So, I had a little celebratory FB post last week. Self-congratulatory to the max. I had a job! After 8 weeks in London (has it really been that long??) I had finally convinced someone to give me a job. I basked in the many thumbs-ups from friends around the world. I was validated as a human being! People would pay me to do things! I was employable! I had a JOB.
Of course, I didn’t let on what the job was. That was quite deliberate. That was because I really, really, really didn’t want to do the job. Because the job was terrible. I knew it was going to be terrible. It was the one job I’ve always said I would never do.
It was… Charity Call-Centre Fundraiser.
Mildly better than being one of the people on the street, I thought. That’s something.
And I was getting kind of bored of sitting on my behind and watching ‘Friends’ repeats on the telly. I was getting bored of sitting around in Clapham Common at various cafes. I was really, really bored of filling out job applications and hearing nothing back.
‘I just need a job! Any job!’ I told people. ‘Its been too long! I just need a job!’ And, when the Royal Court wouldn’t let me interview for an usher position once I had returned from Sweden, I thought my only option was to take up the dreaded call-centre fundraiser position.
Its only temporary, I told myself. You can quit whenever you want, I told myself. You can keep applying for jobs at the same time as doing this job. At least its for charities. You like charities. The people seem really nice, even if they do keep describing this as the worst job ever. If you want to go away again later in the year, you really need to take this job.
I told myself so many things just to convince myself to the job interview. Then I told myself many other things to get myself to the training. Even more things to get to the first briefing and then many, many things to get to my first shift (‘its only 7 hours. It’ll be over soon. You don’t need to go in tomorrow. You’re free ALL of TOMORROW!’). Once I was there, it wasn’t really possible to leave, so that at least made life easier and cleared my brain to actually attempt to make money for the charities.
Last night, however, facing my next shift at the place today, I stayed up until about 1am (‘don’t make it be Friday, don’t make it get to Friday, if I go to sleep I’ll wake up and it’ll be Friday…’), filling out job applications, watching ‘Sex and the City 2’, even though I knew it was shit and eating far too much Indian food even though I was completely and utterly full. Now, if that is not a cry for help, I don’t know what is.
All morning I attempted to gee myself up. I told myself I could go and buy a beautiful vintage dress I’d seen yesterday if I would just go to work. I told myself I had the whole weekend free after today and it really wasn’t that long, all things considered. I told myself many things, none of which worked. And then I talked to my housemate, who was fully behind my decision not to go to work and then I thought about it and realised that as long as I didn’t take any more holidays (like the ones in August) I really didn’t need a job for another 2 – 3 months.
So, I decided not to go to work. Now, just to make this clear for you, I lasted A SINGLE DAY at my new work. And, just to make things even more ridiculous, I went and bought the vintage dress anyway (though, I did then attempt to walk home from Shoreditch in some bizarre attempt at cost-savings: buy a 38 pound dress, but save a pound or two on the tube because ‘I’m not working and I need to try and be frugal’. That makes sense, right?)
The young me, the 20-something who is attempting to figure out what to do with her life and make her days meaningful, is fully behind this decision to quit the job. She thinks, well done on having enough self-awareness to know you couldn’t stick it out! Well done on correctly identifying the overwhelming emotion (anxiety) that was filling your throat whilst you tried to sleep last night, realising its source and fixing the situation! Well done on putting your mental health before money and not feeling like you HAD to get a job just because that’s what people expect after you’ve been in a place a certain amount of time.
But, the problem is there is a crotchey old man voice in my head too. I’m not entirely sure how he got there, actually. But, he’s grumpy and bent over and has a big chin and a walking stick and he thinks that 20-something Jenny has just had it far too good for far too long and she should just suck it up and take whatever comes her way. There may be references to ‘his generation’ and the Great Depression and making the best of your lot; grouchy sentences stating that work isn’t about dreams its about reality and mutterings about determination, struggles, stoicism, grit and various other noble words.
On some level, I do think the crotchey old man is right. I do sometimes worry about my generation and its seeming inability to concentrate or commit to anything for any longer than… I don’t know, the ad breaks in between episodes of the Simpsons (thank you Year 8 Maths teacher for that particular insult). I do worry that we’ve been sold some sort of impossible dream by our parents and Hollywood and afternoon TV about work being some kind of vocation and that if you don’t love it with all your heart, if you don’t find exactly what is your special skill and unique contribution to the world then you need to figure out exactly what it is quick smart and do that instead. In some ways I think we’ve all been far too privileged (and when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘me’, though do feel free to let me know if you feel the same way): we’ve been given so many opportunities at school and outside of school, we’ve lived through seemingly endless economic boom times that are only just going bust as we get to adulthood. We lived through this kind of golden age for youth and adolescence where we were all mollycoddled and now we don’t know how to function in the real world.
I believe at this point that if I were a fan of Lena Dunham’s “Girls” there would be an uncomfortably similar moment or quote that I could relate to this whole incident and then feel like a terrible human being because I was similar to Lena Dunham (not that I think she’s a terrible human being, but, just… well, she does kind of portray herself as a terrible human being on that show).
The one thing I have realised at least is that if I’m able to buy a vintage dress and still quit my job then I’m really not at the end of my tether just yet and I am allowed to relax and try and enjoy my unemployment for a little bit longer. So, the question now when I complain about money should always be, ‘Well, yes, but, are you poor enough to go work at a call centre yet?’ Hopefully the answer will never be ‘yes’. Hopefully I’ll get a good-ish job before it ever gets to that point that I would have to answer ‘yes’ to that question. Because, no matter what the crotchey old man thinks, I just don’t think I could possibly stick it out at the call centre. And if I forced myself to stick it out I can only envision further vintage clothing shopping sprees, late nights depressed in front of Sex and the City and hours of anxiety eating.