me: An Employee's Perspective & Insight

'It's Fast Food (i.e McDonalds, KFC, Burger King) - only with better pay and benefits'

By Waiching

A typical working day would involve undertaking a range of manual tasks and there is always work to be done, whether it is a busy day or not. Being a Costco food court worker, I feel as if a) you need to possess a good and solid work ethic, b) develop a thick skin as well as being patient, c) be extremely adaptable (as shifts change each week, you need to be fully flexible. One week you might be working 4 days a week... and 2 weeks later, 6 days a week) and be good at multitasking and d) be highly motivated to do the job. What is probably the toughest part of this job, is it can be physically demanding, as well as being mentally and emotionally exhausting and so hectic and working in an environment that is catering based, whilst it can bring out the best of us, it can also bring out the worst in us and others and lead to simmering and strained tensions, frustrations with supervisors, fellow colleagues and co-workers and thus, make you behave in ways that are unexpected and unnecessary. It's hardly surprising that it is dubbed by many as the most difficult out of all of the departments to work in. 

If this was your own business or company, you would go out of your way to attain positive and better results, and yet this is and can be a hard thing to do when you are working for an organisation who is paying your wages. I'm not sure what it is like in other departments, but in the food court, you are constantly on the move and putting out food & serving members, whilst also maintaining the conditions of the food prep and seating areas. The expectations are and can be too high. My main responsibilities are cleaning the tables, doing the floor, filling things up, but when I am inside the kitchen, I assist in putting food out, putting pizzas in the oven, preparing pizza dough to name. There are virtually two people running the front at the till serving members, with the rest or several of us at the back doing prep work.

The maximum hours you could work in one day is 8.5 and they fly by quickly, so long as you do the work and not think about the time. It is a lot of hard work and it can be tough and rough, but if you are prepared and willing to put in the maximum effort, or at least, try to make it work using your strengths and skills that you have, it makes your life a tad easier. (right-hand side photo of a pizza turntable)

By being used to working in a fast-paced environment and doing things rapidly, speedily and efficiently, as I am so hands-on, I get stuck in with the job and do it, over and over until I get it right and that I become so used to it. If you want to do well and enjoy it, you have to be constantly moving at a fast pace with each task. For me, the job is easy - yet it has its set of challenges as well, I have no qualms in tackling each of them. Being an entry-level position means anyone with little or no prior experience in catering or food retail can undertake the role, given as the skills and duties are easy to pick up, to learn and to grasp from day one, and once you do that, and you continue doing it, the better you will get. It's easy to pick up but this can also take a while to master and get right. Unlike my siblings and parents, I had no prior hands-on experience with food so when I accepted the food court role after the stock replenishing thing didn't work out, I was completely new to the whole thing. Thankfully, colleagues & my supervisors showed me the ropes and it wasn't that long until I figured it out and knew I had to do things by myself. I was one of three new hirees of who passed the 90-day probation period in December 2018 (during those 90 days, which is the period of three months, you have to impress and as long you don't mess up, you are kept on and your position is secure). 

The job itself is relatively straightforward, occasionally strenuous (they actually offered the role to 2 other people, but they turned it down & when they turned to me, I didn't hesitate in saying ''yes''), & but for really, really heavy objects, there is literally nothing that I can't manage, although I am working on prioritizing my tasks efficiently and feel as if I am still learning and progressing every time. Yet I have learnt to pace myself and to work as fast as I possibly can, which is why I consider my speed and being quick as being two of my prized assets. 

I realise that in working in this department, whilst it may work for myself, it is also not for everyone: you have to be mentally prepared for what comes your way; even when things go wrong or you are stuck on auto-pilot, I have learnt that you can't let the pressure & members get to you and you mustn't allow your emotions to affect your duties and performance. If you do that, the supervisors and managers can easily notice when you are having an off-day, and thus, not normally performing to your usual standards.

''Food court workers deserve tip jar for the s**t they deal with'' - Jonescz, reddit 

It is difficult to attain full-time status (I think you need to be working for 10 years or more to qualify), but I still get paid holidays and the benefits are better than with most places. Work at the food court is (hard) labour intensive, indeed - yet not impossible and the pay reflects that, and so in that respect, it becomes financially fulfilling and rewarding. Most places such as McDonald's probably doesn't pay as much as £9.10/9.50 ($14-14.50 in the U.S) as a starting wage for the same type of job. During weekends, it gets busier and I always find myself hustling and rushing all over the place to get as much done as possible and come closing time, there will be less mess and stuff for me to finish before I go home. 

I think what appeals to me the most about this role is that there is always something to do, or that I find myself something to get on with, even when it isn't busy, instead of working at front end and standing at the till. A lot of people may enjoy that, but at Costco, this kills my momentum and it isn't long until boredom seeps in. 
I want to challenge myself. The least appealing aspect is when I do or have to do closing (it's as challenging with 3, or even just 2 people doing all the cleaning, tidying), but I just get on with it and in the end, go straight home. Over a year and 4 months later, I am still working at the food court, and to this day, I don't regret making this decision, whatsoever. Because I don't mind the work that I am doing, and as tiring and exhausting as it can get and all the hassle that comes with it, I focus on working my absolute best or hardest in doing it and getting paid for it but also communicating with my colleagues to achieve what needs to be done, work-wise. As the food court/cafe has fewer people working in this department, compared to say, front end, if there is say, 5 of us working, roughly we'd be doing double the amount of work of 10 people.

Oh, and unlike at McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, when we go home, our clothes don't smell of chip fat, grease and oil. 

There are things I'd implement and take out if I were in charge, to make our jobs easier: I'd make the prep/kitchen area bigger, so people can move around freely, take out the sink and replace it with a dishwasher to clean the pots, trays, utensils and put in massive booming speakers and a microphone/headset/pre-recorded voice machine where you press a button and it blares out, ''next member, please!'', whenever members are queuing to be served. It will save us time from shouting at the top of our lungs, and losing our voices in the process! Also, a- clean- as- you- go routine/policy, thus, by the end of the day there is less washing up and cleaning to do and so, people can finish and get out on time. 

As with any other job, as well as the sole perks, it comes with the downsides as in you have your bad days, as well as good ones: the food court/cafe has a high turnover rate with people coming and going, I've seen great workers come and go over the course of last year. Yet those who choose to stick it out and keep going, deserve to be applauded for their efforts. I've read and come across some horror stories and tales from ex-workers who practically loathed working in this department and in addition, some of the members can be difficult to deal with. 

''(The) food court has high turnover, due to people, baby boomer, millennial and Gen Y alike not being able to tolerate the amount of responsibility & work that goes into keeping one afloat & not cutting corners... I was the only one out of 4 new hires that lasted past their 90 days, 2 of which quit and one of which was let go, due to preferring to socialise and clique over doing any work'' - RTK9, reddit
''Way too stressful. Too many expectations and conflicting orders from managers. Hired with a bunch of new employees and we were all fired just before our 90 day probationary period ended. Worked my a** off everyday and still wasn't good enough. Pay is great but it wasn't worth the stress - I cried everyday before and after work'' - former employee, Glassdoor 

Like I said, I have my good days and bad ones, and whilst each day is never the same as the last, I enjoy the fact that I am in a role where I am utilising my existing skills, whilst gaining new ones along the way and whereby I feel as if I am achieving something by going out of my way and working tirelessly in doing so in this department. It's tough, it's challenging but I am up for it and probably see myself doing it until I retire, perhaps. 

Besides the pay and benefits, there are also the member compliments applauding my efforts, and I couldn't really ask for more than that. 

Thursday, 23 January 2020

10 Favourite Celine Dion Songs

By Waiching

Dubbed Quebec's answer to Whitney Houston, the bilingual Celine Dion is a gifted powerhouse pop vocalist performer and one of the most successful female recording artists of the past several decades. From a French-language teen music sensation in Canada and France, she has blossomed into an international pop superstar, whilst still remaining grounded in her roots. Come 1990, two years after winning the Eurovision song contest by representing Switzerland (which is a fact I still can't believe to this day), Celine released her first English language LP, Unison, and ever since then, her career in the 1990s into the early 2000s skyrocketed. Her third English offering, The Colour of My Love, which included hits in the Jennifer Rush cover, The Power of Love Think Twice, broke ground, selling 20 million worldwide and then came the follow-ups, such as 1996's Falling Into You (my favourite album of hers) that had great songs with notable hits, the meatloaf-inspired, It's All Coming Back To Me Now and If That's What It Takes. That album sold 32 million worldwide, followed by A New Day Has Come in 2002, whereby Celine released her first 2000s-based album and one that was arguably more adventurous, ambitious and sounding more versatile, outside of her norm. 

Those huge, overblown ballads, well, but for say 1997's My Heart Will Go On taken from the Titanic movie soundtrack, & I'd add perhaps the arid cover of Eric Carmen's All By Myself, have become profound and meaningful. Yet without regards to, she has come in for a lot of stick from critics and the equally sprawling masses, - with some accusing her of relying too much on pop & R&B conventions and for the excessive, over-the-top emoting and wabbling in her records. The disdain and ridicule of Celine from all quarters is mostly by virtue of her biggest and schmaltziest hit songs and their sentimentality lovey-dovey factor, which is the main complainant, that gets under people's skin. The term 'sentimental' means several things: sweet, tender, touching, poignant, sad... and there is the other end of the spectrum: adjectives in 'saccharine, syrupy, cringeworthy, corny, over-emotive', are often banded around by people with regards to Celine's love songs. It is quite the contrary with her Francophone releases whereby there is rarely an overbearing ballad in sight. Regardless, be it in French or English, whenever she sings, it is just too good. If people dug deep enough into her discography, they'd see to it there is more to Celine than just the 'Titanic song' that she is mostly well-known for. 

Celine Dion has been grouped in the same category as Whitney and Mariah Carey when it comes to power ballads and their powerfully rich and raw vocals & massive pipes dominated the bulk of 1990s Western pop music. For someone who didn't learn English until the late 1980s and of whom ultimately sang songs in English, and this helped her sell millions of records, this is quite an accomplishment coming from Celine. 

1. That's The Way It Is (1999); one of Celine's rarest, best and positive mid-tempo numbers, but also it is the much-needed welcome to her back catalogue, defying naysayers that she is not 'cool' enough to be able to embrace this current - or be it then latter 1990s- style of pop music, and alas, it represented a bold move for a singer who is predominately known for her ballads - and it paid off, brilliantly. It's lively, youthful, at the time of its release, That's The Way It Is was completely unanticipated from Celine, and by teaming up with the writers and producers behind the hits for Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, it thus resulted in another smash hit for the Canadian superstar.

''when you want it the most there's no easy way out, when you're ready to go and your heart's left in doubt, don't give up on your faith, love comes to those who believe it, and that's the way it is''

2. When The Wrong One Loves You Right (2001) - A New Day Has Come; this is almost in the similar vein to Everybody's Talkin' My Baby Down and to an extent, That's The Way It Is, only it is poppier, snappier, and, like the latter, it's a Max Martin production, courtesy of its catchier melodies and riffs. This should have been officially released as a single and through its production values, this was primed for radio airplay; if this had been the case, When The Wrong One... would have easily surged its way to the #1 spot. This is one of my personal favourites of hers.

''I can't stop, can't fight, can't resist it, when the wrong one loves you right (oh.... yeah), can't run, can't hide, can't say no, when the wrong one loves you right (oh...., when the wrong one loves you right'' 

3. Pour que tu m'aimes encore/If That's What It Takes (1995) - Falling Into You; French version, English version, it's still the same song, regardless, although I have a fondness for this one as Pour que tu m'ames encore, as Celine vocally sounds even more beautiful. I think in English, it feels more rosy, confident, uplifting, defiant, whilst in French, it is more emotive, touching and flowing. This is also her most memorable French song. 

''J'irai chercher ton coeur si tu I'emportes ailleurs, meme si dans tes danses d'autres dansent tes heures, jirai chercher ton ame dans les froids dans les flammes, je te jetterai des sorts pour que tu m'aimes encore''/''when the storm rises up, when the shadows descend, ev'ry beat of my heart, ev'ry day without end, ev'ry second I live, that's the promise I make, baby, that's what I'll give, if that's what it takes, if that's what it takes''

4. Everybody's Talkin' My Baby Down (1993) - The Colour of My Love; A mid-tempo New Jack Swing number and a second stab at R&B, following on from Love Can Move Mountains, Celine belts out this underrated classic (and that's classic as in oldie, but a goodie also) effortlessly. What more can I add, but that Everybody's Talkin'... is a fabulous song.

''momma says he's bad for me, poppa says I'll be sorry, everybody's talkin' my baby down, and all my friends doubt him, tell me I should live without him, everybody's talkin' my baby down''

5. Nothing Broken But My Heart (1992) - Celine Dion; Diane Warren is credited for this early Celine ballad and it is taken from her second English- language LP, the self-titled, Celine. As I get older, I appreciate this one far more than I did before. The ending gives me goosebumps, especially. Nothing Broken But My Heart could have been a corny-sounding pop ballad, - yet Celine Dion makes it so incredibly good with an emotionally powerful vocal performance.

''oh baby, since you left me, you might think that my world's been torn apart, but if you see me, baby you'll see that, nothing's broken but my heart''

6. The Power of Love (1993) - The Colour of My Love; There have been several versions of this song released and dotted around on YouTube, but Celine's cover is my favourite: I prefer her vocals over Jennifer Rush's (who did the original) and Laura Branigan's and the production in this one, which gives this track that extra kick, is even better. As power ballads go, they come no bigger than the likes of The Power of Love and there is no voice bigger than say Celine Dion's to deliver it in such rousing and immaculate fashion, as she does here. As the power ballad wears on, she ups the ante and with that, it granted Celine her first U.S #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart when it was released in 1994.

''....sometimes I am frightened but I'm ready to learn of the power of love''

7. Dreamin' of You (1995) - Falling Into You; this was released as a promo single in Mexico, but otherwise, it remained an album only track. Dreamin' of You was penned by Aldo Nova, who was also responsible for the chart-topper, A New Day Has Come. It is without question, one of her finest, as well as musically & lyrically sweeping songs, ever and is yet another highlight from the brilliant, Falling Into You LP.

''you're the one I'm dreaming of, I can't live without your love, tonight, and it's you that I adore, you're the one I live for, inside, of you, I'm dreamin' of you''

8. Think Twice (1993) - The Colour of my Love; This was Celine's biggest ballad hit, years before My Heart Will Go On took over that mantle. When Think Twice spent several weeks at #1 in the UK, I got sick of listening to it. But these days, over the last 2 decades, it appears that the latter (IMO) was overrated, whilst the former was and still is underrated one should think twice (see what I did there) before ignoring this one. Part soft-rock, part- adult contemporary pop, I'll take this song over 1997's (virtually insufferable) classic that was on the soundtrack to the movie, Titanic.

''don't say what you're about to say, look back before you leave my life, be sure before you closed that door, before you roll those dice, baby think twice''

9. Somebody Loves Somebody (2013) - Loved Me Back To Life; taken from her 11th English studio album, it sounds very modern & in line with the current, or be it then-current music scene, it deserved a music video, as well as a single release. By evoking such raw emotion, it sounds radically different from the stuff she has put out in the 1990s and early 2000s. But in the snappy, fresh & curious -yet unwavering, Somebody Love Somebody, it just shows that Celine can produce a song, and one with a catchy chorus to boot, that can attract and appeal towards both younger and older fans.

''when somebody loves somebody, that's the way it's supposed to be, 'cause you know nobody else would put up with your games, oh, I don't believe you, lover, you don't wanna go, no, that's not the way it is when somebody loves somebody''


10. Did You Give Enough Love (1992) - Celine Dion; Another early 1990s Celine R&B jam but also a very rare one too, before she became the big star that she is today, with the singer trying something different to what we usually expect from her. It is very unexpected - and still, it majestically works. The music video is a little reminiscent of Madonna's Erotica with Celine looking demure and its Black & White footage. This is a gem of a bop for sure. 

''did you give enough love, did you show that you cared? when I needed understanding were you really there? Whenever I was down, did you try to pick me up? Maybe you should ask yourself, did you give enough love? Did you give enough love?''

*Honourable Mentions: Destin, Misled, Because You Loved Me, Little Bit of Love, I'm Your Angel, Treat Her Like A Lady (feat. Diana King & Brownstone), A New Day Has Come (Radio remix), Where Does My Heart Beat Now, Only One Road, Next Plane Out, Real Emotion, Love Doesn't Ask Why, Lovin' Proof, Love Can Move Mountains, Water From The Moon, River Deep Mountain High, Falling Into You, It's All Coming Back To Me Now, Miles to Go (Before I Sleep), Where is the Love?, Makes You Happy, Right In Front of Me, Rain, Tax (It's Inevitable), Super Love, Aun existe amor, Love Is All We Need, Your Light, On ne change pas, I'm Alive, If You Asked Me To, Coulda Woulda Shoulda, Goodbye's The Saddest Word, Des mots qui sonnet, Have a Heart
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