Former Eastenders actor Katie Jarvis works in B&M. Is this news? No. But the Daily Star ran this as its front page story on Sunday 20th October. Why? Because it’s not something you’d expect is it, from a national TV actor? B&M? The shame.
The shame indeed. Shame on the Daily Star for publishing this story as if there’s something interesting about how one makes ends meet. That somehow Jarvis is a failure, having to work outside of her dream to earn money between acting jobs. As if it’s the opposite to the success she “should” be experiencing. As if it’s proof she’s not good enough. As if we should all be condemning her choice to take an acting break yet still want to earn an income while raising her children.
This didn’t just irk me because it’s an infuriating example of this country’s gutter press. It hit a nerve because I have a part time job that has nothing to do with my career as a writer, likely something the Daily Star would take umbrage with.
The decision to go freelance was easy, because up until that point I’d been in a job I didn’t enjoy, and through which I’d developed a fairly substantial repetitive strain injury. I knew something had to change, yet I was physically incapacitated. But the notion of throwing myself into freelancing full time was incomprehensible, let alone against the advice of my physiotherapist. So I took a different kind of job.
There I was, a 30-year-old woman who wanted to call herself a journalist but started working in a cafe kitchen (serving up the best eggs in south London.) It’s hard not to define your identity by your career, and so the feelings I had in those early months were of failure, like I was going backwards somehow. Why am I cooking when I should be writing? The answer was simple and frustrating – I couldn’t yet, but I would.
Anyone I told would say, “that’s a great idea”, “that is so you!”, or “I’d love to do something like that”. And soon those internalised feelings of not being a “proper” freelancer started to diminish as I looked upon my situation from another perspective. I realised there are so many good points to this approach, and it is far from shameful.
It gets me out of the house – the perfect antidote to the solitude of freelance life. It’s helped me regain my strength post-injury as I use my body in more dynamic ways. I get to feed people and bake cakes – two of my favourite things to do. I meet lots of lovely local people and I make an effort to bring some joy to their day. I work with other freelancers, supporting themselves through career changes, quiet times, for a simple change of pace or during their establishment phase. It gives my thinking mind a break and allows creativity to flourish. And during quiet periods I read freelancing blogs, catch up on the news, and make notes on my phone for pitches I’ll send tomorrow. But really, who cares what I choose to do with my time and how I choose to earn my money?
In the end I can see it has been a good thing – physically, mentally, and economically. It’s taken the pressure off my recovering hands and allows me to earn money while taking my business at my own pace around aches and pains – one of the main reasons I went freelance. It is not something to be ashamed of. It’s not duplicitous or a matter of “pretending” you’re something that you’re not. Second jobs or in-between jobs are the reality for many and for the scrutiny of no one. Finding work and choosing stability over insecurity should be celebrated, no matter what it looks like. Now, back to that cake I was making…