Monday, 16 March 2015

Ticking life's boxes, or none of them

Having spent most of my life breaking the rules I have discovered how incredibly judgemental many people are, not because you are hurting anyone as that is what judgement is for, but because you are not doing things like everyone else. There is a hierarchy of activities people seem to assume are normal, and the more you tick the more normal you are. And if you don't do some they simply let you go.

The basic list are the usual ones, married, job, children, getting up early, going on holidays, and basically anything else 'most people' do, and if you don't do one or more you become increasingly isolated and ostracised. And if, like me (as I have the unfortunate authority to comment on this), tick none of them you are fucked, excuse me.

The glass half empty view is most applied to people, most of all ourselves. The only person normally judging you more than others is yourself, unless you've learnt not to as it's not our roles, we just do our best, and like taking exams, let others mark them. The half full doesn't look at things which are often not within someone's control (who can choose to get married and then find someone, and in time to have children as well), or have the health to work full time etc, and without stealing their money simply use their time in different ways and get their money for not being able to work one way or another.

Using my own life as an example (what do we know more about?), I lost my last regular job in 1997, having spent five years quite patiently going in every week regardless and doing bits of other things on my days off. One was voluntary work, originally a four year college placement I doubled up on as I enjoyed the youth work and ended up getting my shift paid, and helping out in a community centre after my counselling placement had finished. Most of the staff, including full time, were volunteers, they ran a theatre with some major names, and we then printed adverts and delivered them to schools to give to the parents when there was a children's performance. I filed and also took tickets at the door when they were really busy one night. And changed toilet rolls. Then someone recommended me for a paid job doing the filing in a massive company which kept me busy six weeks till the job was complete. These opportunities turn up and while unpaid work is endless paid work is very restrictive nowadays, unlike the 80s when I began.

After applying for 150 jobs in the first year after being made redundant, and getting three interviews, I carried on, and finally a shop I'd asked if they needed anyone called me to say they'd opened another branch, and after turning up to find it was on the far end of a shopping area beyond the busy part and town centre was not surprised when we didn't make a single sale that week, but was slightly surprised to get the call on Monday he was renting it out to someone else as it wasn't worth doing. That was quick. Later I got a letter saying I was now entitled to complete my professional training based on the experience, and used the time to take a very tough correspondence course, huge essays the size of a small thesis, and very high standards. That led to a professional qualification allowing me to apply for new jobs. There weren't many, and the year I began got one interview in a group of six and no further. However, in 2001 I also volunteered in interviewing and hypnotising people who thought they'd been abducted by aliens as I was qualified and interested in it, the only condition was to be passed on to the media whenever possible, as I'd always wanted to be on TV. Within a few years I had four filmings, two have been repeated regularly ever since. My mother, bless her, looks straight past the fact people are watching me around the world and laments the fact I've never been paid for it. Then I got my first article published in a mainstream magazine, also unpaid.

My point being that your time is precious, your money is secondary as can come from numerous sources, and as long as one is open then you can produce a lot more as you're working entirely for yourself with no profit motive. You then look into things you wish you could have done when you were working, and produce a lot more, including this very blog. The material here has been made into two web TV interviews and we are now working with my contact to get it on real TV. I've also painted, exhibited in the local gallery and sold a few online. And you know what, when the media and creative arts of any sort pay off they pay big time. You just need to cross that line and you are both getting the exposure and being paid for it. I do work when the work comes in, but don't rely on it.

But the general points is the criticism I get from many sides that I do everything wrong. Not badly or harmfully, but wrong. Why exactly is that? I don't sleep more than an hour or so more than average, but just in the mornings rather than at night, as I've naturally fallen into nocturnal habits. It means when people need someone at 3am they can call me. If I worked or got up at normal times that's one less person they could call when they were in trouble. My grandma didn't want anyone except friends and family helping her and had I worked then the calls to take her shopping every couple of weeks, to appointments, and spend the odd half day in casualty when she fell over may not have been possible. That time was more needed for other people, including my mother when her second husband died and I spent a week or two there, and stayed there once a week for a couple of years and always took her shopping. There wasn't anyone else as there are no brothers, sisters or cousins, just me. There still is, and for my father who needed his cataracts doing, had a haemorrhage, and spent most of a year being taken to appointments in town usually by me. No one else at all in his family except a cousin he barely speaks to within 200 miles.

I have wanted to be married since graduating in 1984 and having a job that could allow it. I planned a full time job, but doing postgraduate courses part time (full time cost many times more and only found them 200 miles away which would have cost the rent on top) so stayed at home and strung them out over three years. That forced me to work part time, and just did so many jobs it added up to full time. Seven years later (the courses were intermittent) I finished, and decided to leave the existing job as it was the sixth year of the same thing and the pupils I was teaching at the time were like a crowd of hooligans, unlike the poor ruffians at the youth club who grew up by that age and started behaving like adults. Having worked continually since before graduating (I took a year out), I expected to carry on, but the economy in London had changed, and took me over a year to find something part time working for a friend. That suited me, as I was a counsellor and needed time to build up that side, and do further courses, which I did until 2002 or so. Which takes me full circle to the end of that job in 1997, and combined with failing health, the anxiety gradually taking over every aspect of my life, was still looking for work but restricting the scope.

So, having the fewest common and conventional boxes, no job, no wife (despite thirty years of looking), no children (I spent a decade or two avoiding it, now I wish I hadn't), and get up after lunchtime, am a total dropout and according to many a failure. But are the two the same? I saved the money when I did work and bought a flat when they were still just affordable, and have used the spare time as I said adding qualifications. I do use them, but the area is flooded with others nowadays and far too few (extremely highly) paying customers available, as many can find adequate volunteers or wait and get free state counselling. But the parts I could control as far as possible were completed, but it's down to others to accept my numerous offers. Women, employers, publishers, you name it. Not all knockbacks but never in my say.

So read my stories and draw conclusions. We don't all have to work or follow any sort of a traditional life to have a full one. In fact, not working through whatever reasons, allows us to fulfil our true potentials as we aren't using most of our time working for others, making them more profit if not self employed. There are numerous books and teachings out there saying the same things regarding work, including Dr Larry Dossey who was too busy working to write his book, did his back in, and being confined to bed for six weeks wrote his book, created a best seller, and never worked in his old job again. We usually have something else in us which could produce more than we do at work if we were free to, and the quality of others' lives are all touched by it as well, whether your new audience, friends and family or others you look after, or increasing the pool of knowledge by teaching.

Van Gogh is my personal example, now the most expensive paintings in the world, who only sold one in his entire life. And think of Churchill and others who won wars or ran countries who also got up in the afternoon and worked very few actual hours. No one even knows when Einstein or other famous geniuses did their work and how many hours, they see the finished product, and if you then found out Einstein lived with his mother and never got married (not the case but could have been), would you have thought any less of him, and if so, why?

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