I do of course have plans for what I do next but need to summarise them into a sufficiently succinct sentence or two that can answer the question ‘So what do you do?’
Unfortunately I’m going to be doing lots of things that don’t necessarily fit together. For instance, I have a meeting next month to plan a series of articles I hope to have published in academic journals. I will be teaching a couple of courses. I will be writing all kinds of things including a book I’m travelling to Istanbul in September to conduct research for. I’ll also be managing the work that’s being done to our house and planning the fiancé and I’s wedding.
When I set up my twitter account I used the phrase “Writer, researcher, girl about planet” as my bio. I created an About.me profile the other day and went with “Aspiring to a life less ordinary as I navigate through academia, teaching and a wealth of words and pictures with my eye on the horizon and my feet planted in Gloucestershire” which I quite like as it incorporates geography but really it’s a bit flowery.
Perhaps I should just say I’m a writer. It’s a less sleazy option than parodying Pretty Woman and purring ‘What do you want me to be?’ (Sorry, I’ve no idea where that came from beyond the possibility that hey, I’m a bit sleazy).
You can argue that it shouldn’t matter, that a sound byte answer isn’t necessary but earlier in the week I met up with a couple of friends I hadn’t seen for over two years and while we’ve kept in touch, plenty has gone unsaid. And the first thing we all asked was ‘so what are you doing now?’ We were in it for the extended answers but a quick overview was still needed.
I generally see finding a job you enjoy to be one of the most important goals in life and I simply couldn’t work for 45 years doing something I hated. But perhaps I lack vocation in nevertheless seeing work as being tied to money rather than my identity. What I am is someone who likes good food and high heels and for the last 18 months have paid for such things by doing jobs I enjoyed in heritage marketing. I was not someone who worked in marketing; that was merely my source of funding.
So when people ask what I do I’m often tempted to answer that I cook risotto and wear Chanel No.5 even when I’m just staying at home, that I take photos of flowers and am reading six books at the moment. Much as I enjoyed my job, I was far more myself today as I chatted to the fishmonger and mused whether to add shallots and cream to the prawns I was buying for dinner in an effort to evoke a memory of moules mariniere.
In essence, what I’m doing with this new direction my life is taking is to try and reconcile my foodie, creative and impulsive personality with income generation. As far as a job was concerned, heritage marketing suited me very well but the problem with a job is that is entails a commute and set hours. I only like driving for adventures; as a daily activity it exhausts me. I like long lunch breaks. When I was a full-time student I’d put in a few hours in the morning then take a couple off and watch some trashy TV before returning to the task refreshed. You aren’t allowed to do that in an office and yet when working from home I’m more productive.
For a long time I’ve been daunted by the idea of not having a job. Not because I was concerned about my ability to make money but because it seemed a bit too enjoyable. I think part of it goes back to my ex-husband who envied the fact I “sat about at home all day” and downplayed how hard I was actually working on my studies (and doing all the laundry and housework because I didn’t “work”). I like pottering around the house and am quite happy to do the laundry but part of me started seeing that as a cop-out even if combined with bloody hard work.
I owe much of my change in attitude to the fiancé. When I started working a 4 day week I started using my Fridays to do things like plan the changes to our house and when he came home and asked what I’d been up to and I confessed I had only been short listing sofas, he’d be pleased. Eventually it occurred to me that he was happy I was doing things for us and since 80% of my previous salary wasn’t too much of a drop in the household income, it was a pretty good use of my time. And perhaps more importantly was saving him a task he really didn’t want to do.
As it turns out as long as the bills are covered, the fiancé doesn’t care much what I do with my days as long as I’m happy. If I want a job then great, if I want to make money in other ways then that’s ok too. Nor does anybody else seem to care. And so I’ve given myself permission to not have a job. I’ll be working as much as before (more most likely) but I’ve left the 9-5.
I suppose I should be daunted by the challenges faced by the freelancer but for now I’m in celebratory mood as finally, I’ve given myself permission to be me. It’s a very exciting time!