The Game

I wrote this post for my two best friends and my girl. Inspired by their resilience and the trueness of their hearts and minds. Alongsude thoughts of other close friends I have, who I treasure so dearly. Written in solidarity for people I care about who are affected by the hidden unfairness that is so often overlooked and ignored. I sent this for them to read and asked for their permission in posting. These realities feeling important to share. These normal stories of real people who have to live and work within the game. The game that you make a choice “to play or not to play.”

I choose to play my own version that comes with truth and love. 

My girl sent me a video of her singing at the cabaret night. An amazing achievement given every thing she has been fighting with. Still looking so frail but improvement every week even if not at the rate and speed required. But balancing the various practicalities, emotions within the world she is currently trying to inhabit. A world she had such high hopes and expectations for but is nothing like she thought. Some say that uni was the best years of their life. Were they crying  out for freedom or was it just that same right of passage that they knew.  A path that is laid out for them. She being the first on that path. Entering a world that wasn’t familiar in their shared ways of being. Their freedoms in being around others like them creates her restriction. It’s not always easy. 

From further investigation and exploration it has become clear that going to uni has  been the first point of trigger for her illness which was exacerbated by the illness and death of her grandad who she was so close to. But her isolation in this world resulted in a trigger for control. Her life now comes with so many challenges  but she is fighting hard in all of it and it makes me so very proud of who she is. It feels much easier when she is back in the safety of home. Where she able to  say how she is really feeling and talk openly about what feels hard for her. A constant connection of reassurance helps her to manage it but she always has a calendar that tracks when she will be home. A conflict in wanting to live life and do something she loves against wanting to be where she feels safe and happy. “I’m a London girl” she always says. “That’s where I belong”. Especially at home and around family and friends where she feels loved and cared for, in all the wonderful things that make her the person she is. Knowing and understanding exactly what this different version takes for her In all her quiet, gentle, sensitive and thoughtful ways. Where all her fun comes to life. Her differences feeling so much bigger in being surrounded by a crowd that feel the same.

Her difficulty in being able to connect to the other professional support around her. Feeling that they make assumptions and judgements based on their way of being which looks and feels so different to her version. “They just don’t get it” she says. Different worlds create different people. Placed in a box that looks nothing like her version and leaves her feeling like an alien. But in her own world she fits very easily without having to try or become what she doesn’t wish to be. There’s a skill I think in trying to understand what another’s world looks like. A skill that I think many but certainly not all of these professionals lack. Their one size fits all approach because their version of one size is very often the sane one size version of the majority. 
Her ways shown to me so clearly in the book that she put together for me with so much time and care. Finding and calling on help from those she knows who are important and matter  to me. I will  write about that another time. But it showed so much to me in who she is and what feels important for her. But at uni she struggles more. Finding it hard to make any real and meaningful connections. A girl whose kindness had always made her lots of friends. But living in a different version that  she often finds difficult to trust. “There’s so much Fake” she says. “Welcome to the game” I think. 

I guess in a world of performing arts where you are surrounded by lots of performers it will always come with a lot of pretence. She loves to sing and dance where others just want to be successful and famous. Different drivers indeed which require very different attributes. She quietly progresses and shares her excitement in moments where she sees and feels her own progression and growth. Lovely moments when she grows in a little more confidence. Her potential in not having that same prior training sees her natural ability growing at a faster rate and sometimes overtaking others. But as we often talk about, she is trying to focus on herself. No need to compare. You do what you do and let them do theirs. But it can feel hard when others do the comparing. Especially as she isn’t one to big herself up in the crowd. The louder voices being seen that can make her doubt the magic that she holds. That inner confidence slowly rising and falling in different moments. But she keeps on trying. Sometimes looking for reassurance from people she knows who just love her. Nothing required for that. 

Without question this feels like a transitional period for her. She is at her happiest every time she returns home. Able to just relax and be herself. No need to conform to any version beyond “ just be you. YOU is wonderful” The loneliness in being surrounded by lots of people who she struggles to join in with. That leaves me feeling very sad In knowing that anyone would be lucky to have her as a friend. She’s the kindest and most caring person you could ever know. She would  help anyone. But she keeps working hard to try to find people she can relate to and find the happiness she so wants and needs,  in amongst it all. Finding moments of fun which helps. She lacks the loudness required for the crowd and can easily feel very lost in it. But she tries everyday for happiness. She feels lucky for the opportunity and it provides her purpose. I often wish she would just come hone. I only ever want her to be happy. I guess this is her battle and. I have to let her fight and overcome it. I often think she is happier when she does her little shift in Greggs on a Saturday morning where she  chats to customers as she serves them their sausage rolls.

Yesterday, I was feeling a frustration at work that comes from a usual place for me. Disappointment that comes from my high expectations of others. Especially those on lots of money who don’t deliver value for that price tag. Should I lower those expectations? Life and experiences tell me I should, but I never expect what I’m not willing to give. It made me think of my friend K who said she always  feels like she could be doing more. The fact that thought crosses her mind tells me just how much she gives. A person who really cares. A very beautiful and valuable quality for me as a friend and I imagine those she helps. Why then does it seem to have so much less value in the game.

When I returned to work I was told not to feel any stress or anxiety but within three weeks finding myself in the usual position of having to clear up the mess that was created by others further up the chain during my absence. Only this time I’m feeling less understanding and forgiving. And no longer  wishing to knock myself out for others who  don’t care. Saving what I have for the things and people who really matter to me. No longer willing to take the strain for all those  people that get paid an awful lot of money and aren’t doing what they are being paid for. The slippery fish who never get caught because they have the ability to wriggle out of anything and still come out looking like they are amazing. While others further down the food chain pick up the consequences of their mess and find solutions to fix their fuck ups. The people further up who are full of bullshit and arrogance. The big “I am’s who spend their time having their egos stoked in order to prop up the lesser version that actually exists. But usually  find their success off the back of people who are actually more capable and have more. People who care, take responsibility and get stuff done. I guess we could all be a slippery fish. They’re laughing aren’t they, in all their success as they use each other and other people to get where they want to. But they are also arseholes. (Well every now and then you find the proper gems amongst them but they are so rare) Can’t say I ever feel inspired to follow the slippery fish way. Don’t love money or arseholes enough to want to rub shoulders in their world. I would have to sell my soul for it as opposed to sometimes losing it in moments like yesterday when I am reminded how this game of life and work is played. I’d rather feel a proudness in who I am, have less, but be surrounded by genuine and lovely people. 
It left me thinking about two of my best friends who in different ways have been treated so rubbishy by their workplaces. 

L who worked tirelessly and with dedication through the whole pandemic as she covered for other people being paid more by using all the better skills she has but isn’t paid for and having to constantly step in to ensure things kept running. Picking up for others that were very often treated with favouritism. The you rub my back I’ll rub yours crew. And of course what does she get for all her efforts. Nothing! Being treated with a lack of care or appreciation for all the time she has conscientiously worked hard and cared. While others who didn’t give a shit come up safe and secure and smelling  of roses. Usual story! I’ve worked too many years to know how it all works. There is no loyalty or appreciation. But it still makes me angry to see my wonderful friend being treated so shabbily. Just because she doesn’t play the game of the slippery fish. Because she is clever and decent and kind and hard working and she cares. Because she cares about those around her and wants to always help. And do a really good job. Because she values loyalty and will always try her hardest to be the kind of person that you would want to work with. She is the sort of person I would wish to be. But if she complains or challenges it is just seen negatively. Because it’s taken for granted that she does what she does without receiving back any appreciation or care in return. Rocking their little boat that they sit comfortably in while she does the work. 
Well I certainly care. I know her value. Could not feel luckier in having her as a bestie (my person). Could not have felt luckier when I worked with her. That golden time. That time when we looked out for each other rather than just ourselves. She has a way of making a person feel like they really matter and her thoughtfulness has no limits. A person full of the really inspiring stuff. 

And then my other friend M who found herself being discriminated against at the heart of that perfect little world I’ve heard about. And sadly proved right  in my lack of surprise in knowing how it looks beneath the surface in hearing what it has looked like for her. Being told In the glossy diversity and inclusivity brochure that interview panels would now be representative of  diversity. In reality finding herself being interviewed by 3 white people in a middle class world. Knowing my friend as I do and  having worked with her for four years I know how qualified she is for this internal promotion. Easily. The hard working Oxford grad with loads of experiences in both work and life. None of which held any weight in blatant racial discrimination, as the young white girl without similar credentials but who who plays the game and is a favourite amongst similar was given special projects in advance of this promotional selection. Projects that would provide her with  the specific requirement of the role, that provided her with an unfair advantage. The same young white girl who had been fast tracked through the ranks and ended up getting the job. Leaving my friend so upset by the unfairness of this age old problem. With very good reason. To hear the words she used to describe how it made her feel upset me so much inside, and has left me fuming ever since. Because despite all the marketing and the fake smiles and politically correct comments  this is still how it really looks behind the scenes in its reality. She is bloody wonderful. Amazing I’m so many ways. A person who spends her time working really hard as opposed to schmoozing. One of life’s total treasures in all her Clever and Kindness. Hearing her wonder how much time it would take to wash the colour from her skin. What a disgrace that she is left to feel that way behind that facade of being equal and inclusive. Hidden decisions outside of the process that created hidden unfairness but allows them to cover their tracks and justify decisions. 
We all know how this game works as they made sure  they got who they wanted for that internal promotion. As for my very talented and hard working friend  who doesn’t play that game, I would like to tell these people how  beautiful her skin is. That her cultural background forms so much of her wonderful, through her religious beliefs, her importance in family and her accepting and warm and kind way that makes me feel so very lucky to call her a bestie. Her beauty that lies on the surface and within. Again she is made of the stuff  that actually inspires me. A person that has always been there for me in good times and bad She has felt unable to complain until she leaves for fear of how she will be treated in the meantime. But leaving she is. Who wants to live and work in that world.  Finding a new role in a more diverse place where she doesn’t have to worry about conforming to a version that allows her to be there but doesn’t want her to overtake. Instead she can be exactly who she is in all her wonderful in a place where hopefully she will feel more valued for all that she brings. 

To say I’m angry in seeing my friends treated in these ways is an understatement. Unfortunately age and experience has shown me a lot in how this game works  and I’ve felt very jaded from that. The superficial version I hear doesn’t really cut it for me. It’s all hidden behind gloss and fake smiles and presence. Less cynical and more just keeping it real. A real that when you get older can easily see you being labelled as bitter. I think I’m too far gone to feel bitter. It’s more a disappointment that I replace by being around people I love and who love me back and playing no part in those games. Instead just trying to live my life in a way that feels right and makes me feel like me.

In the end actions always speak louder than words for me. I’ve had my eyes opened in so many ways in how some people treat others, especially through that previous chapter. 
And why I often struggle now to always see the beauty in everything and everyone. Realising, that was a  beautiful fantasy world  that I had created in my own mind when in the real world it doesn’t deliver in the same  beautiful way.

But in our smaller worlds that we create, where our game is called LOVE and CARE, it will always be beautiful. 


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