This week has been very up and down with work. I’ve still had cancellations, which has made me worry about payment. At times, I’ve also felt stressed, which has impacted on how productive I’ve been able to be, or how productive I’ve felt. It’s not been possible to make up any lost hours financially this week, and yet I also can’t schedule anything in the time I’m committing to the students I have. Given the change to PAYE with one of the agencies I work with, there also seems to have been complications with getting paid for the hours I’ve actually worked, and last night I found I was taxed around half of my earnings, so was straight on the phone to HMRC this morning, who picked up just as I finished my washing up, so at least I’m getting things sorted!
Last Saturday, I spent the morning lesson planning, and after a fun visit to Specsavers, I finished my course reading and a Safeguarding workbook (and 3.5 hours of safeguarding training the day before!) Sunday afternoon, after stocking up on some food, I went through emails and sorted out the work admin for some of the other new casual PAYE work I’m taking on. Art making was sadly left until the end, so it wasn’t until nearly midnight that I finished.
As well as tutoring and waiting for students who didn’t turn up, I was back at university this week. Of course, one particular day of cancellations, I thought I’d take a walk and call a friend, only to become overwhelmed later that day. I got prepared for an upcoming debate by researching materials, but still need to do the much-needed reading and note-taking! I also had a lot of meetings, following on from my dyspraxia diagnosis, where I’m hoping to qualify for some support! I also had two intense interviews! One for a tutoring agency and one for a poetry opportunity! Now I’m going to walk to Crystal Palace and make use of my free tickets with the cinema membership I got for Christmas!
Once again, if you’re able to support me on my journey to becoming an Art Therapist, please consider buying my books or sharing stuff on social media, likewise with my crowdfunding campaign.
Sure enough, the work is coming in, so I am trying to schedule it so I can also not burnout, creating balance whilst making some necessary sacrifices. This means I’m absolutely not doing any work on Tuesday evenings as I’m at uni on Mondays and Tuesdays, so I need this time to recover, have some down time with fellow students, and reflect. So my schedule of students is currently 2 hours on Mondays, 6 hours on Wednesdays, 2 hours on Thursdays (with 3 more pending) and 3 hours on Fridays. Plus some LEGO parties on weekends, and I’ve just signed up for a Living Wage events staff role!
Despite the positive turn of events, I’ve also have lost out on a big chunk of my income this week as one of a student I’m now seeing 6 hours a week has not been able to attend for the week, and unfortunately the agency won’t pay me anything for this time… which I could also do with using as preparation time as I will need to re-read the novel being studied (Purple Hibiscus, which I have read before at least!) I was able to make a little more money to compensate for this loss of income by doing some last-minute EFL cover!
I got to host an Apples & Snakes Work From Home workshop, and I had some positive feedback from people who attended (between 40-50 people joined I think!) and although I proved to be a little rebellious with my form samples, I absolutely loved it! Hopefully you can see I’m working hard (and also trying to rest hard… rather than party hard)! If you would like to help me on my journey to become an Art Therapist, please donate to my crowdfunding campaign, and/or buy some books, and/or share my links!
Do you want the good news or bad news first? Well, the good news is that I feel reassured about my work situation. After I had found out that I didn’t get the scholarship for university, it didn’t quite hit me until I had a meeting with my personal tutor, where I started crying. However, I managed to get myself into a place mentally where I wasn’t worried, and could reassure myself that the work would pick up. Either that, or the escitalopram kicking in.
Sure enough, I’m on my way to getting enough work that will mean that I should be able to live and pay my tuition fees – I’ve got more tuition work, which is mainly alternative education provision at the moment, and I’ve even got some casual work doing Lego parties for children! I’m also doing a workshop online for Apples & Snakes next week, which I’m really excited about!
However, the work is still expected to be up and down, especially given holidays, and I will still need to be on a strict cabbage budget in order to make this work. I’ll still be asking for donations to my crowdfund campaign, which recently got two big ones that will help me pay off my January fees, and I’ll still be plugging my books. Speaking of books, here’s what I read last year!
So, I’ve had four/five days off for Christmas. I developed a sore throat on Christmas Day, which was the best time to get it in terms of work, as aside from travelling to Kent and back, then around Nottingham and Barnsley before heading back to London yesterday afternoon, it meant I could rest and also binge The Traitors. I didn’t think a reality show would captivate me so much, but it was really psychologically interesting, especially in terms of group influence. I was back to official paid-for work today as I’ve had a student.
Aside from this, I’m looking forward to a New Year as I enjoy intention-setting and the freshness of the occasion gives permission to indulge in a celebratory Chinese takeaway before a future of experimenting with various spices on lentil, chickpea, pulses, and vegetable dishes for the foreseeable future. I have an abundance of washing products, a few experiences to entertain me, and a bit of cash to get some groceries to help me with my cabbage budget now I need to save over £500 a month.
Things are winding down, which means I’ve been catching up with the pile of emails that had built up, and applying for more work for the new year. I’m happy that I’ve pretty much managed to save my first two instalments of tuition fees, but I will have to save £515 a month to be able to pay May’s… and then I have no idea how I will do the same for the next two years after that. I’m trying to trust the process, but the uncertainty is not ideal! I’m applying for everything I can, from poetry jobs to perfume shops… I would have liked to have things already lined up for next year, but these ups and downs are typical. The main difficulty is not having savings I can use as a safety net now and not being eligible for a loan, and so having tuition fees to pay on top of living costs.
Last Sunday one of my fellow Art Therapist trainees offered me to join them and do a stall. It was indoors, thankfully, as it was chucking it down outside. It was only a little chilly from the doors, with lots of people coming and going, but Emily helped keep us keep warm with some delicious chai. I had recently finished my butterfly, and added text: ‘nature is not perfect’ to it. I didn’t make any sales, which is always disappointing, but the organisers only charged £10 a table and Emily let me join her for free, so I’ve made bigger losses in the past!
One of the catchphrases from my Art Therapy course is to “trust the process”. Whilst I often say such things tongue-in-check, there’s always some truth there too. I’ve accepted some EFL work which looks like it’ll be fun – apparently one of my students has pink hair and likes to wear pink (there I am in the meeting today, head-to-toe in pink!) So, now I’ve gone from being scared about not having enough work, to having too much work. I’m hopeful for another alternative education placement after the next three weeks, but I’ve also been offered an interview for EFL work for Lewisham Council.
I dedicated some time to art making the other day (see above) and I’ve still got some more works-in-progress, but it felt so good to do. It’s all very responsive to the present moment and things that have come up through the course, rather than the ideas I have for specific pieces connected to my poetry, but I trust that will come with time.
The last month has been a tough one, but I am happy with my choices. My training to become an Art Therapist is getting more intense, but it feels very right. I’m currently cat sitting for a friend, which has been nice, and this month’s work will mean I am earning enough by the end of next month! I’m eagerly waiting to hear back this month about the scholarship.
I went to Barcelona for a few days to visit family for an important event to honour my abuelito, Juan Antonio Masoliver. Whilst there, I sprained my foot really badly and he gave me one of his walking sticks, so I could keep walking! I read a poem of mine (which I’ll send out soon on my mailing list) after my uncle made a short speech (his in Spanish, mine in English). Most of the language was Catalan, which I don’t know at all sadly. I started making a butterfly cross-stitch whilst there, but it’s my first one!
I’ve gone from being worried about having no work to being overwhelmed with how to schedule it and having to turn stuff down. Such is freelance life! I’m worried about some of the schedule as I know how tired I get already (I fell asleep at my laptop this week!) but I also know I will be back in a period of uncertainty come December as I’ll lose a lot of students around that time. I’m methodically working my way through my art therapy work, and I’m really enjoying it all and learning a lot. I liked the first piece I sketched for homework, but I also am wondering whether I would be able to make it into a bigger piece.
Aside from some personal upheaval, work and university is on the up. I visited the London Art Therapy Centre and the Bethlem Museum of the Mind, which has been fascinating. I went to ‘We Move’ at London Literature Festival last night with James Cahill, Gurnaik Johal, Arji Manuelpillai and Sheena Patel. I loved the sound of all their work, especially Sheena Patel’s – very relatable, but also the way she spoke was so natural and I felt I really connected with her. The concept of Arji Manuelpillai’s poetry was very thought-provoking, but the poems he shared were also stunning in their own right. Gurnaik Johal’s short stories were inspiring in terms of how to get into the heads of so many characters, and James Cahill’s novel appealed in the context of the location around SE London, and the coming of age story focussed on finding sexuality later in life.
I’ve started my Art Psychotherapy course, and it has felt overwhelming at times, but after just two days I feel very connected to my colleagues and like I have found kindred spirits. I have to be careful with what I share and respect the confidentiality of everyone, but I can share my own work and experiences. At time moment, I’m trying to find extra work, and have had two potential new students whose parents have ceased contact without informing me, which feels really horrible, so I’m trying to prioritise, which is difficult when there’s so much to do, not knowing where to start. I have also been trying to keep up with the uke, as having such things structured is important, yet at times I find myself lost in emails and searching for what books I need and where I can find them.
I started the above picture in an experiential workshop, where we were to introduce ourselves visually. I’m in a period of uncertainty, where my living situation will change over the next couple of months. I feel I’ve got a lot of clutter and I want to get rid of some things, but it never seems like a priority, so it keeps weighing me down in that way. Even stuff I don’t want to get rid of gets overwhelming, from unread magazines to untouched internet tabs and bookmarks. In the Red Sky Sessions with Vanessa Kisuule and Cecilia Knapp this week, one question I noted down was ‘What do you hoard?’ and I enjoyed the poem that came out of answering this question.
The weekend was overwhelming too. There were nice moments too, like mooching around Crystal Palace’s galleries, cafes and antique shops, but even being at Apples & Snakes’ 40th Birthday Party was a challenge. I felt so overwhelmed I was shaking and tearful. I managed to speak to some people, but didn’t really approach anyone myself. Not only did I feel like that, but the critical voice inside my head was questioning my place there, putting me down for not being successful enough. Shout out to Antonia Jade King, Deborah Stevenson, Vanessa Kisuule, Bohdan Piasecki, John Berkavitch and Joelle Taylor for making me feel better by just talking to me or giving me a hug. Trust poets to hold you.
I’ve returned from my holiday feeling refreshed and excited for a new chapter, training to become an Art Therapist. Then on the Monday, I began to feel overwhelmed and indecisive. I’m puzzling the pieces of my timetable together, trying to work out how I can earn enough money to get by each month, let alone pay for my course fees. I tell myself this is just a period of uncertainty, and it will pass. By November, things will be clearer… either way, I’ll know the outcome of my scholarship application, and will have a better idea of finances.
There’s inevitable instability with freelance work. Going on holiday, and an important family event abroad means I’ve earned a lot less this month and need more work to pick up. I have no idea how much time the course will take up outside of the classroom, so all you can do is go with the ebb and flow, and try to keep as balanced as possible to keep negativity and anxiety at bay. From my Creative Entrepreneurship, I’ll be going away from the fantastical “champagne” budget (well, more like Tinto de Verano, which could can get for €1 from the shop in Lanzarote), to the “cabbage” budget (good thing I make a mean bokkeumbap!).