Turns out that some of us don’t give a shit about having it all.
We live in a world that glorifies busy; and while there are plenty of things that society tells me I should be doing or caring about that I have chosen to ignore, that has always been one I have embraced. Hard. If I care about something, I throw myself into it wholeheartedly; when asked if I want to participate in something related to one of my goals, the answer is usually yes.
At school, I was told I could do anything. I was an overachiever in an environment where that wasn’t particularly common, and so I didn’t have to work for it. The one time I can remember getting into trouble was because I was reading a book behind a textbook, and not being particularly inconspicuous about it. I was bullied – of course I was – which planted the seeds of a desire to please, to be liked, it took me 15 years to get over.
I applied for, and was accepted onto, the best university place available to me with my grades (which were the best) without leaving home at the age of 16. It was a course on which everybody but my best friend was older than me, and where almost everybody had a rough idea of where they would be in five years, 10, 20.
I think that was where I learned that I was not ambitious: I just wanted to write.
That’s maybe oversimplifying it a bit: I wanted to write, but I also wanted that writing to be a bit brilliant. And I wanted people to want to read it. So, in that sense, I’m ambitious, I guess? It’s just all a bit … nebulous. Not the sort of thing you can quantify as targets and goals, for review and sign-off at the end of the year.
In the narrative about having it all, “all” is usually read as meaning family and career (plus, I think, size 10 figure, well-rounded diet, fondness for fine wines, gym membership, functioning friendships, low-key amphetamine habit). When you’re not ambitious in the traditional sense, then it’s hard to explain your “career” plans to other people – and, a month off my 35th birthday and with nary a twinge of the baby blues, I’m not interested in “family” either. All that’s left, then, is the writing.
Which is why, late last year, I applied to work part-time.
The right to request flexible working was extended to all workers who have been with their employer for 26 weeks or more a couple of years back (it was previously only available to parents and carers). There are all sorts of flexible working models available, from working from home, to compressed hours, to reducing your hours. While your employer can refuse, they need to be able to show a genuine business reason for doing so. In my case, I daresay it would have been easy for them to show that it was too difficult to recruit somebody to work a single day a week – but they stepped up to the mark, and here I am officially working four days a week in my corporate role giving me an extra day a week to balance blog, freelance commitments and leisure time.
It’s better for me, as I’ll be able to take time off to relax on evenings and weekends without beating myself up about everything else I have to do; and it’s better for them, as they get four days during which I am hopefully less anxious and more productive. I get to hang on to a job that challenges me, keeps me in a much-needed routine and that I really enjoy, while at the same time having more freedom to write – while the knowledge that I have taken a financial hit in the process should go some way towards motivating me to make the most of that new-found time.
With today being a bank holiday, and one of my best friends in town for a long-overdue visit, it’s been a bit of a slow start to my freelance adventure. We likened it over brunch to it being a bit like the first day in any new job, to be spent filling out forms and figuring out how the photocopier works. Today’s task – other than write this blog post – was to tidy up the dumping ground that had become my desk: the temptation with being a laptop user is that it had become all too easy to take a look at the state of it and then go work downstairs on the sofa.
My philosophy is that your work space has to become an extension of your personality since you spend so much time in it; and while that’s definitely the case in the office, at home, I’ve taken it to the next level. My pinboard is covered in photographs, lovely messages and concert tickets; there are art projects and funny notebooks and pens and pencils stored in my favourite “critic” mug whose hairline crack makes it too much of a liability to drink tea from. As ever, my only theme was that I didn’t have a theme – until luxury homeware retailer Amara offered me my pick of their designer stationery collection to tie it altogether. I would have gone with a clear plastic, functional desk tidy, honest: but with my choice out of stock, there was nothing for it but to fall back on the ever-reliable Kate Spade.
Apparently the large turquoise lined notebook*, with a gold foil Charlotte Brontë quote that perfectly sums up my life philosophy, has been discontinued so if you want one, snap it up quick. The matching desk accessories each feature cute embossed slogans, and their shiny mirrored surfaces look incredibly classy even if it makes them incredibly difficult to photograph.
The ‘Things To Do’ in-tray* is a gorgeous upgrade to what is a desk essential for me: it’s where I chuck invoices, CDs I haven’t had the chance to import to iTunes yet and any samples I still have to photograph. I’m hoping the ‘Bits & Bobs’ trinket tray* fulfils a similar function for the detritus I promise myself I’ll keep off my desk, but never actually manage to, plus the gold-trimmed loose leaf notes will definitely come in handy.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life, and I can’t wait to share with you everything I have planned.
This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased.