Oftentimes it seems that we adults (I find it strange to include myself in that category. However, I can assure you that I most definitely am not a ‘grown up’!) are valued only for what we produce economically, in terms of whether we work and the work we do. Many people place the emphasis on having a career and earning a high wage, judging both their own success and that of other people’s by that stick. I am not motivated by money and while I’d love to be more productive, I know that work is not only the thing in life.
I’m a drifter; you’ve probably guessed that. I’ve never really had the encouragement to make plans or to fix goals and my personality doesn’t really push me that way naturally either. I left school and got a job and then another. I worked when I could get work. It was something that the older generation struggled to understand too, that there wasn’t always work available. In my case, there wasn’t always the health to go to work with either. I’ve never been able to work full time since leaving school.
If you’re not raising children then the foregone conclusion is that you should be in full time employment. It’s something of a moral duty, a responsibility. Or else what are you? A loser? A lazy person? It’s got harder to find work and to keep a job, in recent years people are accepting that being in or out of work isn’t necessarily something that you can control, it isn’t in your hands. I’ve seen that attitude change since my husband lost his own job three years ago.
The last I worked I had a terrible experience. It was absolutely wretched and my health really, really suffered. I’m still too stressed about it to discuss it. I think possibly because somehow I also feel guilty. As if I could or should have done something differently or prevented how other people chose to act and to treat me. That was six years ago. I haven’t worked since.
At the moment, I have to accept that I am probably not able to work at all because of my health. I say this as though I could or should maybe make some kind of effort but the reality is that I’d struggle to go and wash my dishes right now and writing a post like this is hard work, a big effort and I need to proof my work very carefully because I make all types of stupid mistakes (leaving v living).
And because I haven’t worked regularly or for such a long time, there are gaps in my CV. Having gaps in your CV makes you highly undesirable. I know.
And I’d need part time work if I ever returned to work. And it’s the mums with whom I’m competing. And any boss would rather give someone like that the job, someone who has a valid reason for wanting part time hours.
That’s even before we start the conversation of health conditions. But probably after they’ve decided that they don’t want to employ someone who isn’t wearing a polyester trouser suit.
There are people around me who keep encouraging me to get a job. As if it was that easy. As if that would be the only way to have some value in their eyes. Is it fair to judge me only by standards to which I can never attain?
They have fixed ideas about what I should do, these experts on who I am and what my talents are.
They want me to become a translator. Just like that. Because I’m so good at languages.
I’m not good at languages. I don’t have a good foundation, I could perhaps blame the education at school or maybe it was the lengthy absences, I don’t know. I don’t have the hearing to be what they call a translator because in fact that they are referring to interpretation. Interpretation usually happens over the phone. I loathe the phone. Interpretation is instant, someone says something and you have to render it in perfect English. (Usually that way round, but sometimes vice versa). I like to take my time with words, to savour and select the best and most meaningful candidate. I am a fan of the thesaurus. I don’t have an extensive vocabulary either. I would also need an appropriate certificate to be able to go anywhere near a job like that. The same as you need a degree to shelf books. And training doesn’t come cheap.
But it’s more than that. It’s more than just the ears and the phone. It’s just not the right job for me, it’s too pressured and I’ve said already how I like to work with words, with translation. And you know what? I just wouldn’t have the confidence. And you know what? The people who are pushing me to do this work are the people who have torn that confidence to shreds over the years.
They don’t know me. They like the idea of me being good at languages because it would be a good job and being employed is a good thing. It’s about me succeeding at their impressions and standards of what is important and of who I am. Some of these are the people who still ridicule me for having taken a giant bilingual dictionary on holiday when I was eighteen. Why did I take that dictionary? My parents chose to go on holiday a few weeks before my A-level exams. I had to revise and I was using the language daily at the time. Does the really make me such a weird person after all?
I can’t be who they want me to be. So they will continue to perceive me as a failure. It is a vicious circle, a dark pit.