I don’t have a job. I work – and I work hard – but I don’t have ‘a job’. And I love my work. Not every single ball-aching aspect of it, but on the whole, and in the ways that matter – I honestly love it.
Why do I love it? I could be earning a lot more. I could have a wardrobe full of power suits. I could be clawing my way up the scratching post of ‘career progression’. I could be preparing to sell my granny in order to climb one notch higher on the hierarchy of corporate self-importance.
But I’m not.
It’s not that I lack ambition, or confidence, or ability, or vision, or any of the other buzz words which make someone sound like they’re really (ahem) “going places”. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m extremely ambitious. I’ve put absolute faith in my ability to seek out my own opportunities. I’ve taken risks and rolled the dice so many times – perhaps a career as a professional gambler is one which I’ve overlooked. Hmmm…
But I honestly love what I do. It sounds so doused in saccharine that you’d be forgiven for asking to be excused from the table. I’ve contemplated what I love about what I do, and I’ve come up with the following: it matters. It matters to me. A great deal, in fact.
I work in the Third Sector. Half of my week is spent running and managing a project for those who are out of work up at The Centre at Threeways in North Halifax. We exist on fresh air. I had a glamorous office for months which was a box room opposite the gents toilets. I was then moved to one which had a permanent leak – a lonely old mug sat in the corner of the room pathetically trying to collect drips. It failed miserably as I squelched my way daily across the floor.
We scrat around for paper to refill the printer. Some days (many days) we don’t have any tea bags to make a brew. When we do, more often than not, we’re then missing the milk. The washing up gets done by whoever is standing closest to the sink when we’ve no options left as we’ve run out of cups. I love the fact that we can survive like this: it’s because we’ve learned how to. We can all develop skills that way – how not to be wasteful; how to eek out the skeletal resources we do have; and how to be grateful for even those.
Of course, there are the guys themselves (I use the term ‘guys’ generically, but as it happens 95% of those on our programme are males anyway). They turn up on Day 1 and they expect to hate it, and to hate us – being so used to the endless merry-go-round of ‘training programmes’ and ‘support services’ they’re shoehorned into by The System, regardless of their own individual needs, circumstances or requirements.
And then they see us – and they realise that they are actually no different from us; we are no different from them. They have skills, they have talent (often ridiculous amounts) – they have worth. Yes! Eureka moment! They actually realise they are worth something. That is why I love my work. To see people discover that IN SPITE of everything, they are WORTH something. That is what we have in common. They don’t know it, but I had to discover that for myself too.
And so, my work isn’t ‘a job’ to me. It’s something which challenges me, which makes me face any number of emotions from one day to the next, and which fulfills me.
Some particular highlights from the magical guys who walk through our doors are:
The Gift of Pizza: a group of our lads were asked if they would join in with a cooking course on site to help make up the numbers. They had their reservations (they’re more familiar with the School of Hard Knocks than Catering College) but to help us out, they mucked in. They made pizzas – really bloody good ones in fact – and just before I left the office, one of them came up to me and said “Rachel. Take this home for your tea.” I did, and it didn’t last the journey home.
The Christmas Card ‘With Enclosure’: a Christmas card was left for me on the desk in the main admin office. I recognised the writing (it was from one of the guys on the Volunteer Plus course.) Anyone could see there was something in it. It looked strangely – and embarrassingly – like a packet of condoms. I did have some reservations on opening the card (and I received a suitable amount of ribbing – excuse the pun – from the likes of Mr Walsh.) However, I breathed a sigh of relief when 3 Maoam sweets fell out of the card. Phew!
I’m a Cadbury girl myself, but I’ll take a Maoam if one is on offer (any day over a condom packet, in fact.)