You are more than what they see

Dearest Reader,

Without tooting my own horn here, I look slightly younger than my age.

This is mainly due to a combination of my ridiculously tiny body, the fact that I wear braces, and of course my overall juvenile behaviour.

As a result, it is not unusual for people to think I’m less experienced or knowledgeable than I actually am. Sure, it’s nice to be asked for ID when you buy a beer, and we can all pretend I don’t have almost two decades worth of beer guzzling experience. It makes me feel less disgusting.

But because they think that, I think that too. This is especially true professionally speaking. Not too long ago, I walked into a financial consultancy where two men in suits greeted me. They had a visibly puzzled look when “Zozan” from those emails turned out to be a tiny female in a floral dress. They kept checking the empty corridor behind me, perhaps waiting for my dad to show up and do the talking for me.

Those sorts of reactions immediately make me feel out of place and unqualified to be there. Although I was confident walking in, I quickly found myself regretting it. While they explained stock options, I thought to myself: You shouldn’t be here. Getting financial advice. You should be eating caramel popcorn at a fun fair and go ride a unicorn.

Last week I found myself in a training exercise on my first day at a new job, and I was paired up with Grumpy Lady. She was visibly older than me – I’m going to say she was approaching 60. She was clearly disappointed that she had to work with me. As mentioned previously, I tend to adopt juvenile behaviour, so I decided to make matters worse and told her it was my first day.

Instead of focusing on the exercise, she bitchily interrogated me on my work experience. I slowly started to feel inadequate again, imagining unicorns coming to my rescue, until I realised I don’t really have to take it.

Grumpy Lady: Have you worked in PR?
Me: Yes, but I didn’t like it. I guess I’m just not the corporate kind.
Grumpy Lady: Maybe you need to work in a different corporation.
Me: I have worked in different corporations.
Grumpy Lady: Maybe not long enough.


Me: I’ve worked in corporations for 7 years, in 4 different corporations, in 2 different countries, I believe I know. 
Grumpy Lady: Oh. Sorry, you look very young.
Me: I am young, but I’ve been working since I was 19. 

BAM! Then she finally launched into friendly banter.

I felt proud for having stood my ground. It shouldn’t take a stranger to tell me what I know and what I can do.

But then again, it’s nice when it does happen. Later that day, the company newsletter went around, introducing me to the team:


Welcome Zozan

–        Zozan Balci is teaching Public Relations in the Diploma of Communication in Semester 3. She has experience in public relations, corporate communications and media relations and as a freelance journalist (news and consumer). Zozan is also conducting doctoral research for the School of Communications at UTS in the area of socio-linguistics and is also a trained ESL teacher.


A tale of failure

Dearest Reader,

Not too long ago, I was about to turn 30 years old and took the opportunity to ask all the more mature, wiser people in my life for advice on how to manage this new decade. To my surprise, everyone simply responded: “You’re already doing all the right things. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

I found this very puzzling.

To me life continues to be a big, scary, unpredictable mess no amount of planning can prepare you for. I have countless memories of throwing myself on the bed theatrically and weeping into my teddy bear after life pooped all over my hopes and dreams.

Here’s what people don’t see – behind all the things I’m seemingly doing right, there are a lot of things I did wrong.

Let’s take work for example. Once upon a time, I was drawn to an exciting life in the media – journalism, broadcasting, public relations – you name it, I’ve tried it.

On the outside, it looked very glamorous.

But on the inside, I had to sit in disciplinary meetings and was literally shouted at for my attitude, my lack of interest, and my inability to cooperate. When they threatened to fire me, I apologised. Whenever I threatened to quit, they kept offering more and more money.

This disturbing bipolar relationship existed because both parties involved were clearly psychotic idiots. Despite my difficult attitude, my bosses didn’t want to lose me and kept throwing money at me because I was excellent at doing my job. And despite being abused on a daily basis, I didn’t want to lose my dream.

Unsurprisingly, I cried on the way to work, on the toilet at work, and on the way home from work. My career was supposed to be exciting and amazing, but I was failing every single day. I had wasted years of my life climbing this ladder, just to find a pile of crap at the top.

So what do you do when everything you worked for turns out to be the wrong thing?

You do the right thing by quitting doing the wrong thing.

My attitude, I later learned, was never problematic. But I was doing something that my attitude found problematic.

I was uncooperative and difficult to work with because I refused to bend the truth or twist a person’s words to fit an agenda. I showed a lack of interest precisely because I had no interest in increasing corporate revenue. And my loud and annoying attitude never shied away from arguing with its superior on these matters.

So me and my attitude packed our bags. While I am not particularly spiritual, I do believe we all serve a purpose. I realised this failure was simply there to tell me that what I was doing wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. All I knew was that I wanted to help people, and I wanted to make a positive change through my work. But in my cloudy mind, I couldn’t yet see how.

As I sat on the couch weeping into a box of tissues, it turned out that out of all people, it was my mother who cleared away the mental mist and reminded me.

“You’re a teacher,” she announced, patiently sipping her tea.
“Why are you so sure?,” I asked, narrowing my eyes suspiciously.
“Because I’m your mother,” she replied, matter-of-factly.
“Well! Why didn’t you tell me earlier??,” I snapped, childishly.
“Because I’m your mother, and you wouldn’t have listened. You had to find out for yourself,” she explained, surrounded by her oriental garden of wisdom.

Deep down, I always knew this. Because before I ever started working in the media, I had worked as a teacher and I absolutely loved it. But in my immaturity, I considered it too “unglamorous” to pursue as a career.

My punishment for ignoring my purpose? Years of fighting bitches and crying on the toilet. Since finally embracing my real purpose, my oh-so-difficult attitude has been sitting back, smiling, and peacefully nodding at the choices I’ve made.

So if you too find yourself doing a good old ugly cry over a missed opportunity, a broken relationship, a failing career – just know that this is simply a sign that you need a change, and deep inside you probably know what that is. Time to roll up your sleeves and do it!

I’d offer my mother’s in-your-face counselling services to get you through it, but seeing as the phrase “I’m your mother” is her only credential, it might not work for you.

Surviving Christmas Parties

Dearest Reader,

‘Tis the season and office Christmas parties have been announced. It is arguably one of the most important events in an employee’s corporate year, and a great opportunity to get to know your co-workers on a more personal level.

Alas, Christmas parties are also the perfect venue for you to make a huge idiot out of yourself in front of everyone you work with, which will taint your reputation for the year to come. But do not worry, dearest reader, as a seasoned Christmas-party-goer, I can share some helpful tips with you.

Rule #1: Despite the obvious temptation, do not get drunk

Sure, here is the perfect opportunity to get absolutely wasted on the company credit card, but we both know that your party-you is not going to be appropriate for this crowd.

Rule #2: If you find yourself drunk despite your best intentions, do not draw attention to yourself

Now is not a good time to make speeches, nor to bust a move to “Gangnam Style”. If you’re tipsy and you’re feeling a little adventurous, just try to stay close to someone who will prevent you from doing something silly.

Rule #3: If you somehow managed to become the centre of attention anyway, do not approach your superior

Fine, you couldn’t help yourself and just got yourself a new nickname that somehow captures your drunken dance moves which you just had to show off at this worst of times. But not all is lost, you can stop here. It is important that you now stick to your own kind, members of your own corporate hierarchy, even though you suddenly feel the courage to walk up to the big boss and tell him what you really think.

Rule #4: If you find yourself tapping your boss on the shoulder anyway, do not tell them what you really think.

Just thank them for this great year, this lovely party, compliment on a wonderful outfit or just smile, say merry Christmas and walk away.

Don’t mention that you feel overworked and underpaid, that you don’t really understand what they have been doing all year because it sure as hell wasn’t working, and do not tell them that you hate their face, voice, kids, spouse or handwriting. Don’t mention things like ‘lousy management’, ‘incompetence’ and ‘greedy bastard’. Don’t get physical.

Rule #5: If you find yourself unemployed by the end of the night, remember that a new year with new beginnings is just around the corner.

What to do. Free beer right?

Totally worth it.

Fashion Your Real You

Dearest Reader,

Like any good female my age, I recently opened my wardrobe only to find it full of clothes and yet with nothing to wear. I realised that I have many things, but nothing that is truly wearable day to day. Why? Why are women like this?

I have answers.

Reason #1: Special Occasions

I had an extensive selection of ‘special occasions’ dresses. Often, they were expensive, uncomfortable and really never served any purpose other than the said special occasion.

How many special occasions are there really in everyday life? It is the harsh truth that my life, and your life, is generally mundane; you don’t have 10 special occasions a year, each requiring a different dress.

The only special occasions I truly treasure are my days off work with no other social engagements. They are the stuff I live for. And they are spent in bed, in my pyjamas, eating nachos and watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

Reason #2: Skinnier Days

I have had a pair of jeans I yearned to fit into since I was 17.

Then I realised – how can a 29-year old woman possible fit into what a 17-year old fits into?

Sure, I was 5kg lighter then.

But over the past 12 years, I’ve grown a bosom, an ass and some hips, and these hips are made of bones, and you can’t squeeze bone structures into denim.

In fact, skinny jeans are in your wardrobe only to make you anxious, guilty and feel fat. Eat the damn cookie, embrace your feminine body and throw them out!

Reason #3: Clubbing

I hate staying out late, I hate cheap drinks out of plastic cups and I hate getting my ass grabbed by drunk strangers. Why am I still keeping clothes for this?

Reason #4: Who I wish I were

I used to own a whole range of business attire. Jackets, pencil skirts, heels to match, fancy blouses and purses – all designed to become a CEO and make some serious money in the corporate world.

That is who I always hoped I’d be. The cold-hearted business woman who has a fancy lifestyle of wealth, luxury and diamonds everywhere.

But truth be told, it’s not who I really am. The real me hates the corporate world, hates wearing heels to work and cries when she forgets her homemade lunch at home. And she doesn’t need pencil skirts for that.

So, dearest reader, look at your closet – is it you, or who you wish you were? Is it your life, or the special occasions you wish you had? Because there is nothing wrong with just being yourself.

Even if that means selling that fancy Karen Millen designer dress and instead buying a cosy new pyjama for nacho night.