Last month was a tough cash flow challenge. Skating on such thin financial ice is not something I enjoy. It’s not something I enjoy sharing, either. And yet here I am, baring my soul and telling the world my secrets. I won’t edit myself or my story.
Sometimes I think that a marriage made of two freelancing, freedom seeking artists is more than any bank account can handle. The uncertainty and instability is not the poetic party that you might think it to be.
As I write these words I can already hear the thoughts forming in the heads of The Conventional Ones: Get a Real Job.
Ah, but this is the most Real Job I’ve ever had.
It’s true that I’ve had many jobs before this one. I’ve worked for different organisations, in different capacities, in different towns. But all of my roles had one common theme – each of them left me thinking “Isn’t there something more?”
It took me many years to muster the courage to walk away from the life that The World had told me was mine. It felt so strange at first. Almost as though I’d been wearing an uncomfortable outfit for the longest time and I’d finally decided that I was going to return it to the store.
“This isn’t mine. You gave me the wrong one. This one feels all scratchy and strange and sometimes it weighs me down. No, it’s OK, I don’t want to exchange it. I’m going to make my own”.
And then, the realisation that I didn’t quite know how to make my own outfit, closely followed by the thrill of the possibility of numerous bold designs, chased swiftly down by fear and anxiety that the whole garment might actually unravel and what a mess that would make.
Which pretty much sums up the dance I’ve been doing ever since.
This Real Job is not an easy gig. There are wings and prayers aplenty. But whatever fearful thoughts may come to play in my mind, I know this much – I have never done anything more real.
I am a writer. I am real. This is my job.
Whether I am paid or unpaid: this is my Real Job.
And although my words may start the story, my job is more than the letters and paragraphs that flow from my fingers.
My job is to keep being brave enough to tell The World that I cannot breathe in the stuffy little box it wishes to place me in and I cannot fly when it attaches weights to my wings.
My job is to take the shattered pieces, yours and mine, and create something beautiful from the fragments that forgot their worth so many lifetimes ago.
My job is to believe in a better world, to walk hand in hand with the Warriors that stand up and rise up, to feel the terror and f*cking do it anyway.
My job is to remember that my truth is too vital to ignore and to remind you that yours is, too.
And throughout it all, there is fear. Fear that I won’t be enough, that I won’t make enough, that I won’t matter enough. Fear that perhaps one day the thread really will unravel and I’ll be left as a single strand of someone that once was.
Still, I refuse to go back. I may not know what lies ahead of me, but I know with grim certainty what lurks behind. I have shed that skin. I have left that life. I have a Real Job to get on with now.
Yes, this job comes with burning eyes and bloodied hands. A gentle caress on some days, a cold ass slap on others. I’m never quite sure if the comfort of the caress is truer than the sting of the slap, for they both make their mark.
There are times when I feel broken and overwhelmed, I don’t let my gaze linger too long on my husband in those moments. I don’t want to see my fractured feelings reflected back at me. I don’t want the cold sweat questions to tear their way through the life we’ve built, with their careless claws and scornful disregard for the love and faith that have gone into every brick.
I limit my time in The Land of Dark Thoughts. I know that the blanket of despair loves to wrap itself around me with its shadowy weight, clinging to my skin when I try to shrug it off.
I’ve spent long hours trying to untangle unknown grief, The World’s and mine, without ever really understanding that it is not meant to be untangled but explored and experienced. Studied and seen. My heart will be both soothed and scalded, each emotion has a place.
I am here to live my art. Even when I’m scared. Even when I’m bleeding and burning and down to the wire.
This creative path isn’t the easy route, despite what The World may say. And yet, even in the most difficult moments l know that I cannot fail. My failure would be to take my truth and tie it in a tight little bundle, never allowing it to take the deep gulps of air needed to give it the oxygen it so desperately seeks.
My failure would be to never know, to never try, to never dare.
Real jobs mean real wounds. Today, I am scared and I’m alive. And I’m hanging onto that.
Photo credit: Leon Cato Photography