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  • Writer's pictureKerry Chambers

'I Am Here, Not Over There': How I've Miraculously Survived the Miserable Return to the Workplace

Updated: Aug 29, 2020

This won't be a long post. I'm a little tired to be honest, and want to spend some more time considering my upcoming opinion piece. Next week I intend to post another top list; I have some kind of plan although I don't know it yet. Right now, long shifts and writing filling my every free moment, I barely have room in my brain to form an opinion on anything else. What a week...

Wallowing by Tamaki Suoh (OHSHC, 2006)

The good news is that I'm resisting the temptation to go back to my old ways. The exhausted, forlorn sack of uninspired nerves is still sitting on the bench with what appears to be no chance of stepping onto the pitch any time soon. You see, I've not let the return to work beat me. No matter how relentless the hours, the sweat, the headaches and the tedious repetitive work not to mention the flea bites (I might get sued if I elaborate but what a first week it has been...)

When I'm not writing I fill my time with guilt-free Gintama and reading. The latter I am most excited for, like something awoke inside once again. Currently every time I open a door within me I am pleasantly surprised by what I find. Old loves all exciting and new. Because my greatest love affairs have always been with stories. And now I refuse to let those ebb away into nowt.

I am both Hijkata and Gintoki (Gintama, 2006)

In fact, one of the great and always unexpected pleasures in the world is discovering something new that leaves that same giddy excitement you felt when you were thirteen and overwhelmingly moved by everything you touched. It is why life is never quite as disappointing as it can seem and why I hold faith in the creature, Fate. Fate works it's little wonders all the time. Fate handed me a novel I never intended to read anytime soon by an author I was wary of - his name appears bigger than the title on all his books, he's that famous.

The book was Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.

I'd put him off for so long, and as time passed so did my suspicion that I would only be disappointed. I feared pretension, ridiculous youthful melancholy. Yet I found nothing of the sort in it's pages. Instead? A spell-binding story that transcended time and worlds, crossing the sea thousands of miles only to discover that we are no different at all. A story that has spoken to so many and for a good reason, making me long for a life I hadn't lived. Loss, love and the murky waters of youth, a youth I had never experienced, all felt so real. Ten pages in and I cared so very much. Set against the backdrop of 1969 and oozing with relevance and fabulous pop culture, I ended up listening to every song referenced, and more importantly to The Beatles beautifully whimsical song, of which the title of the book refers:

I once had a girl

Or should I say she once had me

She showed me her room

Isn't it good Norwegian wood?

That novel was everything I needed in this first week. To compliment my own work, to carry me through the dread of getting out the front door everyday and better yet, to reaffirm my own existence and beliefs. Finishing it within two days, staying up late to finish chapters only to find I had started another one, thinking about the characters as I mopped up piss and wondering what would happen next... I fell hopelessly for it.

Late nights, no regrets (Terror in Resonance, 2014)

The best kind of literature. An exhilarating read full of beautiful prose, brilliant arcs and wonderfully fleshed out characters. Part of me wonders, as I teeter on the edge of reality and delusion, whether I knew them in person. Heard them tell me their tale late one night over a glass of something strong and bitter, as though I was their life line to the world beyond, their last hope, in the desperate attempt to understand the existence they'd been handed.

It was heart-breaking, eye-opening... all the 'ings'.

“No truth can cure the sorrow we feel from losing a loved one. No truth, no sincerity, no strength, no kindness can cure that sorrow. All we can do is see it through to the end and learn something from it, but what we learn will be no help in facing the next sorrow that comes to us without warning.” - Norwegian Wood

There are ways out, I keep thinking to myself. Ways I can cope with all this never-ending tedium. Through my own projects, the trusty notebook in my pocket at work. In the book I bury my head in on the commute and late at night. In the film or show I lose myself in the evening. There is light in all the smothering darkness.

Glued to my TV screen (Cowboy bebop, 1998)

I'm thinking of these fictional characters even now, wondering where they would be in all this, hoping they are doing well and looking after themselves. I like the blurring of the two realms, as though they are my secret allies in a universe only I can access. My mind wanders at work, all the time now, and it is this place I go. As though each page I devoured was torn, one by one from the bindings of this simple paperback and sealed around my heart, encasing it in something firm and safe; filled with each delicious word chosen by Murakami, soulful ideas and undulating sentiment. Better yet, each word is unravelled to a fine thread and stitched across my soul, repairing each tear and fray with crooked but heartfelt care. To think a book can do all that.

Me after reading Norwegian Wood (Blue Spring Ride, 2016)

And now, truly, nothing else matters, but the stories in my head and the people I care most for in the world. the strangers, the rudeness, the arrogance (the constant resistance when told to wear a mask for five minutes!), they're nothing. They don't matter to me, I don't matter to them. It's insignificant.

Taking one day at a time, treating every day with a sense of purpose gets one through all that. Also, not allowing my current job to give me purpose; repetitive, dull and demeaning as it is. I hope now we can see, through the struggles we went through over the past few months, that art is what held us together, united us and reminded us of the life pumping through our veins.

“But who can say what's best? That's why you need to grab whatever chance you have of happiness where you find it, and not worry about other people too much. My experience tells me that we get no more than two or three such chances in a life time, and if we let them go, we regret it for the rest of our lives.”- Norwegian Wood

Another gushing post about not much I guess... But as Toru Watanabe states in the first chapter as he begins to pen his tale, he is writing “...To think. To understand. It just happens to be the way I'm made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.” It has to come out somewhere and when it does, we can move on. I'm over this first week, I'm so over it. But that is thanks to a little book about life and death, I got on with it. What a week...

I feel ya Misato... Kaji tho (NGE, 1995)

(This is not one big advertisement, I really do recommend it: available to buy here)

Image List:

Blue Spring Ride. (2014). Directed by Ai Yoshimura. [DVD]. US: Sentai Works

Cowboy Bebop Complete Collection. (2014). Directed by Shinchiro Watanabe. [DVD].

Gintama. (2006-2018). Directed by Various. [DVD]. UK: Unknown

Neon Genesis Evangelion. (1995) Directed by Hideaki Anno. [DVD]. UK: Manga Entertainment.

Ouran High School Host Club. (2006). Directed by Takuya Igarashi. [DVD]. UK: Manga Entertainment

Terror in Resonance. (2014). Directed by Shinichiro Watanabe. [DVD]. UK: All the Anime

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