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 adore curating, photographing and posting boxes of stationery to other paper addicts, and generally our boxes of stock are a lovely addition to my office – who doesn’t love working surrounded by stationery?
But stock count days, while fun, are harder work – as I now work between home and Studio 19, finding every piece of stock is always entertaining, and then rounding them all up into logical boxes & shelves is even more pesty. And then I have to count the buggers!
Having said that, every year I stumble across something I’ve forgotten we had, or that Anna ordered and I have only seen briefly, so I am now full of ideas for more boxes – keep an eye on the shop!
I am nearly there – three more boxes and our packaging to go, but Luna was a super-helpful kitty:
Both kitties are dealing surprisingly well with the fireworks, even though we can usually see & hear the university ones from here – I wonder if tomorrow night will be louder?
Right, off to finish my stock take spreadsheet for the night. There are definitely some less glam sides to self employed life but oh, how I love it <3
The last few months have been mad – wonderful, and I love the freedom & flexibility of my new self employed life, but also weird, and sad – I am still battling grief & the reality of Dad being gone, and there has been some other background weird shit too.
And as a result I haven’t been blogging much at all!
Having talked to some friends recently who are doing various blogging things – Annastasia blogging daily, Virginia doing NaNoWriMo but in blog posts – I thought maybe over here I can reclaim some of my writing for pleasure 🙂
I love blogging for my businesses, but it’s much less stream-of-consciousness-friendly than here – this has always been the equivalent of my living room on the internet. Messy, but welcoming!
So here is today’s thought/link/thing – Tim Minchin’s Canvas Bags:
So here I am, just over a week into my new life, and as ever, my instinct is to write it all out… on the internet. Because a fourteen year habit is hard to break!
I have been bullet journalling and proper journalling, but nothing quite hits the spot like a blog post. Or a cheeseless pizza.
Time is precious
And never more so than being able to sleep and wake on my own schedule. I realised a long time ago that, alongside loving the various challenges of being an entrepreneur, a massive part of my drive to work for myself is that I just don’t get on well with the standard times that society deems acceptable. For waking, for eating, for living, working and sleeping, I do everything later than I’m supposed to, and it drives everyone around me absolutely nuts.
And oh, it is BY FAR the most satisfying part of this new journey so far. I wake up (not even that late, but past the point at which I’ve always had to be at a day job desk) and I’m NOT TIRED – I’m raring to go. I don’t have to drag myself through a shower solely to wake up enough to pass as a functioning human, but instead can have an invigorating shower with my own essential oil mixes, I can dye or deep condition my hair, and I don’t nearly break my ankle trying to get out in a hurry so I’m not late for work.
It. Is. Bliss.
Grief can make me have misdirected meltdowns
I feel like this is probably something I should already know, or certainly should have learned in the past seventeen months. But apparently I am a stubborn one (who knew?!).
On Tuesday Mum and I went to the crematorium to finalise our choice of final resting place for Dad’s ashes. When we first visited, a helicopter flew over, and it felt absolutely like the right place. But actually choosing the niche where his ashes, and later on Mum’s, will stay for always was rather more emotionally exhausting than I’d anticipated.
So of course just before we went, I had a total panic about all things business and life, and only after I got home did I realise that all of that was simply grief, redirected somewhere which was easier to get a handle on.
I still can’t get my head around Dad not being here, it seems impossible that he’s never seen my studio, and I can’t believe that I’m doing this Massive Life Thing without him. It’s the weirdest experience. I miss him.
We had a sneaky BBQ which I think he’d rather like… I’m also eyeing up a pizza oven to go on it, which he’d definitely have liked.
Mum is of course around, and wonderfully supportive even through her own grief – I’ve no idea what we would have done without each other.
is my happy place. Almost exactly a year ago I went to Open Studios with Rhi, and it felt like such a good place to be. Though I could never have dreamed that just a year later I’d be established there and able to spend as much time as I want in my studio!
I hopped briefly in and out during the first whirlwind week, but today was the first time I got to actually go and work there – shooting new Ink Drops selections ready for tomorrow’s strategy/wrapping/Ink Drops pasta session with Anna.
And it just felt so strongly like exactly where I was always meant to be, doing what I was always meant to be doing.
It’s a while since I’ve felt this contentment, and sense of rightness in what I’m doing – for much of the past few years, even while building my beloved businesses, I’ve battled anxiety, feelings of desperation & being trapped in a 9-5, and of course, latterly, grief.
So although grief is absolutely still part of me, I am also revelling in feeling like I’ve made the best possible decision. And I reckon Dad would approve of that.
Life with cats
Oh, my kitteny cats. They are never predictable, are they? Clover had a fright five or so weeks back and has been behaving very strangely ever since. The insane heat we’ve had didn’t help matters, as it was then hard to tell if she was refusing to go outside from fear, or just because it was too damn hot.
She had her final vet visit yesterday and was given a definite diagnosis of stress – so nothing medical underlying her behaviour, which is what I was fretting about. Poor little fluff had made it very obvious all was not well in her kitteny world, so I was worrying about what else might be happening under the surface.
Luna is as cheeky as ever, and I think all three of us are loving me being home more – I can pop in and out much more calmly than before, I love not having to rush out first thing in the morning every day, so I get mid-morning cuddles when I’m here, and apart from their breakfast being later, they certainly seem to be enjoying the extra attention!
Reading vs TV vs Netflix
I’ve realised (though it is more of an affirmation of something I’ve known a long time), I’m really not a film or TV person.
Giving up TV, when working full time, to have more time to work on my businesses, was easy. I haven’t had a TV licence now for I think four years, and I don’t miss it at all. I rarely even watch DVDs, and my TV set is gathering dust in my spare room.
I do go through small phases on Netflix, mainly of kids’ programmes – I worked my way through Ever After High, My Little Pony, H2O Just Add Water and Mako Mermaids, and am now most of the way through Spirit: Riding Free (which was maybe a less wise choice as while I love it, it’s about a girl and her Dad on the Wild West frontier and it makes me cry more often than an animated kids’ series probably should…).
But I literally can’t exist without the written word – it’s part of my DNA, and without it I am sad and not quite whole. Much like I am when I don’t pick my camera up for too long, but without the attendant creative angst!
Friends are magical
And Mum, of course! I worried a little that I would lose some of my social circle, and by extension some of my social skills, by changing to a life where I am primarily on my own. I live alone, I work in my studio alone and as I’ve already established, my body clock isn’t very normal!
So far, I’ve been proved completely wrong. Which is good! I know I have worked exceptionally hard to make and maintain my friendships, but I am also exceptionally lucky to have the people I do in my life.
this little guy was by the studios today. he’s not representative of my friends, but he’s cute and I figured it was easier than trying to tag the many people who have been instrumental and wonderful lately <3
The studio was also definitely the right decision – with 30-odd artists also based there, there’s always someone to chat to as you refill the kettle, and it’s wonderful to get an insight into other people’s creative processes.
And I managed to sneak to see Julia and Odette before they move to Ireland – I have no idea when I will get over there, but I am SO excited for their new life too! In a nice ironic twist, I chose one of the hottest days of the year to go – we had a lovely actual day, but the train home was in rush hour (because Clovie needs her routine!), lacked air conditioning, was packed with people due to cancellations and was held for 40 minutes outside Colchester station. Which gave me a nice reminder (not that I needed one) of why I’d very much prefer never to work in London again for more than a day or two at a time!
Talking of temperatures…
The heatwave has been insane. I have been more floppy and lethargic than normal, the cats keep asking me to turn the heating down and I’ve been devising ever more creative ways to wear minimal clothing without getting arrested.
When we had the first downpour I ran out in it, I’ve never been so pleased to see rain in my life. To the right is my happy, soaked-to-the-skin self after around 90 seconds outdoors.
Today has been intermittently thundery with massive downpours and sun in between – only at half nine am I now starting to feel a little cold at the end of my fingers… but even that’s a novelty after the weeks we’ve had!
(to put that into perspective, it’s currently 18 degrees in my living room, as I type this at my bureau (because vintage + tech FTW!). For the last… six or seven weeks, it’s not dropped below 25 degrees downstairs at any point. Upstairs has been 29-32 constantly, even with windows open.)
And on that note, I shall go and find some photos to break up my ramblings, and then find some food and head for bed 🙂
P.S. Looking for the businesses I keep mentioning?
Photography with soul for your gorgeous creative business (plus a blog & podcast for multipods, side hustlers and solopreneurs everywhere) – carlawatkins.com
Delightful stationery, dropped through your letterbox – who doesn’t love new stationery? – inkdrops.co.uk
Five and a half years ago, I wrote about leaving London for a new kind of life. More time, more space, no commuting… apologies if the link won’t work, my redirects are misbehaving and it’s much too sunny a day to sit and fix code!
And now here I am on the precipice of another new life – the one I have sought since I was old enough to know what adult life looked like, the one I have worked towards every day of the last eight or nine years.
I handed my notice in last week and from 1st August this year, I will be fully self employed.
I should probably be terrified. Instead I know with a deep certainty that this was the right time for this decision, that it is a million percent the right decision, and I am a strange mix of utterly calm and completely overexcited.
At work I have been described as “gleeful” as I’ve been imparting the news – of course there’s a sadness at leaving people behind, it’s always the people that make the job. Though hopefully I won’t lose too many of them with the change. And I am very good at what I do, and am proud of what I have achieved during my years at Essex.
But this… this freedom to pursue my own dreams, to live my own rhythm, to be answerable to nobody but myself… to fit my work around my enchantment & joy, so I am living my fullest & best life… it’s what I’ve craved since I knew how adulthood worked.
I have never understood the 9-5 life, and the way that the human race has created a rat race for themselves, wanting ever more money & power for no discernible reason. I’ve seen so many people sell their souls to their employers, and altogether too many people stretch to buy the home of their dreams, and then spend hardly any time in it, because they are stuck at work earning the money to pay for the home… which they never see. It is a conundrum I have tried and failed to get my head around.
And ultimately, this is what I have always wanted. A chance to give my all to my businesses and my life, instead of using the best of myself on a job and then only having the dregs of my energy for the things that are most important to me.
My time in “proper” jobs has taught me huge amounts about myself, who I am, how I work, what makes me happy, what makes me sad, what I will & won’t tolerate, and a million more small ways to know myself. In the last five years I’ve also discovered my love for the solo life, how to tackle my anxiety, what my natural waking & sleeping rhythm is (it’s nothing like what the general world expects which would explain a lot!), how to control most of my allergies, and I am learning how to live without Dad, though this is by far the hardest lesson.
I know it will involve some sacrifice, and I know it will involve harder work than it looks on the surface.
But as I stand on this precipice, I cannot wait for the end of July. and the leap into something I have loved from afar for so long. My quartet of businesses & my blog bring me joy on a deep level – I am already settling into giving them more of a boost, as they will no longer be side hustles, but the main part of my livelihood.
I am most looking forward to the freedom to design my days as I please, to wake & sleep as my body tells me, and not feeling so goddamn exhausted all the time. To be able to lose myself in creation and not have to put it aside before I am ready, because of a relentless five-day-a-week schedule created by someone else. And to changing other people’s lives & businesses, in small but significant ways, through my photography and my mermaid tails, and the connection of handwritten letters.
And on that note, I am off to sit in the garden with my beloved kitteny cats and enjoy the May sunshine!
It’s been a while… 2018 is turning out to be the weirdest year of my life so far, I think. Up, down, sideways – you name it, I’ve felt it. And it’s only April!
Though also nearly May, which has utterly confused me as in my head it’s still last June. And if last May you’d told me that in a year’s time, I’d be coming to our annual few days away after a whole weekend shooting in my own studio I think I’d have laughed in your face at the impossibility of it all.
Which just goes to show that sometimes impossible things are possible. If not necessarily before breakfast, because whose brain works that early in the morning?!
I am run off my feet with a combination of delightful and hideous stuff at the moment, and still battling indescribable sadness that Dad isn’t here. I miss him so very much – time has started to heal the outer face of my loss, but I am unsure the inner void will ever feel any better.
However, for the purposes of this update, I’ll focus only on the delightful, and until everything calms down and I can blog a bit more often, you can mainly find me on Instagram…
@duckingfabulous for personal, day to day stuff
@thesillykittens for Luna & Clover’s antics
If you want to keep an eye on my businessy world:
@mermaidinguk and @kerenzasapphire for mermaidy goodness
@catalystcarla for branding photography & multipod musings
@carlawphoto for occasional proper photography (I am doing quite a lot of that at the moment but am reallybad at sharing it on insta, for some reason… I sense a 2019 resolution coming on already!)
@inkdropsbox for stationery indulgence (ditto on the posting front, but we’re launching a fab new campaign shortly and having a bit of an overhaul, so keep your eyes peeled!)
If you’re reading this, thank you for still being around <3 I miss my little space over here – and I will be back properly soon 🙂 (and you might get an email about GDPR soonish too. Bloody new laws.)
PS You can buy the photo on all manner of fabulous things – wall art, phone cases, possibly even a duvet cover – in my Redbubble shop 🙂
For the first time in the 13 year history of this blog, I’m not doing a roundup post – I can’t face it. Nice things have happened this year, but the balance is eclipsed by the loss of Dad.
I have just come home from a week with Mum (Luna & Clover came too) and it was wonderful to spend time with her but we both found the hole he has left behind him was even bigger over Christmas. He was always so damn competitive enthusiastic about the Christmas lights that I’m going to have to seriously up my game in his honour next year. My neighbours are going to love me…
On the plus side, we did find some wonderful photo memories of me & Mum & Dad during the Christmas break, which I plan to make into an album so they’re not just lurking on a hard drive somewhere.
Anyway, that’s why this isn’t a round up post this year. And technically, all the businesses are taking a break till 2nd January.
But old habits die hard and I’ve never yet spent a new year’s eve without writing on my beloved blog, so instead, have the best 18 photos from my mermaid life & business (because most of you won’t have a steady stream of mermaid goodness in your feeds!):
Being a mermaid really wasn’t something I thought could make actually happen – yet now I get to make other people’s mermaid dreams come true as well as my own, and it fits beautifully alongside my photography, business photography and stationery ventures.
My current quartet of businesses feels meant to be, and I really think Dad would approve. Plus I can run them with Kitten Assistants Luna & Clover, who really do light up my life. On that note, I’m off to feed the kitten assistants and read a good book.
I hope 2018 is everything you want it to be and I’ll see you on the other side.
With bittersweet, very mixed feelings, I’m approaching the end of Christmas Eve, the first one without Dad. We went to his pub for a drink on Friday afternoon, and they’d put both his plaques up in his indoor & outdoor spots – he’d be SO pleased by this, I can’t even tell you!
I’ve moved myself and my Silly Kittens into my Mum’s flat for a few days, which has had mixed responses from the cats – Clover is ruling the roost, Luna is happiest when cuddling me but really is also quite cross that she’s not allowed outside because we’re not at home.
They are however both doing their Important Cat Job of distracting us and making us laugh – they are an actual pair of furry idiots, I love them so much.
Having managed to have get some rest and a lie in over the last couple of days, I’m too sleepy to blog properly – but did want to post this, of the two fluffy con artists caught at quiet moments today.
Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, wishing you a wonderful, peaceful few days.
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