Today marks one year since I last went ‘to work’. At the time I was working in the café of my local Community Centre and also covering Duty Manager shifts on an ad hoc basis.
My very last shift was a Tuesday evening and I was acting as a Duty Manager, overseeing the last few groups who were using the centre before the lockdown came in to force. A normal Tuesday would have been very busy, with lots of groups coming and going and rooms waiting to be set up for the following day. This particular night, the fear caused by the pandemic had already taken hold and there was only one group in all evening plus a dance teacher who came to collect the things that she would need for virtual lessons.
As I locked the doors that night, I remember feeling very emotional. Nobody knew when the centre would be allowed to re-open again or whether we would even have jobs to go back to. At this point, the governments furlough scheme hadn’t been announced.
For the next few months, the other people I worked with and I were left in a sort of limbo. We were all furloughed and there were promises that we would all have jobs to go back to when the centre re-opened; which would be as soon as possible. By August, however, we knew that this would not be the case. Along with the rest of the café staff, I was made redundant.
Redundancy isn’t nice at the best of times. Redundancy in the middle of a global pandemic was terrifying. Jobs were few and far between and most of them had hours which would have been impossible to work around the children while childcare options were so restricted. So, I started looking for jobs which could be done remotely.
That’s how I stumbled in to writing. An application which I submitted on a whim to a company I saw on Indeed led to a sample piece. I wasn’t chosen for the position due to a lack of experience – I had literally none – but they recommended that I should start writing a blog and gave me the confidence to put myself out there.
I have always enjoyed writing. As a child, I was never without a notebook or half-written story of some kind. But, in all honesty, it had never really occurred to me that people might actually be willing to pay me to write for them. After all, I just scribbled the random thoughts that popped in to my head, I wasn’t a trained professional. Those kind comments from the first writing job I applied for lit a spark inside me which re-ignited my love of words.
Since that first application, there have been dozens of others which have led to all sorts of wonderful things. I took on a 3-month internship writing current news and industry articles, I have conducted my first interviews which were terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure, I have published dozens of blogs on this platform reaching over 2,500 people in less than 6 months with no real promotion; as well gaining regular blogging slots for an e-commerce website. As I write this, I have just been published in a magazine for the very first time, which is something that feels a little bit like a dream.
A year ago, I never would have imagined that life would bring me to where I am now. Even six months ago it would have been pretty unbelievable. But, here I am. I miss the ladies I worked with every day and we keep in contact over WhatsApp. I miss the laughs and jokes in the kitchen as we made cheese scones and I miss the sense of solidarity that being part of a team gave me. I also miss the regular customer who would come in and have a chat; I wonder sometimes how the last year has been for them.
Working for myself can be scary at times as there is nobody that I can ask for help. But, at the same time, I can’t say that I am sad to find myself where I am now. I love writing and it gives me a sense of achievement which I never would have found in a kitchen. I enjoy being my own boss and being able to choose my own hours, even if those hours sometimes have to wait until the rest of the house is asleep. There is something peaceful about typing away surrounded by silence. I feel as though I have finally found a piece of myself which I hadn’t even realised was missing.
A final note for my wonderful café ladies, I love you all and I can’t wait until we are all allowed to sit in a beer garden together again.