On tough times

'Everything important about London'  by designer Nick Patchitt

‘Everything important about London’ by designer Nick Patchitt

It’s been a while since my last post, I’m sorry. I’ve been navigating the joys of post-recession London – losing an editorial job to redundancy, losing another to an argument over pay (there was, it turned out a few months in, none), completing my master’s, then discovering that, since neither the publishing industry or the media were battering my door down (or even mildly tapping) any longer, I was to join the vast majority of graduates scratching around for any work, tearing clumps out of each other at the merest mention of a full time job. I was also overjoyed, as you can imagine, to spiral into debt after having spent four years avoiding it as a student and to then finally, after months of applications, get a job, but one so low paid that I’d be lucky to get a Kit-Kat out of what’s left after travel and living costs.

It’s been a tough time, but I’ve learnt how lucky I am to have the support of friends and family and my poor, perhaps slightly nutty boyfriend who has really put up with far too much from me (I know… barf). And now I’m out of the woods and working in a job that, ok, isn’t directly related to my chosen vocational area, but nonetheless is one that I genuinely enjoy.

I’ve been ashamed to admit to people, and online, that after university and several good jobs in digital media, I’m back in retail. As though it was somehow the same as admitting I’d failed. I’m writing and editing still too, but the stability of a ‘normal’ job for now has rescued my sanity. I couldn’t have afforded to be dropped again with no notice, or to go for yet another interview where they ‘forget’ to mention until the endnotes that the position will be unpaid for the first three months (seriously, how are employers STILL getting away with this?).

Nor could I have spent another week staring at my emails for hours on end, desperately bashing the refresh button waiting for a ‘yes, we’d be delighted to pay you handsomely for your 3,000 word rumination on the finer points of your living room floor’. While the last of those things is most definitely my own fault (no matter how much I blame the damn editors who don’t ‘get’ me), it saddens me deeply that the government still refuses to stand by struggling young people during this cost of living crisis.

Here in the capital, more so I think than other parts of the country, we take so much of our self worth from our career. I moved up to the north for a few years some time ago, south Yorkshire, and was struck by the difference in attitudes towards work – to most people, work was just a means to an end, a way to earn cash so that, in their free time, they could do what they wanted. It didn’t matter whether they were a trolley attendant in Asda or an admin assistant for the council. I had no idea what some of my friends, people I’d known for several years, even did for a living.

But in London, we’re dominated by the question ‘and what do you do?’ We’re obsessed with status and it’s exhausting. London, Londoners, have a superiority complex which makes it very difficult to enjoy life or be happy with your lot. We destroy ourselves with a sort of catastrophic desperation, the need to have our lives validated by a posh sounding job.

It’s perhaps fuelled by the unnatural living conditions we’re crammed into: the tiny homes stacked up like lego blocks, the artificial noise and light and a constant state of hyper alertness, the distance we have from nature’s wrath and rhythms. We’re totally absorbed in ‘people stuff’ because there’s no escaping it. But people stuff is so boringly predictable – it’s all about money and power.

Sometimes tough times can help you gain some perspective, you realise that perhaps life isn’t always about getting somewhere. I feel a few more Londoners could benefit from remembering that.

Find out why most unpaid internships are illegal and join the campaign to end them.

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8 thoughts on “On tough times

  1. Despite being a northerner, I can relate with a lot of what you say here! But when I ask myself what I really want from life, it always comes back to this one answer – to write. So as long as I’m writing (and have a roof over my head, food, friends etc.), I’m happy.

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    • Yes, me too! But I’ve found myself so desperate to be ‘a writer’ that sometimes it gets in the way of writing: living it as a profession becomes bigger, more time consuming than just writing. I find, at the moment, having an unrelated day job quite liberating. Are you a full-time writer?

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      • No, I’m a squeeze-it-in-to-any-spare-time-I-have writer! I recently moved to the Netherlands, so I’ve been on the hunt for a job. Writing and having a larger overarching goal – i.e. publishing my writing – has definitely kept me sane.

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      • It’s exhausting sometimes isn’t it!? But I agree, it keeps my head together especially when the day job is getting me down (it’s nice to have something else to retreat to).

        Wow, the Netherlands! That must be wonderful?

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