Right now we are in a self-imposed isolation due to the WHO declared health pandemic in light of the Coronavirus COVID-19 spread in Europe. Right now I feel as if I have a cold, but honestly it could just be the paranoid side of me giving me fake symptoms. Still, the runny nose and the slight headache feel real, so here I am in bed with a winter hat on and a scarf, while my family are trying to entertain themselves in our small apartment. So far so good. We will see how it goes, but currently the authorities are predicting a 14 day seize of all public life. The schools are closing, people are staying at home, trying to work while the kids are annoyed from lack of attention, shops are emptied (we hauled our reserves almost a month ago, while everybody laughed at us back then – who is laughing now 😀 – just joking, it is a serious situation, no denying that).
Anyway, back to where I stopped the last time. We got back from Scotland, where we lived for two years and some change, in July 2017. And golly, I am man enough to admit that I was scared out of my wits due to all the things that were changing at that time. Coming back to the home country should feel good, but it didn´t. Scotland became our home and we liked our life there. However, liking something and making it actually work are two very separate things. I didn´t realize that until we got back and I faced the steep and rough road of building back some sense of a career. To make a short story long (yep, not a mistake, I will not cut corners and give you the whole picture), I started working almost right after we got back. The apartment wasn´t renovated yet, so a good friend of mine gave us an apartment for two weeks that just happened to be empty and the kids went to their grandparents place in Croatia. Working in a law office was not at all what I thought it is going to be. The working hours were flexible for sure, but in reality that just meant that as long as you have something to do, you are at work, regardless of whether you are home or in the office. And in a law office there is always too much work (the effect of having a competent office manager, who can procure too much work, which realistically cannot be done in 8 hours). Then there is the human factor, where you can work really well with some people, but with some people you just can´t. For me the biggest negatives were the long hours, that took me away from the family, which I have dedicated all of my previous three years – the longing to be with them when I was at office at six o´clock in the evening increased through the year and did not subside until two years after we got back. I think our life settled when we saw that the kids felt good in Slovenia and that they have friends and a surrounding that excepts them as their own. The second negative thing about the law office work was the office itself, the place. It was allowed to smoke in the common kitchen, that was just around the corner from my office. Since I was a kid I hated cigarettes. My parents smoked in the apartment that was even smaller than our current one, so I developed an intense distaste for the smell and the act of smoking itself. Coming into a high stress environment where even the smell made you feel you were in the wrong place for you, was not the best motivator for good performance. Then there was my office itself. My office was actually a sort of makeshift office that housed three lawyers and was not bigger than our bedroom. It was loud (this actually didn´t bother me too much), crowded and always sort of tense. I hope I am not making any excuses, but due to all these factors, my performance with one of my supervising lawyers (yes, I was supervised by two lawyers, sometimes balancing the interests of both was stressful in itself) was not the best, and those issues only increased when the workload was delegated in the afternoon hours with instructions to have everything ready by the next day. The work with the other supervising lawyer was much more to my liking, both from the stand-point of substance and the work rhythm and I actually enjoyed that part. I also enjoyed the fast pace of the law office work, the thrills and challenges, but only to a point that it didn´t interfere with my family life. When it did, I had what I called an allergic reaction to the work and wasn´t to give my all. So after about a year my wonderful wife rescued me from despair (I saw no way out of this situation without damaging my relatively good professional track record) and showed me the path out of this self-imposed quagmire of a life. Basically, at my worst she showed me that there were other options. And to my utter surprise, she was absolutely right – I should have gotten used to the fact that she is right most of the time. Opportunities were basically just waiting for me, although searching for a new job, applying to job calls and going to interviews scared the sh.t out of me. However stressful it really was, I enjoyed the hunt for a new career as soon as I realized that I have a lot to offer to my future employer. Soon I was able to decide between different options and only time will tell if my decision was the correct one.
Enough about me. The kids also had a rough start of it. They finished two years in the Scottish primary school and in Slovenia they had to go again into the second grade because kids in Slovenia start school one year later than in Scotland. Then there was the new school, new class in which they knew only one kid and even that one they did not remember from before, new school system, different approaches to education etc. Two major differences that hit us immediately were the actual hit or more of a slap that my son got from a girl on the first day of school and the noise! Oh my god, my daughter couldn´t handle the noise. She said that everybody screamed all the time, nobody listened to the teacher and they did not obey when she told them to stop. For our kids that was incomprehensible. Not having a place in an already established class, where everybody knew each other and they were the outsiders, enhanced their feelings of longing for Scotland. I cannot tell you how many times we cried together and reminisced of our time that we just couldn´t get back. Slowly but steady we gained our footing, got our courage and self-esteem back, but I think the actual turning point was going back to visit Scotland for the first time. We had a good time there, but we also realized that things were not perfect and that there were issues that could severely impede our life there (things like the Brexit, bullying in the primary school, economic situation of Scotland etc.). We were sitting with our friends back in Invergowrie, having a beer, when my wise friend Davide told me: “Do not search for things you had or liked here in Slovenia. Instead look for things you like there and claim them.” Basically, we will find happiness by moving forward and not by clinging to the past. One of the best pieces of advice in my life and it worked.
And so here we are now, isolated in our home, corona-virus looming over us and everything is just as uncertain as it was on that faithful day we parked our car after a three day drive from Scotland in front of our Slovenian home. Life can be wonderful or a very scary experience or both (sometimes at the same time), but as long as we have each other to lean on, we somehow manage to make it work and have a good time doing it.