Work – not just a four letter word

For various reasons I’ve been reading back on the very first year or so of keeping this blog when we were at the planning stages of our 2011 WWOOFing adventures.

Ten years ago, right about now, we were working our notice in our jobs and gearing up to head off on our year of unknowns. Nine years ago we were planning the move to Rum, two years ago we were about to move back to the mainland and our current life, picking up the threads of a slightly more conventional life and some of the ways we had left behind us.

Both Ady and I had had some form of employed work from our teens, working weekends or evenings while still at school, through college for me and then to pay the bills. Work was very much a means to an end and while we both would concede we learned a lot, gained some levels of job satisfaction and enjoyed the company and camaraderie of work colleagues the truth is that we mostly went to work to pay the bills. Worked to live, not lived to work. Stepping away from that ‘treadmill’ was one of our big motivators for heading off on our adventures in the first place.

Our volunteering year and subsequent years on Rum offered a rather more direct ‘you do this – you get that’ exchange for our toil, which while often harder and always more precarious at least offered an obvious reward and very much taught us to decide just what we wanted before deciding whether the necessary effort was justified. It was one of the lessons we were very keen to bring with us back to the mainland.

In our first year back here though, despite such noble ideals the reality was that shiny things and the peaceful sleep of the hard worked body as a reward for a days graft were not really suitable currency for our monthly rent, supermarket food shop, electricity provider or the DVLA in lieu of car tax. Yes it was still important to us to be doing jobs we enjoyed and see the point of but the previously rather dusty and dormant bank account, abandoned in favour of a largely barter based island economy had to be topped up to allow for the regular emptying each month.

Cue a year of hunting down and snatching up job opportunities wherever they showed themselves. Holiday cottage cleaning, washing up and waiting tables, taking the evening shifts at the local community centre supervising youth club and taking payment from people coming to attend yoga and football sessions. People would be almost constantly telling me how busy I was as I dashed from one job to the next, Ady and I swapping the car between us and facing the dilemma between a sit down daily dinner each day for all of us at 11pm when we were finally all back home or everyone foraging for their own food when they were hungry.

Our philosophies on work, on finding the right balance and only doing as much as we needed to do were something we had to hold very dear and remind ourselves of regularly and sure enough within the year we had re-established an equilibrium of part time roles, predominantly in work we enjoyed with scope for improving things further. A global pandemic putting an abrupt end to some of the jobs we were already hoping to withdraw from gave us space to further hone our vision, time to focus on some training and re evaluating and we will go into this coming March (which for some reason seems to be the Goddard New Year for starting new things) looking very close to ideal – for now at least.

Ady has been offered – and accepted – a permanent post with the NHS, just as his temporary one year post has come to an end. He has more training and maybe eventually scope for thinking about further career development if he wants it. A perfect next chapter for him in a role which is a perfect fit for his skills, personality and aspirations.

Davies continues with his studies and volunteering and there is scope for a couple of opportunities he is going to consider and explore further. Watch this space.

Scarlett has an exciting opportunity lined up for later this year too, offering her paid work experience in precisely the sort of endeavours she most wants to be spending time doing. Again watch this space for more on that once it is all finalised and actually happening.

And me? Volunteering has led to two paid jobs both of which I am loving. I am project managing an event for a local mental health and wellbeing charity, making loads of contacts, feeling as though I am helping people and making a difference along with learning and challenging myself. I am also still writing for the local paper and was thrilled to get my NUJ press card last month.

I am also working on my own watch this space project too.

It continues to be a strange time, with so many uncertainties and so few things feeling within anyone’s control. To be able to have work which pays bills at all feels like a massive luxury which we are hugely thankful for.

Ady and I would often sit, side by side, looking out over some wonderful view in a quiet corner of our croft and ask ourselves ‘what percentage of perfect are we at?’ We used to regularly hover between 80 and 90 percent, which is a pretty good place to be. I suspect 100 would be boring – where else is left to strive for at that point?

I’d say in terms of all the things which we currently have choice and autonomy over, the aspects of life which we can control and change we are certainly at 85% just now, with a clear plan for the elusive 15%, which could of course alter along the way. But that’s what makes it interesting and helps us look forward to whatever is yet to come.