Blood, Sweat and Careers

I woke to sun shining through the foot or so I’d drawn in the curtains but by the time I’d made some toast and tea the grit of rain against the window and the darkening of the blue to deep grey had secured me to breakfast in bed. Winter with only a taster of spring but a Saturday and at least I didn’t have to feel the guilt of staying in bed too long as I would on a weekday. Self employment or career on hold, whichever way you’d rather think of it, has it’s benefits of control over my own time and the disadvantages of having to have enough self control to make a day worthwhile. With dwindling savings there is always a little warning light in the back of my mind flashing away in a dark corner glowing the walls of worry which I notice from time to time.

When someone asks what I’m doing these days and I tell them I’ve quit my job to follow my dreams I’m usually responded to with adulation, admiration and usually the phrase “I wish I could do that.” In fact I’ve probably said that myself in the past to others when I’d dreamt of the idea. The idea of taking time out from a stressful career; no matter how much money they throw at you. It’s one of those things I always thought I could do but wouldn’t do. Money would keep coming in and veer me away from the idea. The thing is those people who have said it – can do it. There is nothing stopping anyone other than may be having to let go of other things and putting up with the nay-sayers who negate the idea at every opportunity. It didn’t come easy for me. It was the build-up of several years of stress that led to it and about two years of solid saving and cutting certain things out of my life; it was something I wanted to do, something I had to do.

I remember the first day. After quitting my full time job a very short bit of freelance work had come up. Short enough that it wouldn’t make a dent in this new found change in direction of my life and they were paying a lot of money. One week later that job was done and I found myself laying on the lawn, the middle of summer with the British sun at full strength not seen since 1977, a tall cold glass of something on a mosaic coaster propped up by a bunch of other coasters to make up for the slope of the garden and looking at the screen of the laptop deciding what I would write to find out if I could write. I had enough security to keep me safe for at least a year but it wasn’t the financials that made me think as I flipped over to face the depths of the blue sky and the caress of the skin toasting sun that ‘I feel like I’ve won the lottery.’

The power of the feeling of freedom to chase something better in life that would make me much happier. It’s not driven by money or by some kind of celebrity chasing fame that so many are ruined by and it wasn’t to impress friends or past-friends for that matter, it was solely for me for something I actually enjoyed. That summer I worked on a script for what must have been three solid months. In fact I produced three scripts, one was done in a week but all the revision work was where the real blood, sweat and tears came. When I say blood, I really mean blood.

On the one script I’d decided to concentrate on, by the end, in the last few days before I had to get it in the post I was sat in Starbucks – alfresco amongst coffee tables, smokers completely oblivious to the usual summer tourists coming and going. With Wifi switched off and I had probably never been so blacked-out to Facebook or e-mail. It was just me, coffee and the screen. By this point all worries about characterisation and structure were out the window. There was no more hesitation about whether I was doing-it-right. To me these characters were now people. Real people. I believed in them. Whether anyone else would is another matter but everything was at a conclusion. If one character had done something to another I actually cared! It became emotional. I was changing atomic sized parts of sentences, a word for another word and then back again as struggled with internal conflict as to which was better to use and whether that character would say what they’d said. I looked down at my fingers and there was blood. My skin was dry and I’d scratched along the tops and sides of my fingers with my nails in anxiety until I’d bled. I had never cared so much about any work I had ever done.

At this time I had already been seeing a psychologist and seeking help on stress and anxiety from a popular self help book, but this help was more than just trying to sort out the gender thing. It was like University teaches you more than just the subject you’re reading; you learn about life. You expand your view listening to other people from other walks of life, or narrow your view if you’re that way inclined.

Talking therapy had helped me release myself from my own constraints. My own embarrassments or allowing other people’s negative feedback control my future. It’s amazing how powerful just a strong needling opinion, no matter how well intentioned, can make when you fear they may be right, even though in reality they are no more right about your own choice than me or anyone else. Without this help, either from the psychologist, the occupational therapist or the books for that matter, I probably wouldn’t have made the leap into the unknown with taking timeout. But then again I did seek help so may be that in itself was the leap.

Until next time

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