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 week has whizzed by, and yet my work schedule is still up in the air. It looks like I may be securing some work for next year, which is positive and I’m looking to do more alternative education in the daytime. However, balancing these placements with other work and university work… it’s looking like my relaxing Sundays will be when I catch up on course reading and art making (also a requirement for the course as well as the profession of being an Art Therapist).
Yesterday, I went to see the Soheila Sokhanvari ‘Rebel Rebel’ exhibition at The Barbican. An Iranian artist, it feels like a really important exhibition, especially poignant in these times with the femicides and protests in Iran. The exhibition is on until 26th February 2023. Featuring female actors and singers from Iran, each portrait is accompanied by a snapshot of their life story, which you can read about on the gallery website, often filled with details of exile, imprisonment, violence and mistreatment.
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.
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!
Things are super busy still, and the only way I’m vaguely on top of things is because I’ve had some work cancelled. Yet, I’ve still responded to an email about new tuition work for four hours a week up until the holidays, with one of the points about the student being that they like poetry! All the goals I have wanted to make about balance and focus will have to stay seeds for now, hopefully to bloom next year!
As well as the usual tuition work and content writing, I’ve been continuing with my music project, though haven’t practiced the ukulele enough this week, and I finished my ACE project application for producing a ‘She Grrrowls’ festival next year. I still have emails to work through, so just a brief update this week! The photo above is from an organisation I work for, which was featured on the news recently, which was lovely to receive.
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.
Tomorrow I’m back at Between the Bridges for a special LGBT+ events, representing the bisexuals, with books including poetry about relationships with women (Circles) and men (the others). I hope I do better than last time with sales! I’ve also invested in some table clips and different display units. The weather over the weekend looks pretty average, but hopefully some sunny intervals will bring the footfall.
This week I have been thinking about what I can do to create more balance and be more fulfilled in what I do with my time. I feel like I could be close to burnout or become ill if I don’t do something different to protect my free time. After dinner, I’m going to have wind down time, meaning my language learning will be earlier in the day and alternate between Spanish and Turkish. I am also going to cut down on content writing, as it is the least fulfilling work I do, and this will allow me to actually work on the creative projects that are also work (i.e. based on funding, they are equal priority), and I even might find some time then to do the many creative things I want to do that aren’t linked to money! This will also mean I will have less time over weekends that I have to do, so I can do what I really want to do… chill out, read books and magazines, watch films, or just generally do whatever I want to re-energise!
In other news, recently I also got a bike for commutes to students, and I went out to build up my confidence. Typically and ironically, I think I did something to the gears that made the chain loose, and just after having built up the confidence to go on the road, in the pouring rain, thinking back to when I did the same whilst travelling in Laos, and as soon as I turned in towards the pavement, I skidding off the bike, and landed on my thigh and elbow. I tried to fix the chain, but I fell off again. No nobody stopped to see if I was okay, but some guy did shout out from a van, ‘What a hand?’ I saw them smirk as they drove off…
In more cheery news, this week has been very eventful in terms of social stuff too. I was in the live audience for Life & Rhymes, hosted by Benjamin Zephaniah, featuring Lemn Sissay, Salena Godden, AP Staunton, and two young poets I didn’t know about, Y.A. Poet and Simply Sayo, who were all great in their own unique ways. I also went to Crystal Palace International Film Festival on Thursday and one of my favourite films was ‘A Piece of Cake’, so I bought these silver balls as a reference when I went to see my boyfriend last night after watching ‘The Guilty Feminist Live’ at Southbank. Lastly, keep an eye out for events in Hastings, as I’ll be at the film screening on 24th and this Poetics event on 25th September.
I’m a little delayed starting up my new music-themed blog series as I’m yet to receive the funding, so have been focussed on the preparation stages, and somehow feeling really busy and overwhelmed despite having hardly any students. I would love to feel on top of things before the school term properly starts, with tutoring easing back next week, and on a full timetable come the second week of September. With the weather looking like storms for ‘Latino Life’, which I would have loved to go to, it’s likely I’ll use tomorrow to do some catching up.
I’ve had some time off to see my gran, who took me to see Amelie and for tapas for my birthday (which was in May). I’ve attended a few meetings, and in the process of arranging more for various aspects of my work, including this week for my work in providing alternative education, and at The Norwich Radical, who I last wrote for here. This Sunday, I’ll also be taking part in the SoLo Craft Fair at ‘Between the Bridges’ at London Southbank, holding a stall with all my books etc.
I’ve just had to spend £80 for the year on PIL insurance. I don’t do stalls much, and they are costly to do (this one being £60 a pop!), and even then you’re lucky to sell anything or break even on the day costs, not taking into account your own labour. I really hope it goes well, and that we don’t get rained on! The market in Camberwell before was amazing, as even if it did rain, the table was fully covered.
I woke up feeling pretty tired today, and really craving a night in, despite only having really left the flat for food shopping and gym classes. I’m fighting negative body image feelings at the moment too, as despite sometimes having gone to the gym twice a day, I’ve put on weight rather than lost it, and whether it’s muscle or fat or both, I find it hard to see my body as it actually is, and I find it hard to accept that I will probably always have a “belly”, despite trying my best to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. These feelings stemmed from I ended seeing someone who liked a post because I’d done a #pancakes on Instagram.
They had so many photos of delicious pancakes and claimed they eat them too, yet had unreal body proportions. I hate getting into a mindset like that, but we all have insecurities, and I honestly think that for most people, having a “belly” is normal, and I know my body well enough that I would have to deprive myself of a lot of food to look like that Instagram girl, and I bloody love food; cooking and eating brings me so much joy, and I know that if I ever had a stomach like that, I wouldn’t be in a healthy place physically or mentally. Anyway, I don’t know why I felt like sharing these feelings today, but to end on a cheery note, here’s a screenshot of my Soca class’ Boss Wine, if you can spot me doing one of the things I love the most!
This week and the next, things are winding down, but feeling busy at the same time. I had a relaxing weekend, seeing one of my besties and visiting my gran in Hastings (again) for her birthday, that I seemingly haven’t got round to uploading to Insta. I swam in the sea, and having last seen a friend who moved there the previous weekend as well, it felt good to be back. I love swimming in the sea, and wish I had stayed longer.
Aside from content writing and tutoring, the previous week I hosted another Forest Hill stanza, and got some great feedback on three short poems, and I actually managed to edit them, which I tend to procrastinate about doing.
I also booked an actually holiday. A camping holiday in the UK, so I’ll be praying to the weather gods for sunshine. I don’t have much work in the summer, so I want to make the most of this by focussing on creative goals, as well as cutting down on spending (I’ve realised I’m overspending to a scary level since updating the last three months of finance records to include personal spending) and sit in parks with books and beer, and skate around.
I have also been applying for other work, so let’s see what happens as I do have rent to pay. I’d quite like to post some books, so buy buy buy!