It's a time for living

You wake up and for a second everything is normal. You are in your bed and everything is fine. Suddenly you crave liquid. At this moment you would offer all your possessions in exchange for a litre of orange juice. You attempt to stand.

Once semi-vertical you shuffle to the bathroom and find, to your confusion, that you are fully clothed. You look in the mirror and wonder why the world's only unsexy vampire is staring back. Toxic fumes seep from your skin and your breath is so dense it could be sliced. You strain to recall how to perform seemingly complex tasks; squeezing toothpaste is a step too far, so you shuffle back to bed. Then the horror begins.

Did you challenge that bloke from exams to a rap battle in the mistaken belief that you were still able to finish a sentence? Did that quiet woman from construction dry hump your manager on the dance floor? Did you lead a plot to steal boxes of lined paper, leaving behind a splash of vomit as a calling card?

Staff Christmas parties are a bubbling volcano of opportunities for ill-advised behaviour and consequent embarrassment. Exhaustion and excitement do not mix well with gallons of cheap booze. Even if your only crime was to delight in the exploits of your colleagues, you are still semi-soiled by association.

But there's plenty of time to conquer your shame before you face your colleagues. By the end of the holidays, you will have almost convinced yourself that suggesting the deputy principal "shove his observation framework up his arse" was valuable feedback.

When you do return it's all about damage limitation. If you have to apologise to anyone, make it swift and sincere. Don't attempt to dilute your embarrassment by telling everyone how ridiculous you were - repress your feelings, don't share them. Chances are that quite a few people are feeling just as queasy about what they said or did as you.

Before I joined FE, I worked with a woman who was at the top of her game professionally and was just as famed for her social exuberance. She would dance on bars in her bra, fall under tables next to her beautiful young boyfriends and hold court with outrageous tales from her A-list adventures, telling stories about Hollywood heart-throbs, cultural icons and supermodels that made my eyes smart.

Some of our nights out were so lively that changing my name, getting plastic surgery and moving to South America seemed the only option to banish the shame. But she strutted in with her head held high. Her work was her focus and she worked hard. Her brilliance ensured that she was seen as so much more than a party nymph and, on the rare occasions when I become regrettably over-excited, I try to keep her approach in mind.

So whether you were eyeballing the Bristol Cream or having a temporary romance under the strip lights in the toilet, the way to handle it is simple: pretend it never happened. Walk tall, be amazing at your job and, next time, consider celebrating Jesus' birthday with water, not wine.

Merry Christmas.

Sarah Simons works in FE colleges in the East Midlands. @MrsSarahSimons

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