A couple of months back my daughter, my twelve-year-old daughter, went off on one. Threw a benny. Actually laid into me right proper.
“Why are you here? You’re never here. You’re always working,” she screamed, scarily.
“Why are you here now? We don’t need you here. We manage without you. And even when you are here you’re never happy.”
“Well, I’m not happy, dad. You’re never about. And we can’t go on holiday together this year because of your stupid job. What is the point of you being a dad?”
She was right, and is right. I’ve always worked long hours, worked late - but I always tried to make weekends sacrosanct. I was now working every hour I could be awake, but at some point it would be worth it. The hope, eh.
I’d had to miss the kids’ trip to Euro Disney at Easter. And it’s looking like I was going to miss the summer holiday as well.
And now I had my daughter’s reality check. Working every hour I could be awake — and not getting much back.
(Ironically this episode was days after I put up a post called Doing My Own Thing: One Year On.)
Last week I was with my son on a school trip. He and his mates were talking.
“What does your dad do?” one of Nate’s mates asked.
Nate told them about how I design stuff, “making websites, using the internet and all sorts of neat devices”, and “he stands at the front of rooms to talk and people listen”, and he goes into some detail about a couple of things. And they all go “COOL!”
For a second I see my son is proud. I am the cool dad. I am the dad that does the things that make a difference.
But I remember what my daughter said. What’s the point in being a dad?
And then I remember something else: I don’t do the “cool stuff” that much. I do bits and pieces. I sure wouldn’t expect to do the “cool stuff” all the time. I was reminded that Doing My Own Thing doesn’t mean I Am Doing What I Want To Do. I am reminded again I am doing this, whatever it is I do because no-one (in the Leeds area) will take me on. I’m “too senior for this position” to “I cannot see how you’ll fit in”. (Or probably too shit or tainted or whatever.)
I’ve given it my all for the past year-and-a-bit, absolutely everything, taken to the brink. A fortnight back I talked to the business’s bank. I’d been working towards this the past year.
Last Tuesday I heard back from the bank, they wouldn’t support the business’s plan to grow. I’ve always known running something is hard, and when you’re the only director of a small business it would be harder still. It has been hard. But the plan was to get me some mental room, some time back.
And with that letter back I saw I would have to keep on as I have. It isn’t sustainable. And I decided that everything I’d given wasn’t worth it.
A couple of weeks back I was told about the outcomes of a report I had written for the NHS, the report had been used to do this and that. It felt good, so good. This is why I am doing my own thing, to have an effect on people – and being paid to do it.
The recent Amazon wishlist look up tool had an amazing response. I did it for nothing, albeit in my spare time. The more interesting stuff I seem to have done on that basis. It’s fun, it gets people’s attention, but it doesn’t lead to anything, it doesn’t pay the bills.
When people ask for me for a couple of hours “to go through something” I check what for, and usually say as a freelancer I charge for that. Most of the time the chat didn’t happen. (Anyone of the lunchtime natter posse, you’re cool. That’s what lunches are for.)
Over the past couple of months I’ve had a couple of tentative queries about full time roles, reminders I am at my best “in a bigger organisation”, etc. I haven’t taken them any further, but this is more than what happened when I left Home last year and Bloom the year before that. I haven’t taken the offers that seriously, “I’m doing my own thing”, remember.
But now I am: I will listen and look.
Late last week I decided that I’ll keep freelancing (as that’s what I basically do as the studio) in the short term (got some small stuff on, yo) but I’ll start looking around properly for something else full time. There’s some local stuff - maybe I’ll hit the same barriers as before, maybe not.
If I was some savvy American business person I’d say I was doing a pivot. But, I’m not that guy or gal. I’m just a refocusing on what I really want to do and what I really need to do. It seems a good time with the workflow, we’re in a plateau. We’re winding down “the studio”.
It is painful, it is very painful with everything I (and Michael) have put in, it is really painful with everything I (and Michael) have given up and gone without, and it is painful for other people as well.
I have done a lot the past year, I have grown, and developed even more, worked with some great people to do some great work, and survived. But I cannot keep on at this rate. I need to be a dad for my kids, and a husband for my long-suffering wife. I need a change for the change I need.
But also, as a family, we sat down and have decided something that we all want together: That I look further, that we look further. To Manchester. To London. To further than those even.
I hope as a person who believes in this area there is something. With my past employment experience here and knowledge of what there is I believe maybe. But with my recent experience I am not hopeful. And if there isn’t? As a family we all acknowledge if that thing out there for me, for us, is further we will go for it.
Boom, as the kids say.