Jul 27, 2017

NO MORE WASTING TIME




One of the things that annoyed me the most when I found out I had cancer was thinking about all the days I wasted in my life. I know everything in life is a lesson, every single thing we do, is a learning curve and it makes us who we are (but couldn't I have learnt those same lessons in Hollywood or on a yacht or something?) But seriously, I pictured days in my late teens and my early twenties where I was working in the DULLEST jobs. I was counting down every minute until the beautiful time of 5.30 when I could finally finish tapping away and staring at my computer screen like a zombie (and that was the good jobs!) and get to the pub. It really annoyed me that I'd had precious healthy days and completely wasted them doing something that I hated.

I started work the day after my 13th birthday and like most teenagers, blew any money I earnt on CD's, clothes and cigarettes. My first few jobs I actually really enjoyed. I worked in a bakery from the age of 14, on a part time basis, right up until I was about 21 (on and off) and always alongside other jobs. I whinged about it at the time, getting up at 5.30 am to take bread deliveries, mopping floors and clearing tables in the tearoom, running around like crazy during 'rush hours' to make bacon baps for sleazy tradesman and finishing the day up stinking like mayonnaise and cheap cleaning products, all for the grand total of 2.95 an hour! (It did increase over the years, and we are talking about 16 years ago so it's not as bad as it sounds haha). But as I look back now, I think I was pretty lucky to work amongst all of friends (seriously at one time or another most of my friends worked at that bakery too as well as my sister) we'd gossip about boys in the 'staff room' whilst working our way through a 10 pack of Lambert and Butler (back in those days it wasn't against health regulations to sit amongst a circle of smoking women, in a tiny staff room inside a building, as long as the window was open) and munching on the iced buns that we got for free, which I'm not gunna lie was a HUGE perk for me haha. We'd chat to the regular customers, there was a lovely old guy who walked past the door at 11am every day and all of us girls would shout 'Morning George' and he'd tell us to put a small bloomer to the side for him. There was the old ladies who came in to drink their weak coffee and eat their danish pastries at the same time every morning. There were your favourite customers you looked forward to seeing and the customers you'd hide in the back room from, pretending to be emptying the dishwasher or defrosting the chicken, and fight your friends over who was going to serve them.

Those days weren't wasted but by the age of 18 I think I'd had over 25 jobs. You see my bakery wages were so small I had to have two jobs and I'd constantly be working somewhere else, either a pub on school nights and Sundays or even the opposition bakery on the other side of the street, yep I was a bakery ho. I think I've worked in just about every bakery in Hampshire.


One job that always haunts me though is the year I worked at BHS. After getting rejected by Topshop (and when I think of that interview it still makes me cringe and want to die of utter embarrassment. Who in their right mind turns up to an interview at Topshop wearing a khaki green knitted hoodie, the leftover remnants of dreadlocks that I was in the process of getting rid of in their hair and when asked what their skills are, says 'eating' and when asked 'how would your friends describe you' reply 'funny, happy and lazy' whyyyyyyyy?? I WASN'T EVEN LAZY why did I say that...apparently owning your shame releases you from it, that's what I'm hoping will happen from this blog post haha ) and then not getting the job at The Body Shop, even though I was very well behaved and sat through a two fucking hour 'group' interview, another painful experience, where we had to pretend to e animals and other various cringey exercises. BHS offered me a job on the spot and I was so proud of myself, 'look at me with a career in retail for the Christmas holidays at age 15'. I got paid about 4 pounds an hour and got a 20% discount, I was delighted and felt so sophisticated and like a real adult.

But it wasn't all fun and games, in fact there wasn't any fun or games. My floor manager was a big lady from Birmingham or somewhere up North, she'd worked there for 30 years and was appalled by basically every staff member who worked there, especially me. Our break times were run like a military operation, everything was done by the exact minute. We had to appear busy every second we were on the floor, filling up stock, folding towels (my absolute nightmare, touching towels is like running my fingers down a blackboard, it makes me want to dry wretch) arranging displays, which was fine, it sounds easy. Until everything on the floor is fully stocked and perfectly arranged and sparkling clean, when there's nothing you can do, when there's not a single customer in sight and your manager is glaring at you under the fluorescent lighting and all you want to do is read the brand new OK! magazine at the counters that either had Kerry Katona or Katie Price splashed over the front cover, which are there for customers to buy only, staff are forbidden to touch. So forbidden that there's CCTV cameras on the tills and if you are even caught glancing at the cover, someone will appear from an office to shout at you.
Then there was the fear of the up-selling, you had to have your speech rehearsed for every customer that came through, whether they wanted to upgrade to a gold card. If you managed to convince them to do this you'd earn a one pound commission, which is great but I'd shit myself if ever a customer said yes, Lyn, would be watching me, making sure I didn't fuck it up. I'd shit myself if they said no too becasue Lyn would lecture me on where I went wrong in my speech, it was brutal.

The worst part though was at the end of the day, when you'd endured 8 hours of the same Christmas CD on repeat, dusted the counter 800 times and the doors shut to the public. You had to stand still and wait, in silence until you were dismissed by a bell. It would be around a 10 minute wait, whilst everything was being locked etc. and we'd just stand there, no one would talk, like robots, just watching the minutes literally tick by waiting for the God damned bell to free us from this prison of homewares.
Unfortunately you got paid monthly and seriously I'd get paid about 150 quid and all of my money by then went to BHS on the things I'd 'put by' for the day I got paid haha. There was also a funny time where Philip Green, you know the BIG boss who owns it all, all the BHS  and Topshop and Miss Selfridges. He would do store visits sometimes and we'd all stand there (in silence) arms behind our backs, whilst he looked over at our displays and our shop floor arrangements, and then he'd cast his eye over us. At the absolute horror of Lyn (my scary manager) I was told that my skirt was too short. Its hardly a surprise, I was used to being told off at school for skirts that were too short and I didn't really care what Philip Green thought of me, I was already plotting my escape from BHS. Phil was lucky I didn't have dreadlocks anymore or wore my nose ring to work.

(*disclosure* BHS were always 'fair' to their workers and by no means was I mistreated, plenty of my friends who worked in different BHS stores really loved it, I was just a difficult teenager who couldn't cope with the confines of a department store lol. Plus I did get some great bargains with my discount and some good presents for my friends and family at Christmas)

I went to college to Study Art and Design and felt completely happy and enjoyed every day of my time there, spending every single day painting, experimenting, developing films in the dark room, taking life drawing classes and having an endless supply of art supplies to use. Am I in heaven? Please don't make me leave....

But I had to leave and decided to go to Australia and travel the world. I'd saved up my bakery wages and had been paying off my flight tickets at the travel agents next door. Then I'd worked as a Nanny for just under a year, a job I actually loved and had saved up some spending money.

On arriving in Australia and basically being a travelling gypsy for the next three years, I worked anywhere, all over the country, anywhere that would give me a job and I wasn't fussy. I worked in sandwich bars, cleaning hotels, cleaning hostels (that was when I was living at the hostel when I first arrived in Australia, I'd clean the toilets, the rank showers and empty the bins full of backpacker condoms and it was as completely revolting as it sounds) I had a job in a restaurant where the owner was either a crack-head or a psychopath and made me cry on a daily basis.

 When I moved to Perth I ended up stumbling across a retail job, where they actually really liked me and promoted me to Store Manager, which is where I stayed for a couple of years. There was a lot more freedom than BHS but there was still the annoying tasks of doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff, I felt so stifled, like I was making absolutely no difference to the world. By this time I had written and self published a book in my spare time, you see I'm actually pretty intelligent, which is why it's even more annoying that I wasted so much time in crappy jobs. I was still painting and creating art in the background. One day when I had been in the menswear store for around 7 hours and had folded and refolded stock, vaccuumed, and done all my manager duties, I was faced with the stillness and deafening silence of the store (we weren't a busy shop) and I pulled out my book that I was reading. Wasting time really pisses me off, doing nothing when you've got so many things you want and need to do, is like torture for me. Ten minutes later my regional manager made a surprise visit and I got a bollocking for reading, even though I tried explaining how I'd done everything I possibly needed to do and I couldn't stand there and do nothing. I went off on a tangent about how I was actually a writer and trying to get published and the job was stifling my creative spirit. I remember she was actually quite nice and although I don't know what she said exactly, I remember quitting quite soon after that. Probably of embarrassment.

So for years, I worked as an artist on the sidelines, I sold my paintings on ebay, and this coincided with the time where I had my children. So for a while I was making quite a bit of money doing this. Everytime I got a notification or a little ping on my phone to say a painting had sold, that people were bidding over it, I felt so happy I was going to burst. I started to get really excited and imagine where this 'career' would take me. Every time the kids had their naps (they napped for a solid 3 hours every day, I was blessed with amazing sleeping babies) I would paint and then I'd sell everything I painted.

But then, I ended up getting divorced and I was a single Mum. I decided to get my shit together and I studied to be a graphic designer. I thought that way I could earn 'proper' money by doing something creative. And I did, I got top marks in my qualification and I worked as a graphic designer for a while. I worked in a few really good jobs after that and then in 2016 I even got a job as a journalist and then as the Editor of a small print magazine. I was using my brain and I was climbing a career ladder, I was earning good money and was so far away from serving bacon baps or the homeware prison of BHS....But it wasn't art.

I realised that I would never be truly happy until I was working as an artist. I started to save a bit of money in the hope of one day being able to have enough money to fall back on whilst I pursued art. It seemed vague and I didn't know how or when it would happen.

You know the rest. I got cancer, my perspective shifted and here I am today, working as a full time artist, earning about the same as I was making as an Editor.

The reason I wanted to write this post was because I genuinely look back and think, fuck you spent way too long doing shitty jobs. I haven't even mentioned half of them, or half the awful stories.
Now I know we all need money but there really is plenty of ways to earn money, I'm glad I finally got the opportunity to build on what I'm good at, and make money from my passion. That I wake up excited every single day, to create something, to meet clients, to meet other women in business.

I just wish it hadn't taken getting cancer to follow my dreams.

I'm not saying quit your job tomorrow and fuck off all your responsibilities, what I am saying though, is get a job you like. Utilise your passions, spend your time doing stuff you love. Don't work in a shitty office job that bores you senseless, so you can spend all your money on clothes at the end of the month, or pay for a mobile phone contract, or cable tv. Don't get up every morning wishing you didn't have to go to your job or counting down the days until the weekend.

Money is not more important than our happiness.


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