Dead Ends and New Beginnings


Suggested Audio Jukebox:

[1] Pink Floyd “Another Brick In The Wall”
[2] Dolly Parton “Nine To Five”
[3] LNR “Work It To The Bone”
[4] Cloud Nine “Mindbomb”



If you had asked me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, then I’m fairly assured that it would have entailed horror movies. While others in my class had grand designs on becoming marine-biologists, firefighters, and astronauts when they left school, my aspirations were of a far different variety. Having been exposed to the genre at a young age, I promptly became fascinated with the macabre, and knew that this would become a lifelong allegiance. Neither literacy or numeracy posed a problem, but I found curriculum woefully uninspiring and spent the majority of my scholarship grossly under-achieving. Should I have donated the same level of enthusiasm to my studies as I did writing short stories in my own time, then perhaps I would have been the straight-A student initially projected. Instead, my parting grades were fairly insipid and it appeared as though I had squandered any hopes of realizing my dreams.


We’re expected to have it all figured out by the time our primary education concludes and this is a bone of contention for many of us, myself included. I was literally none the wiser, spat back out into the wider community with lackluster qualifications, and nothing whatsoever resembling a master plan. Both my parents had high hopes for me and this provided additional pressure as I knew I had to shape-up fast or risk becoming a crushing disappointment to them. Further education appeared to offer the lifeline I required and bought me valuable time to reevaluate my life goals. Being a late developer, the first year involved me finally growing into my skin and reinventing myself for my fresh cohort, whilst doing the bare minimum required to obtain passing grades. Next on the agenda was higher education and I opted for a two-year course in Business & Finance for reasons still unbeknownst to me to this day. To my credit, I made it to the halfway point before it dawned on me that compressing my testicles between two house bricks presented a more appealing option.


A swift rethink was on the cards and a diploma in Media seemed far more beneficial so I chalked the past twelve months down to experience and devoted the next twenty-four to obtaining my diploma. To begin with, I felt right at home alongside fellow film aficionados and, when quizzed on my favorite all-time movie during our first ice breaker, name dropped David Lynch’s blackened delight Eraserhead just to appear edgy and mysterious. Was Eraserhead my numero uno? Hell no, not even vaguely close. But it earned me the instant respect of my peers and that was job done as far as I was concerned. Over the course of the next two years, I gradually discovered that many of them were pompous assholes, and also took great exception to the profession I was looking to devote myself to. Journalism had been my angle at the offset but the tabloid press infuriated me in the extreme and, while I received my shiny certificate upon competition, it was at the expense of any desire to do anything with it.


I was now no longer a teenager and had exhausted any options for further education so the time had come to search for full-time employment. I was pretty fortunate here as a job in Medical Recruitment pretty much fell in my lap within a month of obtaining my diploma and, to start with, it all went rather swimmingly. My monthly salary comprised 100% commission and this made for something of a pressure-cooker environment as it was pretty much each to their own. This suited me down to the ground as I had no real outgoings to sweat over and, in no time, I became the agency’s leading consultant. Things were now decidedly on the up and the money came rolling in accordingly. That said, it just felt a little soulless. Given that I was responsible for the staffing of critical roles within the most distinguished hospitals in the country, you would expect a degree of personal gratification to be gleaned. Not the case, numbers overrode integrity and it was all a little too dog eat dog for my liking so I jacked it in while at the top of my game.


I had learned a valuable lesson as being cooped up in a stifling pig pen juggling three phones in unison was evidently not my calling. Thus a career in retail seemed like the way to go as it would make far better use of my people skills and on a face-to-face basis. My destination was an independent men’s fashion outlet in the largest shopping center in the U.K. and it proved an effortless transition as hitting targets was something I had first-hand experience in. That said, it turned out to be just as cut-throat an environment. Should a customer be searching for a pair of denims, then staff were “encouraged” to suggest an entire outfit and milk them for all they were worth. Within fifteen seconds of their arrival, we would be expected to have commenced our assault and failure to maximize each sale was severely frowned upon. Just my fucking luck, I had chosen the most unscrupulous menswear store in existence and, while unsuspecting victims were indeed rinsed for every dime they had, repeat visits were pretty damn seldom.


Jumping ship seemed like the shrewd move and, when a management position presented itself at a nearby game retailer, I did precisely that. For the record, the store went into liquidation soon afterwards, proving that short-term gain isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. What followed was a decade long stint running my own ship, albeit under the constant scrutiny of my company director. To be fair, I can have no complaints here as I rather enjoyed my tenure, and my associates were a colorful bunch that were never less than endearing. However, with my mid-thirties now looming large, I started to question my future prospects. Surely this wasn’t my destiny, swiping in at a job that didn’t challenge me in the slightest, while working all the unsociable hours that came with the territory. Something had to give and it needed to be a drastic change from retail as this profession felt well and truly exhausted by this point. That’s when it hit me, it was high time I gave something back to the community.


I’m not sure what it is about the thirty-somethings that makes us feel the need to donate ourselves to the greater good as it wasn’t like I had spent the last fifteen years being an utter bastard. I think I just wanted to make a difference in some small way as I wasn’t getting any younger and performing mundane tasks that a well-versed chimpanzee could master was starting to feel increasingly wasteful. Thus, a future in youth work felt like the way to go and I entered into my new vocation with all guns blazing, intent on applying all my life experience into empowering the youth of tomorrow to follow their dreams. After acing the entry qualification, I landed myself a full-time role as Curriculum Lead in Arts & Media for my local council and this afforded me the chance to use my passion for film to spread some good old-fashioned positivity. Specifically targeting areas of deprivation for special treatment, I rolled up my sleeves, and the initial results were way beyond encouraging. In my first year, I managed to fund a $50k programme with a partnering agency which culminated in a full-length feature designed as a learning tool for schools in the wider community and this left me feeling buoyant and revitalized.


Alas, worldwide recession is a bitch with a sneak attack, and the whole game changed in an instant. With funding no longer obtainable and the inevitable cuts relieving many of my colleagues of their positions, it all turned awry in a heartbeat and any goals were soundly compromised by endless reams of red tape and repeated rejection. Every day I felt a little more of my soul diminish and eventually work-related stress came a knocking. Over the next two years, I became more and more disillusioned and my stress accelerated into the dreaded depression. My intentions were still honorable but being the government’s bitch was no longer quite as attractive a proposition, while the long-suffering youth had lost any faith they had in the system and I made them right in their calculation. Push then came to shove and I revealed to an associate known for her loose lips that I engaged in smoking weed during my downtime, knowing full well that news would soon travel back to the powers that be. It did exactly that and, after a painfully protracted six-month investigation, I was finally relieved of my duties.


However, this time was different. I had never once been out of work since my first day in full-time employment and had no desire whatsoever to rejoin the rat race once again. With my once happy marriage coming to a swift unforeseen end, I retreated back to my childhood home with my tail between my legs and barely two cents to rub together. Needless to say, it was suggested that I should get back on the horse, and I soon landed myself a managerial role in the devil I knew – retail – just to keep up appearances and tow the line. This proved the final straw as my heart couldn’t have been less in it and I had already expressed my desire to follow the dreams I had way back as a pre-pubescent. With my writing now opening doors and also supplying the therapy I desperately needed to remain topside, I devoted less than 10% of my available gusto into doing the job asked of me and, within three months, was signed off with work-related stress ironically. This time the judgement was far more decisive, and my contract promptly terminated. I’d never felt so relieved.


While I haven’t worked a solitary day since late 2013 in a paid capacity, I’ve devoted an average of twelve hours daily to the one thing I’m truly passionate about and learned more in the past two years than the previous twenty combined. The difference now is that I actually have a desire to better myself and no longer feel obliged to meet bare minimum requirements in order to tread water. Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing as lack of funds was a huge bone of contention until my divorce settlement finalized and I was forced to take the none-too desirable step of claiming benefits as a means to an end. This was more soul-destroying than anything else as the government are reluctant to shell out unless you jump through their numerous hoops. This appealed about as much as masticating broken glass and, after two excruciating months of being made to feel like less than zero, I resigned myself to falling through the cracks of their database and stopped the rot before it finished me off once and for all.


So what have I actually learned from my exploits? Firstly, that I am a creative soul and not destined to commit myself to a cause I have no faith in. Let me make this abundantly clear, I do not recommend taking the extreme measures I have as the past three years have been anything but a picnic and have entailed hardships that threatened my mental well-being on occasions too numerous to list. But the upside for me has been in truly mastering my craft and taking momentous pride in something for the first time since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. Opportunities are hard to come by in my chosen field and the road ahead is far from clear at this point as I still haven’t found a bona fide way to fund my passion. That said, dedication is never an issue and I believe it will pay dividends in the long run if I continue to apply myself as I have so consistently since my life turned on a nickel. Which brings us conveniently back to the question posed many years ago: what do you wish to be when you grow up? The answer is the same now as it was back then. I wish to be in horror movies. Say what you will, but I’m nothing if not consistent.


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