Most of us have a talent for something, an ability to do something well, perhaps see things from a unique point of view and if we are really lucky, can make money from it in the form of making it our job.
Now I am a very creative person, I have a wide variation of things that I am interested in ranging from drawing, writing, making/editing videos, photography etc. Basically I want it all because I love it all but to make the goal a little more fixed, I have to narrow it down because after all, a moving target is harder to hit so I have decided to concentrate on writing (and a bit of photography and movie editing).
The problem with creativity is that competition for jobs in this area is high, and even then, what job do you apply for when you want it all? Opportunities for creative jobs are few and far between and there appears to be a somewhat secret ‘list’ of super cool people that have been carefully harvested and ‘hand reared’ to do the most menial of jobs in the creative world and thus work their way up and earn their place.
You see these people ‘cooling’ it around Oxford Street, London, looking as trendy as trendy can be as though they have been genetically modified to start at the bottom and work their way to the top – think ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and you just about have it right.
So what chance would you have if you are a 40 something ordinary person like me, not trendy, not a ‘hot young thing’ and your resume reads something like a patchwork quilt? The creative streak is there. the vision is there and the older you get, it is hard to put your creative self back in its box, yet it is often overlooked due to the unwritten rule book that states you not only have to be the epitome of ‘cool’ but you must have completed a due process in order to even get to the bottom place on that special ladder.
How creative people are perceived by others
In the past I have been referred to as ‘amusing’, ‘special’, ‘odd’ to name but a few, by colleagues of different skill sets and talents and some even with the opinion that creative people should be contained in something comparable to a kindergarten with a fine selection of paints. crayons, Lego and sketch pads.
So is creativity a gift or a hindrance? That all depends on where you work and whether or not you are allowed to express it in the work place. I say this because I have been in ordinary jobs where myself and my colleagues could get creative and make up our own fun, no we were not paid to do this but we all bounced off one another and would find ways of expressing ourselves in the workplace which involved extensive use of the photocopier, Photoshop and a digital camera.
I have had jobs where there was no room at all for creativity and the only taste of it would be dreaming in the toilets of ‘escaping’ and actually having a job where the job description included making things, designing things and basically using your imagination to the max.
I have vivid memories of literally sitting on the toilet with my head in my hands planning of ways that I could be happy which at one point involved running out of the building, jumping on the tube to Baker Street station (my favorite London station), finding a trendy cafe, sitting there and ‘people watching’ until someone marvelous discovered me and ‘rescued’ me away from normality.
The wrong trousers
Working in the wrong job is like wearing the wrong trousers or having a stone in your shoe that you can tolerate for a short while but the more you walk on it the harder it gets and the more irritating it becomes.
You do normal jobs to exist and you keep putting your creative streak in to a sensible box because you do what you have to do in order to pay the bills but the more you do it, the harder it becomes until one day you realize that you have become grey in color because the color that was once in your life, was because you were doing what you love.
And by not being able to do what you love, well this has changed you into someone that you are not and more to the point, someone that you don’t recognize or even like.
I will say though; that I am exceedingly lucky at the moment in the sense that I have a job that I enjoy and no, it is not a creative position but the people are fabulous, it is near my home, I like the work and for these reasons alone, this allows me to indulge my true self because I feel able to do my writing in my lunch-break or when I get home because I am not ‘brain drained’ due to being in a job that I hate. Being paid to write would be perfect but you know I can’t complain as life is pretty good at the moment.
But trust me, it wasn’t always that way!
Variety is the spice of life!
I have had many crap jobs in my life and as I have got older, the harder it has become to tolerate the bad parts of being in a bad job. When I look back on things that have happened or that have been said, it is a wonder that I haven’t gone mad – well some say it is debatable and that I am mad but I beg to differ.
I shall share with you just some of the ‘wrong jobs’ that I have done in my life, well I say ‘wrong’, perhaps they were ‘right’ after all as it has given me fodder to write about and it is all part of life’s great tapestry after all, but either way – here are just some of them.
I had rather naively assumed that in the area of veterinary medicine, that all veterinary surgeons would be like my wonderful boss that I trained under – Trevor Turner. I mean really, my student nurse days at his practice not only equipped me with excellent nursing skills of an exceptionally high standard, but I felt kind of privileged to have been given the chance to train under Trevor and his wife Jean.
Happy days as a student veterinary nurse at the Turners surgery
A vet, a wall and a toothbrush – bad boss
Not long after I qualified as a veterinary nurse, I started working at this veterinary practice. The journey to and from home was not too bad but the job itself was horrendous. It was one of those things that you knew right from ‘day one’ that the job was not right but you had to stick it out, if not just to pay the rent.
This vet had a thing for cleaning as in he was obsessed about his walls being cleaned and he had some of his nurses actually clean the walls with a toothbrush. This I shall emphasize was a fine waste of resources because if you are going to pay for a qualified veterinary nurse to work at your practice then there are far more useful things he/she could be doing than scraping your walls with a toothbrush.
Once the novelty of the wages had worn off, I had started to get nervous and sick feelings each day each time I went in to work and this actually developed into irrational thoughts of wanting my train to break down so that I didn’t have to go in. One day I had reached saturation point and I walked in and promptly resigned, citing the (short) journey as a reason for not going back and the boss was horrified.
It was one of those jobs where you had to pretend to like the boss when in fact you would rather eat your own head and listen to Celine Dion on replay than spend another second with him.
So one particular afternoon, after cleaning the walls with the toothbrush, I had my moment of clarity and realized that this guy was a bit of an idiot and decided that enough was enough and I was at the stage of wishing illness upon myself in order to not have to go in. Quitting was an easy decision to make, my husband supported me and although financially it put us in the red for a bit, when you get to the stage where you literally cannot envisage moving forward in a job to the point you feel sick, then it is time to leave.
I felt totally liberated the day that I left that place, my toothbrush was hung up for the next nurse and my days of cleaning dirty walls was over. Yes I was unemployed, no we had no money but happy? You bet I was.
The devil in the form of a small woman
I wasn’t actually a veterinary nurse for very long after I qualified – I had a few locum jobs but I sort of grew away from the profession really and found myself in the area of admin which is more 9-5, Mon – Fri plus when you work in admin, at least you don’t have to assist in the euthanasia of people or deal with their anal glands (and clean the walls with a toothbrush).
I had started working for one company that had a PA who had been working there for so long, she had all but appointed herself as the Queen and there were many people that were scared of her. Think ‘Office Bitch’ and that barely covers it, think ‘Office Bitch and Bully Supreme’ and you are nearly there but either way she was evil in the form of a short person in a suit with a fat camel toe and a mouth like a distorted minge.
‘There was a girl before you but WE got rid of HER‘ the bitch smirked with a knowing look on her face, smug satisfaction that she had chased some poor girl out of the company. I remember thinking ‘what the hell have I done in coming here?’
I think we all forget when we have an interview, that it goes both ways – employers interview you to see if you are suitable but we are also entitled to interview them and see if their working culture/ethics fit in with us and I remember at the interview for that particular job, the Bitch was wheeled out like the Pope in the ‘Pope Mobile’ to meet me and to this day, I remember her harsh gaze, pursed lips, bad vibe and her staring me up and down as though I were a brood mare that wouldn’t make the grade.
Why oh why did I not take that as a warning and run for the hills because I was not desperate for that job and even if I was, I deserved better. But I didn’t listen to my inner voice and I duly showed up for work on the Monday with my freshly pressed suit, shiny shoes, neat handbag and a bag full of nerves because I knew before I had even entered the building, that I had made a big fat mistake.
Her nastiness knew no boundaries and nobody escaped her vicious and somewhat acidic tongue. Those that claimed to like her did so purely because they were scared of her and they would feign a display of affection around her that made me want to vomit slightly into mouth.
‘I tell you now that if you mess with me, you will be sorry’ I heard her sneer down the phone one day. Goodness knows who she was talking to but the vitriol in her voice was almost tangible.
I would sit at my desk each morning, relishing in the fact that she had not yet arrived and I would enjoy my coffee until I could hear her voice from down the corridor sounding like the equivalent to nails running down glass, I would hear her walking like a dwarf in stiletto heels and I would smell her perfume which although may have been expensive, just smelt of ‘nastiness’ in the form of a cologne.
When I say that some non creative jobs allow for those creative fun moments that keep people like me going, well in this job there were none – none at all. There was one lovely woman that worked there who was hidden away in her office and we would have a chat and when I left that job, I almost wanted to kidnap her and take her with me as she also deserved so much better.
Not only was I in a job that had no allowance for creativity, but the only laughter you could hear were on the days that the ‘poison dwarf’ was not in and that was not often. On the days that she was in, I had learned to escape by frequenting the ladies toilet where I would sit on the loo and rest my head in my hands and had it not been for people hearing me, I would have cried – honestly it was that bad.
I would wish that I had a cold or something – perhaps even diarrhoea in order to call in sick, yes I had become that desperate and I am still suitably ashamed for having those thoughts. Well these thoughts had actually escalated and I had started to wish the train would have a slight crash, not so that anyone would be hurt but just so that I did not have to go in and see this woman and have to deal with her, to see her and her chunky camel toe which always made a guest appearance each time she wore pants and could even have had its own voting rights.
With each day that I went in, it got harder to do it and to add insult to injury, I had not been diagnosed with my auto immune disease at the time so still had nasty and untreated symptoms to contend with as in fluoro lights which incidentally were directly above my head making me feel sick and dizzy and making my already dry eyes so bad, that trying to look at the computer screen was horrendously hard.
So not only was I battling with the devil herself, I was also battling my yet to be diagnosed auto immune disease – great, the whole world and his bitch was out to get me and all I wanted was a quiet life where I could make, paint, write and design things and get paid for the privilege but instead I had to contend with the menopausal moody monster that had made it her life ambition to rip the skin and personality off anyone that took her fancy which appeared to be me.
That job came to a rather abrupt end that I won’t go in to but I will tell you that I had the last words (and laugh) which were and I quote verbatim ‘You are nothing but a bully, and you are a fat and ugly bully at that’. That was the last thing that I said to her and the look on her face with her mouth open wide in shock, made the past 6 weeks worthwhile – purely for that moment.
Great, I was unemployed again, only this time with a big fat mortgage but it was worth it just to see her face when I called her a fat, ugly bully. A classic moment that I will remember for always.
My heart goes out to anyone that is in this position because nobody should dread going in to work and nobody has the right to talk to or treat someone like that in the workplace and it is shocking when you speak to other people, just how many of them have been a victim of workplace bullying in the many different forms that it can take.
Always remember that anyone that bullies you in the workplace, whether it be a manager or colleague, it says far more about them than it does you – it not only makes them unprofessional, it makes them a lousy boss/colleague and do you really want to work for someone like that? Of course you don’t, you deserve better and you know it.
It’s story time!
I was about 17 years old and I was working in a supermarket as a cashier in the ‘home n’ wear’ department. Under each till there were small piles of paper bags for small purchases and next to that, were a couple of pens.
What can I say, the days were long and boring, the customers often rude, the management sleazy, so give me a pen and paper along with my imagination and I will write and write I did – in between customers and more often than not, about the customers too.
I would write stories on the paper bags, my writing was messy but still readable and I would do fiction stories using my colleagues and the customers as characters. I remember writing about my sleazy boss, making him an evil man that kidnapped us all and locked us in cupboards and ran a secret slavery at the supermarket in the evenings.
One day I was writing my little fingers off, I was so busy that I didn’t see the manager ‘Mr Sleaze’ creep up behind me and snatch the pile of paper bags containing my story – and when I say pile, I mean it was a big pile as I had used nearly all of them.
‘I will take these!’ He snapped at me and snatched them away and marched to his office clutching a huge pile of paper bags with Biro ink scrawled on them.
Damn it, I was in trouble, I would be fired for sure. My legs felt like jelly with that weak feeling you get when you know you are in trouble.
About half an hour later he returned. I could see him through the menswear section, the top of his head with his highlighted hair with little ‘wings’ over each ear and then his pin striped suit as he came towards me. Bracing myself for the fallout, for the telling off and/or dismissal, I blushed furiously and put my head down. My writing was about to get me in to trouble and I knew it.
‘Samantha, for the record, I do not kidnap people’ Mr Sleaze said, his mouth twitching as he tried not to laugh. As he was about to walk off in the direction of the escalator, he added ‘And Samantha, those bags are meant for the customers – got it?’
‘Yes, sorry, won’t happen again’ I muttered – Jesus, did I really just get away with that? I must have done, I still had my job, I was still at my till and I had not been sacked.
I never wrote another story on the paper bags again but by God I wanted to and it took all my strength to contain my twitching fingers to not pick up the biro to write on the bags that were just sat there begging to be written on. Stories bashed around in my head, characters just begging to be let out, my pen almost danced into my hand in a bid to force me to write but I remained strong and suppressed that desire to write until it eventually climbed back in my creative box to be locked away. But I still to this day, do not regret writing that story on those bags and my only regret is, that I never got to keep them and I do often wonder what Mr Sleaze did with the stories and if he took them home or not for bedtime reading.
It takes one to know one
Only a fellow creative person can understand where you are coming from and if you are lucky enough to be working with such a person, then even if you don’t have that perfect job, just by having a creative colleague can enhance your day and change it from ordinary or mundane, to a place that you can actually enjoy working in – yes Adam, I am talking about you!.
It is that flicker of recognition when you meet that person and you realize that they too are wearing the ‘wrong trousers’ and are doing so just to pay the bills. You form a creative bond with them because you bounce off one another and in your lunch break can have excellent photo-shopping sessions to satisfy the increasing need to make/paint/design/write stuff.
Keep the dream alive
Creativity often dies when you are in the wrong job, you literally fade and become somewhat robotic, nothing fits, nothing works and it is as though you are misaligned and floating around in a hostile environment with the words ‘Creative Person’ stamped on your forehead – you stand out, you feel out of place because quite frankly, you are out of place.
So how do you get in the right job? you find yourself reading life coaching articles but don’t know how to act on it or what to do, if someone could give you a map about life and how to live it, how marvelous would that be? I have spent many an evening gazing at my computer screen looking for answers on how to escape from ordinary life and move into a world where I feel that I belong.
My happiest creative times have been when I used to write freelance articles for a veterinary publication plus do the odd bit of film extra/character model work in between locum veterinary nurse jobs. I am assuming this is because it was a variety and having the opportunity to dip into each world of writing, nursing and acting made for a perfect ‘spice’ of life. I would propose my own article ideas to the veterinary journal, then do my own research and get the photographs, write up the article – sweating buckets to meet the deadline and then wait in anticipation for the publication date.
The money I made was not much but as any writer will tell you, the thrill of seeing your article in print far outweighed the financial rewards and pretty soon I had almost monthly submissions to write for that journal.
One of my articles – ‘A nose for trouble’, a day spent with HM Customs sniffer dogs
The film extra/editorial work was erratic but when it did come in, was brilliant. It involved ridiculously early starts, lots of standing around, meeting fantastic people, feeling fat and paranoid as there were so many ‘slim, hot young things’ on the scene it was hard not to feel self aware. But it was great fun and I had the best agent which at the time was Lee from a company called ‘Lees People’, really nice guy, down to earth and had this ability to know who all of his extras on set were and could easily put a face to the name and remembered every single person on his books (just how did you do that Lee!).
One editorial photo shoot I did for Lees People – playing the part of a housewife in debt – note the ‘gaunt fearful look’
My last job as an Extra before flying to Australia was doing a Pimms commercial which was filmed during the Summer of 2007 and I had to wear a leather jacket and be a bit of a ‘rock chick’ at a festival. I miss the work but in order to do that for a living, you need to be working constantly or have enough money to do it when the work arises.
I am the one with the curly hair (left)- the Pimms man is in the white dressing gown (right)
Honesty is the best policy
I am now at the point where I realize that I owe it to myself to be happy and to do what is right for me as I have put my creative self in its box so many times that it refuses to go back and bangs loudly on the doors of my mind like a naughty child and there is nothing I can do to stop it.
Is that a blessing or a hindrance – I will let you know but either way, it is time to be honest with myself and finally ‘step out of the wrong trousers’.
Samantha Rose (C) Copyright April 2013