The idea came to me when I was in Siberia.
(There’s two sentences that I never dreamt I’d type.)
I’ll start at the beginning.
The best thing that happened to me in 2014 was being let go from my job. That job held so many excuses for me. I couldn’t work on my book, because where was the time? I couldn’t travel, because I only got three weeks a year. Hell! I couldn’t even take a sick day without my pay being docked. I spent ten hours a week commuting on the central line – FORTY HOURS A MONTH! A WHOLE WEEK’S WORTH OF WORK! - spending my cash on £8.95 salads at lunch because “I deserved it”. It was inferred daily that my work had limited value. To not have an opinion. To not make a fuss.
I was once, in that job, chastised in a meeting by the (male) director of the company for being, (and I quote directly), “too female.”
TOO FEMALE! What the fuck does that even mean?! I’d made the “mistake” of starting a sentence with “I feel…” instead of “I think…” and as a twenty-something woman that rendered my point useless because: make me a cup of tea, would ya?
I cried for 24 hours afterwards. I was so utterly frustrated. I was in London! Working in PR! I had pretty much free reign over my work! For so many, that is the dream. But for me, after the Prosecco Fridays and Burger Birthdays and free laser hair removal, it felt totally hollow. I knew I was capable of so much more. Something that filled me to overflowing. Outside of work I was happier than ever – and yet, that happiness felt so limited because work five days to enjoy two? Those are shit odds.
I knew travelling and teaching would be a temporary thing. A way to figure out how to make “Being Too Female”, of being a “feeler”, of being unapologetically myself, my main source of income.
There has to be a way to feel as good making money as I feel in the rest of my life, I reasoned.
I started to freelance. Generate money writing the stuff I care about. I’d already planned on two months backpacking in Bali and Malaysia, to spend the money I made in Russia (AND WRITE! ALWAYS WRITING!). But then, sat idly looking out of the window to the Russian snow as my students worked silently on a task, I suddenly thought to myself… what if I don’t come back?
What if I don’t come back?
I can live in Bali for £240 a month. I already had my ticket. By reducing my outgoings I could afford to reduce my income – I could live within my means because out here I don’t need means. I can pick and choose the projects I take on, and because I don’t need to take on that much (£240 rent! FOR A MONTH! I was spending that on SALAD!!!!!!) I can finally finish this damned book. Because, again and again, this is what is comes back to for me. That I cannot press on with anything else until I have written those 100,000 words.
I am at almost 30,000. Writing is all at once the easiest and most difficult thing in the world. It is when I feel most alive, and so if only for that I know I must push past every excuse I have otherwise had not to finish the fucker.
I’m not “brave”. I didn’t wake up one day built this way: able to get on a flight 5,000 miles across the world with no plan beyond, “a girl on Twitter said this place was nice.” I worked for this. Challenge by challenge – by which I mean, mistake by mistake. Because this could all be a big mistake, too, of course. I could be home next week, next month, tomorrow – but if I am it won’t be with my tail between my legs.
If my next blog says “nah, actually – changed my mind” - I’ve learned. I’ve gone down the dead end to see not only what is there, but what isn’t. Because we talk about knowing what we want to do, figuring out what we love… but what about what we don’t want to do? What we don’t love? Knowing that we don’t actually want the fancy PR title? Why aren’t we allowed to pursue that, too, to figure out that bit? Maybe that’s because that isn’t considered “success”. Well fuck success. I don’t want to a perfect scorecard, a flawless record. I want to move to Bali for a bit and write a book and risk having it all go to shit.
If I die tomorrow I want them to say, “Fuck, she gave it everything.”
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