I GOT my first job when I was 14. A gift shop type place, in the Swan Centre in Rathmines. It was around the corner from my school and they were offering Friday night and Saturday shifts, for £2 an hour.
Everyone else there was older than me, except for the daughter of the owner, who was in my class in school. It made for some awkward lunchtime chats in the canteen, I can tell you. There’s nothing like slaving for a peer’s mother for (very) minimum wage to quickly kill any budding friendships.
A string of babysitting jobs followed, which I adored as you were allowed to stay up late, use someone else’s phone without your father standing glowering over you and eat someone else’s food. I would have babysat all day, every day if I could, but as is always the way, the children grew up and needed me no longer.
A ‘real’ job in a supermarket came next, during the college years, a job I despised with every fibre of my being. It was dirty and hot and back-breaking and it was my first taste of the soullessness of the business world. I got out as fast as I could and took a part-time job in another gift-shop, selling over-priced trinkets to Americans and rich D4 types. As with all part-time college jobs, the money was atrocious, but I got on well with the staff and stayed there throughout my studies.
My first salaried job, in journalism, the field I was qualified in, came in 1999 and I felt, finally, at home.
This I could do.
This I was good at.
This I actually enjoyed.
It was local, community journalism. Lots of city and county council meetings. Local elections, grand openings, community activities, events happening in schools, with the odd bit of hard news – murder, joyriding, crime – thrown in to keep you on your toes. I never struggled at it, the interviews, the research, the writing, it all came naturally to me and at the start, I regularly pinched myself to make sure it wasn’t all some wonderful dream.
A branch out a few years ago into freelancing for other publications – daily papers, trade magazines – and even some journalism teaching added strings to my bow and for a while all was well.
Until the recession hit and little by little chipped away at the work I had built up. Newspaper shifts diminished, trade magazines suddenly couldn’t afford me anymore, contract after contract dried up until I was left with just one; two days a week in the same community newspaper I started off in all those years ago.
And in the middle of July this year, that too came to an end. It was a shock and for a while I was numb, wondering how I was going to fill the days.
I had worked since the age of 14, so I thought by now, two months on with nothing to do, I would be tearing my hair out. But surprisingly, I’m not.
It turns out I had grown tired of journalism and it took losing my job to wake me up to that. I don’t know when it happened, I don’t know when the spark went, but it’s gone and I don’t miss it one little bit.
So now when people ask me what I’m going to do in the future, how I’m going to get back into the rat race, I simply say ‘I don’t know’.
It’s the truth. I don’t know what I want to do, I don’t know where I’m going to be in five years time. I simply don’t know.
I know that I don’t want to be a journalist anymore. That I do know. Not in the traditional sense anyway.
No more council meetings, no more deadlines, no more lead lists, no more endless interviews with local residents complaining about their bins.
I’m out, I’m done, no more.
I haven’t felt like blogging these past few months as I’ve been struggling with this decision. I haven’t felt like doing much of anything, truth be told, but now I think that’s changing. I may be unemployed but for the first time in a long time, I’m happy.
I’ve decided that it’s ok not to know what you want to do with your life. It’s ok not to have a five-year plan. It’s ok to turn your back on your career and it’s even ok to look forward to watching The Gilmore Girls everyday on E4. (It’s on at 3.05pm, in case you’re interested.)
There’s about six months until our wedding (ok, six months, three weeks and three days to be exact) and I intend to enjoy every second of it. There is a little money coming in from a lovely wee side-job which is keeping me ticking over and I’m planning to throw myself whole-heartedly into the wedding preparations. I also intend to blog a lot more, keep the oul brain cells lubricated.
And after the wedding? Well, who knows?