I watched the train pull in to the platform and toyed with the idea of jumping in front of it. Not because I really wanted to die, maybe I just wanted to sleep for a long time. Routine was killing me, the same route, the same faces, the same fucking automated voice on the train. I was tired, I’m sometimes still tired but maybe I’m too proud or just full of shit. So instead, I got on the train went home and cried inaudibly on FaceTime to my boyfriend.
“So, what do you want to do….with that degree? I mean you should do law, you were always good at law. In fact, you will. You’ll tire of this writing writing”
“No auntie, I’m pretty sure this is what I want to do. I’m a storyteller so I’ll find a way to manipulate that into something”.
“William Shakespeare died poor, my friend”
“Oh, You were classmates? Hahahaha”.
“You’re laughing now, you’ll see. This world isn’t for storytellers. It’s for doers. I’ll be there when you collect your law degree”
I’ve had this conversation too many times to count, the characters may not be the same but the plot arch usually is. Sometimes I lie, usually to cab drivers, that I practice medicine. Or that I went to Oxford, or that I’m fluent in mandarin. Why? Because they don’t really care and in that moment, it doesn’t actually matter.
People expect you to roll out the womb and know what you want to be in life. To be honest I drew the short straw there because I was ripped out my mother sans breath, so I missed the golden moment to wail “I want to be a fully fledged dentist by 35, earn £100k and drive a Range Rover” plus, babies can’t talk.
Honestly speaking I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, I just knew what I was good at – which was kind of everything. I had the blessing-curse of being “gifted” so never really learnt to focus on things except to excel and get another gold star next to my incorrectly spelt name. I’ve wanted to be a tree, a giraffe owner (I’m sure this is a real occupation), a neurosurgeon, a fashion designer, a fashion illustrator, Shia LaBeouf’s girlfriend, “just bloody rich mate”, magazine editor and now….possibly an amalgamation of them all.
I left uni, after finally deciding I’d do English and Creative Writing because I like it and scoring the highest grade for my final year project, because I’m actually pretty great at it. This sort of thing is wonderful in the bubble that is call-bossman-at-4am-whilst-you’re-on-Twitter-with-4-hours-to-the-deadline-fuck-okay-phone-is-OFF uni life. Not so much sat across from a panel at top publications. I sat opposite a lot of those panels, chewed off the skin on the inside of my cheek and reminded myself I’ll talk too fast or stammer if I don’t focus.
I got far with some, not so much with others. Many said the same thing :
“We just love you and you’re talented, but we need more experience”.
Now, I can’t speak for everywhere but a lot of experience pays in experience so you in essence get the privilege of being broke but ironically not jobless (Nigerian def here). “Sure! Thank you I’ll work on that!” I’d say and work out how broke I could afford to be.
Eventually I grew tired of working for nothing. Oh, and one place was weird about me not crying (yeah, the working world is a strange one kids). So I asked my parents – who had funded a lot of this CV bolstering – what I should do. They said “Darling, sometimes you have to do what you don’t like to be able to afford to do what you do like”. How true that is, is debatable but I was over it and my hair was long overdue a treatment.
So I took a job I didn’t really care for that paid incredibly well. I went for the interview, and said some stuff they liked because I got the job. The drive home was bittersweet, I had stability but felt like I’d cheated myself. “It’s cool, it’s for a little while man” I told myself and exhaled in relief or maybe sadness – I’m still not sure. Later that night I got an email from one of these large publications offering me the possibility of a job, they liked my awkward enthusiasm but couldn’t guarantee how long for. Seconds later I got an email from the interview I just left telling me how much they were looking forward to me coming.
C’mon life, really? You already gave me square hips. Now you’re just being sadistic.
To keep this story short, I took the high paying job. I needed stability. I already took the risk of not opting for grad schemes. The first few months were okay, it’s a job and the money made me hate things less (well I’m scowling in a great outfit). But it started to eat at me, the unease I felt all those months away came back…on steroids. It wouldn’t budge. Days merged into each other, office chatter became white noise and my interaction with anything other than my little bubble died. I’d wake up tired and angry, go to bed fed up and still tired. I craved sustenance and everything around me was ‘from concentrate’ and sickly.
“Is this what the fuck I’m going to be stuck doing…? Did I think I was better than others here? Why are they content but I’m not…?”. I stared at myself in the mirror, it was pointless because I was no longer even attempting to look presentable. They thought it was a “look” at work. It was, Decadent Depression SS16. Things at home had their own crazy gravitational pull and this was sucking me somewhere dark. I could feel my vision become tunnel and the outside world dark and bland. It was happening, I was under a dark cloud.
After weeks of swallowing lumps in my throat and not really caring about anything, I decided to leave the country. I already knew where I was going. I just had to inform my family I’d be gone for 3 weeks.
I spent my birthday half getting my brows badly threaded and collecting a violin at 4am, and half boarding a flight to Rio. When I landed I didn’t know what would happen or if I’d feel any better, I mean I already suffer serious butt envy. But I did.
In my time away I could see through the fog a little more each day and realised I needn’t be so hard on myself. Maybe it’s okay to do something off you path so you can afford your dream. It’s okay that I want to leave, but I need to be realistic. I was still and contemplated a lot, listened to my gut. I had ideas here and discovered something. The end goal is what is important, learn where you can. Pick yourself up.
I boarded the night flight back to London and said goodbye to many things that had made me really happy, but it wasn’t really goodbye. I had a plan now, ideas and an opportunity to listen to myself. I know me better than I could have imagined.
The Portuguese lessons are booked and I finish noting my saving plan. I put my stuff away as my name is yelled to come and be sociable, I’ve no excuse now. I’m literally still glowing from the intake of sun.
I pass the plate of food towards my auntie she thanks me and proceeds to question me about my trip. “So your father tells me you’re going back to Rio next year. You’re leaving your job, so what are you going to do when you return after 6 months?”
“You know what….? I honestly don’t know and… I’m kind of okay with that. Could you pass the salt please?”