Friday, February 13, 2015

Country of Solid Worth


A Map of the Open Country of a Womans' Heart, c. 1833–1842 Source: http://visualoop.com


(Alternatively Titled: Things I Might Want To Do Or Be When I Grow Up.)


When I in school I wanted to be either a lawyer or an artist. A lawyer because I was clever and I liked using that to prove that other people were not, or an artist because art made me happy. I chose art. I only regret that decision maybe two days a week. It's not that I wish I was a lawyer exactly, but it would be nice to have a salary, and for the part of my brain that was once clever to still work. And to have a salary.

So, Be An Artist; that was my dream. I didn't get very far with that, there's nothing like art school to kill your dreams, and your tolerance for artists. I left art school a year early; sad and angry and betrayed by the neglectful - borderline abusive - tutors I had been trusted to and completely, utterly unemployable. Someone asked us to photograph their wedding so we did that and it turned out that a) we were good at it, b) it was quite fun and c) people would PAY us! We were sold.

Eight years in and we've had enough though, the moments of fun are outweighed by the pressure, the responsibility, the logistics, the desk work, the back ache and the speeches. We've known since the beginning that it wasn't going to be our forever careers and we've been having the exact same conversation for as long as I can remember;

'I don't want to be a wedding photographer forever.'

'Me neither. What else could we do?'
'Dunno.'

Nothing has changed except that we can't, just can't, keep doing it. I've spent a lot of the last 6 months wailing at Nye 'But I don't know what I want to do, I don't have a dream.' Every time I say it I hear Ross from Friends; 'Ahhh, the lesser-known 'I don't have a dream' speech' (I keep this to myself, chuckling inwardly as the husband does not appreciate Friends references. I know, the things I suffer in my marriage.)

There still isn't a next plan. There are lots of things that I sometimes think I would like to do/be and I've been keeping a list. Let's imagine for a minute that any of these is even slightly possible, that education in England doesn't cost £9000 a year (NINE THOUSAND FUCKING POUNDS. Yes, yes, yes, I know that in America it costs like, Fifty thousand, but your country is absurd.) and that I have the time / energy / mental capacity to retrain as anything; these are The Things I Would Maybe Like To Be or Do (in no particular order);



Forensic Science. I have watched nine seasons of Bones and it looks fun. When I watch Bones I can think of nothing but splatter patterns and decomposition rates and bone markers and how much I really want to learn about that. Also, having watched nine seasons of Bones, I'm surely at least half qualified now.

Teaching. I have flirted with the idea of teacher training for years, initially because teaching is a qualification that I could use anywhere we decided to live and then gradually because I actually liked the idea of teaching. The thing is I hate noise, crowds and parents so I would need to teach only quiet kids and have nothing to do with the people who spawned them. Which I'm sure is an option they offer you when you're looking for placements.

Writing. I love to write, which you might have noticed and after doing a really excellent writing class at City University last year I even feel a little bit like I could do it in a more focused way, if only I knew what I would like to write about. That only takes me so far though, as far as a way to spend all my time but not a way to make an actual pay-for-food-and-raise-my-family living. No one makes money from writing. Even real, published, experienced writers with actual books have to get other jobs, like serving coffee or turning tricks.

Publishing. in lieu of being able to write my own work I would enjoy correcting other people's mistakes and I believe that books will save the world. Unfortunately I hear print is dying. Also it's a fairly London-centric industry and I think you need to start out with a) a degree in English and b) a willingness to work 50 hours a week without pay. I have neither of those things.


B&B Proprietor in the South of France. Basically I want to own this place, to drink wine and eat cheese and grow food and probably learn to speak French at some point and send my kids to school in a country that still values state education and healthcare for all. (I know France is no utopia, you don't need to tell me that, but it's not England. And it's warmer that Scotland. Which is currently being fucked by England. So there you go.)


Counselling. Friends of mine work in counselling and psychotherapy and they are full of interesting thoughts and conversations and opinions. Their training sounds like training I would like to have, the studying like study I would thoroughly enjoy. I've been to therapy, I've seen a couple of counsellors and it's no exaggeration to say that they changed my life. I'd like to do that for people. Sadly, I can only talk/listen to people talk for an hour a day before I start biting the inside of my face to stop me from closing my eyes and rocking back and forward with my fingers in my ears. That could be a problem.


Zoologist. I was standing in a bus queue a few weeks ago when the man waiting next to me admired my purse (leopard print) and my scarf (leopard print) and my tights (leopard print). He told me that he was a zoologist based in Paris who works with South African wildlife reserves finding ways for the wildlife and the local people to live harmoniously together. His wife was a wildlife photographer (also fond of leopard print although I'm sure she approached it in a more restrained fashion, most grown up people do.) Anyway, we were just standing chatting about life, leopards and the ridiculously small print on the Oxford bus timetable when I felt a lump rising in my throat and my eyes burning, envy and a sense of pointlessness washed over me, that is what I want to do, I thought, I want to work with animals and the environment and cuddle baby leopards.


Rare Breeds Farmer. I like animals (see above), both looking after them and more recently, eating them. Raising them myself seems like the best way to make me feel less bad about eating them. Also they don't talk. I do hear that farming is quite hard work though. And that land is expensive. And I find mud to be a bit of a drag.


Micro-distiller. This is one that Nye and I have talked about quite seriously, to the point where he has researched stills and the laws preventing us from having one. We have talked a lot about moving to an island where the only things that grow are sheep (see above), potatoes and insanity. There's no money to be made in sheep or potatoes (possibly in insanity, if I pursued that counselling qualification first) but there is money to be made in single estate British potato vodka... Sadly the rules in the UK to make it very tough to set up a micro distillery, not impossible but rather a ball-ache. I also worry about the state of our livers and general ability to function if we had liquor quite literally on tap. 

Artisanal Toy Maker. Plan; move to island, (see above) buy sheep, name sheep, shear sheep, spin fleece into wool, knit toys, label them with their sheep's name and photo, price at £100 each, sell them to Londoners as Single Estate Island Teddies, live in perpetual state of shame at calling myself an 'artisanal' anything, repeat. 


Photographer. I wanted to be a photographer from the second week of art school, when I used the dark room for the first time and from that rancid smelling liquid a fleeting moment I had thought interesting the week before appeared in a mixture of magic and alchemy and the teaching assistant told me I had 'an eye'. The problem is I don't know how to make a living from it, I don't have any experience and I'm not very good. Joke! I do! I have! I am! The real problem is that I'm burned out. That I've been making a living from it for 8 years and I'm exhausted. I don't want to keep photographing weddings (which I'll write about one day) but I don't have the energy to try and break into other areas. I am a tired photographer.



So there you have it; my career plans. Thank god our plan for the immediate future is to eat, sleep and milk Nye's parents for both childcare and accommodation because our longer term ideas are, um, questionable to say the least. I am living in a state of faith at the moment, faith that our immediate plan won't drive us crazy and that our longer term plan will become clear, and that that longer term plan is not deeply unrealistic, unaffordable and unsustainable. Living in a state of faith isn't a bad place to be.