Hindsight is a wonderful thing: if only I’d not worn that royal blue, khaki green and orange blend shell suit in public, if only I’d not risked that Leo Sayer imitation hairstyle, and if only I’d chosen the right career 20 years ago.
Despite the endless hours of my childhood spent making up radio shows and imitating Police Academy characters, I went down the academic route – it never occurred to me that there was anything else outside of ‘proper jobs’. A creative path just didn’t hit the radar as a potential option – it was a choice between Teacher, Healthcare Professional or Civil Servant. To add to this, I really didn’t enjoy English as a school subject – I was bored in English classes and I thought I was crap at it, perhaps because I was led to believe so. My English teacher was Dutch and had the most incompatible personality for teaching – there was no control over anyone, to the point that we spent the lessons cheering on a girl in our class who was built like a brick shit house and could break legs off the chairs with her bare hands; her record was five chairs in one lesson. Another game we enjoyed was to see if we could squeeze the coat of everyone in the class onto this girl – starting with the smallest, we worked as a team to help her into every coat, and then see if she could fit through the doorway once she was fully loaded. It was bloody hilarious at the time, but I feel a little sad that, had we had a passionate and assertive English teacher, then perhaps my love of writing would have been born at an earlier age. I didn’t read, bar temporarily being into Judy Blume books, on the back of a tip-off that one of the boys in one of the books had a willy called Ralph, yet I find myself now as a writing addict. And I don’t use ‘addict’ lightly – it’s a love, a drug and goes hand-in-hand with breathing, eating and sleeping. I just want to write for a living.
It can be healthy to change career, there isn’t mileage in continuing to begrudgingly truck along in something you don’t enjoy, if you can afford not to, and everything in the past can have some value or nugget of wisdom to bring into a new industry. The problem is when the world you long to be in is one that carries a one in a billion chance of succeeding, and teamed with that, you are the sole breadwinner of the family.
If I wanted to be a Teacher, I could train and get a job, if I wanted to be an Accountant, then the same would apply. I could even knuckle down on the yoga and put myself out there as a middle-aged stripper. But I want to write books. I can continue to set the alarm for 6am and chip away at the manuscript with the dedication of an athlete in training, but the result isn’t guaranteed to be parallel to the effort put in. The 10 year mark has passed, from putting all hopes into scripts that got the thumbs up by the right people but never progressed from verbal to written commissions, from performing on stage and succeeding in knocking the competition out of slams, but never seeing an income on the back of it.
When does it stop? Does a wannabe Writer truck until their deathbed with the hope that it will all one day materialise and all be worthwhile, but with the risk that they might hit 80 years of age and be faced with ‘Oh fuck, time’s up’? And, as sits as the biggest question facing me right now: what do I do to earn money in the meantime, if indeed it is only a ‘meantime’?
I like being a Waitress. I like it more than the other jobs I’ve ticked off over the last decade. If I could get a pre-dated cheque for a book deal in 2020, then I would continue to Waitress in the meantime, but what if I never make it? Where does the insecurity of a non-contracted part-time job leave a single woman as she drives through her 40’s, 50’s, 60’s…? It scares me as much of the thought of being artificially impregnated by a rhino embryo. But my nice little job gives me the time and head-space to spend time writing – which I love to do regardless of it bringing in any income. An office job or return to the public sector would indeed give me the financial peace of mind and be less damaging to the ego when I am faced with weddings and such, (“so, what do you do?”) but it doesn’t allow the same head-space to write. A day in the medical communications industry is all-absorbing, with hours being spent at your laptop spilling into the evening – this to a budding Writer is a total passion-killer – you still fancy having a session but you’re just too tired and can’t face any more of the screen. So maybe waitressing is potentially more valuable than the loss of actual pennies in my pocket, resulting from dropping to a minimum wage job. Shoe-horning myself back into a public sector or corporate job, (at the expense of not seeing my son as much, and with the resultant shelving of the manuscript), is a huge ask just so that I don’t have to face a potential level of hindsight that would equate to the regret of sleeping with a horse. (Bestiality is a reoccurring theme in my writing, but in the face of the anxious humour-void state I’m sometimes caught up in, I feel that an interspersed dark humour is like a little sprinkling of glitter on the emotional turd of employment indecision that I sometimes feel like I am burdened with).
Then there’s the most important thing – time with my son. And for every ‘I’m wasting my potential by being a waitress’, I’m reminded that there are women who have the same guilt and anxiety about having successful office-hour jobs and missing time with their children. I think it’s a catch 22 for working mothers – it can be hard to get the balance right. Time with your kid(s) is invaluable, but if you’re dragging your arse over not having achieved anything career-wise then it’s got to potentially impact on your parenting – I think it probably does in my case, because I let it knock my confidence.
90% of the time, I channel the words of my Youtube inspiration, MMA fighter Conor McGregor – he is the ultimate see-it, believe-it, achieve-it guru – and I attempt to embrace the same thought process that brought him success in his field. But there are other days when I’m hit by ‘shit, what if I never make it?’ There would be less fear if I was hitched to a big guns Publisher, or I was a famous face that could pick up as many book deals as I fancied, alongside my personalised perfume range, cupcake range and merchandised stoma bag designs. But I’m not – I’m a single mother waiting tables in the middle of the countryside. And sometimes I’m a lost fearful child trapped in the body of a grown woman.
Perhaps I’d feel differently if I was waitressing in my own café or restaurant? That vision definitely lightens the load of currently being a non-achiever in life, in terms of my career. Or perhaps I just need to have a word with my ego.
Being totally absorbed by the Olympics hits home as to who I am. I am a determined perfectionist who was never going to feel comfortable in a two-a-penny job, or in something that you couldn’t fight in to become top dog. As a previous swimmer I had my sights on gold (scuppered by my body being a biomechanical nightmare), in my exams I went for 100%, and as a Writer I want to be up there. I have a mind that shares the drive that performers have for number ones and world records – an ingrained hunger to far surpass being distinctly average. I have an itch that I can’t scratch from settling solely for a sensible non-creative job.
I try and reignite the law of attraction that I long to become true for my publishing dream. During a recent Hen Do, I was partaking in an imposed limbo competition (I’m talking very small scale here); this was an event that would have been safe for most people to bet their home equity on that I would come last in, given that I can fall over on flat ground, I frequently knock my head on things and I have a total lack of spacial awareness of my own body. Defeated from the start, I decide to test the concept of visualisation and belief; I see myself winning, I pretend in my mind that I am a gymnast and I adopt the belief that I am fierce, unbeatable and that I’m not wearing a baggy grey T-shirt and have hair like a Brillo pad – the latter two really knocking my confidence at the start of the sports day. The outcome: I won.
So waitressing it is – I’ll get my head down with my book, I’ll keep ploughing on until I’m done and then I’ll fight like a Pitbull to get it taken on, all whilst seeing it happen and not dropping the belief that I can get there.
It always helps me to try and conclude each post with a peaceful, upbeat view of the current dilemma. The grass is rarely greener when you look back to the previous bill-paying roles – I wouldn’t swap my position to be in the higher paid, higher pressured jobs I held in the past. And the biggest blessing that life has taught me has been on the back of earning minimum wage: that the best things in life are free. A budget as tight as cat’s arsehole forces you to occupy yourself with the things that don’t cost a penny – and in that, you start to appreciate what, and who, is around you.
To top it off, I was out walking with my son, in a bliss of mindfulness that finally appeared after a week of thinking-terror, when I was approached by a man. He said he’d spotted us and taken a picture of us walking up the hill, which he’d like to use for a magazine. He’d unknowingly captured a moment when I’d just flipped from crippling fear about my future into a sense of peace, gratitude for what was around me and a confidence that everything was going to be OK.
Keep on trucking.