Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Credit where it's due

I realised just now I've been a bit hard on myself. I both assumed not earning regular income was an embarrassment and didn't give myself credit for the alternative. As I've just taken my grandma to a hospital appointment, I reminded myself that with a family of two parents (divorced) and a grandma, plus an auntie by marriage, there aren't many people to go round when it comes to helping. My grandpa died in 1998, my grandma's continued to live on her own since then (she hates living with strangers) and from then on I was available to take her shopping and to medical visits where needed, which increased as she approached her 90s. Had I been in a job I doubt I'd have had many chances to, and she also doesn't like minicabs (although she usually drives herself) but when she prefers a lift doesn't want strangers if possible.
Then my stepfather died and I stayed with my mum once a week for over a year and helped her out with shopping etc as well. Last year my grandma had a tumour removed from her kidney, fell over as soon as she returned home, and was back in hospital for a month with a badly bruised hip. She also had to have regular treatment on her kidney after that and spent a few months in altogether. I was naturally happy to visit regularly, but the duration and time she wanted me to stay each visit gradually wore me down, and after the final stay I wasn't well and just ran out of steam in time for her to come home, more or less. That is a side issue as it was my personal reaction to stress and not one I'd assume many others would have.

But the point was, that had I been working, the numerous times my grandma may have had no one else to take her shopping (major supermarket version) as well as my mum (ditto but didn't take so long), hospital appointments and the odd trip to casualty when she fell over. Of course we all do this for our relatives, I did nothing special, but the point is I was available on call to do it, which I wouldn't have had I had a job. As I can pay my bills (though there was period last year when I was close to not being able to) if I had a choice I think the value of being available for many jobs when I was needed was a million times more valuable than working for someone else, helping them make profits for a tiny share and probably wasting half my time doing nothing or helping naughty bosses get out of self-imposed trouble (late payments, missed orders, you know the sort of thing). Been there, done that, expected to do that for 40 years, didn't.

Plus as well as helping my family, being at home has allowed my artistic abilities to bloom, which I doubt would even have occurred to me otherwise until I retired. If I think of something to write, I write it, have a few ready publishers, and both these can lead to far more money than I ever earned working for other people. I did the hard stuff, ie studying to pass courses, worked in various ways using those qualifications, but the potential on top of them from art and writing is far greater, and one I really doubt I'd have had the chance to do if I had a regular job. So sod social norms, guilt, Mike Mendoza and his posse of moronic callers, I was forced by outside circumstances out of regular employment and into helping others and creativity. Not working, unlike the fleet of lorry drivers who turn their switches on and drive for 12 hours a day, while calling the radio with mindless remarks and opinions, often directed at people like me, does not mean not living. When I used to work I rarely wanted to be there, a few jobs were cushy enough and I wondered how I was getting paid for typing numbers in boxes (almost what I'm doing now with letters) but after a couple of months became totally boring. My part time job, all I could get after leaving college second time round, wasn't every day so didn't become so boring, but after five years I wasn't sorry to have to go when business dropped off a bit. I would have done it again and did in another shop but this time it was a new business with no customers away from the main shops and it opened for a week with me there before closing again.
What did I do? I studied again! I had the time, I had two courses beckoning based on waiting for a certain number of years of experience, and rather than waste time and effort looking for work any school leaver could get, I took them both, passed, and tried for a decent job using them. Being a thin profession, only about a job a month came up, and took a year for the first interview. I was one from six, but the youngest candidate got the job who had only just left college! Since then I lost enthusiasm and though hawked my cv up and down shopping centres since then, spoke to various enthusisatic bosses who then never called me back. Destiny, I suspect, a lesson to learn, that just because you don't fit in, if you're harming no one (and preferably doing good) the rest means nothing. No one else's business.
I really need to remind myself of this next time someone has a little dig again, they're just way off the message.

I'm sorry I have to recap so many things for regular readers, as all writers should write each piece as self-contained, meaning new readers needn't go back to catch up what I am talking about. I try and keep repetitions to a minimum, know when I do it, and hope it doesn't get too much in the way.

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