Reworking work, redesigning your lifestyle

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© Laura Eades 2013 all rights reserved

Work dilemmas can dominate your headspace

I spent my 20s, and half of my 30s too, agonising about vocational questions. This theme on illustratedguidetolife.com is about how to answer them, slowly but surely. I don’t have the answers, naturally, (I wouldn’t be blogging about it if it weren’t for self-interested curiosity), but I do come across a lot of helpful stuff I’d like to share with you. I’m not a life coach and I’ll leave that to the experts. Hopefully their advice and wisdom will take us towards answers together.

 Answers to questions like:

  • How to change direction if it’s time (I’ve met a lot of people who worked in industries, like film, which have intensive work periods that are less appealing to go back to after having a child)
  • How to dig deep into your understanding of your own identity and the choices you’ve made along the way. To excavate the things you’re really passionate about, or the other things you could do with your life that you’ve formerly discounted
  • How to start matching your passions with the needs and callings of the wider world and sharing them
  • How to make the things you love to do, or feel strongly about, into your daily bread
  • How to make money from artistic endeavours – if you’re an artist/designer/comedian/writer/maker/illustrator
  • How to redesign your worklife around lifestyle choices (living well, living abroad, sharing more time with the people you love, just plain working less)

Are you ambitious?

Ambition cracked her whip behind me forever. Even since school I yearned to be the best. It was like a hole in the heart. A brutal taskmaster. A cruel standard-setter. And along with all the other addictions or compulsions in my life, workaholism was the first to take hold.

My loved ones were at the mercy of it. I longed to be famous, or notorious at the very least. My show Patchwork was largely about the occupation preoccupation – about a someone who’s hit 30, is torn between building a domestic life and wanting it all to be so much more rock’n’roll, and who is gripped by an obsessive self-absorption in getting her band off the ground. Needless to say, there’s more than a pinch of autobiography in there, though my true medium was theatre rather than music.

My story – How work has felt to me

I’ve been successful and I also know what it’s like to struggle in work. I’ve carried a sense of pride, a sense of fraudulence, of good fortune, of resentment, of urgency, to my work. I’ve been self-employed for very little money and I’ve worked in an office environment for a very decent salary. I’ve run a theatre company, worked as a journalist, an English teacher, and an arts administrator.

In that small, experimental way that one does when a teenager, I’ve also spent a few weeks doing a bit of a lot of things – I know what it’s like to work on a production-line in a glass factory (deadly), as a cleaner (hard), with my dad as a roofer and building-site labourer (that was fun!), as a waitress (nerve-wracking), in a bakery (good for the mental arithmetic), grape-picking (back-breaking), and for a community theatre company (eye-opening). I’ve volunteered for a homeless charity, and taught English to girls in an orphanage in Calcutta.

I have a degree in English literature, a diploma in devised theatre, I’ve retrained in journalism. I find it hard to know when training is a strict necessity since I feel very safe in educational environments and courses usually represent permission and procrastination – I need to find the shortcuts.

I’m the typical ‘multipotentialite’

In truth, choosing a career has been plagued with difficulty for me. Blessed with an aptitude for many things yet no standout talent, it hasn’t been clear to me who I am or what I should be doing with my life.

I do know that I’m a die-hard believer that your work life should be right at the heart of your passions and talents and how you relate to the world. Whilst I accept that some people are fortunate enough to be able to compartmentalise it, I’m not one of those people. it hurts too much to do it. It contradicts my values. I believe life is too short to go the long way round.

My ideal job

Talking of values, I also know that when I think of my ideal job, it wouldn’t involve employment. I don’t love the office environment – I have a weird, obsequious-rebellious relationship with hierarchy and authority. I do miss the cameraderie though.

That leaves me with either self-employment or a windfall. So here I am thinking hard about how to create an income from the things I love to do – something that I can do from anywhere in the world (since living abroad fuels us and travelling can’t wait for retirement), and something that frees up our family life.

I have the privilege of time out. A gap year or two. Motherhood has foisted it upon me – but it’s amazing. I recommend, if you feel confused, taking some time out and a step back to re-evaluate your situation. Work out what makes you happy and structure your life around that. I love writing, so I’m writing a novel. I love drawing, and I’d like to develop my illustration style. Perhaps, at some point, these things can become sustainable.

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Do these questions resonate for you? Are you one of those people who is content for work to take a backseat in what you think about? Are you looking for a new direction? Click on the grey dot with a ‘plus’ sign to open up the comments section