It’s a question I ask myself regularly. Sometimes I say it to myself in a contemplative way and other times in a more negative way – like ‘Arlene, what the hell do you think you are doing?!’ I sometimes scold myself for trying new things and not having a ‘real’ job.
If I look back on my life, I have realised that I have always been working at something ever since I was small. I helped look after my little brother when he was born and I always had some sort of job, paid or otherwise, since I was 13. Even when I have been ‘unemployed’, I have always been doing something. I am not an idle person, it just looks like it sometimes. I think we are ingrained with this idea that to be a productive human being, we need to earn money. Let’s face it, begging for money is the least desirable way of earning a living. There is an ingrained distaste to seeing someone doing that. It obviously isn’t a ‘real’ job to most people. I don’t think it would go down very well in a social situation, especially at dinner or cocktail parties – ‘I beg for a living, what do you do?’
Then we have labels we give ourselves depending on what we do: Firefighter, Secretary, Doctor, Nurse, etc. I don’t think beggar would go down very well on a CV. We also give ourself labels depending on our situation or family circumstances: Married, Divorced, Separated, Single, brother, sister, mother….you get the picture.
I have been and done so many things and I still am a lot of other things too! As soon as I gave birth, I became a mother. Once a mother, always a mother. My job for many years was mothering, or parenting to make it more general. Although my duties as a mother have been reduced considerably now that my children are grown up, I am still called/roped in occasionally for mothering services. When my children have children, my job will double up to mothering and grand-mothering services. The jobs just never end.
I haven’t had a full-time job since the end of 2008 when my company decided to call it a day and make us all redundant. At that time I was a PA/Office Manager. It sounded more impressive than when I worked part-time a few months later in a clothing store as a Sales Assistant (or Retail Therapist as I liked to call myself). Since I sold my house and moved to Eastbourne, I haven’t worked for money. I was busy sourcing contractors and project managing the work on my home. I have been researching my family tree and history and reconnecting with family I never met or hadn’t seen in over 20 years. I have been taking photographs, writing, and more recently I have taken up painting – not just the walls in my home, but pictures.
At first I don’t think I was very good. In fact, I know I wasn’t. What I lacked in skill, I had bucket loads in determination and enthusiasm. If you want to see my progress, I have a page set up on this blog called Trying New Things. I think I am getting better. I am painting something every day. As well as my camera, I now take a sketch pad and something to draw with when I go out. I try to go to a couple of art classes every week, a life drawing class and a still life class. The lady who hosts the classes is very encouraging. I have been buying books on how to draw and paint from the second-hand book store and the charity shops. I can probably open an art shop of my own. I want to try to use everything and see what it does. I am like a sponge, soaking up everything that comes my way and then I try to filter some of it out and try to make something of my own.
I am inspired by family and friends to keep painting and try everything. In fact, I had an interview last Thursday with the local college to see if I can get a place on the Art Foundation Course. The phone conversation leading up to the interview wasn’t very encouraging, but I was determined not to leave the place without a course to take, even if I had to stage a sit-in. Fortunately, the tutors liked my progress, enthusiasm and bold use of colour. I have been offered a place and start in September! 🙂
I have been given a task and need to produce 15 pieces in 2 weeks. I had to look up on the internet how to do two of the things I need to do! Although it seems daunting, I have ideas floating around in my head already about how I am going to do the work. I will be starting tomorrow as I had to go out and get some material. It kinda put me off my stride, so I went a bit mad and drew some Gerberas before they faded away.
The reason I want to do an Art Foundation Course is because I will be able to try my hand at a variety of things I have never tried before. I will get to paint, sculpt, develop film in the photography section, work with textiles and a host of other things. After all, how will I know if I am good at something or will like it unless I try it? How will getting an Art Foundation Diploma affect or improve my work prospects? I haven’t got a clue and so I am just leaving that to The Universe.
In the meantime, I am painting furniture – some for my house and some to sell. I am getting my photos organised to make into cards, to sell. I may not be working and earning money, yet, but I am busy and happy with what I am doing, so who knows where that will take me? As for what to tell people who ask me what I do for a living when I tell them that I am looking for work, it was suggested that I tell them I’m a researcher. I’m not lying if I tell them that and it means I don’t have to say anything about my personal circumstances and how I came to Eastbourne. I moved here because I love it and I always wanted to live by the seaside and it was affordable.
So that answers the question about what I have been doing – mostly having fun and trying new things. As far as who I am, well, I am a woman with many interests and hidden talents. If I have to give myself labels, I prefer to use the ones that are not so obvious, such as TangoDiver (I dance Argentine Tango and Scuba Dive, though not at the same time), Dancer (I also dance Salsa, Ceroc and am learning to Bellydance), Writer – currently unpublished, Photographer and now I can add Artist. 🙂