Monday, 16 March 2015

In Praise of My Shit Job

Please Note: this post has very little to do with porn, porn addiction or how to quit porn. It is off-topic, but I feel like I need to say it and this is my blog, so deal with it. Thanks.

I work a shit job. And it isn't the first that I've done. In fact, I've had so many shit jobs, I don't think I could even list them all. Amongst other things, I've driven vans, emptied bins, tended bars, cooked burgers, delivered parcels, mixed cement, I've moved shit, picked up shit, labelled shit, mail-merged shit, photocopied shit and collated shit and all for a paltry, barely-livable wage.

Then why, I hear you ask, have I not long ago committed suicide? Or even murder-suicide; 'pumping round after round into colleagues and co-workers' and setting alight to the office before 'turning the gun on myself'? Well you may ask. I hate(d) these jobs, just as anyone who does them truly does to their very soul. But, somehow, they have yet to break me. Indeed, in a strange and perverse way, I find that having and doing a shit job, day-in, day-out, until you think you might lose your mind, might just be the most important thing a 'creative' person can do.

How else, friends, do you discover what awaits you if you fail? How else do you glimpse across the Rubicon, the hours and years of endless dread that await you if you give in, if you say 'fuck it,' buy a Vauxhall and move to Surbiton (sorry, Surbiton)?

And how else will you sustain yourself, fool? While you're trying to live in London, working for free? If you haven't got a lovely supportive Mummy and Daddy and no sense of shame; parents who will shower you with cash, so you can live in a two-grand pcm flat in Kennington until Saatchi and Saatchi start paying you six figures? How are you supposed to intern, act in fringe plays, take pictures or write for nothing if you don't have some mind-numbing shit that pays just a bit more than fuck-all in order to cover your (numerous, infinite) expenses?

The answer is, of course, that you can't. There is no way to survive without finding something that pays you some money. If you're lucky, it will be in your chosen field but, far more likely, it will be something in which have not even the remotest interest. It may or may not be peopled with types to whom you can relate (the presence or not of people you can 'speak' to may make the difference between being able to stick with it and the mental hospital), but it will definitely be pointless and crushingly repetitive.

But here's the thing: I'm starting to think that I need it. How f***ed up is that? I need some stupid, mindless occupation just to make me realise how much I want to do something else; to give me the impetus and self-belief to keep on writing and performing, whether I make money or not, knowing that one day I might make enough of something or something good enough that I will no longer have to spend my waking hours making money for someone who, although far more business-minded than myself, is, in all probability, a massive, money-grubbing cnut.

It was while working at some fuck-awful admin job on the Grays Inn Road that I decided to apply for drama school (and I used their stationary to do it). I have some of my best ideas for stand-up whilst stirring salads. I feel like I give better stage performances when I've been at work all day because I haven't had time to obsess and over-think the gig. However I look at it, and however much I moan about and kick against it, I have to admit that having a shit job is what pushes me always on, in the blind hope that one day, I won't have to do it any more.

It might sound spoilt and '#FirstWorld' of me to lament the situation. After all, the immigrants who come to Britain, many of them far over-qualified for the menial jobs they eventually acquire, complain not a bit. I don't mean to do them a disservice and I respect them beyond measure. It's just that when you're educated (in your home country) to within an inch of your life, the entire focus of said education being to show you the horrors of the industrialised world, with the promise that you will eventually be qualified to do something with meaning, and then being told that the only jobs available to you are those you could have got at 'ignorant' age sixteen is bound to make you want to cry, if only every ten minutes or so.

I don't know if you've seen the episode of Spaced where Daisy gets a job at Neo Nachos* (best. name. ever), but I think it encapsulates what I'm trying to say. At the end of the episode (spoiler alert), she realises that all of her fellow, down-trodden, broken-spirited workers are, in fact, writers just like her. She has an epiphany and storms out of the job, vowing to make her living from writing from henceforth.

* If you haven't, you should. It's aces.

I'm not there just yet. But God knows, I dream of a day when I will be. For now I'm stuck, in the kitchen, in the workshop, on the shop floor; mopping and sweeping, fetching and carrying and writing with tired eyes in stolen hours before and after work. So here's to my shit job. I fucking hate it. Long may it live.

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