One Year Later

I really don't know how to best start this entry. I'm dreading it. I feel it is important for me to write it down because of it and because it affected and still affects me. I've been pushing it away from me for weeks now, I started writing something, but didn't feel like I wanted to write - talk about it. 

Today however, I don't know what's different or why I finally have come back here to continue what I wanted to to originally. The past weeks I have kind of woken up from this dreading. I wrote the first episode for a webseries I had long started to create characters and backgrounds; I'm about to shoot this particular episode soon and hopefully it won't turn out as shitty as I fear it possibly could as I never really filmed something like this on my own before. 

But this is another topic, and I'll keep you all updated.

 

What I wanted to write about, what I need to tell is a personal loss I'm still coping with, at least inside of me. And those who have ever felt the unconditional love of an animal, a pet, a soul, know how hard this is.

 

But let me start from the beginning. Because, as typically with me: it's been a long time since I posted something here...

 

They say the first year is the hardest. And it was, in a lot of ways. I am not even starting on that 'new in a foreign country/different language' stuff because that's a quotidian thing which one grows into anyway. And I did. You somehow find a job to not get completely broke, then you find a better job you can actually survive on; especially in one of the most expensive cities in the world. You move into another place where everything looks more promising and uplifting then where you literally crashed before. 

About half a year later, this all settled and I could start with being creative again, at that time mainly focussing on writing.

In all this time, I had to look after not only me but my precious little, by then 12-year-old fur baby. She's my everything, my world, my baby, my anchor that kept me somehow above the surface when I felt like drowning because life itself got too heavy. She is my furry little soulmate with cat ears. 

 

This January we moved to that new place; only a couple months afterwards, she became sick.

It looked like her breathing was more laboured than usual, so I made an appointment at the nearest vet which luckily are a another branch of the one we were before in Streatham Hill and which are an amazing lot of people. 

At the vet, they found liquid inside her chest. They drained off some milky fluid - and it was quite a lot they removed. To see where it came from, we were transferred to Streatham Hill as they had the necessary examination equipment in-house. 

Both vets took samples, they checked her heart, her chest. 

Nothing.

The end result was: idiopathic chylothorax. Which basically means liquid in chest without known cause.

Apart from a heart disease, a trauma or cancer can cause this issue and a few other reasons. Sometimes it appears and disappears just as quickly even. If not, we could go on draining as long as she was fine, and as long as the fluid didn't come back too fast.

Otherwise there wasn't much that could be done except more scans and surgery, if even just to have a thorough look through her chest. 

 

So there was this bit of hope I clinged to.

The next time we needed to drain her again was roughly ten days after this first draining. And again it was already a lot. I counted her breathing throught the days, and as soon as it became quicker and laboured again, we knew that it was time again to go to the vet. 

She always stayed calm, even while being drained, no sedation needed. A perfect little patient. 

The draining frequency was about every week. I decided to talk to a specialist too see if they would find anything that helped determine another option for treatment.

They did a CT scan but couldn't find anything else. The next option would have been another type of scan or - and whoever has or had a pet knows just how expensive vets visits are, and now imagine what we've done and tried so far! - just surgery, where they would have had that thorough look through her chest and if they found something, they could treat it right away. (And yes, in this case it would have been an open chest surgery, and fyi this is around 4,000£. And no, I didn't have a pet insurance because for 12 years she was perfectly healthy. So another fyi: even when your pet is healthy, get an insurance, just to be on the safe side if anything should happen.)

 

We went home and I thought about it. All my heart wanted to do the surgery, my head was calculating in regards to my future finances. We needed to drain her twice a week by then. 

All the vets we visited and talked to were incredible and sympathetic and made sure I understood everything, from the procedures, to the illness, to our options, and were honest in their opinions about the chances.

 

Draining fluids of the chest frequently means also that necessary nutrients, proteins and all, were drained from the body as well, slowly but steady being dehydrated. 

 

I was working mainly night shifts at that time, especially when she became so sick. She was incredibly strong and calm until the end. On that one Sunday, when we needed to drain again - she was usually fine for some days and then quite from one day to the other her breathing was laboured again - we went to Streatham Hill, pretty much at the end of the vets shift. 

I didn't think the moment would just be there. Suddenly. The vet saying that it only could get worse and she's been so strong and I've already had done as much as I could. And he said what others had said every now and then at visits: the chances for her to get well again are low. Especially as on the last two or three visits the vets felt some mass somewhere between her belly and her chest.

 

That Sunday evening, the 23rd of April, she was put to sleep. In my arms. All I could do was hold her while the life and love went to sleep with her. 

I'm not writing about it any more, I have other plans of dealing with this particular experience and agony in writing at a later point. As for now, to say this lot, to get it out so far, is enough, hopefully.

 

I am grateful for the support from all the vets we met, from my friend at work who came the moment I called her from the vet and stood by my side all the time and took care of me that week among her family. I don't know what I would have done without her then, as I hadn't been able to survive alone in that examination room that evening. 

 

I am so endlessly sorry that I could not save my baby. It still hurts, it still doesn't feel right to not have her by my side. I still miss her walking all over me while I sleep, her sleeping on my arms (while I was lying on my side) by my head, on the pillow I put next to me on my bed for her, lying anywhere on my legs and I wouldn't get up because I didn't want to wake her. And I am still not able to sleep without her little casket next to my pillow.

 

I grew up with this pretty, crazy, fluffy, independent, trusting, loving little diva of mine, 12 years I have known her, her habits, her quirks, her character; we've been through a lot together. I loved her more then anything, and she returned this love and showed it especially when she could have disliked me with reason. She proved to me that unconditional love does exist and that this one is the purest of them all.

 

Kitty

 21st June 2004 - 23rd April 2017

Just keep swimming - and drown those doubts

Today I want to talk about something important. Not as important as in 'world peace' but important as in 'inner peace'. The issue I want to talk about is doubt.

 

We've all been there. Doubting ourselves either because we don't think we are good/pretty/smart/thin/sophisticated/ athletic/confident/whatever enough, or because we had a bad day where everything that possibly could went wrong, or because others simply said something to us we couldn't and didn't want to agree with.

Especially the latter one is dangerous because yeah, we already doubt ourselves every now and then, and we work on that issue to get over it, but then somebody else comes along and talks to you as if you are about to run straight ahead into your ruin, and you have to response with common sense and  logic while all you think is "Do you even know me at all?!".

 

The reason why I want to address this topic today is that I've come across those doubts regularly whenever I start to talk about my journey.

Let me phrase it 'Pushing Daisies'-style: "The facts are these"...

I'm from a tiny village in Southern Germany, where pretty much everyone knows everyone somehow. I've always had this dream of becoming an actress, moving to England, and live my life there among creative and interesting people. I've always had this dream in spite of being shy and having the feeling life was just to hard to live. But I've made it. Somehow; it took time; it took courage. But I've made it. I struggled through acting school, I've worked every possible shifts from dawn-rising early morning and night shifts to finance my move to a city in a foreign country (yes, in my case this is London, yay!), and I've dealt with mean people, unprofessionalism, difficulties, heartbreaks, loss, and yes, a lot of doubt both from others and from myself. I always knew it wouldn't be easy-peasy, of course not, but I'm determined.

 

And now I'm here in London, finally, ready to get started, facing new problems and difficulties. And I have my moments of self-doubt, of course. Everyone has them, I guess artist even more then other people. But I've come this far, did something I most times only thought I would ever achieve in my dreams.

 

A few people are proud and almost thrilled that I didn't give up along the way. They see me and actually say they've never seen me that relaxed and happy. And I am. I know what I want and where I want to be someday, I make mistakes and face walls and learn from them quickly to improve and not lose my goal.

 

But then there are the others. 

People I've also known and who have known me a long or at least a long enough time. They are interested in my plans (if they response to my mails at all) but as soon as I tell them about my current situation (high rent (compared to where I come from!), badly paid job, looking for something better, still looking for auditions, etc. etc.) they go: "That all doesn't sound so good. How do you finance yourself? Wouldn't it be better to look for a 'real' job? You know, that is hard work, you have to get up really early. There are really good distance education and e-courses, do another training. You can't pay your bill with one short film."................

Bear in mind: I've only been here for 3 months! (And the first one I was just lying ill in bed, so theoretically that one doesn't even count.)

 

Thank you very much. I know all these things. And I've already done most of these things.

 

In those moments I'm more than curious how people actually see me. I've been working for years, I worked in every shift there is, while studying, I did HARD work - physically as well emotionally ... and still, people seem to think I just crawled out from under a blanket, thinking 'Here I am, I just wait in my room to win the lottery and for scripts to arrive.'

 

It is kind of sad, when you think about who those people are and how much you like them and look up to them. And then, on the other hand, it just proves exactly why I needed to leave that life behind.

I even begin to understand what people mean by that saying 'small town thinking'.  I don't mean that in a negative way, dear no, I grew up among them, and there are so many other reasons why we are how we are, but I've noticed that openly pursuing a dream that is commonly known as hard, competitive and the embodiment of unprofitable arts people believe it's absolutely out of reach where I come from.

 

The important thing is - and I keep saying and believing it myself - don't listen. I know what I want, where I want to go, what I achieved so far, and that it takes a LOT of patience, persistence, and work, and often an amount of simple luck.

 

It's not over yet. Just keep fighting and dreaming (or in the words of Dori "just keep swimming") because otherwise, what sense does this one life make if we don't even try and let ourselves get stuck in a life we are not happy in from the first moment?

 

xx Carolyn

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Time flies! - Part 2

Ok, where have I stopped in my last entry ...

UK phone number. Let's start right after that.

 

The first thing I did was calling the Jobcentre Plus department responisble for the National Insurance Number (in short: NINo; sounds kinda cute, doesn't it?). You can look up the phone number on the internet or just go into one of the many Jobcentre Plus branches and say you want to apply for a NINo, then someone's there to help you (in my case a very nice black man gave me an information leaflet and explained to me what I had to do). Then I called the number (you will have to try it a few times - just like in every other country), got a reference number which I had to take to the interview one week later in Whitechapel, and was told what else to bring: proof of address and my ID.

When I first stepped into the Whitechapel Jobcentre branch I was shocked by the amoung of people sitting and standing around - I instantly thought "I'll be here for HOURS!". Anyways, as I had entered, a woman in the front told me to get a form, fill it in (important: that reference number the nice lady on the phone gave me), first and last name, and time of appointment. Then I waited - for maybe fifteen minutes, then five others and I were called together, we followed another nice person to the rear rooms, sat down on a long bench/sofa/couch (whatever you call a looong seating space) where some other people were sitting, and waited again for a few minute. And then, I was called by name by another nice lady (so many nice people here in London, seriously! I'm really curious how long that streak will last...), we sat down at her little office space, and the interview began: the usual questions about name, date of birth, marital status, and some other things. At the end of it I had to sign the form. (I assume at some point they want to see the proof of address, however mine was never asked for.)

Eventually, she told me that I should receive a letter with my personal NINo within four weeks (some people I talked to earlier said something about four to six weeks even), got another leaflet with the same and further information, then she copied my ID while I waited on the comfy seating thing again, and after another few minutes I was done.

On the whole, I haven't been in there for even an hour. 

(I was pretty impressed by that, especially when I think back to what my first notion was.)

And in the end, I've got my NINo almost exactly one week after my interview. Luck?

 

So, the next point on my "basics" list was a bank account.

As I have said in my previous post it was really hard for me to make a decision (but at last I made one with advice from my lovely, helpful host and my father). 

Because I prefer talking to people face to face - even in Germany - I went to a branch of the bank I've chosen to apply for a bank account, or at least get further information on how to apply for it. Unfortunately, the earliest free date was two week from then, and the (again nice) man recommended that I should do it either online or via phone call because it's much faster and easier.

So, I called the number for application slightly reluctant but determined (I must say at this point: I tried it online but when I had to fill in my last address I got stuck because there's no "Germany" option). On the phone was a lovely lady - with a HEAVY dialect, or accent; I'm still not entirely sure, but even though she spoke really slowly for me to understand everything, the diale/ccent still was pretty strong. But somehow we managed to get through every detail needed, then she told me what else I had to do: sending a copy of my ID and proof of address in an envelope to the bank company. (And I also send a letter (well, a copy of it) from my host as further proof; just to be on the safe side.)

 

So far, that's it. 

 

Although I have done a lot of research beforehand, having been (or rather still being) in that searching and getting-to-know state, it feels assuring that so many people here are helpful and smile at you when you ask your silly questions.

And please note: this is by no means a manual in any sense, only the ways and struggles and solutions I've experienced myself.

 

UPDATE Wed, 17th Feb:

So, after two week of waiting for any sign for my bank account, I emailed customer service for an application tracking request to find out what's going on. The answer I got was: 

"We would like to advise in order to proceed with processing this application further, we will require further proof of address. This is because we are unable to accept the letter sent and utility bill as this was not addressed to you."

Well, good to know, eventually.

But since I am going to move again next week, I can pretty much start from scratch then. Yay.

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Time flies! - Part 1

Gee, where have the last two months gone! I just noticed my last entry has been at the beginning of December and now it's already February! It's scary how fast time goes by.

 

But at least I've managed a lot of things so far. And because there are some people (looking at you, AnniBunny ;-)) back at home in Germany who are highly interested in HOW to settle down in lovely Britain, I'm going to talk about some of my experiences. And note: I had to start from scratch, so to speak. No job offer that gives me the reason to move, no company that manages the formalities. Nope, just the desire to settle in another country. So, here we go...

 

First, if you want to move to London (or basically any city), go there. I tried to find a (shared) place, and I can tell you - like so many before me I'm sure - you just have to be where you want to go because rooms are going fast here! (Although I must say, being on the room hunt for some months now, there are A LOT of rooms that seem to stay on flat share sites, like, forever. And some of them don't even sound/look bad! But then there is another thing I've experienced, even staying right in the middle of London: most people don't even bother to reply to your messages. (I should mention here that I have a cat, so that might be one factor that finding a place was so hard for me, simply because most landlords don't allow pets.) I understand that there are many people contacting them, and I also fully understand that you just can't answer all of them (BUT, and I really hope I don't sound too lecturing/complaining by now, first, there are manual response buttons for declining; second, those two sites I was using showed how many people have viewed the offer and how many contaced the advertiser - and the numbers where far from that high that it would be an effort to reply). But, alas, people...

 

But don't you worry, there are still some nice fellows who are ready to talk to you, and some of them even sound like real, honest people. So, at the end of this chapter: I've found a place with people I really like - and who are creative, too! Yay!

 

And that's leading me to my next point.

Second, the basics (that's what I call them anyways): UK mobile phone provider, National Insurance Number, bank account.

 

I did quite a lot of research in hope to find a fitting mobile phone provider which to be honest was making the decision even harder: websites, testers, and those lots could give 10 stars for one but as soon as you're reading through the comments it's like the complete opposite of "good" - and that's pretty much for every provider I could find.

(Same goes with finding a bank. Literally!)

So, having some friends/acquaintances/relatives/whoever who has been there and has long term UK experiences is kind of a must-have in my opinion. And they really make deciding for one company much much easier and you'll be more comfortable with your decision afterwards. 

Also, you just need to have a UK phone number when applying for pretty much everything. (Like it's kind of proof that you're serious about living here, but that's just a theory.)

 

Okay, that's it for Part 1. It's after midnight and I "went to bed" more than two hours ago. The rest will follow soon!

 

But before, here a little treat if you managed to keep reading through to the end ;-)

The three pics above are in Crystal Palace Park.

As much as I love St. James's Park with its squirrels and ducks, THIS one has dinosaurs! Like, huge, a hundred years old dinosaurs! Best park ever! 

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The week of the Gemini

Day 4. And again, I'm feeling different than yesterday. Not as strange, but still a bit unsure.

 

There is a quote about Geminis: "A Gemini's mood can change in just a blink of an eye." 

 

I've always thought, Gemini is the perfect sign for me because in many ways it's true what people say about them. But never did I feel so mind-changing like in the last few days. And today, I woke up to a clear, blue sky, and I felt good. I could imagine myself living here in London, though when I come to really think about the reality, I'm not still not entirely sure about it. 

 

So, instead of torturing my head by thinking about my future to much I went to the City smiling and in anticipation to visit my beloved Thames again. Water always makes me feel free and happy. And when I got off the bus, where did I find myself after a couple of minutes? At the Borough Market in Southwark! Guys, so many delicious smells and flavous! Additionally, with a Christmas spirit around it making it look even more appetising. 

So of course, what's a photo-nerd doing when she's on a little sightseeing tour?

Exactly.

 

So, here are some of today's snapshots. Including food and some more Christmas decorations :)

 

xx Carolyn

 

P.S.: One of the most beautiful things about London, in my opinion, is contrast. On the one side, you have a hundreds-of-years-old Tower, and almost next to it are glass covered faces of 21st-century-buildings. 

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