‘…My priest says: “You ain’t saving no souls.” My father says: “You ain’t making any money.” My doctor says: “You just took it to the limit.”…’ Take To The Sky – Tori Amos
Welcome to my new (ad)venture. I daren’t hope someone influential ever sees this and elevates me to the dizzy heights of “not having to price-compare sandwiches and fear letters from the bank”, but I do hope writing this at set times will help me use the rest of the time more effectively and be better at doing the things I need to do. Having realised my life over the last two years has been such that if a friend had lived it and was describing it to me I’d be saying “get thee to a counsellor’s office a bit pronto,” I’m doing that too. This time – late spring and early summer – a couple of years ago, I felt I was on the up, headed for something profound, in a good way. Then, suddenly, instead of the positive change I craved, everything changed for the worse. Instead of gaining, I lost – lost someone dear to me, plus others who distanced themselves afterwards. All my hope for the future was gradually extinguished. And all in honesty, I’ve never properly recovered from it.
Being in this kind of a pickle is actually more not less awkward in some ways if you’re freelance, and several of your editors are your personal friends. When you’re working for a company, there are structured, legally-enshrined procedures for telling colleagues above you that all is not so rosy in the brain-garden. Forms will be filled, heads scratched, meetings had, and your boss has to jump through a gymkhana of hoops before they can get rid of you. Which, if they do, doesn’t matter much on an interpersonal level if you don’t give a hoot about one another beyond doing your job. Telling someone who you foremostly go for drinks with, tweet to, gossip about music and politics with, and also happen to work for that the last two years have been a gift from Satan’s git of a brother, feels more difficult and vulnerable somehow. Freelance writers are the most disposable thing on earth next to toilet tissue, let alone when you’re being continually swamped by a stew of mixed feelings; let alone when some of those feelings are completely irrational and ridiculous. Thinking that your friend’s death and other subsequent misfortunes are a punishment for something that you did once; something which hasn’t actually hurt anyone but yourself…well, it’s not your average daily banter is it? You can’t very well squeeze it between going over your latest commission and chatting about the new Daft Punk album. All I’ve mostly ended up doing is being vaguely apologetic all the time: “Yes, I know I’m as reliable as Network Rail on a Sunday lately but please, bear with me here, this is a blip, this will pass eventually because it has to pass eventually. I’m working on it…”
But please bear with me here, I am. I should add that despite all of this I have some brilliant friends and family I know I’m very lucky to. I haven’t lost sight of that, nor will I ever.
PS: If you recognise the title of this post as a Cabaret reference, I love you.
PPS: Incidentally, a previous counsellor when I was an undergraduate told me I was “too genuine” to go into the media or PR. Never have guessed, would you?