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i've been struggling to write this post because i wasn't sure i could sufficiently articulate the heaviness of my thoughts. nor was i sure i was ready for people to know the depths of the darkness that has been occupying my mind for months now. they say we never share 80% of the thoughts that consume us, so i guess this is my attempt at doing just that.

despite having written on this topic before, i have never done so with as much emotion as i am currently experiencing. when i was in Tasmania in the new year, i found myself obsessing over death. as we drove around the beautiful countryside of Tassie, my mind was swallowed by the heaviness of death. i never really allow myself to 'go there' - to really think about what happens after we die, because doing so is enough to make me sick to my stomach. i am, and always have been, petrified of death. i feel paralysed by the finality of it. the fact that we have no idea what happens, the fact that there might not be 'anything else' literally scares the shit out of me. and i don't know how to shake these feelings.

for most of our lives, we're ignorant to the inevitability of not just our own demise, but the demise of others. they say ignorance is bliss, and perhaps it is. because i can guarantee the thoughts and feelings that have been dominating my heart and mind for the past six weeks have been nothing less than debilitating.

i have recently had family and friends who have lost their Mum/Mom and it has made me think about my own parents. about how fortunate i am to still have them around, but also how terrified i am to live any part of my life without them. to lose my Dad, the man who i literally go to for everything - for every question, for every pain, for every support. and to lose my Mum, the light not just in my life, but in so many others' too. the person who i rely on in every way that you rely on a Mum - i genuinely cannot, nor do i want to, imagine a life without either of them.

but that's inevitable. because death is inevitable. and i cannot wrap my head around how nonchalant we are about something so significant, something so final. how does this fear not cripple anyone else?

we are so detached in society around the topic of death - we minimise people's lives to a headline in the paper, "man shot by dog". we deal with the dying as "it's a part of life" - but are people truly aware of what happens when someone dies? are they not overwhelmed by the reality of never seeing nor speaking to that individual again? and are people not afraid of this for their own life?

this topic occupies so much of my mind that i became a vegetarian over a year ago purely because i cannot bear the thought of an animal dying, let alone to eat something that has died. the thought that that animal is no longer, that its family will never interact with it again, is honestly both heartbreaking and sickening because it again makes me think about my life and the lives of those closest to me.

they say the only way to truly live is to be able to accept our own mortality. and i fear that if i can never get a handle on my own mortality, if i can't learn to accept the inevitability of everyone, i'll never truly be able to live. all i know is that right now, i'm a fucking mess thinking about all of this.

so, what occupies your mind?

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when was the last time someone asked you, "how are you, really?" every day, true to the Aussie culture, we typically say "hey how's it going?" but the question is often fleeting. it's a question asked out of societal politeness rather than genuine curiosity. as a result, the question is frequently answered robotically, "good thanks, how are you doing?" and sometimes, the question might not even be acknowledged.

i've always struggled to answer this question because i never know what the person asking is actually asking. do you mean, how am i in this moment? or do you mean, how have i been? and even then, i wonder, do people want the superficial, positive response? or are they actually seeking the truth? the struggles, fears, and insecurities hiding behind the convenient, surface-level replies?

how many times do we also answer this question with things we've been doing rather than things we've been feeling? "yeah i've been well thanks, just busy catching up on x y z." i think we opt for this response because the truth of our feelings are often perceived as too much for the person asking. you'll see it and hear it in their reaction, "oh...i didn't want to know all that, i was just being polite and trying to start a conversation."

when i was waitressing, i liked to challenge these social norms. if i was having a particularly difficult time, i would honestly tell the guests i was serving. there were times i couldn't hold back tears because i was struggling so much with something in my life. is that unprofessional? possibly. but it's only unprofessional because we've become addicted to superficiality. my response and raw emotion is actually human; admitting my feelings regardless of my environment. we've been conditioned to be 'strong', to put our feelings aside to get the job done. but at what point do we bring our feelings to the forefront? at what point do we discuss the crippling fears and insecurities so many of us are facing right now, but aren't sharing with anyone?

we live in a fast-paced, high-tech world where we run on autopilot. it's also a world where we don't stop to ask people what's really going on in their lives. recent conversations with a few people have highlighted that so many of us are experiencing very similar feelings - feelings of being lost, of not knowing our purpose, of questioning our life and our direction, a feeling of wanting to do more but not knowing how or what to do. this perpetual feeling of directionless can be debilitating, demotivating, and also extremely isolating when we think everyone else has their shit together. but i can almost guarantee that most people are experiencing similar feelings, we will just never know because we never see or hear about it. sharing your fears and insecurities won't magically make them disappear, but it might just connect you to something, people, that can keep you grounded until you do find your way. feeling lost can be both overwhelming and underwhelming simultaneously, but it's a lot easier to manage when you feel lost with someone by your side.

so, when was the last time you asked someone, "how are you, really?"

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over the past couple of weeks, i have started a job and quit and i've had a trial shift in which i never contacted the organisation again. so what went wrong?

my recent experiences within the hospitality industry have reinforced that so many organisations are run poorly. despite these businesses apparent success (defined by popularity and earnings), their staff are not happy. so what made me quit a job after only two weeks of working there? a few things.

having worked for a company for 3.5 years and never hearing a slither of gratitude or appreciation from the owner, i am very conscious of working in environments in which i do not feel valued. this place reeked of a similar experience. the job advertised, and the job i trialled for, was for 20-25 hours as a barista. for two weeks i worked 15 hours across four days doing everything but making coffees. red flag number one: lack of integrity and alignment with actions and words. red flag number two: lack of respect for my time.

almost every shift i worked, my shift was cut short. i even rocked up on a saturday where tables needed to be cleared and wiped to be told to sit down for 15mins because they "weren't that busy". this is a place that makes ridiculous money. but they are very conservative with wages. my role, it seemed, was to come in and work tirelessly for two-three hours, and be sent home the minute things died down. i understand hospitality occasionally needs people to work these 'rockstar' shifts, and i've been that rockstar for many years when i first started working, but i'm an experienced, competent worker who doesn't need to 'work my way up' nor prove myself.

the worst part though wasn't necessarily the hours, it was the lack of acknowledgement and thanks. the lack of awareness that this wasn't the agreed upon arrangement. the lack of value. what incentive do i have to slave away for a business who doesn't respect me as a person or employee? the answer is none.

the trial shift at another very successful business had other problems. not only were some of the systems incredibly inefficient, but there was no receptiveness to asking questions. when i queried something, the response was "oh no, we don't do that here." but why not? unlike the other cafe, this place was overstaffed. and the staff looked like they were operating out of fear; they were stiff and tense and conversing with them felt brief and abrupt. it didn't take me long to learn why - they were being micromanaged. because there were so many staff on, they felt they always needed to be doing something. this resulted in them 'hovering' around tables, clearing dishes before individuals finished their last mouthful just to appear busy and productive. the supervisor on duty kept asking me, "have you taken an order from this table?" or "have you bite checked that table?" well no, the fourth person on that table still doesn't have their food. there's a big difference between attention to detail and intrusive service, this place operated on the latter.

the systems and hours are something that can sometimes be overlooked, but only when the connections to your peers are significant. what i found most startling at both these organisations is the lack of interest in me, as a coworker and as a person. in any environment, the first interaction with a new employee or teammate is critical. it sends so many belonging cues to this individual about what the environment is about. is it safe? is it warm? is it welcoming? do i belong here? am i valued? it seems though, that many organisations neglect this opportunity.

so what are some of the most important things to do with a new coworker or teammate? i've written about some of these things in how to make people feel valued, but i'll touch specifically on new individuals in environments.

  1. make an effort. new environments are scary. they're overwhelming. individuals are often nervous; they're wanting to make a good impression. take the focus off their novelty by getting to know them. find out where they worked (or what team they've played for). get a gauge for their ability to also assist in the way you communicate with them. nothing is more condescending than being treated like a fool in something that might be your speciality.

  2. offer them a uniform. nothing feels more isolating than being the only individual in a black shirt when everyone else is wearing white. if you have a uniform, give them one straight away. or in the interim, ask your staff to loan them one of theirs. looking the part helps make you feel like you belong.

  3. say thank you. and say it often. people need to feel like they're valued. they need to feel appreciated. for individuals to enjoy work, which in turn benefits your business, they need to feel like they matter. like they have an incentive to give their best every day. when efforts are overlooked, incentive goes missing and so too will your staff.

  4. reinforce behaviour. see something you like? say so! see someone working hard? acknowledge it! humans aren't robots - they need praise. they need to know their efforts aren't going unnoticed. and if you ever want to 'criticise' behaviour, you have to be willing to reinforce it too.

  5. check in. i can't emphasise this enough! ask them how they're finding the new environment. see if they have any questions or problems. this communicates that you care about their wellbeing and that you want them to feel safe. it also allows for any confusion with the current arrangement to be rectified.

  6. get to know them outside of work. this ties into point one - make an effort. work can sometimes be too busy to have a chat, but that doesn't mean you don't have opportunities to connect. what that does mean is you might have to invest a little time into getting to know them. staying for an extra 30mins to have a chat. extending an invite to an event. people want to feel included - it's not on the individual to invite themselves, it's on the environment to do that.

the last point i have is about addressing conflict - this needs to be done in person. and if, heaven forbid, it is done via message, there needs to be acknowledgement that whatever mistake was made, wasn't intentional. passive aggressive messages are never received well nor do they resolve the issue, so just don't. what these messages also do is catalyse the chasm between employee and employers, creating contempt for the latter. employers are human too, so don't be afraid to acknowledge that.

humans are complex, but our needs are not. it's really not that hard to treat people well. if you work on the aforementioned points, i guarantee your employees will be happier.

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