I have been out of work for over a year now. True, I’ve not been looking or wanting to work for a good period of that time, but my last pay check was mid-August 2008, and my last day at work was at the end of that month.
Twelve months is a long time away from work, and after a while that length of time really distorts your thinking towards the whole subject. A friend was reminding me last night of how on returning from l’Abri at the beginning of May I was talking mostly about lifestyle as the number one priority. The type of daily life – the pace, the ecology and morality, the community – was far more important than what work I did. On these pages I blogged about living in the country, about getting a dog…
Yet, in time, your focus shifts. You get consumed by the process of applying for work; of judging between jobs, and being judged re your abilities. For me, that meant very quickly being consumed by questions of hours, remuneration, time, location… Each job is judged by internal questions: is it better or worse than my last post? Does it pay more? Greater or lesser responsibility? A move up the career ladder, or a sideways step?
Last week, I had my first interview, for the 30th position I’d applied for. In many ways it ticked all the boxes. It was a job at my old workplace, so I knew the team and the environment. It was a definite career move; more responsibility, great experience for the CV. It paid (a lot) more than anything I’d done before. All good.
Only I didn’t get it.
For the last month or so, I’ve been in conversation with a small company in Chichester about a possible role. A semi-rural market town. A small team doing varied work. Easy access to the country. There hasn’t been a clear job description, or an obvious application process to go through. Talk of pay has been hazy, right up to the last minute.
The contrast has been pretty clear, really. A career choice, and a lifestyle choice. One plugs me rapidly back into the high-pressure, fast-paced life of London. The other takes a step outside of that, and explores a new beginning in a new location; close to the country and close to the sea. Yet, perhaps unsurprisingly, the one possibility has largely prejudiced me against the other. The prospect of moving outside of London, away from existing friends, to a completely new place, to do a job which pays a good £10k less than the one I was interviewed for last week… Lets just say that I haven’t been exactly enthusiastic.
On reflection though, over the last couple of days, I have begun to rethink my perspective. Since when has money been a motivator for me? Yes, I want to be rewarded for the work that I do, but this isn’t exactly a return to the poverty of working for CGC. And there is a reason for the London Weighting. The South East isn’t as cheap as Birmingham, but it isn’t as costly as the East End, either.
Plus, there is the issue of quality of life. There is a reason why that phrase was on my lips so much after returning from l’Abri. Slowing down, taking stock, building a rhythm of life that included time to breathe… Life at the Manor House was a revelation, especially in contrast to the metropolitan rat race. And a good quality of life, with good people and a slower pace… That is more important to me than money.
I’m not really career focused either. Faced with countless job adverts, you have to find a way of choosing between them, but I didn’t come back from my sabbatical with a burning desire to progress my career in the charity sector. Yes, long term I want to do something different. But as yet, I don’t know what (currently I’m stuck on trying to work out if writing and directing films is a remotely feasible possibility – and as I am only halfway through my first script, I think that question is going to be unanswered for a while). So a job is, as has been suggested before, primarily an income and a set of possibilities and opportunities. It is a better step forward than living at home with my parents, moping and fantasising about unachievable ideals.
All this is to say that my perspective has shifted over the last few days. I have decided to try and stop examining the dental work of the equine gift in front of me. The company is small, ambitious, worthy. Ethical. Enthusiastic. They’ve worked hard to change their perspective on this role in order to accommodate me; they have pursued me, to a degree, and I am honoured and grateful for that.
I’ve only been to Chichester once. I don’t know anyone there. I have no idea where I will live, who I will meet. It is a scary, nay terrifying, prospect. But it is also pregnant with possibility.
After a year out of work, after four long months of looking for employment, I am eager to get going. I want to work, as much as anyone does. I don’t know what this will pan out like, but for the next three months at least I’m heading south.
Wish me luck…