Thanksgiving is not something I have ever celebrated, being from the UK it isn’t a tradition I was brought up on. However, this year I was invited to have Thanksgiving dinner with some family. Sitting at the table was an ex Investment Banker, the Director of a successful Advertising Company, a Children’s Theatre Manager, an Events Manager, a medical student about to receive his Doctorate and me… a receptionist and the youngest in the room by only a matter of months. Throughout the meal a thick helping of loaded questions was sprinkled upon me, the sum of which was: “what are you doing with your life?” I feel as though its a horrible question that people are asked only at the times of their lives when it is obvious that they don’t know what they’re doing. From my online ramblings alone, I think it is pretty clear that this has been a tumultuous year for this somewhat sporadic writer. And I ask myself this same question pretty much every day…”What are you doing with your life?” Honestly, I don’t know. I sit in an office in central London, working with perfectly nice people, in a perfectly nice job feeling perfectly unsatisfied. A bit like being in the gilded cage, its all very nice but its not enough. This weekend, I met up with the girls I used to live with at University. Of the 6 of us, 5 were living at home, and working in the gilded cage, trainee lawyers who worked their arses off for three years back in offices and retail outlets because that’s how you have to do it to get a trainee-ship. I’m told that we are supposed to get ourselves on the job ladder, to seek work from work. But how is that possible when you don’t know what you’re doing now, let alone what you want to do for the rest of your life.
It’s a shock spending 4 years away from home living what you thought was ‘independently’, using your student loan to buy food and pay rent, using money from a part time job to get yourself drunk on the days where you should have been working, then moving back home. I am one of the lucky ones; I live at home and I have an amazing relationship with my ma and her man, we eat dinner together every night, we have breakfast together on weekends. So for me, the pull of ‘independence’ is not so strong what with the lack of rent to pay and the constant feeling of support. In truth, I know that the only way for me to find me impetus to move would be to find my dream job somewhere I couldn’t get to from home in less than an hour by train. Very few of my friends have moved out of home, and those who have are paying though the nose for rent and bills. At the end of my working month, less than a grand goes into my bank account. I am staying put until its at least a grand and a half. A lot of the time it is easy to get my head down at work, binge watch a series on an internet TV site and not think about the future. Other times, like Thanksgiving, I begin to freak out asking myself endless unanswerable questions; have I wasted my degree and gotten myself into over 10k’s worth of debt to sit in reception all day doing nothing? Was doing a drama degree a terrible mistake? Was my father right to unsuccessfully try to dissuade me for all those years? I felt, after this meal last week, about an inch tall. I was useless, going nowhere, I had no wish to act anymore because I dislike the attitude of young actors, I had no qualifications to get myself a job which I could potentially do well in. What I do have is my ma. I have my mates. I have a support network that will never fail me. Even if I feel I am failing myself.
I have a friend who is an actor. He has gotten pretty constant work from when he left uni to the present (he’s currently touring with a show!) We had the most brutally honest conversation the other day over a glass of red wine in a virtually empty pub in North London. We came to this conclusion: everyone is struggling in some way or another. Whether its the problem of making ends meet and paying rent, whether its finding a job that makes you happy so that scraping by doesn’t matter so much, whether its freaking out because the idea of getting yourself a mortgage and paying real bills every month. Everyone of my generation, bar those who managed to sort themselves out (hats off), is freaking out a little. It seems as though we have to settle in one part of our lives, if we want a good job which pays well, we have to let go of our passion. If we follow our passion we wave a tearful farewell to financial security and what my friend described as comfort. Comfort comes in many forms, whether its treating yourself to a solo Wagamama’s at the end of a brutal day of envelope stuffing or receiving a drawn out hug from a parent. Comfort is one of those little things that can make everything ok, and put you in the frame of mind that says “Life is not so bad”. So when comforts are few and far between, when pressure from sources out of your control gets too much, when you are unhappy at work, what do you do? Make time.
It might be the spirit of the holiday season which is forced upon us like acid rain, but I honestly feel as though making time to see friends and family around this time of year is worth its weight in wine. And gold. And gin. And cheese. In all seriousness though, when you feel as though you are drowning in your worries, that you’ll be alone forever and die alone only to be eaten by Alsatians, that you’ll never pay this month’s rent on time, that you’ll be eating tinned beans until March, that you getting a promotion is about as likely as unicorn orgies; just find some time to spend with your loved ones. Talk things out, be honest. The less you talk about what’s worrying you, the more gravity you give it. Everyone is freaking out. Its only natural that you are too.