Category Archives: Unemployment

Reading Deprivation

To fill up my spare hours and to save me from going crazy with the organisation of yet another country move (this is the 4th country move I’ve done in 6 years. Or the 6th city move in 6 years. I think I might need help), I am currently working my way through a book called ‘The Artist’s Way.’ It’s a book that’s meant to help ‘blocked creatives’ (I really, really, really have to work hard at not sneering at that phrase) get past whatever is getting in the way of them making work. There’s all sorts of activities that you do, but the most important are the ‘morning pages’ and the weekly artist’s date. The morning pages are three full pages of writing that you do in the morning time – you get out whatever crap is in your head, or stressing you out and write it down and try to work through it. It’s like a free-form, flow of consciousness diary, I guess. The artist’s date is just doing something every week that is just for you, whatever takes your fancy. So far, I have had an excursion to a falling-down 19th century sanatorium, bought silly stamps at the craft stall, painted ceramics and… this week’s has not yet happened.

I bought the book in Bandon, Ireland (5 moves ago) and started it then, but never made any headway. I think I read the first chapter. This time, I’m being really diligent. It helps that I’m not employed, I guess. Every Wednesday, I read my chapter and then I copy the weekly activities into a little exercise book that I decorated. And when I do my activity, I get a little owl stamp that says ‘Sehr Schön’ on it. I figured it would appeal to the obsessive compulsive child that I am, deep down in my heart. So far, it’s worked very well.

Anyway. The big activity for this week is called ‘Reading Deprivation’. When I first read the phrase, I thought it meant it was going to address the fact that I had been depriving myself of reading and we were going to fix it and I was going to read all the things.

read-all-the-things

ALL THE THINGS! Found here

Of course, it’s the opposite. You’re supposed to deprive yourself of reading all the things. In fact, you are banned, BANNED, from reading anything. ANYTHING.

As I read (ha!) through what I was supposed to do, a genuine feeling of dread crept up on me. How exactly was I supposed to do this? How was I supposed to get all the things done that I needed to get done without reading? The first thing I do every morning (and this is… sad, I grant you) is reach for my computer and check email and check Facebook. I’d like to blame the habit on being in a different country from my family and many friends, but, let’s be honest here. I’d probably do it if I’d never left Australia too.

I had lots of questions about the reading deprivation. Was I allowed to read signs? Recipes? Information on the back of drug packets? Every time I needed to look something up, did I need to get Alex to read it on my behalf and then tell me the salient points? What if he read it wrong? Could I read things that I, myself, had written? Or was I only allowed to write texts and emails and send them into the world with whatever predictive text had decided I wanted to say? Is everyone who ever sent an amusingly suggestive text with a strange predictive text word substitution all doing this reading deprivation activity?? The book did not answer these, or really any, of my questions. In fact, the book is quite vague on most of the details. The author tells us that she’s often called crazy for this particular exercise, there’s always someone who says they can’t do what she’s told them to do. And then they all end up doing it. But, but, but… HOW do they end up doing it? Not everyone is unemployed! How do teachers get away with not reading things for an entire work? Are you allowed to read things if you’re being paid to read them? Where does the ‘no reading’ ban end? What happens if I briefly glance over the toiletries in the shower and my brain accidentally comprehends the word ‘shampoo’? Did I read it? Is the exercise over then? Do I have to start again? Should I just walk through the world with my eyes closed for a week?

I’m beginning to think she left it deliberately vague so that you can make your own mind up about what really is essential reading and what you can do without. That’s my decision, anyway. So, I’ve come up with a few of my own rules. For example, the book was originally written in 1992 and the version I have was re-printed in 2002. So, well before communications were radically altered through social media and text message. So, in the end, I decided that I was allowed to continue reading basic communication texts – things that might have been, back in the day, a phone call – because otherwise life would get really difficult. I’ve also allowed myself to read things online for basic information. For example, Alex and I want to go kayaking tomorrow. I had to research where the kayak rental was. That involved reading websites and I decided that was ok.

You may have also noticed that I’m still updating Facebook. Well, I’m allowed to write. So, I figure, posting on Facebook is ok and responding to people commenting on my post is ok, but scrolling mindlessly through my News Feed is a definite no-no.

Even with these, fairly generous, rules in place, the no reading thing has been difficult and frustrating. It’s also been eye-opening. The amount of hours I spend on the computer just waiting for something to distract me, not even entertain me, just distract me, is kind of terrifying. I’ve gotten into a habit of having the computer open at all times, so that whenever I’m reading or watching something and there’s a reference I don’t get, or there’s a song that I recognise but can’t remember why, I immediately get on the computer to look it up. Sure, it doesn’t seem like that big a deal. But, stopping doing it as made me realise how easily distracted I actually am. Sitting down and really focusing on something and committing to not being distracted is actually hard work. That’s why I love reading on the UBahn, or going to the cinema – it’s easier to not be distracted from a movie or a book when I’m not at home, with easy access to the internet. Somewhere down the line, I turned into those dogs from Up and didn’t even notice and also willingly participated in the transformation.

squirrel

Squirrel found here

It’s made me think about lots of things. And not all of them are anti-internet. Like, how did I get information before the internet? I was still a kid, so a lot of the time I just asked my Dad and he knew. I looked up things in our massive Oxford English Dictionary, which was fine for words and things, but not so much for people. I looked things up in my Dad’s old high school Encyclopaedia, but as it was from the 60s, most of the time I did it for laughs and to see people still referring to Russia as the U.S.S.R. There was a reference section of our high school library, where some librarian had carefully cut out newspaper or magazine articles and arranged them alphabetically by subject in horizontal files: Peron, Eva; Peron, Juan. I wonder what happened to all those files. That I now have access to the answer to almost any question I could possibly have is pretty amazing. That I mostly use it to find out what others films a familiar looking actor was in is possibly a waste. That I look up the information and then immediately forget it is probably unsurprising. That not being able to look up the answer to every random question that goes through my brain over the past few days hasn’t resulted in my brain exploding or the end of the world is also telling.

I’ve also discovered I have SO MUCH free time. I know I am currently unemployed, which certainly helps the free time. But, seriously. I can’t think of enough things to do during the day. I’ve actually written myself a list called, ‘Things I Like Doing’ so that if I get bored, I don’t panic and decide there is nothing else to do ever, ever, I’ll be bored forever. I’ve been saying a lot over the past few months that I ‘don’t know what I like anymore’. But part of it was that I just wasn’t bothering to think of things that I liked anymore. I’d come home from work tired and instead of going to the effort of thinking of something I might like to do, I would immediately open the computer and ‘zone out’ for an hour. Hour and a half. Two hours. It was boring. It was frustrating. It was numbing. But as long as things kept changing online there was at least distraction. There was at least something to do. I didn’t have to think too hard and come up with something I might actually like to spend my time doing.

My anxiety levels have also been through the roof over the past two years. I mean, I know, I’ve always been an anxious person. But, there’s been a steady increase over the last little while. And I think part of it has been this underlying feeling that I should always be ‘doing something.’ And, again, online, it is actually possible to always be doing ‘something’. It may or may not be worthwhile ‘something’, but it is, at least, a ‘something’. It might be watching a cat push a dog into a pool (that would be awesome, though, wouldn’t it?) or it might be an 8 page profile of Angela Merkel. But there’s always ‘something’ to do. I find myself going, ‘I’ll just read this and then I’m finished.’ ‘I’ll just watch this and then I’m finished.’ But it never ends, there’s always more clicks, there’s always more suggestions. What exactly did the cat video add to my life? It gave me a cheap laugh, I suppose and we do sometimes need cheap laughs. But if it ends in an hour long cycle of cheap laughs, it’s probably gone on too long. In the last two days, I have, twice, made myself a cup of tea, opened the doors of my balcony and stared at the sky for a good 45 minutes to an hour. I used to love doing things like that. But, I just kind of forgot about it. Because it seemed boring. Because it wasn’t ‘something’. Because it wasn’t as quickly diverting as jumping online.

The whole point of the ‘reading deprivation’ exercise is to stop filling yourself up with things that other people have written or created and start making space to write your own things. I didn’t think it would work. I didn’t think it would work that quickly. But, seriously. When you’ve suddenly got an entire empty afternoon stretching out in front of you and no ability to spend it staring at other people’s lives on Facebook, or even, getting out a new novel and devouring it hour after hour – why not write something? It doesn’t even have to be a good something. It just has to be a something. Because, no matter how relaxing it is to stare at the clouds for an hour, eventually you’re going to get bored. You’re going to get lonely. You’re going to start feeling some things and you’re going to want to deal with those things.

I do hate people who get all ‘holier than thou’, especially when it comes to the internet and mobile phones (ah, the irony of a video, telling you to look up from your mobile, packaged as clickbait), but the last few days have been a goddamn revelation. I knew I spent too much time online and I knew I hated it. But suddenly banning myself from being unproductively online has made me realise just how much time I spend there, how much I don’t enjoy it and all the things I could possibly be doing if I wasn’t on the goddamn internet. I’m not saying I want to go back to the days when I wasn’t able to find out what ‘AIDS’ was by looking in my dad’s 1960s schoolboy encyclopaedia. But, I’m also saying that I want to make sure that the things I do online are done with purpose, have an end point and are an asset to my broader life, instead of an endless cycle of sponsored clicks.

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Filed under Introspection, learning, Random, Theatre, Unemployment

What Do You Want?

One of the awkward parts of heading home over Christmas was the amount of times I had to answer the question, ‘So, are you still acting?’ Because I gave up so many months ago (though, really, if no-ones asking you to audition for anything and you’re not getting paid any actual money, is there anything you’re actually ‘giving up’, really?) and then wrote several blog posts about it and then put those blog posts on Facebook, I kind of assumed everyone would have gotten the message. I mean, obviously my family and friends have all subscribed to my blog and eagerly await each new post, which they then read in minute detail, taking notes so that they can later discuss me and my life choices at some kind of ‘Jenny blog’ reading group they have, right?

RIGHT?

Apparently that is not the case (do they not LOVE me???) Nothing like heading home to have to come face-to-face with a whole bunch of stuff you happily ignore in your fake, not-quite-adult, day-to-day Berlin life.

‘No, I’m not acting anymore.’

‘No, I’m not writing either.’

‘No, no theatre, none at all, absolutely no interest, but, anyways, HOW ARE YOU?’ (Mental note: must get better at effective conversation subject changes)

The next question then is, ‘Well, what are you going to do now?’

To which the response is, ‘I don’t know.’

And, then, inevitably, ‘Well, what do you WANT to do?’

To which the response still is, ‘I. DO. NOT. KNOW.’

Idon'tKnow

DON’T KNOW, DON’T KNOW, DON’T KNOW

This is a troubling answer to a lot of people. Who doesn’t know what they want?

(Side note: I often don’t know what I want, but usually it’s 8pm, I haven’t eaten since lunch and someone is attempting to figure out what restaurant to go to. At which point, my response is to cry until someone finds the largest possible plate of the nearest available food and gives it to me)

See, I knew what I wanted. For many years I knew what I wanted and that was to work in theatre and I didn’t know how that was going to happen, but that’s what I wanted and I was going to make it work. Somehow. Many people told me that was not what I wanted, or I that I shouldn’t want that, or that was a stupid thing to want, or a bad thing to want or blah blah blah and it turns out those many people were right. Kudos to them, I hope you all feel very proud of yourselves and wow, wouldn’t life have been swell if I’d listened to you all. No, really, I’m not bitter at you, I’m bitter at me.

ANYWAY, the main point is that after having given up on that one thing that I actually wanted, I literally am left with nothing else.

That’s rather melodramatic. Of course there are plenty of things that I could do, and, furthermore, have considered doing, but exactly how does one choose between them? When there is no strong feeling guiding you in any direction? My main criteria at the moment is, ‘must not choose wrong thing again,’ which I’m sure you can imagine is fairly crippling. I do have one other main criteria which is, ‘cannot work shitty, casual, low-paid, soulless work anymore’, which is also kind of ephemeral and all-encompassing and, in it’s own way limiting.

Despite my ridiculous amounts of fancy schooling, I am trained in nothing useful and nothing necessary.

And, to have people still asking me the same shitty question that got me into this mess (‘But, what do you WANT to do?’) is just the icing on the cake.

 

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Filed under Berlin, Employment, Introspection, Theatre, Unemployment

Back to the Daily Grind

So, that whole ‘new-thing-a-day’ really went down the tube, didn’t it? Ditto the ‘blog-a-day’ thing, or at least, ‘blog-about-every-day’ thing. Turns out the last year of my twenties isn’t so earth-shatteringly exciting that I feel the need to record every last detail. Turns out, the last year of my twenties is just a year like every other year of my late twenties, in which I avoid responsibility, big decisions and grown-up choices in favour of whining, drinking too much and eating chips with cheese and garlic sauce.

Oh well, what you gonna do?

The last week has been pretty boring, which is why I haven’t bothered to blog. I was massively unwell last weekend and then I got a lot better, so I decided to celebrate by going out and drinking a lot, meaning I probably stayed a little bit sick quite a bit longer than was strictly necessary. Monday I got drunk and angry in a park whilst discussing #auspol. Tuesday I drank in a park (but did not get drunk or angry – lesson learnt from the night before). Wednesday I went to terribly trendy Hoxton to watch my terribly trendy young friend play a gig with her terribly trendy band. I enjoyed it, but part of me also wanted to just go home and re-read my copy of ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’ out-loud. My party side decided to drown my grandma side in alcohol, meaning I got quite drunk on Wednesday night as well. FYI – don’t attempt to explain very controversial ideas and theories surrounding love whilst drunk  and coming home on the night bus. It just comes across as self-pitying and attention-seeking, rather than an intellectual critique of modern romantic Western culture. Little tip from me to you. Last night I headed out to see a friend perform at a scratch in Hackney. Also, I hung-out in a park yesterday, but didn’t drink at all (lesson learnt from all previous days of the week).

So, that’s the run down, now you know what I’ve been up to. And now I can tell you what I’m really worried about.

1) #AusPol

For those of you who don’t know, the Australian federal election is being held on Saturday the 7th of September. And for those of you who have been living under a rock, or who are delusional optimists,or who are not Australians, Tony Abbott is going to win.

This guy:

And this guy:

Oh, and this one too:

You know what? I don’t even have the energy to argue with anyone over this anymore. I have been arguing against politicians like this since I was 12 years old and found out that my grandmother was voting for One Nation and Pauline Hanson (this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8R4DknGsaQ OH, AND HOW AWFUL IS THIS VIDEO ANYWAY? DON’T READ THE COMMENTS, YOU’LL WANT TO PUNCH THE COMPUTER SCREEN). I’m tired. It doesn’t seem to do anything. Once upon a time, I believed in a world that was steadily progressing towards some kind of social democratic utopia in which all people were looked after and treated equal and fairly (I thought the entire world was eventually going to turn into Norwegians – until I found out not everything the Norwegians do is perfect either). I know that’s not true anymore – there is no narrative, no clearly defined goodies and baddies, there is only that which we impose onto our history with the benefit of hindsight. My postmodern, poststructuralist education has left me with the ability to see all sides of an argument and the crippling inability to make a decision; attempt to convince another person of my personal beliefs or confidently see the way forward.

So let me just say: on Saturday I am going to be devastated. Devastated by a country that doesn’t realise how lucky it is. Devastated by a selfish, lazy country that wants to hoard and jealously protect its wealth and advantage. Devastated by a country that refuses to imagine the long-term, irreparable consequences of its behaviour. I am going to be devastated by a country that is going to vote in Tony Abbott. That is going to vote him in overwhelmingly. I am going to be devastated. The drinking and sad songs will not end.

And whilst I don’t really have the words anymore to fight with anyone, I have been volunteering for the Greens all week at Australia House, handing out How-to-Votes and being a presence for the party. Because I can’t, in all good conscience, support Labor and because I think Western politics needs to be shaken out of its smugness, complacency and apathy by the shock of a true alternative: genuine policy, conviction and vision.

Volunteering has been an enlightening experience – there is a lot of hostility directed at us volunteers, which I find interesting. I suppose we become the physical embodiment of the politicians they only ever see on television and so they direct all their frustration and anger at us. Yesterday a Liberal supporter (a 70 year old man who really should know better), took my How-To-Vote, scrunched it up in my face and then threw it at me. Luckily I kept my cool and told him there was no need for that and if he didn’t want to vote for the Greens he shouldn’t take the form, that he shouldn’t waste them and I would recycle the one he had destroyed. So, in the end I looked reasonable, he looked psychotic. Which is, of course, how I would like everyone to view Liberal supporters. So, win for me? I guess? A few days previously, on  my second day of volunteering, a woman asked me if Labor was preferencing the Greens in all electorates. I replied that, unfortunately, I wasn’t sure, but that her preferences were her own to decide. She snapped that she knew that, at which point her friend started getting in on the act and telling me that, ‘as a Greens spokesperson’ surely I should ‘at least’ know that. Keeping my smile and the lightness to my voice, I replied that I was a Greens volunteer, not a spokesperson and that I supported the Greens, not Labor, so I couldn’t tell her everything that Labor was doing. I thought also that preferences would depend on which electorate she was looking at. I don’t understand the anger directed at me in this scenario, I can only attribute it to people’s attitudes towards politicians (‘they are stupid’ ‘they’re always hiding something’) suddenly directed at me, because I’ve got the badge on. As someone who has spent most of her life trying to be nice and trying to have people like me, it is a very odd situation to be in.

I think my other problem with politics these days is that I am no longer (if I ever was) filled with anger. I am soaked in sadness. And sadness is not a useful emotion. It is a debilitating emotion. Anger can be channelled, it can be focused. Sadness is just draining. I want to be like this: http://lookingforastronauts.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/anger-for-lucy-ellinson-and-chris-thorpe/ I want to be that angry. That focused, that direct. That useful. But, instead I am perpetually weeping in the corner.

2) Unemployment

I’m back in London and I’m back to being unemployed. Its strange how quickly you sink back into feelings of low self-worth through being rejected and useless. I mean, I haven’t actually been rejected yet. I am just anticipating the rejection. Its been a year since I last had to job search, but the first job application I filled out this week, I just thought, oh god. Here we go again. The great email silence. I don’t know how people get jobs from applications. From applying online. I don’t see how that is something that happens. Anyway, I’m making it more difficult for myself, as I haven’t rung my old employers yet to let them know I am back and happy to work. If I don’t have any success in the next week or so, I will probably do so. But, I can’t work Christmas and I’m not sure I want to go back to being a waitress. What I’d really like is a 9 – 5 job, Mon – Fri, so that I know I have my weekends free and I know what my schedule is like. Then I could take some weekend trips away, see some of the UK, do some writing etc. That’s what I want. I want a little bit of stability after months and months of rushing around and everything changing all the time.

Anyway. That’s me. Politics and unemployment. I’m a little low, but not too bad. I’m zoning out a bit too much on social media. The only thing that’s genuinely making me happy and inspired for the moment is that new copy of ‘The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart’, which I have been reading over and over to myself in bed, on the tube, in cafes… and the potential for seeing theatre at some point.

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Filed under 29, London, Theatre, Unemployment

Unemployed to Overemployed

I am currently sitting in Cafe Nero (not the one in Clapham Common – I do go other places!) having gone to two of my jobs today and taking a break before heading to my final job of the day. Two weeks ago, I barely had one job (in that, I had ‘work’, but it wasn’t paid), today I’m struggling to find enough hours to complete all the jobs I have (voluntary, paid and self-imposed), with all my bosses (including myself) slightly annoyed I’m not doing more hours for them and whilst also fending of other potential bosses who seem to be continuously ringing me to offer other jobs, and also… you know, sleep, eat and breathe. Apparently the reason its very difficult to find a job in London is because each person in London is allocated one particular fortnight period where they are offered ALL the jobs (even ones you haven’t applied for) and at no other point during the year will they be offered jobs. This last fortnight was MY fortnight (finally) and suddenly I have loads of jobs and am doing 13 hour days. Wheeeeeee.

Of course, as far as crises go, this is probably a much happier situation to be in than the one I was in two weeks ago (which was especially highlighted by the bank account statement received this morning…. 600 pounds in, 2600 pounds out. Eek). But, in true me-style, I’m turning molehills into mountains and spending some part of each day worrying that someone is going to ask me to do something that I can’t do because of all the other things the other people have asked me to do and then the delicate balance of jobs will suddenly come crashing down on my head, with many terrible consequences that I cannot think of right now, but rest assured they are terrible and generally involve being yelled at and people not liking me (incidentally, I met a lovely gentleman the other night, who also happened to be a magician, and he told me that he ‘turned mountains into molehills’, which is a turn of phrase I am particularly attached to and offer it to you here for your reading pleasure).

It certainly is interesting being back in paid work after having spent such a long time doing unpaid and voluntary work. It highlights a strange (and inconvenient) feeling of awkwardness that I have around being paid for doing work. Which may also explain the apparent inability I have turning any of the things that I do into money-making ventures. The minute I’m asking for payment for anything at all, I start to get uncomfortable and doubt whether or not what I am offering actually does provide value for money. This is particularly problematic around things that I enjoy doing (the eternal artist dilemma – to work or not work for free?) but seems also to be an issue around work that there is no way I would do without being paid at least minimum wage. So, at the charity call-centre, leaving each shift having received no donations for the charities, but having been paid however much for my shifts was pretty obviously *not* value for money as far as the charities were concerned. The constant analyzing of my calling technique by the managers (which was meant to assist me) made this anxious feeling even worse by highlighting all the ways I could potentially have gotten more money out of the pensioners and thereby made myself worthwhile as a charity call-centre worker and/or human being.

At the pub, things are much better, as apparently I have a ‘natural affinity’ for waitressing, meaning that I’m bubbly and smile a lot and laugh when the customers make jokes. Incidentally, this is actually all you need to be a waitress, surprisingly enough, its nothing to do with food and money and all that (ok, its a little bit about that, but the important thing is to be friendly and upbeat). I have been dubbed the ‘Mick Jagger of waitressing’, which I’m taking as a compliment, though really I suppose it could go either way. Nevertheless, my mood at the pub goes in swings and roundabouts depending very much on whether or not I’m feeling like I’m ‘value for money’ or, more importantly, whether or not my bosses feel I am ‘value for money’.

And this fixation on ‘value for money’, the constant calculating and re-calculating of my current ‘value’ on the employment market stems from a paranoia that if ‘they’ discover I am not ‘value for money’ then ‘they’ will fire me. Of course, as we have already established, I am currently overemployed in low-paid work, so it’d be alright if someone did actually fire me. So, what exactly is the problem here? Why do I continue to turn molehills into mountains?

Well, here we come to the absolute end of the line, the absolute crux of the matter, which is that if they fire me because I am not ‘value for money’, then that must mean they think I’m worthless and if someone, out there in the world, thinks I’m worthless (leaving aside what I myself think on the subject, leaving aside whether or not I actually think this person is worthwhile and is capable of making such a decision on my worth and/or worthlessness as a human being), then it might very well be true. Leaving aside whether or not I actually want or care about the job, leaving aside whether or not the job is making me happy, being fired from a job means someone doesn’t like me/thinks I’m stupid/unskilled/unqualified/not VALUE-FOR-MONEY and therefore expendable. And, for whatever reason (probably my deep-seated and cripplingly low self-esteem issues… JOKES) I have decided that, in my life, it IS, and MUST BE possible for EVERYONE I EVER COME IN CONTACT WITH to like and/or love me UNRESERVEDLY.

Ah, its fun being me sometimes.

I obviously don’t have this problem as a volunteer, because I have yet to make such a disaster of a voluntary situation that it entirely cancels out the benefit of me working for free (though, I suppose there’s still time and really, if I was ACTUALLY serious about being value-for-money I would be on the lookout for any possible ways I could also potentially screw volunteer things up, just to be on the safe side and really make my life a living hell).

Anyway, before you start sending conciliatory messages, I’m not feeling sad or awful, I am analyzing the situation from a distance, which is ever-so-healthy and amusing. Because, you’ll find, if you do this yourself, that once you trace your anxieties back to their source and pin-point exactly what it is that is making you upset or anxious, you’ll realise it is so ridiculous as to be laughable. And then, once you’re laughing at it, the problem becomes a lot smaller and less significant (a mountain into a mole-hill, if you will).

Its rather like getting rid of a Boggart in ‘Harry Potter’.

Alan Rickman as a Boggart in ‘Harry Potter’. Found at http://www.ugo.com/movies/harry-potter-spells?page=4

That JK Rowling really is a very clever lady. And the next time I’m feeling anxious at work, perhaps I will imagine Alan Rickman in a green dress and an over-sized eagle on his head.

Maybe I’ll just do that anyway.

I mean, Alan Rickman is pretty awesome.

 

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Filed under Employment, Introspection, Unemployment

Lists

I’m trying to blast out a blog post in the last 10 minutes of September, because I’m strange and get weird obsessions about how many blog posts one should complete during a month and as far as I’m concerned, the amount I currently have is NOT SUFFICIENT.

This is a cheeky little post I would have made into something bigger, except I don’t have time. SEPTEMBER IS TICKING AWAY PEOPLE. TICK TOCK TICK TOCK.

But, in good news, I think I have identified the reason I’ve been feeling so unmotivated over the past couple of weeks. Its a small thing that may seem insignificant, however, it has great power. Rather like a breath-mint. Or… I don’t know, a bee.

It is the writing of lists.

Seriously.

See, when I first became unemployed (voluntarily), I wrote lists to ensure that my days had some kind of structure and I didn’t sit around in my PJ’s in front of the log fire reading Harry Potter for 12 hours straight (though, to be fair, sometimes my list consisted of: 1) Start Harry Potter 2) Read Harry Potter 3) Eat chocolate and pretend it came from Honeydukes 4) Read Harry Potter 5) Bed). It worked quite well. Usually I didn’t get everything on my list done in a day, but that was good, because that gave me a starting point for the next list and a reason to get dressed and out of bed on the following day.

Then, when my voluntary unemployment began to become involuntary unemployment I continued the lists to give me a sense of purpose and drive.

But around two weeks ago, the list-writing stopped. It was because I was working so hard on a grant application that there was no time to even write: Monday To-Do List. WRITE GRANT APPLICATION. So, I stopped. And there endeth my motivation. Somewhere in the depths of two weeks ago, I stopped feeling motivated to do anything at all and everything that I did have to do (job applications, first drafts, second drafts, arts applications, washing) suddenly seemed so overwhelmingly large and insurmountable that the thought of getting off my arse and away from ‘Top Pet Model’ was so anxiety inducing that by the time I’d gotten a hold of myself again I needed to have another little lie-down.

But never fear! The list is back.

The most important thing with lists is to make your tasks achievable little chunks. So, instead of, say, writing: ‘Monday To-Do List: Become Gary Barlow.’ You’d write, ‘Monday To-Do List: 1) Investigate X-Factor application process 2) Create sellable and/or likeable and/or teeth-gratingly annoying persona 3) Choose X-Factor audition piece 4) Practice X-Factor audition piece with as many slides and trills and high notes as possible 5) Practice crying on cue.’ Now, you might not get all those things done in one day, but each step is an achievable thing, rather than attempting to become Gary Barlow in one day.

So. Tomorrow’s list includes:
1) Hand in CV’s to local Clapham bars

2) Complete 3 job applications

3) re-write Scene 2 of ‘Hello Hello’ (working title….)

4) two development applications

5) write 3 pages of new radio play

4) re-write scene 2 of Summer Cherries.

So! I can’t wait to get up in the morning. My obsessive-compulsive nature seems to equate making little ticks down a page with creating world peace. If there were a Nobel Peace Prize for list-making I would surely win it.

And with that, I sign off. Unfortunately ten minutes late for my September deadline. So, Happy October everyone!

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Little Girl Lost

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while (by the by, how many posts do I start that sentence with?). And, what always happens when I’ve been meaning to write a post for ages is that the sense of it gets changed.

So, if I had sat down a week or two ago, this post would have been all about how, after a good two months in London, I was starting to lose momentum. That, surprisingly enough, even though I was where I had always wanted to be, I was feeling just as lost as I did when I first moved to Ireland. How every conversation I have been having recently seems to involve the question, ‘So, what are you doing in London?’ which inevitably produces a reaction from myself that looks a bit like this:

After which I would either laugh awkwardly and make some smart-arse comment about sitting around on the couch and watching old Friends episodes, or alternatively, I would launch into a detailed description of all of my life goals, dreams, achievements and disappointments over the past 5 – 6 years, including university courses, failed relationships, my time in Ireland  and eventually, after a good thirty minutes of anxious babbling and hand gestures, I’d finally conclude that I really wasn’t at all sure what I was doing in London except for the fact that when I was 15 I developed an obsession with BBC bonnet dramas and I really like Harry Potter.

Obviously it goes a little deeper than that. I’d always wanted to come over here because I was obsessed with British actresses and British theatre. I wanted to come here and try my hand at becoming the next British/Australian star. I at least wanted to come here and audition for places like the Globe, instead of Fantastic Furniture ads and ‘Home and Away’, thinking that being rejected from people I actually admire the work of would somehow make me happier.

But, now that I’m actually here it seems more than a little ridiculous. This place is massive. I’m one little person who nobody knows and who knows nobody. The biographies of the actresses I read at 16 were from a completely different industry, when not everyone wanted to be famous, when reality TV was not the all-consuming monstrosity it is now. The actresses I admired were straight out of acting school and had British accents and seemed to just walk into company jobs at the RSC. I am an Australian actress with very few credits to my name, well out of acting school  no agent and no clear idea of how to go about getting acting jobs or what jobs are even likely for myself in the London industry.

Writing’s not much easier. It seems everyone writing in London has studied, or is studying playwrighting at some sort of college, or is a young writers’ programme at the RSC. I don’t know which theatres to approach, I don’t know where to start self-producing work that might get seen, I have very few people that know anybody that might be able to help me self-produce work.

I know no-one, I know nothing, I have no plan. For most of September, since coming back from Stockholm, I’ve felt increasingly lost and anxious and its not just about the stream of money exiting my bank account without being replaced.

So, yes. This is the post I was going to write. And, I guess I kind of have. But the thing is that despite much mooching about the house and much anxious babbling and many days of sending out innumerable CV’s to unable-to-be-remembered job agencies making you feel like a metaphorical ant in the giant ant-colony that is London (or something), the minute that I manage to get out of the house, strange and wonderful things seem to happen. Things that make you think perhaps you do belong here and you do know people and everything is going to be a-ok.

And without further ado, here is a list of things that make me feel that, despite having no job, no plan, no communicable goals and a rather sad little list of contact numbers in my phone, I may actually be creating some sort of life for myself here and even if I’m not, I’m really having an awesome time anyways.
1) I have a favourite cafe, which serve delicious tea. Ok, so the cafe is in Shoreditch and I live in Clapham Common and it takes me a long tube ride and walk to get there, but it still exists and I go there regularly and I force other people that I know to go there also. And, the last time I was there, another friend of mine, who lives over the other side of the city in Ealing (west, west London), also happened to be there, because its also her favourite cafe and we didn’t plan it at all and it was all like, ‘woah, are we in Shoreditch or freakin’ Newtown?’ But, you know, in a good way. In a way that was like, ‘yeah, I have so many friends in London, I’m just always running into them wherever I go.’ Plus, the name of my favourite tea (‘Masala’) apparently means ‘fairytale’ or something similar in Turkish. That’s right, its fairy tea. Things don’t get much better than fairy tea.

2) I went out to the theatre with one Australian friend who is currently based in Berlin, but she was late, so I was sitting at the Royal Court waiting for her when another Australian friend, who I had hung out with just the night before, happened to wander into the theatre, seeing the show upstairs. We chatted until her show started and then just as she left the other friend turned up. It was like a revolving door of friends. Ok, so they’re both Australians and travelling through London instead of staying here, but it was another, ‘I’ve got so many friends, I’m the Queen of London’ kind of moment (see above).

3) I went along to a play reading night on Wednesday and had a small section of a play read and a director came up to me afterwards and asked to read the rest of the script. Huzzah! I also got free red wine. Free red wine is excellent.

4) I’m beginning to learn the tube map. I’m now confident enough to plan journeys to stations without staring at the gigantic posters in the station for minutes on end with my mouth open and looking like a tourist. I have complex strategies to ensure I get a seat on the tube, favourite stations and, if necessary, am now pretty much able to stand on the tube, whilst reading a book, and not need anything to steady myself. I’m all like, ‘I’m so used to being on the tube, its like I’ve got tube legs.’

5) I know which snacks are available at which chain coffee stores and know which are good and which are only ok. I also now know that its not pronounced ‘Pret a Man – gah’ (rhymes with ‘sanga’) but ‘Pret – a -Man-jer’ (like the first syllable of ‘Jerry’).

6) I was in a 48-hour film with a group of lovely people and even though I had to be the ugly sister in the film, the lovely people fed me brie sandwiches and doritos and even though they don’t really know me, they let me take one of their books on the 2011 Arab revoltions and Occupy movement home with me, because I had started reading it and wasn’t finished by the time shooting was over.

7) Apparently, my wardrobe and fashion-sense is becoming more London. I bought new pants and new boots, which make me look ‘very London’. Two separate people have told me this, so it must be true.

8) Sometimes people ask me for directions and I know the answer. This is satisfying for two reasons. One, I know enough to be able to give directions. But, more importantly, two, people think I look like I live in London. I can only presume this is down to the subtly changing wardrobe which has been previously mentioned in point no. 7.

9) I’m able to plan days out for people who come and visit me in London. Ok, sure, most of them revolve around Shoreditch High Street, free galleries and Hyde Park, but I haven’t had any complaints so far.

10) I have a nemesis: the horrible old man who hit me with his cane. I see him all the time in Clapham and its only a matter of time until I’m able to wreak my terrible revenge (ok, I’m probably not going to wreak a terrible revenge, but I do like to give him a death stare every time he walks past me, which makes him like satisfyingly confused. When I write it out like that I sound like a horrible human being. But, he hit me first!!!)

 

 

 

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Got a Job… Quit a Job.

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?)

Image

Don’t have a job. Do have a dress!

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.

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