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!
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 am trying to prioritise rest and creativity, but change doesn’t happen at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Like always, it’s about trial and error and finding balance between listening to yourself with your needs, and what just needs doing…
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with family, albeit difficult being the first year without my maternal grandad. I spent time with my mum on the anniversary, and also uncovered something funny thing my dad kept, including this letter to Father Christmas. I’ve tried to give myself some time to do relaxing activities over the bank holiday, minimising the amount of work, to the point where my FitBit thought I was napping when I was in bed looking at books.
I’m doing the first She Grrrowls of the year shortly, feeling tired and looking forward to a night in. I’m also trying to accept the uncertainty of the pandemic, the question-mark over funding, and what this will look like by March, when I hope to do the festival. I’m trying to be kind to myself when I have emotional storms, and when I don’t manage to get everything I plan to do.
It’s Christmas eve, and I’m just waiting to be picked up to see family over the next few days. My partner is away, which can be difficult for me at times, so I’m trying to focus on the positives… which is thankfully not my last lateral flow test. I want to hold on to that gratitude, treasure the time with my family, and the time with myself.
I volunteered to steward at a local pharmacy in Lewisham to help the flow of people getting their vaccines. It was immensely rewarding, time went really quickly, and I recommend it to anyone who is able. I did the work I needed to do, and had the afternoon spare. I have been feeling a bit nauseated and tired, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to do a PCR to confirm the negative lateral flow. I really feel for people who are alone right now.
Last night, I cooked a roast for me and my flatmate, and spent the evening watching a Christmas film and wrapping presents… which took about double the time of the film. My therapist was kind enough to see me this morning, and I had a head massage, and I think I may even leave my laptop behind… I’ll be back working after a long journey home on 29th, so I want to make the most of this time and dedicated it to play and rest!
One thing I am learning to accept more is that as a creative freelancer, there is always more work to be done, and it’s really important to continually work on balance, which I know I keep banging on about. Whilst things just won’t be as balanced as I want them to be this side of the New Year, I am making sure I have at least some down time and make time for friends and family. I’ve been better at managing my priorities, even though it means my language-learning is taking a backseat, so that I can just keep moving forward with the tasks that need completing before the holidays. Included in this is making time for self-care, which this week involved me reading whilst getting my roots done. I very much enjoyed the scalp massage during the shampooing, which made my hair look super shiny too.
I had to cancel and postpone some work the other week and took a Covid test (even though I knew it was just a cold and didn’t have the main symptoms). I was just exhausted and needed a day to rest… and by “rest” I just mean “work from home and not go outside”, (reminder: freelancers don’t get sick pay or holiday pay). It was a cold and rainy day, so I think it was a wise move! I’m still trying o be more self-aware and kinder to myself in that way (a nickname has been “rapido”), even just walking less fast to my students. A lot of the work I’m doing at the moment isn’t directly related to any money now, but it needs to be done. But I need to remember when trying to save by transferring money away from my current account, that my rent does need to be paid for and makes a dent in that. Here’s hoping I get that funding for the She Grrrowls festival I’m planning!
I thought that in this blog instalment, I would go over what I’m been working on this week after someone queried me saying I’ve had a long day with the assumption that because I’d been working partly from home, and had some work cancelled, that it wouldn’t feel long. The fact that I am constantly doing *something* means that most days feel long. I realise that as much as I don’t always understand what certain people do day-to-day in their jobs, that people don’t always get what I do. But surely, they know I’m not laying in bed doing nothing?
I may work from bed sometimes, but the way I work could probably be better if I rested more, and appreciated the value of breaks and sleep. When people say things like this, it reminds me of another friend asking if I’ve been working. When you’re a freelance, artist, the lines between work and play blur, and, I’ve probably said it before, but I want to know when people this question… do you mean, did I do something that I was paid for? If so, how directly? Do you mean did I leave the house for work? Do you mean creative work, or other the kinds of work that you know I do?
Most of the time, unless I am doing something purely for pleasure and relaxation, then it would be fair game to call it work. On some level, other people seem to understand the notion that if I don’t do creative work, then I can never, for example, have a film made out of a novel. Sure, that may be a wild dream, but most people understand that if you don’t do the work, it’s never going to happen. But when it comes to actually appreciating this work on equal terms with their 9-5 work, the waters muddy. Is writing this blog work? Yes, it is. I’m not doing this purely for pleasure and relaxation. I’m doing it to connect with others and hopefully reach out to more audiences, as well as reflect on my work.
Things are busy at the moment for several reasons. I’m working towards a funding application deadline for 22nd November, I’m covering an extra 6-hour placement, and I’m recording podcast episodes for my music and spoken word project. This is on top of everything else that I do, and the only reason I’m vaguely staying afloat, though not really on top of things, is because my 6-hour teaching placements keep getting cancelled. The tuition side of my work is going to be intense until around 10th January, at which point, I will then worry about losing students, and I won’t have saved as much money as I would have liked, because I would have spent more on presents. I have to take 24th-28th off to be with family outside of London. I’ll work in between then and the New Year, taking the weekend for myself and loved ones, and I don’t get paid for that time off.
So, to reflect more specifically on this week, focussed purely on Monday to Friday, I’ll break it down:
Eleven and a half hours of teaching (with twelve hours cancelled, which meant I was able to do other work etc…)
Five to six hours on an ACE application that I hope will mean I get paid in future, if successful. This involves not only writing the application, but also a lot of admin for the festival I am producing, so that everything is pretty much in place for when I find out the result. I cannot even contemplate not getting funding as a possible scenario. If I think about things too much, I feel overwhelmed; I just have to keep moving forward and taking action.
Around nine hours of travelling to and from students (a mixture of bus, train, bike, and walking). I used to do over three hours A DAY before I moved, so this is ideal now.
Around seven hours of writing student reports, marking books, and planning lessons.
Three hours of admin, which was mainly financial: sending invoices / completing time sheets, emailing and reviewing documents with my new (and first) accountant, and updating records.
Two to three hours of content writing, because I massively reduced this.
Around two and a half hours on learning the ukulele.
Then some of the non-work stuff I do:
Around thirty hours sleeping.
Nine hours of downtime (Netflix etc. and reading).
Around seven to eight hours of cooking and eating dinner.
Around four hours of the gym.
Around three hours of language learning (Spanish and Turkish, with the former done over breakfast).
Around three hours of lunch breaks.
Around two and half hours of journaling.
One and a half hours ironing.
One and a half hours cleaning.
One and a half hours food shopping.
One hour washing my hair / bathing.
50 minutes of therapy.
Over the weekend, I’ll also do at least an hour of tuition work (marking etc), my new three-hour music production course at City Lit, and as many emails and festival application admin as I can fit in, which will be between six and nine hours.