It’s day 10 of lockdown in the UK (and as much as I hate Big Brother, I can’t help hearing that voice every time I use that phrase!), and I’m in a much better mood than I was when I last posted.
Because kittens, among other things. And our wonderful NHS staff, without whom we would all be up a very large creek with no paddle at all. Clover isn’t yawning at the NHS, she’s yawning because she has no idea there’s a world crisis, and it really made me smile today.
The world is still upside down, the situation is still terrifying, but I have found a few ways to deal with my own anxiety and overwhelm and fear.
Fear does very strange things to people.
Living in dystopia
It still feels like I’ve woken up in the middle of a dystopian novel with a truly appalling plot, and for someone who’s not had a TV for six years, the whole living-through-history thing is something of a shock to the system.
In normal life, I regularly tell people how amazing it is that we’re living through history – the technology revolution! And that children in the future will learn about us and our tech and machines and ways of working and living. Because you can’t take the geek out of the girl.
But fuck me, a pandemic is not the sort of history I want to be living through! Yet here I am, and here we all are, and the thing which has struck me the most about all the many, many conversations I’ve had over the past two or three weeks is that this is affecting everyone. In different ways, and to different levels, but not one single person is going to come out of this unscathed.
Finding a way through
My remedies so far are quite simple – plenty of sleep, vitamin D, time with my kitties and time with my camera. Finding purpose and focus in pivoting my business to run online, and in helping my community of small business owners who have been devastated by this pandemic, and my employed friends who are suddenly having to work from home for the first time.
Not to mention battling ridiculous downtime and server moves on the website front. Tech and patience have been severely tested by this situation, and I imagine I’m not the only one. But it’s been a great distraction!
Baths and books have also featured heavily in my self-care regime, as has an epic stash of chocolate – never before have I been so grateful for my tendency to buy chocolate in bulk.
Video calls – menace or delight?!
Video conferencing, via Zoom or Hangouts or House Party or even WhatsApp, have been both a saviour and a menace. I spent the whole of the first week of the disaster, before lockdown but during the first few days of the entire country trying to work from home for the first time, glued to my phone or my webcam.
True to form, in meetings I wear my unicorn horn headphones and try to get everyone else to do daft things as well! But talking to people for nine hours a day got very tiring very quickly, and drained my ability to do anything else useful.
In the last 24 hours I have forcibly removed myself from those conversations for a while, and I feel better for it. I still want to talk to people, but not 47 people in a day, my introvert heart literally cannot cope. Though I did make some free virtual backgrounds so you can work from bed and pretend you’re not…
I am avoiding social media entirely except for the essentials – the groups which keep me sane and informed and soothed. My phone is permanently turned to Do Not Disturb, so that the most important people can get through immediately but so I can also focus without incessant pinging.
Heading out for a walk at least every couple of days, I’ve been a bit spooked by the emptiness of the streets, the closed parade of shops which are usually bustling with life, the socially distanced queues outside the pharmacy, and the safety zones marked out in tape in the local One Stop.
My other single friends across the world report loneliness in isolation, people forgetting to check on them. I must have very excellent friends or be very lucky, as I’ve been inundated with people checking I’m ok during the lockdown, enquiring after my business, seeing if Mum is ok as well as me. Not everyone, by a long shot – and there have been some who have surprised me with their lack of contact, as ever – but more than enough to reassure me that in a crisis, I wouldn’t be alone.
I do miss Mum, and I wish I could see her for more than occasional essential grocery/medicine drops during this. This picture was taken just a few days before this all got so serious, marking Dad’s third anniversary with a day hunting pebbles & treasure at Walton-on-theNaze. But we speak every day, and for the time being we are both happiest and safest in our own homes. And I miss my friends too, but they are also epic and good with tech and we’ve already established some really lovely regular video chats!
Isolation & life choices
A few people have mentioned that perhaps now is the time I will change my mind about long term single-at-heart-ness, and decide I do want a partner after all, because wouldn’t it be so lovely to have someone to look after me and share the stay at home weirdness with?
And honestly, no. I would probably emerge from isolation into prison, to be honest – I don’t enjoy sharing my space, and while I loved my partners very much during our relationships, I can’t imagine having to stay indoors with them and be with them 24/7 for weeks on end (there, dear readers, is probably a good indication of why they were mostly long distance relationships and are now ex-boyfriends!).
It’s actually been really affirming to discover that my life choices of being single, childfree and self employed are so exactly the right choices for me that I am able to flourish even now. I’ve never been so thankful to not have children, either – anyone who is doing this and also homeschooling has my utmost admiration.
Of course, we are living through the middle of a crisis, and if I get the virus, I probably will be dealing with it entirely alone, because I don’t want to infect Mum or Gran or risk their lives. So for Mum’s sake, for Gran’s and for my own, I am staying as isolated as possible – food shopping, pharmacy trips and the post office, only when absolutely unavoidable and necessary, and getting medicines and medical supplies to Gran when she needs them.
And I am so lucky that my skills & knowledge allow me to do that – that although losing all my upcoming photography clients in three days was fairly horrific, I am more than capable of switching to online – mentoring, teaching & otherwise working remotely. God knows I’ve talked about it enough over the years!
Staying at home
And so I am sitting tight like Luna (though not on a shed roof, you’ll be pleased to know), and holding on for dear life, and hoping that me and my loved ones will weather the storm together but apart.
Taking the pressure off myself has definitely helped my mood – there is so much I want to do, both in business and in life, during this rare break from the world. But there is no rush. Sadly, I don’t think the end of three weeks of lockdown will be anything like the end of this crisis. And so many people have been financially affected that there will be plenty of time to dream up new things to create online, while my main client base, like so many others, has been decimated.
But I am determined to rise from the ashes a success story – I just also need the occasional lazy morning to breathe.
How are you coping with lockdown? Wherever you are and whatever your situation, I am sending you sparkles. We need to take joy wherever we can find it!
Where you can find me or more info
If you’re moving your business online, using this time to work on your branding, content, systems or any other tweaks to your business, or of course you need brand photography (products, or planning a shoot featuring you, I can do both!), then I’d absolutely love to chat and you can find out more at carlawatkins.com
Ink Drops is still open though posting at much less frequent intervals, and we would love to help you stay in touch with your loved ones through the post. My postie approves, too! Find lovely cards and delightful gifts at inkdrops.co.uk
If you’re working from home and thinking WTAF, then I wrote the WFH Toolkit for you.
I’ve been trying to write a post over here for some time. I still don’t have the words.
This is how I live now – on Zoom. Which has been a lifesaver, to be honest, even if I have spoken to more people in a week than I usually do in a month and a half.
We are in our first week of lockdown, and the world has gone completely mad. I’m having problems getting hold of essential medication for Gran, I can’t get shopping delivered to Mum, and I can’t go shopping because I’m trying to keep them both safe.
Yes, that’s more than a QUARTER OF A MILLION people trying to get onto the Boots website at half past ten on a Saturday night.
Ocado wasn’t much better earlier in the week – today I am just getting a “we have no more delivery slots” notice.
And it is breaking my heart, because some people will be slipping through the cracks. Never mind that every small business I know has crumbled to 0 income overnight, that every major non essential shop is closed, that the majority of the office working population is finally and suddenly working from home, that schools are closed indefinitely.
I’m lost for words – we are living through history, a serious and terrifying part of history, and I don’t like it at all.
I’ll try and post something slightly more coherent in the next week or so.
Each year I have a little list of things I’d like to do that year in my blog sidebar.
Although 2017-19 haven’t been the most prolific for my personal blog, this was this year’s list and…
~ Draigcon and/or Wizardry School – done, Bothwell School of Witchcraft in April and August
~ Steampunk events – done, at the Museum of Power
~ experiment with film cameras – not this year
~ walk more – yep
~ explore Colchester – yes, although not as I expected – mostly through networking and 121s and finding new places in town!
~ beach time – yes
~ kitty portraits – yes and Philly is painting them too
~ western riding – nope
~ spa days – don’t think I’ve been on an actual spa day this year, but did spend a day at Lifehouse for my first headshot day
~ kayaking – nope
~ learn to make bath bombs – nope
~ recreate Lush’s Angel’s Delight soap fragrance – haha I had forgotten I wanted to do this, hasn’t happened yet
~ slow reading club – nope but this year have mastered my balance of writing & reading, I think, and am reading without guilt
~ craft gatherings – not really, but made some friends through making which is just as lovely, and had a couple of gatherings at mine which made my heart happy (including 2020 planning!)
~ work in sterling silver – YES! Completed the BENCH Space beginners course and am booked onto the improvers in January – made two rings, the leaping hare necklace of my dreams and some earrings, and cannot wait to learn more.
~ build a catio – nope, but still on the list
~ handwritten letters – yes, and would like to write more this coming year
~ photobook of the house project – no, but very much still on my list along with photobooks for Poppy, Dad, and the kittens
~ print my own photos – for open studios and marketing yes, for my wall no
~ explore – I am unsure exactly what I meant by this but I have been all over the country for work and pleasure this year, so counting it as a yes!
At some stage I will be writing up my 2019 review and my decade review – the days speed past so fast that I can’t actually keep up!
There’s a day every year, usually close to the turning of the clocks, where I am suddenly, viscerally aware that the season has changed, and it is autumn.
Today was that day. After resolutely wearing summer clothes despite the rain, and fighting my thermostat because I really don’t want it to be the time of year where I put the heating on regularly yet, I stepped outside to pop to Tesco this evening, turned around after locking the door – and it was cold, it was dark, it was blowing a gale and it was most definitely autumn.
I don’t notice the other seasons in the same way, but today there have been lots of little signs that winter is coming and now is the time to prepare. I am tired and lethargic, and found it hard to get out of bed (though admittedly, that might be more down to the 3.30am bedtime after podcast recording last night!). I am craving comfort food and made a massive pot of pasta carbonara to combat the chilly outdoors. My winter duvet is back on my bed, and my summer duvet has been moved permanently to the sofa, to enable my morning pages to be written without shivering. Suddenly, I want tea all the time – I am usually a strict five-can-a-day Pepsi Max girl.
If September is full of that back to school feeling, then for me October and November are the months where I go into full cosy mode. This week I’ve had to reschedule a shoot due to rain, I’ve had several meetings cancel (and have been relieved rather than annoyed because honestly, who wants to go out when you can drink hot chocolate and work on the sofa?!) and I have been sleeping really weirdly.
I love autumn’s colours, the obvious change, the starting to hunker down for winter. I feel like it’s snuck up on me this year and I’m not terribly well prepared – I am still wearing flipflops 90% of the time, for starters – but on the whole, I’m so grateful to live somewhere where the seasons are obvious.
And more grateful, these days, for the freedom to notice the seasons changing. Because once upon a time, I didn’t see my home in daylight from October to March, because I was either commuting to London or working in a high rise office. Nature didn’t feature in my life and I was sadder for it.
I am thankful for so many things, big & small.
Oh, and this article made far more sense than it should have done, in a weird, time-melty, how is it October and more to the point how is it nearly the end of 2019 already kind of a way.
Yes, that’s up there with some of my least imaginative post titles ever! I guess it’s a sign of how busy I am with my other sites these days, that when I thought I’d pop over and check in, it took me half an hour of updates to get this one displaying properly…!
It’s the middle of July, and approaching a year since I left the day job and struck out on my own, and nearly seven months into my Depth Year, so I thought I’d have a really quick check in.
Except it’s gone midnight, and my finger joints hurt, so it might end up being quicker than planned and ironically not very in depth!
So let’s start off with that time I realised I’d never been that close to a squirrel in real life before:
Mainly I wanted to sneak in to say how much I enjoyed shooting Graduation for my old day job this year – it’s always been my favourite time of year on campus so getting to be in the thick of it every day was a joy, and reconnecting with old colleagues was fun too.
Though there were some very entertaining conversations – “you look really professional with all your gear there. What is it you do nowadays?” “Well, funny you should mention that… I’m a professional photographer!”
I’ve had some amazing clients this year too – SO excited to see them use their photos to grow their businesses & their dreams. More on that over on the brand blog!
I genuinely can’t believe this is my life, most days – though I never expected to have to do it without Dad here, this is for the most part the life I always dreamed of, and the work life I have plotted and schemed and worked towards for the last ten years.
I’m also the proud owner of a Sony a7iii and LOVING the shift to mirrorless – this both goes perfectly with and completely contravenes my depth year plans, as it lets me go further into my photography career, but obviously isn’t making the most of existing kit…! But in a weird way it is, as I sold all the stuff I wasn’t using and invested in a new body and a 135mm lens to complement my existing kit… and suddenly my work is shining even brighter. So I’m counting that as a major win. Shooting dual system is interesting too – I’ll probably start a little series about that over on carlawatkins.com as I’m intrigued by the similarities and differences.
Anxiety has been at an all time low for the last few months and I am crossing EVERYTHING that that stays the same. Confidence has been at an all time high for some time now and again, hoping that stays the same – there will always be ups and downs because creativity, but I’m feeling good for now.
There was Bothwell. Bothwell needs its own post as the first run in April was profoundly, permanently and unexpectedly life-altering for me.
There’s a grant application in the works and I’ve had two fantastic shoots with a wonderful friend, and several more in the works with people I love. Is there anything better than getting to work and play and create art with people you love?!
I’ve taken on a couple of mentoring clients which is exciting – for business systems, visibility, content & growth rather than specifically for photography, and I’m loving spending time on that side of the business.
Intriguingly, and very appropriately for a depth year review, I am LOVING creating new opportunities and avenues and products and things within a business, rather than constantly creating new businesses. This is another unexpected development, but one I’m very happy about.
Much to my surprise (and to no one else’s surprise at all), I am really enjoying networking and have joined a couple of groups – the ones that meet at 6am can fuck right off, but the friendly ones I’ve found which meet over lunch (very civilised) are lovely.
I’m experimenting with tattoos – temporary but longer term solutions, rather than real ones, because there still isn’t anything I want on my body for ever and always.
Morning pages have made a welcome return to my life, and the Artist’s Way continues to delight and astound me on a daily basis.
Luna and Clover just fill my days with love and purrs, and emergency snuggles when Luna runs in meowing, panicking that the cuddles have run out. I love these two little furry beings more than I ever expected I could – I genuinely don’t think I could love them more if I had given birth to them, and I am certainly keener on being their parent than I am on ever parenting a human.
Luna’s newest trick is to snooze in the doorway of my office, so that I can’t escape without giving her cuddles, biscuits or both! Clover is recovered from her ordeal last year, and is ruling the outdoors with a firm, fluffy paw – her current favourite snoozing spot is right in the middle of my flower bed.
Mumski and I are moving through our days as best we can – still grieving, still so sad under the surface that I try not to think about it because I can’t bear it. Dad makes his presence felt regularly, and this is a huge comfort to me, but I miss him so much I still don’t have the words for it. But I am very lucky to be their daughter, and I’m so grateful that Mum and I have each other. I don’t know what I’d do without her.
On that note, it’s now nearly 1am and I’m shooting in the morning, so bedtime for me. It’s nice to be back!
As you’ll know if you’re a regular visitor, or a friend (or both!), I read a lot. Blogs, books, magazines, cereal packets – if I’m not creating, I’m always reading, and always digesting information, and yet this stood out.
Deeper, not wider
The general concept is to go deeper, not wider. So making more of what you already have, revisiting half-finished or abandoned projects, trying not to buy more and do more and acquire more.
Just for a year. Just to see how it feels. It might become habit, or a way of life, or it might not.
At least, that’s what I took from it. And it was like a siren song to me, at this weird crossroads between my old life and (another) new life. I’m living my freelance, self employed dreams, and I have more freedom than I’ve ever had, and it is everything I dreamed of.
But it’s still early days, and while the businesses are doing ok, they’re not yet seriously established. In my book, that comes around the 5-7 year mark of the same business, and though I’ve had businesses and side hustles for nearly nine years, of course my hallmark is changing things up, even while the themes stay the same.
And under everything, still, is the utter despair of grief, and not really knowing what life looks like without Dad in it. It’ll be two years in March and I still don’t really know how to get my head around the loss of him.
Frustration with the culture of MORE
I’ve also been getting increasingly frustrated with social media, and the comparisonitis and more more MORE culture. The concept that you can only be happy if you buy certain stuff, do certain stuff and look a certain way. I know it’s changing, slowly and in corners of both the internet and real life, but it is exhausting.
Avon, of all places, body shamed cellulite in a recent advert, and frankly it felt like the last straw. I also spent a couple of weeks at Mum’s, with the cats, over Christmas, and as she has a TV and I don’t, I luxuriated in the novelty of watching TV while curled up with antibiotics, throat lozenges and a very obliging Luna & Clover.
Oh my god. The ADVERTS. They are constant, and loud (I swear the volume goes up of its own accord during ad breaks, to follow you to the loo or kitchen or whatever). For someone who has lived without a TV for more than four years, rarely goes to the cinema, doesn’t read newspapers except in dire emergencies and gave up typical women’s magazines a long time ago, the adverts are overwhelming.
What depth looks like to me
Depth. As a multipod my life is wiiiiide – I cover a lot of ground, love a lot of things and keep a lot of plates spinning. It’s how I thrive best.
Recently I’ve been feeling very contented with my quartet of businesses, plus dance and this blog. The combination finally feels right to me, and for the first time in a long time, I’m not feeling the pull to create a whole new venture. Instead I’m creating within my existing ventures and it feels bloody brilliant.
But a quick ten minutes with my journal and a cuppa (oh, who am I kidding, a Pepsi Max) yielded this list of things I could explore further this year:
Photography for clients – exploring new ways I can use my branding & web knowledge to create stunning shots for business owners & bloggers, year round, and helping women feel amazing about themselves in both their personal & their professional lives.
Photography for joy – fantasy/fine art work, landscapes & exploring, my existing personal projects, documenting the people close to me.
Studio lighting & flatlays (I’m in the process of launching a stock library and would love to develop this further – pop over to studio19stock.com for details). Having Studio 19 is a dream come true, but I haven’t really experimented with different lighting setups much – just used what I’m comfortable with to get amazing shots for my lovely clients. Experimentation is definitely on the cards!
Time with friends & family – whatsapp is a wonderful invention, but I found myself feeling very disconnected during December (not unusual over the madness of the festive period, plus I had whooping cough so felt generally wretched), so I want to spend more time in person or at least on Skype, with my full attention on my loved ones and vice versa.
Tarot, oracle & witchery – I’ve done some readings for myself and for friends recently which have been spot on, and having used the cards for a long time to prompt my inner thoughts & journalling, I’m getting to know them much better. I want to explore this side of my spirituality and I have about a million books connected to the subject!
Marking the seasons – sort of connected to the witchery really, I always say this is something I’d like to do, and then the seasons race past and I find it’s winter solstice again and I’ve failed to notice or mark the passing of the year.
Cooking from recipe books (and possibly freezer diving!) – I have a whole bookcase full of recipe books and a massive folder of ones I’ve found, not to mention my Pinterest board – so this year I would love to explore these in more depth and see if I can find some new favourites.
Sorting and printing photos – both physical and digital.
Journalling, my five year diary and my gratitude diary – they’re frequent habits but not daily yet. and my five year diary which started on my 25th birthday and finished the day before I turned 30 is a treasured possession, so having another one would be lovely.
Letter writing – I’m doing lots of this with Ink Drops (we have declared 2019 the Year of the Real Letter) and I’ve also found a new penpal through a Facebook group I’m part of.
Jewellery making – this is something I revisit every January to make my Wear Your Word bracelet, and I’d love to hone my skills & learn some new ones instead of taking up a whole new hobby.
Scrapbooking/vision boarding – apart from my yearly vision board, I cannot tell you how many half-started, unfinished scrapbooks are kicking around my office!
Roller skating – joyful movement is hugely important to me, and dusting off my skates has never yet failed to bring me happiness.
Cross stitch – I’m still battling with a very small cross stitch I bought eight years ago whe I left the library. It would feel SO GOOD to finish it, frame it and hang it up!
Ebaying, decluttering & the Queen Sweep.
Diving into my course library – I have bought (and done) so many courses over the years, I’d love to revisit some instead of buying new ones.
Unread books & rereading books – and this afternoon I paid off my library fine so I can use the library instead of buying books.
Finish decorating my house – this is of course time & money dependent, but I can certainly do bits and pieces, like putting up the art which has been propped against the fireplace for almost three years.
Burlesque & line dance – going deeper means learning and remembering and possibly performing.
Blogging – here I am!
BBQs – Dad would approve so much!
Self portraits, costumes & prop making – all of which make my heart sing, but I never seem to have time for. I will, however, be going to Bothwell School of Witchcraft as crew this year, so am hopeful this will bring together those long-suppressed bits of creativity.
For ten minutes, I thought that was quite an impressive list, and I have definitely missed some stuff. Aside from all the things I do (and it’s always been a long list), I’ve always been fond of the make do & mend concept, and will be actively looking to repair rather than replace things which break or go wrong.
Plus of course trying to buy less – I’m still allowing myself to buy what I need, but will try to keep tabs on my impulse purchases, and anything which uses too much single-use plastic. (Mermaid at heart, see!)
So I hereby declare 2019 my Depth Year.
Fancy joining me? Already done one? Leave me a comment or drop me an email, I’d love to hear your experiences & tips!
As ever, I find it hard to write about grief, my own and also Mum’s. This year has in many ways been harder than the first, as the reality of life without Dad starts to sink in, and the buffer of essential admin starts to shrink.
We both seem ok on the surface, yet we are so far from ok underneath. Tears are never far away, and though we go through the motions of life, neither of us are fully living, and neither of us can really conceive of a life without Dad.
To the outside world, it probably seems that the grieving period should be over by now.
I’m learning daily that grief doesn’t lessen, when you loved someone so very much and were loved in return. The pain of losing Dad is as raw today, and every day, as it was the day he went to the big bar in the sky.
A wise person said to me recently that of course, less than two years after his sudden passing is still very early days, when you consider the length of our time with him. He and Mum were married 44 years, and I have been alive for nearly 33. She is right – the time he’s been gone is a drop in the ocean compared to the time he was here with us, and I don’t think our hearts truly understand yet that he is gone from this world.
Most people are understanding, and while we try to keep the depths of our grief from showing even to family and friends, their support means the world.
Yet not everyone is kind, even when reminded we are grieving. Of course everyone has their crosses to bear, their own tragedies and losses and difficulties- it’s part of being human.
But this last couple of years have definitely shown me people’s true colours. I guess Dad was right, in a roundabout way, when he told me death really does bring out the best and worst in people.
Today was quiet and private – just Mum and I and the gentleman from the crematorium office. It was hard to do but felt peaceful, too – and I love that he has a permanent memorial there.
He is remembered and missed elsewhere too – my lovely auntie Kate sent us a photo of the wreath of yellow roses she’s put on his other memorial for Christmas, on his Mum’s grave in Cornwall, and we shall go to his pub and have a drink for him there too – because it’s always five o clock somewhere!
He is always with us – around us in spirit, alive in our hearts and minds and memories.
I am blessed to be his daughter and Mum’s. But goodness, I miss him.
I’m home safely from a gorgeous two day branding shoot with Louise Rose Couture, who is also one of my very best friends in the world.
I LOVED the magic we created together and I adored having an excuse to spend time together before Christmas – we are both so busy we didn’t know if we’d manage it otherwise!
And I slept like an actual log at her house.
But after a long drive home, I opened my front door and Luna and Clover were waiting for me, tails quivering with happiness that I came home (I was literally gone for 28 hours and Mum visited, cuddled and fed them twice in that time, so it’s nice to know I’m loved!).
Aside from the specific happiness at both of them being back to normal after Clover’s stressful summer of hiding, I was filled with happiness to be home. There’s just no place like home, is there?
It’s vibrant and cluttered, gorgeous and messy, full of all the things I love and built with love by me and Mum and Dad.
It’s my sanctuary and I love it.
Not doing so well on the daily posts but this is probably the most I’ve posted in a month since about 2012.
On a separate note, Facebook informed me yesterday that in 2009, I did my very first craft fair.
Nine years of hoping and wishing, dreaming and scheming, planning and doing… and here I am, living the results of my dreams.
Apparently this time several years ago I also wrote to my 13 year old self. She definitely wouldn’t believe me if I told her, but I think she’d be proud. I know that Mum is and I’m sure that Dad is.
I found my prom albums recently, and some photos of me competing at Worlds, and I sat, quite unaware of time passing, in an almost trancelike state for a while.
The girl I was then was so close I could hear her and almost reach out and touch her – and I couldn’t help but wonder what my fifteen year old self would make of my life now.
I don’t think she’d believe any of it.
But the flashes forward I had in my early 20s weren’t far off my life right now, though I never anticipated losing Dad so early in my life. But my home, my chosen creative path, my silly, loving little fluffsters, my friends both local and far flung… they were all part of those occasional flashes in one form or another.
And this evening, when Luna clambered off my camera bag and got into my lap and stayed there, kneading and purring and looking at me with big adoring eyes before going to sleep, I found myself quite unexpectedly between worlds again.
I was at once myself, here and now and 32 years old, and at the same time I was older – in my late 70s, sitting on my sofa with another cat on my lap, my silver hair twisted into a plait and still reaching my waist. I was so happy and yet so wistful – life to that point had been full of joy and friendship, happiness and contentment and purpose, yet had passed in no more than a breath. I could feel very strongly that I’d done what I wanted to with this one precious life, but I wasn’t yet ready to leave it.
It was so clear it was unnerving. Perhaps cats really are magical?
But these flashes into my past and my future, while unsettling, serve me well – they help me to keep choosing to live my life the best way I can, in a way that’s true to me.
I don’t know when they’ll come, or what triggers them, but I know now to pay attention to them – and adjust my choices accordingly.
I’ve been reading some threads from unhappy graduates on the Student Room forum this evening, and feeling all the feels. They are miserable in full time work and struggling to believe that this is what life looks like from 21 to retirement age.
It will be no surprise that I identify very strongly with this feeling, and have never been able to understand modern society’s obsession with full time work at particular hours, with absolutely zero regard for the preferences and differeng high/low energy times of different people.
I reached those threads via some idle Googling to find out who all these people are in town in the middle of a weekday morning…
It has long irked me that while I was told that full time work was absolutely the only career option open to me, any time I left work during the day – for dentists or doctors, an early lunch for a trip to town or a late one to do some banking, town was always heaving with people.
Granted, the skillset I had developed was mainly suited to 9-5 (pffft 8.30-6) office work, and of course not everyone works those hours. But I was led to believe that a vast majority did, and so that is what I did for the first 12 years of my career.
And I remember walking through residential (rather than tourist) London and wondering what all these people were doing, and how they had the freedom & means to wander at leisure while I was trapped in a building whose windows didn’t even open for real air.
Later, at the library and at the university, town was always full. It was hard to get a parking space if you popped out at lunch time to buy a birthday gift, yet I was still being told that most people worked Monday to Friday, full time.
I remember being so immensely frustrated at my lack of freedom that I cried each time I did leave work for something and got stuck in traffic coming back.
Who the hell were all these people and why the hell was I still stuck in a job?!
Now, 17 years after my first job and nearly 13 since I entered full time work, I am one of those people.
I work for myself, I don’t currently have any income streams which require regular attendance of someplace else, and I make my own decisions about what my days look like – Monday to Sunday.
And you know what? I am still baffled as to who all those other people are. Of course some are parents of young children, some are retired, some will be having a day off, or will be shift workers.
And the working world has changed so much since I started university, when the internet was in its infancy.
But looking around me at the sheer variety and number of people who are not, in fact, locked in an office or a shop on an average weekday morning, I can’t help thinking that an entire generation were sold a pup on the career choice front.
I have always been one of the lucky ones – born to supportive parents who didn’t bat an eyelid when I changed full time jobs 17 times in the space of 9 years, desperately trying to find one that would fit. Now, working for myself, it feels like I have found the right fit at last – freedom, not financial wealth/empire building, is my highest priority.
I still don’t understand why we have created this culture of rigid work hours when we are more technologically advanced than any other time in human history, and when we should be reducing, not increasing, the hours we are expected to work so we can earn money to live.
But I am saddened to feel recognition of a societal truth in the unhappy postings of new full-timers, fresh out of uni and absolutely stunned that this is the way they are expected to live their life for ever after.
Wealth does not bring happiness. But even if wealth is what you seek, the 9-5 is unlikely to create it – so I can see why some of these graduates have already given up hope.
My own experience is that you can cram in some fulfilling life around a job you hate and a lengthy, shitty commute.
But my experience is also that those shining drops of light in an otherwise stressed & miserable existence will eventually wink out unless you can change your life to better accommodate the things which light you up.
And if you work full time for someone else, or at all for yourself, then doing the things you love will involve not doing other things if you want to stay sane and relatively physically healthy.
I have often wondered if there is some kind of cosmic scale which says we can balance certain things but not everything.
My own priorities are spending time with people I love, my kitties, working on my businesses and pursuing my various and ever changing hobbies (currently doll photography, metal stamping and roller skating).
This means that housework, life admin and extensive cooking slip down the list, or off it altogether, in order for me to stay sane and actually get some sleep each night. Similarly if my lovely Mum didn’t keep my garden under control, it’d be a wilderness garden!
I also stay single and childfree very much by choice, as this is the way I live my best life, and the way I’ve found which lets me fit in those things which are truly important to me (and which always disappear when I’m in a romantic relationship – but that’s another post entirely).
But no part of the way I live now was presented as an option when I was choosing my life and career path.
And even for my non-self-employed friends with partners, and in some cases children, I know they struggle to fit in everything life demands around full time work.
I work harder for myself than I ever have in a job, 9-5 or otherwise, but because most of my self employment is made up of the things I happily did as hobbies when I was working full time for someone else, it doesn’t feel onerous.
I know self employment is neither desirable nor possible for everyone who doesn’t fit into the old 9-5 mould. But I hope that the working world catches up to the fact that such rigid office hours are already outdated, and realises that more flexible working hours really are the way forward.
Who wouldn’t want their workforce to be happier, less frustrated, less stressed and more productive?
On that note, as it is late and this was originally going to be just a couple of lines and a link… Off to bed I go!!
Today my blog turned 14 – fourteen whole years since I first tentatively wrote some words and sent them into cyberspace.
Words and pictures are how I process the world – I am a photographer and I am a writer, but creating and using them together is how I navigate life.
Multipod life is a glorious thing but does mean almost nothing lasts forever – and I am proud and pleased and happy (and weirdly not at all surprised) that I have kept one thing up for so long. My whole adult life 🙂
Today involved working and friends and hot chocolate and kittens – and my first booking for 2019!
I'm Carla, a quirky thirtysomething with a penchant for unicorns and glitter. I believe in magic and make-believe, and the gorgeous rebellion of making your life absolutely your own. And I'm a proud multipod!
Proud to be both girly and geeky, when I’m not writing, photographing or daydreaming, you can find me dancing burlesque, riding my bicycle Bluebell, growing herbs and collecting typewriters.
Things I want to do in 2020. Partly from my Daydreams To Do list and also from my general goals for the year.
~ Steampunk events
~ experiment with film cameras
~ walk more
~ explore Colchester
~ beach time
~ kitty portraits
~ western riding
~ spa days
~ learn to make bath bombs
~ recreate Lush's Angel's Delight soap fragrance
~ work in sterling silver
~ build a catio
~ handwritten letters
~ photobook of the house project, the cats, Poppy & Dad
~ print my own photos