Are you living a full life when you’re out of work?
“The achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted.”
“Satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one's potential.”
This is a question that I’m sure a lot of us ask ourselves but it seems even more pertinent to those that are self employed, simply because we tend to be out of work more regularly.
The question for me, also speaks to those who see their work as a vocation.
I hit that brief 100% so here’s my ten pence.
I remember getting my first big musical theatre job and initially feeling totally out of my depth in comparison to all of the graduates, reality TV personalities and respected Theatre/TV stars that were on the job with me. These were people for the most part that had ‘always’ worked in this field (well, they had more experience than me anyway) the stage school children that started working from age 5, the TV veterans who were perhaps not the ‘in thing’ anymore but were still busy and successfully working the threads of the touring or West End stages and then there was me. 26 before my first decent credit and walking a windy path that had got me there.
Looking back on the beginning of my story and indeed even when I was living it, I sometimes felt intimidated by the fact that I hadn’t gained a degree specific to the field I was working in or that I hadn't been in the game from age zero but I also remember feeling very proud that through a hell of a lot of determination and hard work I was still reaching my goals, the same goals of all those listed above. I very clearly remember also feeling the benefit of having had a varied amount of life and job experience up to that point. Experience that I believe helped me keep some perspective on the bigger picture. What would I do once this job was over? What if another musical theatre job didn’t come along? I never felt very concerned about this because I had armed myself with other skills that I could call upon if/when needed.
Now it might seem like common sense to have strings to your bow, especially being self employed, but actually I came across in those early days, a lot of people who only knew how to do one thing, had never worked doing anything else and the thought of ‘the after’ was a very scary one for them.
Whether I was in a theatre job or not, I felt like it was important to be living my life to the fullest. To not feel as though my life was on hold waiting for that next contract.
I have been able to more or less consistently work for the past 10 years which has lead me to think that the reason I was able to be so upbeat and positive about the small out of work spells during this time was because they were just that - small!
What did I actually know about being ‘out of work’ - the work that I feel like I am meant in my spirit and heart to be doing? It turns out not as much as I thought.
I find myself now, having been out of theatre work since Dec 2016 (I've had a baby in this time) wondering and feeling much more apprehensive about when that next job will come. I have gained other work since my last contract but I still want more - or more specifically, I want what I had and it has come to my attention that this is the danger zone. Wanting things to return to how they used to me can be the very source of the anxiety and frustration and I’ve come to realise (though I am not at all comfortable with the thought) that things may never be exactly the way they were again.
Having a child makes you question some real fundamentals of life and working in my industry you can often feel like it’s one big game. The two in many ways, do not go together. What I need now is stability, regular income, a plan, and a pension and what I want is unstable, short lived and unpredictable.
So am I living a fulfilled life?
The question evades me at the moment. In one breath, I have experienced some absolutely wondrous things these past 18 months in and out of work. The birth of my son being right up there on the top of that list, but in another, I am not in a place where looking forward feels like a contented and fulfilling place to be.
I know the mindful advice is to live in the moment, but when the moment is an uncomfortable place to be, it isn’t the easiest thing to do - though do it I must in order to build a new version of what a fulfilled life is to me.