So I’ve been thinking about my place in the world.
Wondering what I should be doing with myself, now ten years has passed since I last did paid work and I am feeling a bit more able and restless.
I was thinking how hard it is to set foot back into the workplace, knowing that its not stepping back to You ten years ago when you abandoned your job, but stepping into the new version of You. The You that works with all the baggage, that has a decade sized dent in your C.V.; the You that isn’t sure how honest to be about where you’ve been and what you’ve been through and what has kept you from being a happy little worker ant.
Volunteering is great, because you can be flexible, the work can be less demanding, and they ‘know’ the type of vulnerable people they are working with, even if they don’t ‘know’ it for themselves. And I’ve done a fair bit of that. I’ve volunteered in museums, a shop, helping old folk, running fundraising craft fairs and activist art events, doing online admin for a charity, and knitting groups to help the homeless and destitute. Not to mention the hours I’ve put in helping friends and family set up businesses, advertise their own products and events. Everyone is happy to take you on when you’re working for free.
But it doesn’t always translate into paid work. Those ‘transferable skills’ aren’t always useful in a job market where there’s 50 candidates for every menial job, employees of the month are made redundant the next month, and doctors are having to go on strike to get their basic rights covered.
Self employment would be ideal, but what to do? What can I actually sell myself as? ‘Cat behaviourist, cuddle whore, quite good at photography but with rubbish equipment, Ebay whizz, knows her way round Facebook, prefers to work from own bed.’
And so I become the girl who left school at 16, dropped out of college twice, never strove for anything too high for fear of rejection and hasn’t paid taxes for a decade.
I have interests but I can’t commit to the further education I’d need to achieve those goals. A combination of finances, fear and mental instability prevent me from doing so at present.
I feel better than I have done in years, upbeat and ready to take on more! And then the reality of the situation creeps in, just how difficult it is, and the fear of ending up in a soul destroying job for the minimum wage, and getting ill again. I feel like I’m in a
toxic relationship with my ex-employer. Not unlike Stockholm Syndrome, I keep wanting to go back, as I did twice before, forgetting that it took all of my energy, my sense of worth, my creativity, my health. (You’d think I was a politician, or a human rights lawyer: I worked in a shop.) But that’s depression/BPD/PTSD/EUPD for you!. Hey if only all those letters could be put after my name, by way of qualification and rank, instead of diagnosis! Highly impressive!
And then I’m faced with the guilt of not working, the value society places on you, as one with an ‘invisible’ illnesses. I suppose the former, drunk, washed out, weeping version of me, with bandages on her wrists is more deserving of your hard earned, ruefully paid taxes. Because you can visibly see how unfit for work I am. The epic battle for welfare that I, along with thousands of other, am legally entitled to reminds me of how reluctant others are to fund the indulgent lifestyle of the long term ill.
I feel like I’m wandering in No-Mans land, one foot in and one foot out of The Matrix; feeling like I have to prove myself as worthy and be a productive member of society, while at the same time knowing that it’s all bollocks, we’re all slaves one way or another and fuck the system.
I know that we in ‘The West’ have these fluffy ideas about actually enjoying our jobs and having a sense of life purpose, living your true authentic self, when the reality is that millions of us work for scraps cleaning bogs and sweeping streets. But where would we all be without those unsung heroes?! We have such a distorted view on others worth. Some Eastern philosophies tell us to find joy and fulfilment in such menial tasks and simplistic living anyway. Of course this ancient wisdom is from the same countries that has its masses working in sweatshops and jumping out of factory windows to end their misery, so….
I am well aware that if I was in another country or culture I’d probably be dead by now, or chained up somewhere. Or maybe a prostitute if I was lucky.
So again I am trapped in the knowing that being alive is a fucking great achievement for someone of my creed, and that maybe I should just work on staying alive and being thankful for that, and at the same time observing that we live in this culture and land of great opportunity, where others seem to live their dreams and make the most of their lives. And I feel like a fat slug in comparison.
When I was younger I wanted to change the world! I really thought I could (massive God complex). And there is a part of me that knows that collectively with others, if I think globally and act locally I can be part of some small change, and maybe make the world a bit better for having been in it.
But I am a chronic under achiever. You would think that my parents or upbringing had put a massive amount of pressure on me to achieve certain things, the amount of guilt I carry, but this couldn’t be further from the truth!
My parents were authentic hippies of the 60’s/70’s and dropped out of their teaching careers in the city to live in the wilderness and make crafts. My dad never told us he was proud of us or rewarded us for any specific achievements or wanted us to be anything but ourselves. I remember he sent back my school report feedback form with the note ‘makes good bed time reading.’ I’m not sure how they took it, but I’m pretty sure I was offended, and knew he was supposed to say something encouraging about me, rather than ‘mark’ the teachers work, even at age 6.
It was just his way. He was always self employed and tried his hand at many things and took all failure or success humbly and I supposed he thought we would be the same.
My mum did go back into teaching eventually, (although she continued to fight the man from within, her entire career) when my parents split up and needed money; and so I knew the value of having to just go and work, in order to survive. I’d say I have quite a balanced worldview on the necessity of working as part of our basic existence, and having the courage to follow your passion, or indeed whims. Although perhaps I do have a rather exemplified will to stick it to the man and resistance to conform.
But it seems I can do neither for now. I am in limbo. Not afraid of hard work, but afraid of losing myself to it again, and somehow too afraid to pursue the secret passions that nibble softly on my ear, begging to be heard as I drown them out with spiteful words like ‘can’t’ and ‘stupid’.
I’m sure I will get over myself eventually and start doing the occasional morning at a charity shop, maybe a bit more fundraising, I certainly have a good backlog of references, so that’s something. As for a purpose, or setting any big life goals, I think I will just have to settle for ‘stay alive’ for now. It’s my greatest achievement thus far, of which I am proud.
I’m sure if I tell the lovely man at the job centre all this he will understand. Won’t he?