Below, our guest-writer for Balance, Justine Malone, discusses misconceptions about us poncer-arounders, us arty-farties, us scarf-adorning no-gooders.
Hello, arty-farties! COOO-EEEEE! Oh you’re looking so ‘now’. That scarf wistfully draped around your shoulders, your vintage hat at its jaunty angle. Darling. You’re just. MMM. You know? Oh sorry, haven’t got time to read this because you have twelve jobs and 48 unpaid freelance projects on the go? Sweets, honey, you must be ex-haaaauuuuusted.
Luckily, in your spare time you get to hang out in low-budget watering holes, like your house, and have one-way conversations with minor acquaintances like this:
‘Alright? What do you do then? Oh yeah? Bit of this, bit of that? WHY DON’T YOU GET A PROPER JOB, YEAH? LIKE ME. YEAH? I BREAK ROCKS FOR A LIVING, AND WHAT? You people. Expecting ordinary, hard-working, ordinary, law-abiding, ordinary hard-working taxpaying law-abiders to dish out taxes to fund your contemporary dance interpretation of the effect of capitalism on the disenfranchised youth of modern Britain. You make me sick. Sick to the very core of the existence that I have no intention of attempting to understand. GOOD BYE.’
Or something. But look. Listen. Look. You’re thinking, go away, I’ve already read everything on The Guardian about how our generation is aimlessly floundering but we can blame it on fat cats. Or thin cats. Just basically loads of cats so whatever just stop it now. But the cats are simply not at fault here.
So answer me this, ye dreamers, ye thinkers, ye farting-arounders.
Let’s say you had to get that day job to get by, and we understand and you’re doing well and good for you. But there’s a problem. Oh god. Turns out, right, annoyingly, you’re like totally good at like a buttload of stuff, and want to do something with that repertoire of whatever it may be – writing, acting, designing, persuading – the thing you know deep down is what you’re meant for. Are you going to ignore it when it tingles deep in your brain in the night time? Are you?
Perhaps, and fair enough. Surrounded by people who think anything creative and interesting and worthwhile that is summat to faff on with till you get started on your ‘actual’ career, you wonder what the point would be. Fine, and whoever’s telling you that can get on with it. We know full well they’re probably the sort of person who says things like ‘I don’t watch television’ and ‘I don’t read’ (yes you do and WHAT THE HELL). Michael Owen has seen eight films. I’ll just leave that there for you.
So, everyone knows painting a picture can’t restart a heart. And it doesn’t pay for a monkey butler either. But if we’re honest, there’s not a fat lot of point in surviving that life-threatening illness, nor is it worth earning all that dosh, if there isn’t something worth living for.
Must your ‘day job’ become your be all and end all? Says who! But why! Must your mortgage-and-bills work eat you alive? Rise up! Stand tall! Should your dinner party conversation be reduced to which of the A-roads will be an absolute *nightmare* with those new traffic lights? Are you the one with the story that ends with ‘and then the HEAVENS just OPENED! AHAHAHA!!!!’
If you’re like me and you do a money job plus multiple non-money creative ones, you’ll notice how each half of your life becomes the lesser half depending on your environment. Now, I have landed a day job I do enjoy in academic administration. Good for me. But holy Jesus it took some days of boring my arse off to get here. This included years of robotic PA work whilst studying. Here’s a week that didn’t happen, but let’s pretend.
Monday. Type numbers into computer for reasons. Write poem on smashed iphone about the shame of existence.
Tuesday. Managing Director requests 25 cans of Coke Zero (not Diet Coke, that’s for fat girls), five identical white shirts and a selection of legumes. Attend seminar analysing the implications of performance reconstruction at The Globe. Feel parts of brain disintegrating.
Wednesday. Have a fight with a manager about who left a fan heater on in a meeting room. Think about Tolstoy, how I have no intention of ever reading Tolstoy, and what this means for my shameful existence.
Thursday. Pay £8 for a salad. Fulfil all notions critiqued in poem about shameful existence. Download mindfulness app. Ignore mindfulness app.
Friday. Telephone Lord Farquah-Farquahson’s PA, ask her to deliver the fur hats to the lake house. Consider all other career options available in life including, but not limited to, breaking rocks.
And depending on who asks, I say, ‘Oh yes, I work at Oxford University, fnarr’ and theatre is the postscript, even though my most recent roles have been as an assistant director on an outdoor King Lear, and a dramaturg with the Young Vic (for the love of it, for the experience, and yes – for free). And in the theatre world (whatever that is) I’m an assistant director and dramaturg and script reader and writer plus all the other million things I have tried on for size, but I suppose I work at a university aswell. So what the hell am I? A freakish indecisive freaky mutanoid creature freak?
Well, I hope I’m not so different to any other girl in their mid-twenties who knows how important, and how difficult, it is to live a life well-balanced: affordable and productive in equal measure. And I too live in the hope that pushing forward in unpaid creative work will eventually yield enough experience for a paid job in something productive, useful, valuable – where ‘value’ does not mean ‘money’.
Here’s a cheerful closing thought – the consistent trudge towards untimely death. What do people remember on their deathbeds? What will you? Grim, yes, but make yourself wonder for a second. Will it be how fulfilling that spreadsheet completion was in 2008? How that nice car made you realise your self-worth? Or will you think about what you didn’t do because you couldn’t make the time, or because you were scared about having two lives at once? How scared are you now, at the end, knowing you didn’t fulfil that potential?
Don’t be afraid to balance those two sides of yourself – you won’t make a half-arsed job of each, I promise. You’ll be more than the sum of your parts. If you work hard, and aren’t afraid to ask for help, you could start being the very thing you’d like to go and watch, read, see and feel in the arts. Now stop faffing about on the internet you lazy mare. There’s work to be done.