Career Worries

https://mobile.twitter.com/BluMarTen/status/605128443475456001

I don’t currently have a career. I used to, but I hated it and now I have no idea what I want to do. I’ve got so far down a career path (masters degree) to be able to swap to another profession at the same level but too old to seriously think about retraining.

The main problem is  that I don’t feel that I’ve been very good at any of my previous jobs. I’ve never really felt like I’ve made a difference or helped anyone. I’ve mostly been shouted at or complained to. I have been frequently patronized (I’m sure you can work the photocopier better than me, can you just run me off 10 copies? Will you be serving the refreshments? Are you here as a placement student?) and have often made people cry. I have had jobs that have made me so stressed I couldn’t sleep. I have sat in my office at 10pm on a Friday night and asked myself what I’m doing with my life.

I’d love to be a writer but I genuinely don’t know how that happens. How do you decide what to write about? How do you make money from it? I’m from the West Midlands, where jobs are based in factories and involve manual labour. I guess the answer is to write something first then see what you can do with it? Maybe start with short stories?

As always, any help or comments would be much appreciated!

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How I write

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This is the book that I write in. It has my to do lists. It has thoughts and ideas. It has a diary (of sorts). It makes me happy to look at. I doubt anyone could decipher its contents.

I like to write at night. Every essay, piece of coursework and dissertation I’ve ever created has been made after dark. I am not a morning person. I can generally only work under pressure. If I don’t have a deadline I try to complete a task before I need to do something else (like sleep).

Sometimes, I’ll be inspired during the day and I’ll make a note in my writing book but whatever I jot down only gets turned into actual english at night.

Sometimes my thoughts are so jumbled and intertwined with other ideas that I need to separate them out to get them to make sense. That’s when I use spider diagrams or action programming (basically a big to do list split into individual projects, with immediate actions prioritised). I’ve never found a computer program that can handle either method so for now I do it all longhand. Preferably with coloured pens.

I like to write in bed, propped up with pillows. It is quiet and calm and warm and safe. I’m there right now, and I’m t i r e d... so, goodnight world. Sweet dreams.

Confessions of a book whore

“So many books, so little time” – Frank Zappa.

I have a confession to make. I am a book whore. I will read anything and everything. This includes cereal packets, shampoo ingredients, terms and conditions and whatever the person sitting next to me is reading (sorry). The act of reading itself is an escape for me, a way to go off into another world. Reading is an adventure.

I began “reading”as a newborn baby whilst my mother read aloud to me from nursery rhyme books. I learnt to read for myself at a very young age (it is debatable whether I had just memorized the stories) and have been devouring books ever since. I remember going to the library as a child and being upset about their six book limit – I could read all of my new books in a couple of days, and then what would I do for the rest of the week? At junior school I read every single book in their library twice. I chose my senior school because their library was the biggest.

The books that I’ve read have always reflected whatever stage of life I’m currently at. Growing up I read a lot of typical YA fiction including Judy Bloom, Paula Danziger (I never liked the tense that she wrote in) and pretty much all of the babysitters club books by Ann M Martin. By the time I got to uni I discovered fantasy and science fiction via my slightly gay boyfriend James. He was my next door neighbour and I remember seeing him in the garden reading Roger Zelazney’s Chronicles of Amber and deciding at that moment to sleep with him. So I did. (I then proceeded to read everything he owned and callously dumped him when I had finished. I’m not proud). My 20’s were a period of discovery and despite hating to travel I felt I had discovered a little of the world through Bill Bryson’s books. As I reached my 30’s I began to read more mid 20th century classics (predominantly by female authors) possibly because their main characters reflect my current housewife status. One book which really resonated with me is Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. I thoroughly understood what it is like to live in someone else’s house with the ghost of a previous occupant (in my case, my boyfriend’s mother) haunting you as you make inadequate pastry and ineffectually clean the silverware (see previous posts about my current domestic situation).

In much the same way that the music that you liked growing up affected the friends that you made at school, the subsequent clubs and parties that you went to, the clothes you wore and the activities that you participated in, I’ve found that books can have the same effect. A few years ago my best friend met her new partner through a mutual friend. He was much younger, trendiest, with dreams of becoming an actor whilst working in a minimum wage job. He didn’t get our cultural references. He was totally different to my other, settled, 30 something friends. I had nothing in common with him. At a party, we began talking about films (he loves them, I’m fairly indifferent to most) which lead to a conversation about books and specifically, Neil Gaiman. Suddenly, all of his friends wanted to join in with their opinions. Amazingly, every single person there said I love Neil Gaiman but… ” and proceeded to tell me why they loved some of his work but hated other parts. This lead to one of the geekiest, most intellectual group conversations ever held at a drunken get together. Surprisingly, we couldn’t agree on one single opinion. I hated American Gods but loved Neverwhere. Someone said it was the same story. Someone else disagreed vociferously. Someone said that American Gods was much more expansive. I said it was Neil Gaiman doing a Stephen King impression. No one agreed with me. People got animated. People got even more drunk. Everyone joined in. It was one of the best moments of my life.

My partner does not read. He has an academic job and says that as he reads scientific papers all day he wants a break when he gets home. I don’t understand this at all. He’s clearly missing out. Can a relationship between a reader and a non reader work? Does reading define me that much? I guess only time will tell. I’ll keep you updated.

Home

I live in the West Midlands in the UK and have done so for my entire life. I grew up in a house with just my parents, then lived in student accommodation, then moved back home. A couple of years ago I moved in with my partner. His parents had both passed away and he inherited the family home. Whilst it’s been a huge financial blessing (no rent! No mortgage!) its actually put quite a strain on our relationship. Essentially I’m living in someone else’s home. The phrase “get out of MY house” is shouted at me at some point during every argument that my partner and I have. Our relationship is very much one sided as a result.

Added to this, my partners parents were in their 60s when they died and had both been disabled. The house was pretty tired (understandably) and its taken FOREVER to sort out. My boyfriend is emotionally attached to literally every single item so we’ve had many, many arguments about why we should keep mismatched plates, a 20 year old kettle and or a red patterned carpet in the living room. We currently have a living room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom and back garden but the front garden, hall stairs and landing, back bedroom, box room and bathroom are a complete mess. It’s immensely depressing to walk into the house to be confronted with peeling wallpaper, chipped paintwork and an avocado bathroom. I’d love to get stuck in myself and I have done a lot to improve the overall appearance but as I said before, IT ISN’T MY HOUSE. I’m sure my boyfriend would go mental if he came home to find me making changes without his explicit knowledge and participation.

I have no idea how to make this situation change, short of nagging my partner to death or selling up.

Things I’ve learnt…

1. Be true to yourself. Fake people are incredibly obvious and really annoying. Be diplomatic, but be truthful. Don’t be afraid to like things that no one else does. One day you’ll meet someone else who gets it, I promise.

2. Trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, don’t do it. Working in recruitment I’ve had lots of experiences where I’ve felt that someone is wrong for a job that, on paper, they’re totally right for – and for the most part I’ve been correct. If you know that something feels off but you don’t know why, I’ve found that just saying “I’m not sure, there’s something I can’t put my finger on” can help to start a conversation about your reservations. It also encourages others to stop and think.

3. Don’t take no for an answer. Whatever it is, keep going at it. Try to think of different ways to get what you want. Get feedback on why you’ve been rejected and work on those points. Ask for help from everyone you can think of. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

4. Have a plan. If you have an ambition, write it down and work out the steps you need to take to get to it. Set a timeline. Set realistic goals. Be prepared to be flexible when life gets in the way. Even if you have to abandon the plan for 6 months (or 6 years!) and start back at the beginning, never give it up completely.

5. What goes around comes around. Also be careful with your soul. The world has a funny way of repaying you for your previous actions.

6. Listen to your elders. Despite the pace at which the world has changed, basic human relationships are fundamentally the same as they always have been. In my experience, older people couldn’t care less what you think of them so their advice is usually bullshit free and super honest.

7. Make time for yourself. Don’t run yourself ragged. Get enough sleep (ignore all this 7-8 hours rubbish, I need at least 9 to function properly) and drink lots of water. If you have kids (I don’t) I’m not going to patronize you by suggesting helpful tips – I guess just try to get through the day. After seeing some of my friends with their newborns I am in total awe of you.

8. Challenge negative behaviour. I know this can be hard (I once accused a UK CEO of sexism) but if you don’t say something it normalises the behaviour and makes you part of the problem. I have this argument all the time about people who say “it doesn’t matter if I say policeMAN” or “why wouldn’t I call her Mrs …, she’s married”. The semantics themselves aren’t the point but they’re part of the bigger issue. As far as I’m concerned, someone’s gender is irrelevant to their job title just as their marital status is irrelevant to their name. If someone chooses to become a Mrs then that’s totally their decision, but don’t assume that’s the default reaction to marriage. I could expand on this topic but that’s not the point of this post so I’ll return to the subject in the future.

9. Remember that we’re here for a good time not a long time. Don’t beat yourself up about past mistakes. Don’t obsess over small issues. Try to get things in proportion. My nan used to tell me “you die if you worry, you die if you don’t so why worry at all”.

10. Be nice. I can’t state this enough. I’ve had my fair share of negativity thrown at me in the past and it can be incredibly hard to rise above it. You need to remember that people who say nasty things only do it to make themselves feel better about what I can only assume are deeply sad little lives. Pity the haters who need to stoop to that level. Remember that jealousy will get you nowhere.

Spread the love people!

I write because…

*This is a 15 minute free writing exercise as part of the writing 101 challenge. Please forgive any repetition or meandering thought processes!

I write because there’s all these thoughts and opinions insideof me that I need to let out, otherwise I’ll go crazy.

I write because I need a challenge and a focus in my life.

I write because I’ve read enough free ebooks/blogs/fan fiction to think that I can do better.

I write because I’m egotistical enough to think that someone, somewhere will be interested in what I have to say.

I write because I want to connect with the world.

I write because I’ve read my old diaries and they are unintentionally hilarious.

I write because I want to attempt an authentic snapshot of my life.

I write because hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I write because I believe that if you work at something you love, good things will happen.

I write because I want people to understand me.

I write because I want to spread some positivity and happiness.

I write because I find it cathartic.

I write because I love words and language.

I write because I enjoy it.

I write because I want to meet Neil Gaiman.