'Go ugly early' – and other life lessons from working the seasons.
Before I go on, I must just point out that when I’m writing this stuff, I do sometimes sit there and think ‘am I really qualified to give out ‘life lessons?? Who do I think I am??’ – and then I remember I only call it that because I haven't managed to think of a better way of explaining it yet - and carry on writing anyway. So, unqualified as I often feel, here are some of the ‘life lessons’ I experienced from being a holiday rep and working the seasons….
1) You cannot please everyone – no but you really really can’t. We hear this everywhere, tell it to our friends, its in every self help book going and deep down we know its true – but it’s a hell of a lot harder to do in practice. Working as a holiday rep was an 18 month schooling in discovering no matter how smiley, responsive, on time, polite, enthusiastic or kind I was – there was always someone that wasn’t happy. Sometimes – no one was happy but it’s your job to go ahead and walk into that bear pit anyway. Some weeks you may come to find there had been a huge delay on flights for whatever reason, its 7 o clock at night, you got up at 3am and now you find yourself walking across that airport tarmac ready to take a coach back to resort. You jump on that coach to be faced with 40 tired, pissed off, humans that already dislike you because their holiday is not going as planned. Still, you have to just smile through it. ‘Hello everyone and Welcome to France, my name is Sophie and I will be your transfer rep for today’. (Big smiles from me). All you’re going to get is 40 grumpy faces staring back at you and likely a child screaming at the back. Then someone pipes up; ‘how long is this going to take because this has just been a nightmare.” I know, I know – believe me – I know. ‘Yeh it’s been awful!’ another voice chips in. At this point you’re assessing how honest you should be and if anyone looks like they might throw something at you. “2 hours – and a stop in the middle”..again all with big smiles..its fine you’re on your 8th coffee of the day and the manic fun stage of being tired is not far off. There is a unanimous murmur of annoyance through the coach but its fine, you’re just doing your job and you didn’t fly the plane so really what can you do? The same thing is true of life, you can only do your best from where you are – you can’t waste too much energy trying to live up to the often impossible and under-communicated expectations of other people. Contrary to what you may expect, we holiday reps could not read minds, control the weather, fly planes quicker or as one lady once assumed, magically eradicate traffic. ‘Sophie what are you going to do about this traffic?’. ‘I know, Im so sorry, I totally forgot my magic wand today – all my fault, would you like to fill in a complaint form?’
2) Go Ugly Early. Great phrase - and this links in from point number 1. You have a coach full of tired, anxious people who have been up since 3am and really just want to get into resort, get a shower and begin their holiday. Then you find out it’s been snowing so hard that they’ve had to temporarily close the road up there – with no timeline as to when it will be open again. When you get on that microphone to inform them why we haven’t left yet, its tempting to want to sugarcoat it a bit, play it down so as to not make matters worse – but it’s much much better in the long run to tell the whole truth. Telling the truth, even if it’s not what someone wants to here is a demonstration of integrity and how you build trust. This can be applied to pretty much everywhere in life. If someone tells you something that might upset you – but they’re telling the truth, yeh you’ll be mad, upset, pissed off – but in the long run you’ll respect their honesty. Its not always easy sometimes but try not to shy away from uncomfortable conversations and be transparent about who you are and what you can give – even if it may 'upset the apple cart'. I remember during my time in Italy, I forgot I was due to meet a coach at 9am one morning and my manager called me to ask where I was. ‘erm im in bed?...in Castelleto??!” Oh god, oh crap – I’ll be fired, its over – I’m dead. I had totally mis-read the transfer sheet and was staying with my boyfriend in the next town. After a mad rush, driving 100 mph around Lake Garda, hair everywhere and last night’s clothes, we managed to catch the bus load of confused grannies and send them on their way. I was mortified but you’ve got to be honest; when you mess up, you mess up, tell the whole truth early on and you have a much better chance of sorting whatever it is out – without losing trust between you and someone else.
3) You learn how to say goodbye and let go if you have to. Seasonal work is transitory – which means you know that at the end of x amount of months, everything will change and people will be going their separate ways. Having to say goodbye is one of the worst – and best lessons you can learn from it. Not everyone is meant to stay forever but that doesn’t mean the time you had wasn’t important or meaningful. Recognizing it’s time to say goodbye is rarely ever about rejection and it doesn't devalue the relationship that you had with someone. Conversely life can be full of interesting surprises, trust me, I really know this - and it drives me mad sometimes! I’ve been amazed by who’s popped up again, so let go and don’t be afraid of goodbye. If someone is meant to stay in your life, they will, and if they go, you never know you may find a way back to each other further down the line. Trust me when I say life is funny like that.
4) Real friendship is stagnant. Ok that’s an odd way of describing it – but bear with me; it means it doesn’t move - even if you do. Time and distance will not affect a real connection so there is no need to ever cling to anyone. When I left England I remembered thinking ‘oh god will I even have any friends when I come back?!’ I really needn’t have worried. Go live your life and let whoever wants to go, go, and whoever stays, stay. At the moment, I don’t even live in the same city as a lot of my closest friends but that hasn’t really changed anything. My best friend of 24 years and I have lived crazy separate lives but she’s the first person I call if something big happens and if she needed me, no matter where I was, I’d get there as soon as I could. Everyone I’ve met working the seasons I’d full on bear hug if (and when) I next see them again regardless if that's next week - or ten years from now. So don’t worry about the ‘will we stay in touch’ – it’s simple, if you want to – you will and even if you don't, the friendship will still remain.