A mere three weeks after arriving in Bournemouth I had to return to my job at UCL. They had said under the circumstances I could maybe get away with not going back, but I thought it made sense to work my three months notice and earn a little bit of money to get me going with my new life. I planned to set up freelance from my new home eventually, but I felt a certain obligation to see out my time at UCL.
It was tough. Driving up to Mum and Dad’s every Sunday so they could watch Sophie Monday and Tuesday while I went into work, then we would drive home Wednesday (with Mum sometimes in the early days), I would work from home Thursday and that was my reduced week. Not ideal, but this was my penalty for moving away from London. I did this for three months then was ill for another month after!
During this time, Sophie learnt to walk, turned one and also developed sleeping problems. I still don’t know if the problems were due to the living in two places thing and all the traveling, or because I was away from her more now, but she would wake up most nights and scream for two to three hours until she wore herself out. I suppose this is normal for mums returning to work, but the lack of sleep and emotional strain was boardering on hellish. I even missed the bottom step one night as I stomped downstairs after an hour or two of trying to stop Sophie crying and turning to calpol to help settle her. She was in my arms as I crumpled to the floor. Mum and Dad were there and came rushing out to see if we were OK. We were. I was just emotionally crushed.
The one chap I had met now in Southbourne – a friend of friends – just happened to have a good friend whose wife was a child minder. So that was Thursday’s cover sorted. In fact Sophie went to Tina’s right up until she started school, even alongside nursery when that started at two years. I’m not sure if in retrospect I should have spent more time just being a mum, but I felt like I should at least attempt to make a living and provide for us both. I didn’t just want to live off the state, though I have to say that I have had to rely on Tax Credits after my savings dwindled down to not a lot. After all, unmarried ‘widows’ don’t get any other benefit – but I wont get started on that right now.
It was quite sad to leave UCL after nearly ten years, but a relief to finally really begin my new life in Bournemouth. I realized by now that it was really where I wanted to be. Every week driving up to London felt traumatic and stressful, but returning to Bournemouth felt like the sun coming out after a storm – it felt like coming home.
After getting bugs and other technical things sorted I finally began working for myself properly in the January of 2007, though I had registered the company in December 2006. My first job was a poster for Dad’s church – and I did get some work through old contacts for a while. What I hadn’t realized was how difficult I would find it promoting myself, and my services. I just didn’t have the confidence to be pushy and salesman-like. I had had this vision of people falling over themselves to give me maps to draw for them – but the reality was that the work was few and far between.
Working from home wasn’t quite as easy as I had thought it would be either. In my perfect imagined version of events I would be highly productive and ready for collecting Sophie at the end of the day with all tasks complete. The reality was things took a lot longer than I thought – not the work so much, but everything else. Doing household chores around the work meant focus on the work was diminished and ideas I had hoped to put into production just never happened. I don’t think I was really that cut out for working from home. Or maybe it’s just that it was all too soon and my head was too full of everything else. It’s not that I wanted more time alone to reflect and be sad, but I probably needed it anyway. There was something else too – I had begun to question myself, and my abilities as a sole trading entity. It’s different when you work for someone else. They provide work, you do the work and you get paid at the end of the month. This was so different. I was having to find the work, do the work (which was a bit like baring my soul to the world as it was straight from me, no back up and no one to bounce ideas off), then invoice the person asking for money. I don’t think my work was bad, but I just kept thinking that everyone else was better – why would people pick me to do their map?
Those thoughts still appear sometimes – but I’m changing what I do. I’ve added new skills and I don’t just draw maps anymore. I paint them now too! I also teach crochet and knitting which provides light relief from the business world and pocket money. I am still searching for the more specific thing I should be doing – and for a regular source of decent income. It’s still very much hand to mouth in that I don’t earn enough to save much up, but I am in a much better place mentally now and feel ready to explore different ways of making myself a living. I haven’t exactly found my niche, but feel I’m moving closer to it. I do feel a slight envy and awe for people who know exactly what they want to do and just get on and do it. That’s quite a skill to have. I tend to over-think things and I have so many interests that choosing one path to follow is not easy. But I will get there – one day soon I hope.