12 Months

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…

Taking up the Challenge

So, Kat issued me with a bit of a challenge: can I use the time I have, as an unemployed individual, to try out the process of writing as a job. If I can stick to it for a week or two, maybe I can work out if this writing lark is dream or fantasy…

Well, after some encouragement, I’ve made some baby steps from an initial state of being somewhat freaked out, towards actually taking up the thrown-down gauntlet. First step was actually getting out of bed.

I’ve actually had something of a routine the last few months, but a routine that involves a not insignificant amount of being in bed. Each day I would wake whenever I woke, mess around on the internet for a while, then shower, make coffee, and struggle into wakefulness. Occasionally this pattern would enable some work to be done before lunch, but most of the time, it didn’t. Instead, I would walk my mum into work (she works half days), come home, make lunch, and settle into work around 2-2.30pm. I’d then press on with the job hunting process until 5 or 6pm.

So, a working routine, but nothing close to a real working day. Part of Kat’s challenge is actually putting in a full days work, and that means dragging myself out of bed before 9am.

***

This is how it’s gone thus far. Yesterday I got up at 8am. By 9am I was on my way out of the house, walking into Harborne. I went to WH Smiths, and purchased myself an A4 notepad and some new pens. Nice, long walk home, and down to ‘work’.

The morning I used my new pad to write down the basic outlines I had for script ideas. A total of seven projects, most of them only initial ideas, or very rough outlines. But at least now there is an ‘idea’ and a working title to each locked on paper. Somewhere to start.

After walking Mum to the office, the afternoon was spent writing the precredits and credit sequence to the first idea. It’s currently running on the working title of “A Very British War Movie”, although I can assure you that it won’t keep it. It’s not even a great indication of what the film is about, but at least sketches out the genre (ish). 1700 words isn’t bad for an afternoons work, although probably still short of Kat’s target.

Today I also managed to drag myself up before 9am, and I’ve written the opening to another project, working title “The Farm”. Only 630 words, but then there’s no dialogue.

***

So, not a bad start. Although, now things are going to grind to a halt. I really have to concentrate on an application form, over the next couple of days, and so that will distract me from writing. I hope to get back into it next week, although I may note down some thoughts in between moments of staring blankly at Job Descriptions.

The other problem, is that these two opening sequences were the only scenes I already had written in my head. Everything from this point on has to be genuine new creativity. Can I do it? Can I take these ideas and run with them? Will writing itself become a chore? At this point, I don’t know. I’ll keep you updated…

Decisions, Decisions…

How do you make the big decisions in your life? When you are trying to decide where to live, what job to do, which relationships to pursue, what basis do you use for making those decisions?

If I’m honest, I have never found decision making easy. I have an ability to see all the possibilities and consequences of a course of action, which often leaves me somewhat paralysed, not easily able to weigh the different options. But in times past I would have tried to base all my decisions on what seems ‘right’, on what ‘God’ wanted/was saying/was not saying, and on what I believed to be important from previous decisions.

Being in London, being involved with my church there and among the community of friends I had around me, was one of the important markers. I made a lot of decisions, about jobs, about where to live, based on that. I also made a lot of decisions based on my ‘theology’ (for want of a better word), my ideas of what Christian life was meant to look like. All of my career choices since graduating have been about enabling me to continue to live in London, to be involved with my church community there, and work in a ‘Christian’ context, for organisations that I felt were doing important work.

So what’s changed? Well, a lot, honestly. The chaos of the last couple of years of my life has left me questioning pretty much everything, including all the signposts by which I used to make decisions. I am tired of London, frustrated by and somewhat alienated from most of my church, and unsure what, if anything I believe about ‘God’. I am in the process of trying to start afresh; am currently looking for both work and a place to live, and could go and be anywhere… but there are an awful lot of where’s and even more what’s.

I feel somewhat overwhelmed by the possibilities. I don’t know what basis I have for making decisions other than what I want, and I’ve never been that great at working that out. What do I want? I want to live I the country. I want to have space for myself but be involved in community. I want to be near, and involved in the lives of, friends. I want a job where I actually want to go into work in the morning. I want space to see if this writing thing can actually go somewhere. I’d really like a dog…

So that’s something, right? Except, to my structured brain a lot of those things seem almost contradictory. Most of my good friends are in London. In reality, most work probably is too. My experiences of community thus far have been with churches, or with folks from l’Abri, most of whom are now scattered across the globe. If I managed to find a job in a more rural location, I’d most likely be trying to set myself up somewhere where I knew no one, which is not exactly helping with either the friends thing or the community one…

So, what do you do? At the moment, hampered by a lack of cash, crashing with my parents, in all likelihood it will be a matter of the utmost practicality, going for whatever compromise ticks the most boxes. Maybe getting another London job and trying to live near current friends. But that doesn’t satisfy; none of the options I can see in front of me at the moment satisfies. So there is always the possibility that I do something all the more unconventional…

Or just sit here in indecision a while longer…

The End…?

Today is the last day of my third job with Oasis.

I’ve been working in my current role for 14 months now, in the incredibly-badly-defined course development post, but the funding was running out, and it was time to look for something new. That something new will be an Editor post at Mission Education for the Methodist church.

Oasis LogoIt’s been fun and frustrating working with ‘the messy circle’ (from the Oasis logo – there’s actually a Facebook group called that, I believe), with its peculiar brand of visionary activism. In my three roles over 4 years I found Oasis to be full of really great people, most of whom are a pleasure to know and to work with. It is also continually seeking to do new things, brimming full of ideas and idealists – probably its greatest strength and its greatest weakness.

The organisation has always seemed to have a bit of a revolving door, and I’ve known many people come and go over the last few years (including myself twice before now!). Will I be back? Maybe; despite many frustrations with the way decisions are made, with the lack of strategic thinking etc, I know of few Christian organisations in the UK that are as good seeing a need and jumping at it… I’ll undoubtedly keep track of the organisation and who knows; maybe a future project will tempt me back…

This may also be my last blog entry in a while. I have neither computer nor internet at home, and my new role may be less forgiving in terms of extracurricular activity while at work… could this be the end of ‘Intelligence and Ignorance’?

I hope not, but only time will tell. Thanks for journeying wit me so far.
Onward ho!