Other than when I’m contemplating cheating at Scrabble, I’m a stickler for fairness.
Dividing food, sharing housework or agreeing terms, something in me hardens when I feel that people aren’t being fair. Even the thought of it causes a brittle tightness in my chest and a stiff clenching of my jaw.
My particular frustration is the thought of someone trying to take advantage of me (or another). How dare they? Really. How dare they? I get caught up in the principle and my ego balks at the idea that I just let it pass. Which I generally do. Which makes me even angrier because then I don’t feel I’m standing up for myself.
It’s a charmless dance.
Recently I had some good news. Brilliant, you think. Good news is always good. Unless, of course, it’s marred by the pain of injustice. Upon which it becomes very bad news.
What I felt was a good deal for me became the WORST DEAL EVER, because I found out that someone had been given better terms.
My pleasure disappeared. My excitement dulled. What had been a success suddenly became a failure.
And to make it worse, this was the moment that my beloved boyfriend decided to use one of my quotes in an entirely loving and rational way against me. Why was I letting myself feel so miserable? Wasn’t I always suggesting that
“Comparison is the thief of joy”?
He’s right. I do often quote that. And the reminder was timely.
Someone will always be given better terms. Unless we operate in a vacuum, there will always be a someone with a better or worse deal than us. There are times when we absolutely MUST stand up for equality, but these are different to the times when we churlishly refuse to feel pleasure because someone else has more.
Not so joyful.
So I’m back to focusing on excitement (yay!) and leaving my cries of injustice to the super important moments, like when someone tries to take the bigger slice of cake.
Do you ever feel the same? Let me know in the comments below.
I loved reading your responses to the recent Make Me Joyful questionnaire, but one comment that kept coming up made me a little uncomfortable. No, not a pained request to stop making bad jokes or mentioning cats. Worse.
You kept asking about my career history.
Being joyful at work is a huge issue for all of us and it’s something I’m planning to investigate more on the blog, but in the meantime I realised I have been a little cagey about my checkered employment past. Which isn’t to say that I’m hiding dark secrets about being dismissed for pilfering pens from the stationery store (I haven’t) but rather, it just hasn’t been the linear path that I thought it would be.
And for a while that was very difficult for me to deal with.
Growing up I doubted whether I would ever find a boyfriend, understand how to tame my unruly curls or discover a better way to spend an evening than watching Dawson’s Creek with a tub of ice-cream, but I never doubted that I would have a glittering career.
I wasn’t sure what it would be, but I knew that I would be ‘a success’ and I would ‘make lots of money’ and I would probably be a lot like Melanie Griffiths in Working Girl but with slightly less hairspray. I would be driven, ambitious and at the top of my game. I would own a briefcase.
But it hasn’t quite worked out like that.
I realise now that my we don’t have to be defined by what we do and that ambition isn’t only for those in power-suits. Success has many guises. It is also always moving. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, here is my CV to date.
1. First Job
Waitress extraordinaire at Dot’s tearooms in the picturesque village of Coxwold. I was 10 and it paid £2/hr + tips. Sadly the service charge culture hadn’t reached the North at this stage. If you found 20 pence under a saucer that was a good day. Dot watched black and white films on a tiny TV whilst buttering bread and teapots teetered on the Aga to warm before filling. The best part was the supper at the end of the shift. A sandwich of our choice and a slice of cake. Though not the date and walnut. We were never allowed the date and walnut.
2. The ‘I’ll try anything’ period
I loved earning my own money and so having a job was really important to me. If only I’d invested my earnings more prudently rather than indulging my whim for overpriced make-up and anti-ageing creams (I started early) from posh department stores. Ah well.
During the school and university period I was: a pot washer, babysitter, profiterole maker for the local pub, waitress (lots), barmaid, double-glazing seller (I lasted 20 minutes. Cold calling made me cry) check-out girl, hostess at the local nightclub (I stopped when I started getting jittery from all the Red Bull to stay awake during my classes), gift-shop girl, greeting card maker (making a profit of approximately 0.00001p per card) and deli-counter server at our local Co-op (I hid in the back any time my beloved English teacher came in because I didn’t want him to see me wearing a hairnet).
It was an eclectic mix.
3. Finally, a career
The moment I’d been waiting for. A proper job and a reason to buy a suit. I joined a magic circle law firm, Linklaters, and I started on the path that would lead me to career greatness and huge wealth.
Except that I didn’t like it.
But I didn’t let that stop me. I feigned enthusiasm and I got stuck in. As I’ve often mentioned, I was miserable during this period. I was in the wrong job, wrong relationship and I was grappling with misery and angst from years of ‘putting brave face on it’ (and maybe PTSD after having to wear a hairnet in Co-op). I was still incredibly ambitious yet I knew that I would never be the best lawyer in the world because I didn’t have any passion for the subject. My idealistic self believed that if I could succeed in a job I disliked then I could take over the world if I found a job I loved. The financial melt-down started and I took voluntary redundancy. Time to find that passion.
4. Channelling Jennifer Lopez
So what do you do when you leave your job as a lawyer? You become a Wedding Planner of course. After helping a friend plan her big day I decided that my passion lay in all things flowers, stationery and organisation so I started Make Me Joyful as a wedding styling business.
I went to networking events, created logos and got clients. I dealt with wedding-crashers, venues with no heat and flirtatious photographers. I wasn’t so good at the charging part (“oh don’t worry about payment, I’m just happy to help”) but I loved what I was doing. And then I didn’t. One morning I woke up and I couldn’t bear to look at anything wedding related. Nothing. So I stopped.
This was a low point. It seemed that I hadn’t found my passion after all. I had a half-built website and a cupboard full of business cards but I couldn’t make my self carry on. Melanie Griffiths I was not.
5. The ‘I’ll try anything’ period. Again.
So now I was back on the hunt for my passion, and also a salary. I tutored the children of wealthy parents, including a stint in Greece where I was picked up from the airport in a helicopter. Piloted by the mother. I tried not to think of the Kennedy’s. I helped a couple of friends in their businesses and I spent a lot of time feeling like a failure and telling people that, no, I wasn’t a wedding planner anymore.
Finally, the need for structure and a proper income led me to temping. I started work as a PA in a finance firm and I stayed there for 2 years. I hated the fact that I was a lawyer (Cambridge educated no less!) and I was now booking taxis and making tea. I tried to avoid telling people what I did and yet felt thoroughly ashamed at myself for caring. It was time to get to grips with my ego.
It was during this time that I had the stability and the peace of mind to really get to decide what I wanted from life. I finally accepted that my self worth didn’t depend on a job title or super salary. After a lot of thinking and not much doing, I started Make Me Joyful in its current form and began to understand what I want from a career. Hoorah!
6. And now.
Things are still in flux. But in an exciting and (mostly) unscary way. After cross-stitching ‘Interview Me!’ and sending my (chequered) CV to a craft-course start-up, I have a new role. Sort-of. Over the summer I’ve been working for less money that I got at the deli-counter in Co-op but the plan is that this will turn into a proper position. I’ll be in charge of making people happy. Staff and customers alike and I’ll also be doing lots of writing. It’s the perfect chance to trial my joyful ideas in a business setting. As well as giving me the space to develop Make Me Joyful. I’ve finally discovered where my talents and my interests intersect and I’m excited to experiment with new ideas to inspire and delight. Well, that’s the plan.
I know that for many of you, finding a career that makes you joyful is one of your biggest challenges. I understand. But it is doable. It may be that your current role is right, but you just need to bring more joy to the day-to-day details. Or maybe you need to take a different path and change things entirely. Wherever you are, it is all possible.
Feeling unsure? Leave a comment and we can chat it over.
Did anyone else celebrate unbirthdays when they were growing up?
Luckily for me, my dad was a big believer in the concept so on my sister’s birthday I’d get a small present and vice-versa. Well done Dad.
And now it’s my turn to wish you all a very merry (belated) unbirthday as yesterday I turned 32. Hoorah.
So today’s Random Act of Joy had to be birthday related and nothing says: “Congratulations you’re a year older, maybe now might be the time to get consistent with the eye-cream application” like birthday cake. Well, birthday brownies, as I’m seizing any opportunity to perfect the ultimate recipe for the long overdue brownie-off that my boyfriend and I have been plotting since our first date. Which was a year ago.*
My original plan was to take the brownies to the streets and hand them out in the manner of the great cookie giveaway. But then it started to rain. Londoners are a suspicious bunch when it comes to accepting gifts from strangers. Add wet weather and you’re looking at a long afternoon with wet feet, misty tupperware and soggy baked goods. Time to think again.
Luckily my lovely friend Amy (she who kindly took the picture above) suggested I visit a local community centre, the Claremont Project, where she is learning to jive, waltz and foxtrot. After phoning to check that they’d accept unsolicited baked goods, I hopped on my bike and delivered them.
And it was so much better than taking them to the streets. I handed out brownies to the pensioners’ coffee morning group, the arts and crafters and finally the creative writing class.
It was such a pleasure to see such a vibrant and well used space. Particularly when I realised how much the centre does with so few resources. The perfect place for some birthday joy.