When just meditating with the “Change” package on the Headspace app, I remembered what the thread of this continuation of my story would be. It is the flow of life and the famous saying “Go with the Flow!”. And sometimes we manage to fulfill this, this is when life feels sweet. But sometimes we put up resistance, and that is when we have to discover why.
(Some remark before I go! Besides that it took a break of four days to continue this post, I decided that now is the time, that I do this to let out my hurt heart to the public, even though many others rather wouldn’t do so. I believe that sharing also negative feelings, helps others to see, that it is totally ok.)
I separated from my partner in the end of May this year after a two year period of analysis and discovery. The first days afterwards I felt very relieved. Then, after a week, I had some doubtful days, not about my decision but about how I would continue. I was seeking for answers.
One evening I have met a friend who is the barkeeper of my favorite place in Vila Madalena and I knew that he was trying to get back into cruise ships, something he had done for five years prior to returning to Brazil. I used to follow up from time to time but that evening I also asked, if he believed that there would be jobs for “people like me” on ships, people who are into languages, intercultural relationships and culture in general. And his answer was yes. To cut a long story short. A week afterwards I found a job offer of an art gallery on board of such ships, an old company with a new sub business. And I applied. The first interview was scheduled fast and I was happy because at that moment of my life it gave me a huge amount of energy. Quickly I learned that salary could surely not be something to focus on. But still, I sought succeeding in the process and taking on the adventure, being all positive. And there I was signing one of the worst contracts of my life in terms of clauses and getting all my visas and medical exams after a total of four interviews and selling almost all my things at a garage sale. I met new amazing people in that period of zeroing my life, strengthened my relationships with my dear friends and even got to know better the environment of my own neighborhood.
I negotiated a later start so that I would be able to meet my mother and family in July in Croatia before going on board for six months. That was really great. I was energized, always going with the flow.
The job started in the end of July and I won’t mention any company, neither the places I have traveled to, because what comes now is tough and it is my version of the reality I encountered.
I started on the first ship with all my energy, all my flow, all my positivity and without any prejudices. Soon I felt that I was left out by the people working on board. Maybe I was overly anxious to make friends among the crew because in Brazil this is something easy and natural and fast to do. Well, among guests I met amazing people with whom I connected easily and I have to say that most of these smart people were on this ship and felt like never doing it again. We managed to connect on so many different levels. I believe that it somehow actually had to do with the plenty of experience I had already gained and with the different lifestyle I was used to. One of my guest friends at the age of 65 clearly said that my intelligence would separate me. On one hand that is amazing to hear from another smart person. On the other I have tried so hard to teach myself that I am no different from any other person.
In my new job we were a team of two. My colleague was supposed to be my so-called superior, but I guess she has watched the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” a tiny little bit too often. The first week I tried to deal with things in a very understanding manner, giving the excuse that she has been promoted very fast and feels the pressure coming with it strongly. I tried to make her relax, openly. Showed her in a careful manner that I get her. It surely wasn’t something she was seeking for. To give her credit, she considered many of my ideas and input but not my main message which was doing the sales naturally and not force the “closure of a deal”. She believed in another story. She was an intelligent woman though.
Her behavior started getting to my guts in the middle of the second week and by the end of the second week I was already crying. I was not used to fight with anyone. Always trying to make people see and understand. My frustration is high when I don’t manage to do so. The problems I had with her though, helped me to make friends among the crew finally because people saw that I had changed from a positive person to one with a hanging face. I remember well the positivity I had found in them then, how talking and sharing strengthened me. And I knew it was the whole mix of changes in my life, but what really gave me the rest was the lack of respect I encountered as a human being. It was not that much about the professional component.
Our HR responsible was already asking to let her know how I was and I tried to ignore her messages for some time until I was so down in the third week that we scheduled a call after me having written a very careful email about what was going on. The talk was good and I even managed to talk to my colleague over a latte later on. The consequence was that I was transferred to a better ship to open a gallery with another colleague. It is funny how people clash. While my former manager was talking positively about my new colleague while I still was on her ship, I later found out from my new colleague, that they actually were clashing right from the start due to their different attitudes.
While being on the first ship I got those invitations to watch a movie in a cabin, only from men, but it took me quite some time to find out what they mean. Before starting on the new ship my new manager and I were exchanging already personal matters and I asked him if it meant what I finally thought it meant, which was nothing else but an invitation for sex, he said yes. And he told me more stories about how people in a higher hierarchy think that they can have anyone.
I am a person trying not to have any prejudices about educational level because I have met many great people without much school and many fools with a master’s. But if hierarchy was anything educational on those ships, I would have been on the top by far, so it was difficult to understand why I was considered to be anything less than a captain. And I have to say that the captains on both ships were actually nice people, not abusing their “status”.
But there are all those people in between. And I got into trouble. I thought of leaving the ship after my first week on the new one. It was super difficult again to make friends and I did not like the idea of having to go to the crew bar. I enjoyed the evening when I needed to relax on the outer deck for guests, drinking my glass of wine while having a smoke and usually a nice chat with those wonderful exceptions. I saw that there was no crew at that bar on the second ship but I decided to not ask why and enjoy. The second week I got busted and had to smoke in the crew area. Well, it is surely a reason to give up smoking but you suffer from plenty of stress, so that that is no option either. But since the smoking zone was right beside the crew bar, I started going out there. And that second night I went there, I knew why I intuitively had avoided that place.
That day I had been to Berlin, had met my cousin and friends, all positive about helping me out once I quit and move to the city for a while. I was in an extremely good mood and drank three glasses of wine within some hours, chatting a bit, writing notes into my diary from time to time. And then, I don’t really know how one thing lead to the other. I was invited by a nice waiter for another glass. The DJ came, played popular latino music, I started dancing, there was a guy jumping into the scene, trying to get my attention and we danced even though I was not interested in him but only in dancing and having fun. Soon his hand went off somewhere else, and I moved it away and let it pass as a latino dance kind of thing. But when his hands moved up and I took them away, I felt like I needed to explain something. Unfortunately I did not make a fuss, wanted to be discrete, so none would notice. I excused myself for him misunderstanding me and told him that I had no intentions. Well, the whole thing continued a bit and in the end he bit me while trying to be a Don Juan, I guess. The same night I talked to colleagues about how weird he was and found out that there were frequent problems about his behavior. Also stories that were never reported officially.
The next day I thought hard, whether I should or should not report him, but thinking of the fact that he frequently behaved like this towards women made me come forward. I had some difficult men on parties before but never had I denounced anyone. It also had never been that terrible as at that night. Usually people get the first clear “no”.
The following days were terrible. Emotions changing all the time. Did I do the right thing? Will I ever have to see that guy again?
I talked to the ship HR, to the priest, to my manager, to two people I considered friends by then and got different feedback. When the security manager gave me the informal insight that on the video it looked as if we were “cuddling” I was lost. Man! What the f….?
The guy was dismissed because it has been his third denouncement. Otherwise the story could have turned against me.
What do I hope for him? Probably only that he takes this as a chance to move on, to work on his worldview, to understand himself and the world better.
After that story, I was sure that I needed to leave ships. All the time, there were men around me. And even though people were afraid of me the first days after the story happened, I still did not feel safe. I met a lot of nice people, but it was all about sharing short feelings in bed. That was so far from my reality, where you build up friendships, trust and maybe you are at one point attracted to someone and intimate nice things happen.
I talked to some women about my experience in general and they were all used to it. That’s so sad. They all deal in different manners with it. One told me that especially newcomers are being watched.
I am by my own standards a nice person, greet everybody, I am simply nice. But it was so hard for me to stay naturally nice because there were so many men hungry for something more at any given point. I could not stay. I had to leave in order to not lose my ideals, my learning and my belief in the fact that we can do so much more in this world than just satisfying our basic needs. I love natural things, natural development and then sex is just a natural consequence of a beautiful encounter anyways.
I got off the ship in the end of September. I stayed the whole month of October with my mum in Croatia. Well!
That is the end of the second part of my story. The next part will tell you about the amazing people I met on my path in and out of this very unique, almost artificial situation.