Choose your own adventure

‘Don’t stand on the outside looking in, stand on the outside looking further out’ -Bill Drummond

Monday, and having ordered an enormous coffee I am ensconced in a local cafe with excellent intentions. I look at my saved jobs- all of them interesting and worthwhile- I am trying to get excited, to build enough enthusiasm to apply. They are all things I can do, I am clever and have lots to offer- so what it is stopping me?

I check my bank. I have approximately a few hundred quid to my name. I have been living on the breadline now for most of my life. I have pretty much always lived from one paycheck to the next, waitressing, freelancing, trying to squeeze money out of people who don’t want to pay me. Up until a few years ago I was living off benefits- housing, income support, tax credits.

Living this way, although hard, has given me a huge advantage. I can survive on very little, and will always be able to. I have kept another human being alive single-handedly on limited resources. I am skint but this is my strength. I can make money however I like, without fear. I know I can always survive, no matter what. I could definitely do with some cash though. Back to the jobs, and my brain which is fighting itself:

-Why am I finding it hard to apply for these jobs? I am 40, it is time to start. Well past the time to start! Find a career you love and begin to feel properly useful.

-But that is someone else’s story. I have never listened to conventional wisdom. Working for someone else won’t make me happy. There must be another way.

-Oh yeah, how’s that working out for you? You have no money and regularly feel depressed and useless. Apply for the goddamn jobs.

For a while I have been thinking that I must be scared to get a job. I have been out of the job market for years, lost confidence in myself, suffered from low self-esteem. Today, after a weekend of soul-searching and introspection I look at these bookmarked jobs with new eyes. Determined to be positive and see myself for what I really am, I expected to feel renewed energy and to dive straight in. Instead I read the job specs and still feel part of myself dying. Why?

The answer, I realise, is simple. I don’t want to work for anyone else. It is not where I want to go, and it is not fear stopping me- it is an intellectual decision made by a mind that understands itself. Why do I do badly at job interviews? Instead of assuming that I am broken in some way, what if it is simply that those interviewers sense that I am not 100% committed? Because I am not. So where is this feeling of low self confidence really coming from?

There is a reason I have lived my life ‘off-grid’ (not literally, but you understand). I have fought myself constantly- my reluctance to work 9–5, even before I had a child felt like an aberration, an excuse. I must have been lazy. I must be lazy. Yet in all this time I have written and thought and been part of projects and met hundreds of interesting people. This is the opposite of lazy. Call it an epiphany if it pleases you, but this morning I realise that it is only my idea of myself as being somehow faulty for living this way that has stopped me from fully embracing it or making money from it.

It is only my idea of myself as being somehow faulty for living this way that has stopped me from fully embracing it or making money from it.

The world has told me I am useless and I believed it. I am not an employee and that’s OK. I am going to make lots of money doing what I want, loving myself for it and not listening to negative messages from others, but most importantly from myself. I have started from a place of scarcity, thinking my reluctance to get a job was a negative trait. But for me personally it is not. In reality it is the best thing that could have happened to me.

Without the lifestyle I have I would have not been able to write five books. I would not have met half the people I have- a huge network of creative, interesting people. I would not have got to this point, just 40, unsure about the future, a woman, using only the skills that I have developed myself to try and make a buck. This moment is a blessing. I can do anything. My resistance has presented me with a huge opportunity- to make money doing exactly what I love, however I want from this day on.

We need to stop making creative, resourceful people feel terrible because of some outdated moralistic idea that having a ‘proper’ job is the best thing for everybody. It is not. Women especially need to start thinking of themselves as entrepreneurs- useful, skilled. Anyone who has been a mother to a small child has more diplomacy and verve than many of the well known (mostly male) business leaders and influencers that we read about every day.

Women especially need to start thinking of themselves as entrepreneurs- useful, skilled. Anyone who has been a mother to a small child has more diplomacy and verve than many of the well known (mostly male) business leaders and influencers that we read about every day.

We need to start differentiating between those who work and those who ‘don’t’. Unless you are sitting in a bedsit smoking weed all day and watching TV then you are a worker and you are contributing. Don’t let the world tell you that you have no purpose. It is the only thing that will stop you making money, on your terms. More importantly it will make you feel like hell and stop you from realising your full potential.

You are amazing and can do anything. Define work on your own terms, have confidence in your decision and start thinking of how to capitalise on your unique skillset. That is the thing that will lead you to real success. Stand on the outside and look further out.