Live for a Career

Laid out in front of you is a linear path: get your GCSEs, then some A Levels, a degree, a master’s if you’re good enough, maybe even a PhD, then start a career, and progress up a directionless ladder motivated by incremental salary increases, inflating responsibility and minimising personal time. 

You must strive for these opportunities which are dressed up as successes. You must overstretch yourself to reach that next level, and the one after that and the one after that, wondering when will all this overachieving end? To be content in your place is to be seen as a failure. When are you going to take the next step? When are you going to focus on your career? 

It’s not even clear what that word means – career. It seems more like a contrived way to keep everyone pigeonholed in their teeny tiny boxes. A career is a linear path confined like no other. A trajectory only within your industry. You must go up and up this specific ladder even though it may become more perilous, even though that one beside you has rungs closer together. You mustn’t hop sideways or god-forbid go downwards. You must keep earning more and more! Take on more and more responsibility! Do what you enjoy less and less! Grind the gears of capitalist monotony! And when you’re 70 you can rest, you can enjoy your hobbies then with your dwindling pension, and health issues caused by a life of over-exhaustion

– if you make it.

All those things you enjoyed at school; art, dance, and reading become frivolous activities. They’re permitted on self-care Sunday if you have time. They don’t contribute towards your career; therefore, they are self-indulgent. They’re packed up in something called wellness which has been manufactured to try and counterweigh the longer working hours, dwindling pay increases and lack of job satisfaction. Suddenly picking up a paintbrush feels foreign, like trying to sign your name with your non-dominant hand. Dance can only be accommodated if it takes the form of a sweat inducing exercise session which sees the circles on your smart watch swivel round to completion. Reading is permittable at the end of the day if all other tasks are completed and only if you don’t fall asleep bleary eyed from a too-much-screen-time induced headache.

To say no to it, to the opportunities, is to be ungrateful. To say no is to not overachieve, and the only acceptable performance is the over, is the exceeding.  Now you’re failing, not living up to your promise, a promise that is quantified through salary, the brand of your car and how many bedrooms your house has. It doesn’t consider your happiness, the impact you have on the world, the number of smiles that you put on the faces of those around you. To be linear is to continue striving to the point of exhaustion. Why not be non-sequential? Learn one thing, move onto another, try something different, find what you loathe, what you love, what makes your heart soar, what makes your pulse rise with anticipation, what makes your breath clam up in your throat, your palms sweat. Find what makes your muscles ache, your mind stall. Find what fills you up with happiness at the end of the day and sends you off into contented sleep. Find what gets you up in the morning with a smile. 

One meagre measly ladder up to success can’t do this. You can find elements of a career that fulfil you but ultimately, it’s a means to an end. There’s more to life than contributing to a system that chews you up and spits you out when you become too old to bring benefit to it any longer. Learn, give back, mentor, enjoy, there’s more to life than striving to an ideal of a perfect career which does not exist.

Grief

I know myself that the third anniversary of my Dad’s death is not the best time to write this piece, it feels self sabotaging – self flagellation. Let’s pop open those old wounds, dig and poke around a bit until we get to a meaningful article, let’s use my own pain to write, and with every stroke (press of the keyboard but doesn’t sound great for literary effect) the wound gets a little deeper.

So why write this now? Why write something that I know is going to cause hurt, to cause pain, to bring up emotions on a day, when really, they can be done without. I’ll tell you why: because grief is an open wound – present tense. There’s no action of reopening, it is there, constant, present.
Grief is not a dull aching pain but sharp shooting moments of agony, of realisation, of longing, of not understanding. There’s an angry knot in the pit of my stomach, there’s vomit that creeps up my throat at the thought that death happened to you, that I will never see you again (sorry I can’t envisage some heavenly rainbow place in the sky), that all those memories, that life is gone. These thoughts creep out of the recesses of my mind, out of an inky void of blackness, in which there is nothing to fill – empty, gone.

Gone. What does it even mean?

I’ve seen it but I still do not know what it means. For 6 months I watched life wane away, from full moon, to gibbous, to quarter to crescent. But there was no new moon birthed in its place – just eclipse. Blackness. Nothing. That last phase was the hardest, watching you slip like a shadow around the moon out of sight, I could still imagine the sun being able to light up your eyes.

It’s been four years now. For a year this piece has sat, in the cloud, untouched. I knew it was there, sitting and waiting to be finished. For some sort of epic conclusion. Some hallelujah, some eureka moment of realisation – I am healed, the grief is gone! But it doesn’t exist. Another year has gone by, and I still feel the same. If not worse. As life goes on there are more opportunities, more situations that you should have been there for. More times I have needed you, in this last year more than ever. As the time passes, I change with it, the waves and tides wash over me, corroding and reforming anew in its place. It makes me wonder, would you really know me anymore? Has there been too much change? As the winding river of my life that you knew takes forks and splits into tributaries everything feels so different to what it was meant to be. This last year has been the most tumultuous, the most life changing. Maybe that’s why year 4 seems the most difficult of all. As I sat in an Edinburgh café with a coffee and an Eggs Benedict writing the opening to this piece, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be able to finish it, that it would be left discarded, did I think that when I next picked it up that my life would be like this?

No – but it’s also better than feeling like this:

“The worst part is when everyone else starts to forget, the first year, you get nice (unsure of the sincerity) messages “thinking of you” but as the years pass the day returns back to normality for the majority, it slips past without a blink of an eye. Here I am raw with the same emotions that hit me like a wave 3 years ago. It doesn’t go away.”

It doesn’t feel like that anymore. I’m not smothered into self-deprecating silence. I’m not isolated and ridiculed for my grief. I’m not made to think I need to “get over it.” I don’t feel like one of my goals for the year needs to be “stop being a cunt” because I’m made to feel like one constantly. Year four might be the hardest, but I’m not alone.

Fairwell to the Fairground

Life isn’t about fun and games, those ideals spoon fed to us as children, as teenagers, are nothing more than  candy floss coloured, E numbered up, sugar coated lies. “Eat up it’s good for you” the smarter of us are reassured whilst we hold these spoon-fed lies in our mouths reluctant to swallow it down like the rest. Eventually it starts sticking in your throat, the sugar coating isn’t sweet enough, not convincing enough and the cheap taste of polystyrene seeps through. Bland, phoney, unappetising- that’s what it’s really like. And once you uncover that bland plastic taste underneath all the sugar coating, it’ll never go away.

We compete to have the best, the most convincing sugar coating over our bland lives of polystyrene. Trying to forget that we ever tasted the bitterness- the truth behind it all. Everything becomes a competition, not doing something because you want it but because someone else does. Scrambling around on your hands and knees for the last scraps of sugar to coat the bitterness, engorging yourself into obesity just to escape reality.

It makes you feel fucking sick, sick to the stomach. Sick because there’s no cure for it.

 

31

People always leave,
Like buses we come and go
We move on to the next stop
Determined by society.

The briefest exchange leaving a mark on us
Will we travel to that place again?
See the same sights on our travels
Or are we destined to finish our route alone
empty

Maybe we will cross paths again,
Number 7 and number 24
Until then we will travel aimlessly
To stops in which are pre-destinate

Teleological

Is everything just a means to an end?

Is life merely a succession of milestones that we pass and then die?

We all seem to be heading the same way. We start off with dreams and hopes and an idea that there’s something out there worth living for. Then we go to school, we’re fed ideas that we can be whatever we want to be: but can we? Can the 4 year old little girl who’s already had a difficult start in life really become prime minister? The reality is that she can’t and it doesn’t take long for even her to realise that.

We follow the current and find ourselves at university, studying a degree that someone else has told us will be useful, meeting someone else’s expectations but not our own. We graduate, resigned to the fact that our dreams have turned to ashes, with no flickering embers of hope left that we will somehow achieve greatness and we wonder ‘now what?’ We find someone, fall in love if we’re lucky or just settle. The resounding ticking noise in your head gets louder telling us it’s time to get married and start a family, or is that just the familiar noise of society pressuring us to follow the norm?

You plough on, you’re not an individual any more you’re a family, part of a unit. You’ve settled, ‘this will do’ says the voice in the back of your head whilst the 4 year old version of yourself screams that this is not enough.

Is that really it?