Pretending In The Real World: Here’s What I Have Learnt Today…

There once was a boy who had a dream. That dream was to live in a land filled with random thoughts and ideas; a land where being positive would be rewarded with shared love and riches; a land where silliness was embraced and ambition admired. There once was a boy who sought all these things; and that boy grew up to be a man. That same man believed in the beauty of his dreams, bathed in the vision of his goals, and create with passion in a desire to fill his heart, and the hearts of those around him, with happiness and mirth. That boy was I; as is that man. That very same man, who is I, also had an overdraft. So for all his flowery dream chasing and his self-belief in achieving the realisation of said dreams, that man, who is I, as was that boy, went and took a job that we was offered. For it dawned upon the man, who is I, it is far easier to tell people of your goals, dreams, lofty ambitions etc… if you can actually afford to pay the mobile phone bill which allows you to arrange to meet for drinks, which you can then also afford to pay for. “To live in your head is beautiful; to live in an apartment requires a deposit and a month’s rent up front”, as the saying (I just made up) goes.streaming movie Ghost in the Shell

So, one month ago today, I moved to Nottingham to begin a job in marketing. Now, from my opening paragraph, it may seem that I did so begrudgingly. I didn’t. I was surprised to be offered the chance to go for the role; but go for the role I did. I went for it with gusto (actually, I went on my own. I’m 35 and a bit old to be taking people along to hold my hand at job interviews. Especially when they sound like they have the name of a clown. Gusto, indeed). Now, a brief history, if you will allow such a thing? If you won’t, I’ll have already written it by the time you’ve tried to stop me anyway.

Over the past few years, and since leaving my full time contract on t’wireless, I have freelanced through various roles. During the course of this blog writing thing I do, I have had The Camp Cottage By The Canal where I lived by myself in Nottingham and where I went to sit by the water’s edge and write, create, and to dream. Then I moved down to Buckinghamshire to live with my friends and to write, create, and to dream. Also, as it turned out, to babysit and to be a friend when a friend was needed (which, I hope, I was and which I certainly found amongst others). All of these prior things had been done, as a freelancer, in a quest to maintain the free-spirited, positive, fun life that I had dreamed about when I was that boy (see opening sentence) and a man (see a few sentences after that opening one). That said, although some freelance work is brilliantly paid (I’d like to keep those ones, please), some were less so and, ultimately, all were sporadic. After the first half of 2012, it was deemed that I just wanted… “normality“.

Now, normality – from the made up “Norman likes tea” – is, as the origin would suggest, not the most awe-inspiring noun there has ever been. I have some sort of mild phobia of being boring and, in my silly little head, I had, rightly or wrongly, confused the word “normality” with the word “boring”. One of my greatest fears in life, aside from pigeons, is to be the person who comes home every Monday from work, has mince and cabbage “in front of the soaps” and then heads off to bed, only to repeat until the weekend where I either (a) spend the weekend in a single man’s drunken haze until Monday morning or (b) sit in the garden with my wife who I can’t think of anything to say to as I sip a pint of mild and she muses over half a lager and lime (I don’t think that would happen anyway; I don’t like mild). SO my fear of being boring had, I now realise, been mis-matched with my misunderstanding of normality. Normality meant doing things which, well, were normal. Not everything had to be normal – I’d still prefer to be an anomaly than a normality – but some things.

So it was that I was fortunate enough to be offered “a normal job” (they’re not my words but the words of so many of my friends and family who’d just been waiting…) and one that would allow me to be creative, pay me often (every month, in fact) and allow me to move back to Nottingham. Ah, Nottingham, with its history, its random positivity, its thriving music scene and its Hooters. In fact, upon hearing that I had landed the job, I went to celebrate at Hooters with my old friends from the city.

As with most things in my life, I get carried away with the possibility and the fun elements of things, rather than the reality of it all (a classic point being a long ago engagement: weddings look fun; planning them and then not talking in a pub with a drink you don’t like, isn’t). A good friend, someone who understands my silly, idealist, dreamy, up in the clouds head more than most, called me the next morning to ask if I was happy. Truly happy. It was a good question from someone who was being supportive from another angle other than relief that I’d now got a pension. Just because I’d taken a job that had its foundations in reality, it didn’t mean that I still couldn’t dream all those dreams and get excited about the same possibilities as before. The only difference was that I’d be working in an office of people and I’d know, for sure, that I could buy some new socks next month if I wanted. Or even if I didn’t.

Now, if you remember about 12 seconds ago, I mentioned a pension. Well, excited as I was about the vast, unexplored future that lay ahead (it’s only a 6 month contract), I hadn’t thought about the practicalities of it all. Practicalities are the parents telling you that it’s time to leave your friend’s birthday party and you’ll see them at school tomorrow. I sat, cheerily thinking about all the events I’d create, the office romances I may (or may not) have, the socks I would flippantly buy, when an official looking letter arrived. My pension form. A pension. To most it is the security that eases the worries of future doubt; to me it was the glistening blade that sliced my hopes of achieving my dreams in two and left them, bleeding profusely, in the basket of corporate reality. I looked at the page: “At what age would you like to retire? It must be between 45 – 70 years of age”. Why must it? I don’t ever want to retire. If I retire then what amusing anecdotes will I have to share in the pub with my wife as we sip chardonnay and share the Battenburg she’s smuggled in her handbag that she still has from when she played Sloane in Entourage? My heart sank and, this time confusing normality with acceptance, I slipped into my bedroom at my parents’ house where I was visiting. To say “slipped” creates an air of almost decadence; I slumped off. That’s it.

It’s odd. Before, when I was all freelancing and stuff, I wouldn’t consider dating, really. That was because sometimes I could take someone out and pay £100 for dinner; then I’d be broke two weeks later and not know where the next pay cheque was coming from. The strange thing is, although I didn’t have money and therefore thought it selfish of me to involve someone else in that way of life, I still had my sense of self-worth because I knew who I was or where I thought I was going in my life. Whereas now, although I have that income, I am not “pursuing my dream” and so am not truly happy with who I am. It’s a case of being who you are as being defined by what you do. I have always been that person. I imagine a lot of people have that – it is an observation and not a “woah is me” cry – but I don’t really think it’s fair to be with someone if you’re not happy in your own self either. Although the upside to that is that I can happily date goldiggers who don’t care for ambition or personal goals. They’re probably loose moralled too. So, you know, every cloud… Hmmm, that all got a bit introspective, didn’t it? Quick, open the chocolates and let us get back to more light-hearted matters. Cheese, anyone?

After one last night in my home town of Beverley with my sister, brother-in-law and ace friend (who got told she looked so much like the person she actually is that she could actually work as a tribute act of the person she actually is), I moved to Nottingham. Ah, Nottingham, with its greenery, its chic randomness and its positive Hooters. I do love this place.

That all brings us, one way or another, to the present. Well, it brings us to the first day which was actually an entire month ago. I put on a shirt and a tie and I headed into work. I met, for the first time, everyone I was to work with – apart from my boss; more of her later – which is something I think everyone gets nervous about. I certainly was. Here was I, some idiot with big hair who’d basically messed about for a living for the past 16 years, coming into their professional world where they knew things. They did things that, to me, were grown up things. They could easily have treated me like an idiot (mainly as I started every sentence with, “I’m sorry, I’m a bit of an idiot but could you tell me…”); but they didn’t. Instead they showed patience, understanding and friendliness. My stupidity at misconstruing normality meant that I was worried I’d work somewhere where the only sound I’d hear would be the sound of the clock ticking; far from it. Every day – every single day – there are numerous occasions where the place rings with the sound of laughter. I feel really lucky to work somewhere whereby, not only am I surrounded by – and in a team of – people who know what they’re doing, but I would happily go for a pint with each of them (not mild, mind). My Dad once told me that’s how you can measure someone, “If you’d be willing to spend time supping with them.” How rare is it that you find a situation whereby you are, to all intents and purposes, thrust in with people you don’t know and you not only like them, you genuinely enjoy their company. Very flippin’ lucky, is that.

I think it fair to say that the initial period of change from being a free-spirited, wandering, soul who would work on an idea purely as and when the moment of inspiration hit, or who could only really focus after 2pm, has been hard to deal with. Having a definite start time, a definite end time and “an hour for lunch” still feels quite stifling. Towing the corporate line is something which I am still getting my head around. Why can’t you put kisses at the bottom of emails or invite the head of HR up for biscuits? That aside, I now fully appreciate all the efforts that go into making something happen. For all I have wittered on about being this person who has just floated by, I have achieved some alright things in my time, I think. There are things I am proud of having devised the ideas for, produced and presented. However, it is only now, in this role, that I realise my part in even those such things was quite easy. I’d have a fun idea, I’d tell it to people, I’d turn up a few days/weeks later and then I’d host it. What I didn’t realise, well, not fully, was that there was a team of people working ridiculously hard to make all the fun happen. In this here marketing job, I have come up with various ideas, looked around, waited… then asked my boss who makes it happen. Turns out I do, as well as the team of people around me. Who knew?!?!

To all the marketing, sales, promotions, events and PR people – sorry. Oh, and well done. Well frickin’ done! It’s not easy, is it?

So, a month after I started in this real world job and it seems to be going well. I even get along with my boss. Actually, for all it’s an odd feeling to have a proper boss who isn’t myself, she is brilliant AND, it has to be said, she has the patience of a saint. My whole “creative nature” means that I tend to get carried away, flailing arms around everywhere, eyes like saucers as I animatedly relay an idea about exploding snowmen that shower melted marshmallow over people. In my first week I deemed that I felt “caged in” by the windowless office – only half jokingly – and she sent me out in the wild to create ideas. I did. It was the snowman thing (she hasn’t encouraged that since). I have only been told off once and that was for being late (standard; I was born Caesarian as I was late at birth) and she was stern yet fair. I bought her muffins. I think that’s how life works. To say she has to put up with a childlike fool and his notions (that’s me) and a highly efficient, knowledgable team (that’s everyone else), the boss is ace. Much better than some that Roald Dahl writes about (which is where I get most of my references).

Over the course of this month, I have come to see that normality isn’t so bad after all. Mainly because my friends and family – and now my colleagues – have made me see that; but also because I have a drawer full of socks. Don’t get me wrong, I still have those silly issues of not being proud of who I am, as such, because I’ve sort of let go of what I want from life. That said, I know I still want to chase those same dreams, create those same ideas, get up on that same stage and show that same off; and I will too, just you see if I don’t, mister. It’s just that I’ll do it out of the allotted hours of work where, I hasten to add, I’ll be making other things happen with brilliant people around me; and for them too.

So, What Have I Learnt Today? Well, today I learnt how to negotiate space in an enclosed area to allow either humans dressed as monkeys or a pair of giant inflatable lungs to fit it. Turns out normality isn’t so normal after all.

I guess that little boy’s dream of living in a world of random thoughts and ideas may still be very much alive…