It all started, when I bought a house. Not just outside London, but in a strange land where the buses stop at 8pm and Deliveroo doesn’t operate. Very different, in short, to the conveniences I’d grown used to in the four years spent living in South West London. When I told them, my friends looked at me in horror: “But what will you do? It’s the middle of nowhere!”
I shrugged. Truth be told, I really hadn’t done much when I lived in London. For the most part, my time was divided between my workplace and my tiny one-bedroom flat: half of my salary was taken by rent, and in the wake of a serious attack in 2016, my mental and physical health was very poor. Anxiety consumed me each time I left the house: I “saw” my attacker regularly, or at least thought I did. To get around that, I’d find any number of excuses to stay at home.
My job wasn’t helping my mental state either. Though contracted to the standard 37.5 hours, over the last year I’d regularly work double that each week with no reward. By March 2019, when I finally broke – in the form of a full-on nervous breakdown – it was clear that things had to change. I wasn’t just unwell – I was deeply, deeply unhappy with the direction my life had taken to date. That direction, ultimately, had been dictated by the trauma of my recent past. It was easier, in that position, to resign myself to a comfortable, stable but unfulfilling job because I lacked the confidence to pursue anything else.
By that, I mean a career direction that I could be passionate about. Actually – as a symptom of ongoing depression – I’d forgotten what it was to enjoy and be genuinely enthusiastic about things, because I’d become so resigned to my current state where I simply continued to exist. Less than a month after returning to work – after three months spent recovering from the breakdown – I resigned. Without another role to go into. Some of my friends and colleagues called it “bold”. Others, meanwhile, didn’t shy away from telling me how stupid I was being. I have no regrets, whatsoever. It was completely necessary.
If truth be told, I still have no idea of what I want to do. Once upon a time, I dipped my toes into the political pool and had my eyes firmly fixed on a public policy role. That direction, ultimately, was taken from me as a result of the attack. For my own good, I had to leave that world behind – and I haven’t looked back. Yet, I haven’t found anything to inspire and enthuse me quite as much as politics once did. It’s a strange thing to be put in the position where you are unable to realise your own aspirations, as the unexpected consequence of something you couldn’t prevent.
The only thing I’ve managed to truly dedicate myself to, is writing. I hate to roll out such a cliché – particularly as it’s one I never thought I’d utter – but I’m writing a novel. I’m about half-way through the first draft and, although I am convinced it is bilge, cannot quite manage to drag myself away from it.
As Hemingway quite rightly put it:
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed,”Ernest Hemingway
Bleeding, however, doesn’t pay the bills. Suggestions as to things that can do would be most welcome.