I’ve always had a plan. I’ve always known where I was going and pretty much how I was going to get there. And although my plan has changed a fair few times, I guess I’m lucky that I’ve been able to stay in control of most of it in the past few years. I changed career , I got into my Masters, I moved to Bristol. I wasn’t prepared for things to suddenly not go to plan at all.
The plan was I’d move to Bristol, do my masters and work alongside it. I got a job with an education agency who promised me teaching assistant work. I enjoyed my summer holidays, my first as someone working in education. I had 2 weeks unpaid leave, but that was OK. I’d have work soon. Then the first week of September rolled around, schools went back but I did not go back to work. For two further weeks I phoned the agency at 7am every morning and then waited whilst my phone stayed silent. And then I struck lucky, I got a temporary role as a school receptionist. It wasn’t being a teaching assistant but it paid and was in a school. But I knew it couldn’t be forever, and half term came and went, also unpaid, and then I only had 3 days more work. And I started to get worried.
I’ve applied for a lot of jobs since the first week of September. For the first time in my life, and I know I have thus far been lucky, I have not got interviews for most of the roles I have applied for. Closing dates went, reply dates passed and one by one hopes were lost. It has been my Masters work which has suffered most, I want so much to do well but Maslow was definitely right with his hierarchy of needs, and it is difficult to focus on academic work when you are completely financially unstable. My mental health has suffered too, I am highly anxious. All I can do is worry and avoid those little responsibilities which seem so pale in comparison to being unemployed.
Faced with having to pay my rent and spending so many days without pay, desperation set in. The jobs I applied for became less and less to do with teaching. And finally I got an interview. For Tesco. The place of my first proper job and also my least favourite. Desperate times really do call for desperate measures. So now I have a job picking online orders for 12, extremely early morning hours a week until the new year. It feels like a step backwards, but it feels wrong to be thinking that. I got a job, it might not pay my rent initially but of course it’s a start.
Eventually a new plan formed, as plans tend to do. I will go against what I said and get a Professional and Career Development Loan, just as soon as they believe that I am on a valid course (but that is another story). Uni have loaned me the money for this month’s rent so it’s all a little bit less dire than it was. I have a casual job washing up plates and tea cups at a vintage fair once every couple of months. I sold my old phone. I am working on funding the contribution I need to make towards the laptop Disabled Student’s Allowance has deemed I can have to make uni life with dyspraxia a little bit easier.
It might be vulgar to speak about money, but I wish people did it more. I had no idea that as a part time student I’d be eligible for no help at all from benefits, and that agency work was so unstable. The government Postgraduate loan is fantastic for paying fees but very little help beyond that. Life gets frustrating when every job requires a driving licence but you had to give up learning because you took a minimum wage job to secure a different future for yourself. Life is frustrating.
Things will be ok. I will eventually find a job. Or 5 jobs. Literally whatever it takes to keep me afloat. I have not failed, I’ve simply hit quite a large bump in the road. But I am working towards my dream career and I have a new plan. Not the one I originally made, but resilience is being able to live with change. I have lovely friends, an excellent partner and I am surviving. And sometimes that is all you can do.