Some Parental Advice!

There’s a sincere message in this post. It’s not your usual grumpy rant.

How many of us truly find our calling in life? How many of us really enjoy what we do for a living?

Probably Twenty years ago, my parents approached me and asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I had only one dream, to be an artist. That was my thing. I loved to draw. I’d spend hours copying photographs and fantasy artist’s work. I would draw from comics and movie posters. I collected caricatures of celebrities and used to draw cartoons of teachers at school with combinations of body parts from the collection. It wasn’t my only passion. I was also learning to play the drums. Drawing and drums. If I could draw whilst drumming I’d have been in my element.

“Artist,” was my immediate response. The only response. Anything else would have seemed incongruent. But the reply was, “No. You can’t be an artist. No-one makes any money being an artist.” So that was that. I couldn’t be an artist and had to pick another direction with my life.

Now art is a subjective thing. I could look at a small white plastic box on a wall and see symmetry, synergy, a simple clean message that’s trying to be portrayed by the artist in this sudo-clean contemporary piece. Someone else might come along and then use it to turn the light off. I’m one of the first to say that there is a lot of shit out there, but there are also some amazing pieces of artwork and people are out there doing some amazing things. It is difficult to make a living at it, I’m sure, but then again, Damien Hurst chopped a cow in half and stuck each piece in formaldehyde and I bet he’s not short of a few quid. So there are artists out there, living, making money. Some, more than others.

I continued at school and had the compulsory visit with the careers advisor. It was only about twenty minutes but it may as well have been twenty seconds. I can’t remember his name, he left that much of an impression on me. He was shit. He had the enthusiasm of a narcoleptic dosed up on ketamine! Sitting there with his tie half undone, probably questioning what he was doing with his own life. He had probably been up till two or three in the morning, sat in his stained vest and slightly soiled pants, in an armchair surrounded by empty cans of lager. Oh the irony of this man, who clearly wasn’t happy in his own career and yet had a career, giving career advice to sixteen year olds.

“What do you want to do?” he would ask. I was sixteen. I knew I couldn’t be an artist or a drummer in a famous touring heavy metal band. Yes there are a million different jobs but I hadn’t got a clue what was out there. I just didn’t know. “May as well stay on and do your A-levels then.” Great, thanks for the guidance.

I was unhappy when I started sixth form. I didn’t feel like I fitted in. I got depressed and so, with the support of my parents, I left. An independent careers advisor told me it was a waste of time going to college and doing A-levels unless I wanted to go to university. I didn’t want to go to university. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

“Get a job. Pay your way!” My parents told me, almost immediately. That was it, I wasn’t at school, and I had to go to work. It was an exciting prospect going to work, being an adult, getting paid. But what should I do? Where’s the guidance? One of my Uncles who I was close to was an engineer at the time. So I thought, I’d have a go at that. I eventually became an apprentice engineer.

That was okay but I wasn’t a naturally technical and mechanical minded or skilled person. I could do it but it was a struggle. It wasn’t for me. So when I was made redundant I decided to try something else and went for a job as an internal salesman in a small company, selling wood. It was so boring that after three months I left to work for an insurance company. Imagine that! Something as exciting as Insurance! I assure you, I am not writing fiction here!

Insurance would only be another stepping-stone after all.

14 years later, I’m still stuck in that rut, in the fourth company I have worked for as a claims handler. Thirty-three and I’m still asking myself what to do with my life.

In my spare time, my energy is spent with photography, song writing and performing music, writing comedy and this blog. I have an insatiable desire to create. Creativity is what I live for and yet I’m trapped in an unfulfilling job. If I don’t create something in a day or take steps towards something, I feel like I’ve wasted it.

I know I’m not the only one who is sick of the rat race, sick of the nine to five, the commute and the amount of time spent doing something that you really would rather not be doing just so that you can simply “exist”. “That’s life!” some would say. “That’s a bit defeatist,” I feel like saying back. I fear waking up as a 70 year old, still working in the same kind of job. What if my Obituary says, “The Once Grumpy Young Bloke, was born, did insurance, hated it and died.” Mind you, that sounds like Insurance killed me!

It would be a dream to be able to survive through creative endeavours. Having you read this gives me a great sense of fulfilment. I have regular readers. Not hundreds or thousands. A few, who find my writing entertaining and want to read it. To think that I’m putting something out in the world that someone might enjoy, it’s great. Can you imagine doing this as a job? Wow.

But I wonder if things would have been different if I’d had a bit of guidance when I was younger. Not necessarily saying, “This is the job to aim for,” but if my parents had recognised that their son seemed to care so much for creative endeavours, they could have pointed me in a direction, any direction in that ballpark. It may not have been an artist. It could have been graphic design, media, photography, video, advertising or marketing, anything with a creative element to it. Instead, I just floated around and now I’m in a rut.

My parents aren’t in my life anymore and I don’t resent them over what they did or didn’t do. For one it’s a pointless emotion to hold onto. It only hurts the one who carries it, so drop that shit and move on. I think they are from a different generation of working class, whereby they too left school and entered the world of work doing anything that they could to bring money into the family home. It was a time when you could have a disagreement with the boss on a Friday, tell them to shove their job up their arse and start somewhere new on Monday. By the late 90’s, things were a little different. No flares for a start! Shame.

So in a not so satirical, funny and grumpy post, the point I’m trying to make is that it stands a good chance that your kids, might not know what they want to do. They are young and to ask them to make a career choice at such a young age really is a lot to ask. As a parent, you can be their biggest influence and their guide. You can help create dreams and you can also shatter them. You’ve created this young life and it’s your God given duty to nurture and help create someone great. But look at their natural talents and interests and try to steer them towards vocational areas that would greatly utilise those skills and abilities. Any direction is better than no direction at all as long as it’s heading in the direction of their passions. Then, they stand a much better chance of finding some fulfilment in their lives.

I’ve honestly told you a bit about my situation. Fact is, I live for doing creative stuff, I feel trapped in my job and don’t know what to do about it. I’m at a time in my life when I’m trying to save hard for a deposit for a house and I’d like to get married to the future Mrs Grump some day. I suppose I just have to look on the bright side. If I didn’t have this job, I wouldn’t have so many things such as the many perils of the works toilet and of course the urban jungle commute to grumpily write about would I?


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