JCT

#42 A year of living frugally

In Homeworking, Jobseeking on April 26, 2010 at 10:29 am

It was this time last year that I realised that I was unemployed. My last book (The World’s Greatest Cities, since you ask) had finally gone to press after a full on couple of months, and the other small writing jobs had been filed. It is a common experience for the freelance to come to the end of bouts of intense work and realise that you haven’t had time to line the next things up. But in the past, something had always turned up. Not this time.

As is standard practice, I dropped a line to all my contacts letting them know I was free, pitched a few ideas, applied for some jobs. But nothing. Then more pitching and applying. More nothing. And so on… Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

A year on and I can talk it all up as a ‘learning experience’. I’ve used the time to trim budgets, making us a leaner fitter household not weighed down by too many  financial commitments allowing us all to keep our options open. I finally embarked on a printmaking course at one of our wonderful adult education colleges that the Tories will probably kill off (Morley College), and felt the thrill of learning new things again.

I’ve toured secondary schools exhaustively and been heartened by the improving standards of the state system, despite received opinion otherwise. I’ve subsequently got my daughter into a local school that’s just been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted (from being a no-go zone a decade ago) without even having to temporarily rent a house in the catchment area, fake a separation from my husband, or pretend I go to church.

I’ve realised that I don’t actually miss those interminable meetings that seem to take up 50% of office life – it’s a relief to be able just to get on and do stuff. I’ve been to careers workshops, sent my details round agencies and signed up for every jobs websites. I’ve realised that filling in job applications and looking for work is even harder than a full-time job – at least with a job you get holidays. I’ve done some really dull stuff for the money which has freed up time to do some really interesting stuff for none. I’ve taken heart from all the entrepreneurial things I’ve seen my friends doing and stopped thinking the world owes me a living.

I’ve gone from being antisocially miserable to artificially chirpy, reasoning that sitting around feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to solve anything. Most importantly, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my career has hit the buffers and needs to follow a different track, but found that the change of scenery is actually quite pleasant.

I’ve talked to lots of other people who are at different points on the same journey: some still at the stage of despairing that there doesn’t seem to be anything out there, others well ahead of me and now enjoying hard-won success after a period of gloom. Some contemplating that leap into the unknown (go on, jump!).

The past 12 months have been bloody hard work, and will continue thus, but that’s how it should be. Friends, family and former colleagues have been incredibly supportive (thank you!) and even put some work my way (thank you again!). Though my earnings for the last tax year have been pitiful, almost half came in the first three months of this year, which I hope means things are picking up for all of us.

My next book – writing this time, not editing! – is due to be filed at the end of May; another proposal is with an agent. And I’m so busy for the next month I’m even going to have to get some temporary childcare.

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