My partner Peter and I spent most of this weekend in a frenzy of DIY-ing and de-cluttering, with an emphasis on the latter. We live in a small two-bedroom flat near Waterloo and, in a matter of weeks, will be joined by my good friends Richard and Justin, and their dog Crumpet, emigrating from New York. To make this living arrangement conceivable for any length of time, a lot of crap had to go.
And not before time.
As many who read my blog will know, I’ve spent much of the past two-and-a-half years in protracted legal proceedings against my former employers. And as anyone who has ever been involved in litigation will know, that means an awful lot of paper work.
The litigation officially finished at the end of October. There has never been any moment when I have felt any air-punching triumph from this long and draining process, nor even, to be honest, any certain conclusion at all. I’m yet to be convinced that the fallout (emotional, physical, financial) – from being unfairly dismissed and fighting to clear my name – will ever be truly finished.
I’m yet to be convinced that the fallout will ever be truly finished, but there have been an accumulation of moments of relief
But there have been an accumulation of moments of relief – the moment when I knew I wouldn’t have to return to court; the moment when I at last saw I had money in the bank to pay off my debts; the moment when I welcomed in the new year without the dread of having to spend another minute dealing with more lawyers (and the worry of how much each one of those minutes added to my debt).
I think it’s best described as a sort of gradual letting out of breath, a means of sighing your way back into a life worth living – punctuated by the occasional sharp intakes that are the inevitable bad days that come along.
But this weekend allowed me another letting-out moment: that paperwork! The paperwork around my case included three big boxes of looseleaf sheets – a jumble of A4 and US letter-size paper – from a Freedom of Information subject access request. A year’s worth of email print-outs and other documents.
All the critical files have long been pored over, analysed, digitized and ruled upon, but still these physical boxes have been gathering dust and cobwebs and taking up precious space in my personal life. Not anymore! We hauled them to the dump yesterday and tipped them, with great glee, into yawning skips for recycling.
I also – literally – wiped the slate clean in our spare room-cum-home office. Well, the white board anyway. In the lead-up to my tribunal hearing in September 2014, we had a visit from one of my best friends from home and, without me knowing, she left me a note of encouragement on the board.
That started a trend: as the months passed, and the litigation dragged on and on, it became a sort of affirmations board where Peter and my friends would write messages to cheer me on. Their love and support worked. I would often stand in front of that board and re-read their words aloud to myself to urge myself not to give up. If they believed in me, how could I give up?
But now it’s time for a(nother) fresh start. So I took a picture and erased the board, taking it back to pristine white, ready to be written on again. Something new, something good.
By the way, during all this de-cluttering, Peter came across a box of photographs from his (bad hair) teenaged youth, which he’s been madly scanning and posting on Facebook, while regaling me with anecdotes of yore.
These past three years have created an enormous wall between me and my former life that’s almost impossible to see over anymore. I know there has been great happiness in my past, but I feel impossibly distant from it, as if it no longer relates to me and who I am now
I’ve listened but not reciprocated, I’ve just chucked things ruthlessly. This is odd because, ordinarily, I’m the more sentimental one. However, nostalgia has been another one of the things I’ve lost since my legal battle.
It’s like these past three years have created an enormous wall between me and my former life that’s almost impossible to see over anymore, not least because many of the people from that past disassociated themselves as a result of my leaving WhatsOnStage. I know there has been great happiness in my past, but I feel impossibly distant from it, as if it no longer relates to me and who I am now. I think this is also why I’ve cancelled a planned trip back to the States for my college reunion in June.
But I don’t feel too sad about these things. I’m still letting out that breath, concentrating on what I’ve got in front of me today and what I need to do to build a future that will make these difficult times feel distant and unrelated.