During my daily procrastination scroll of Facebook, I came across a meme that left me feeling more self aware than I have in years.
A mid-twenty something who prefers being at home with a blanket and Netflix than out partying.
At the time, I chuckled and sent it on to my friend who wholeheartedly agreed with me and I thought I had put it to rest. I spoke to my Dad about it a week later, and with a slight chuckle he reminded me that my 25th birthday was around the corner and that, while I was about to be hit with my quarter life crisis, not to resign myself to a settled life of a grandma with knitting needles. Even as an adult, I hate admitting my parents are right.
I have always had a habit of being annoyingly organised. I have followed a five year plan since the age of 13; If I studied X,Y & Z GCSEs that would open up the next stage to ideal universities, If i started saving now in five years I’ll have that, or if I put in that extra shift, I’ll be considered for the next promotion which will look good on my CV.
The first time I deviated away from my plan was just before I went to university. I was ready to study Speech and Language Therapy at Bath University with my boyfriend of two years when, on a date, he suggested we wouldn’t need new friends because we had each other. Feeling the constricting chill of young commitment, I broke up with him on the spot, leaving him crying into a steak and changed my UCAS application to London to study film. My family despaired at my change of heart, but out of that came a calming power of empowerment, something I’d come to crave.
I stumbled into my career. It’s a ugly sentiment, but underfunding for degrees in media and the arts meant that more often or not you were taught out of date techniques by people who hadn’t quite made it to take you into a world dominated by pre-existing professional relationships. What you’re not told is that if you are lucky enough to land some responsibility in a junior role, you do everything you can to ensure you make yourself indispensable, even if it is doing something you don’t enjoy.
When I graduated, my hard work paid off. I was snapped up for work and quickly progressed to being a production manager. I briefly basked in the comfort of success, but as quickly as it arrived, realisation snuck in. There was no going back to university, no more exams to preoccupy my time studying for and in reality, I was now on the working path until God knows when. The rush of a promotion was quickly overthrown with a nail biting anxiety that this was it. That isn’t to say I lost any love for my job; I thrive in a production environment. I love spreadsheets and planning, but the promotion had overtaken my current five year plan and suddenly I didn’t have another aim. I wouldn’t be looking at another step up for at least ten years, and even if I did would I still want to be in production?
Usually, it is hard to break out of a box that you’ve put yourself into (much like typecast actors) however, job roles are always evolving and demanding more from each employee. You can’t just be a producer, you need to have archive expertise, experience in direct client engagement, Avid and Premiere and if you could also direct and have a full budget skill set then that would be ideal. I was taught how to use Final Cut Pro at university, something that is now as archaic as using Limewire and completely unhelpful in any editing roles that the current climate offers, which begs the question, if I’d like to move into producing as opposed to production management how can I compete with those who have been doing it for years and are ready to potentially undercut me at any opportunity? I have transferable skills but taking a salary cut to be a junior again isn’t an avenue I’d like to explore. I created a matrix of potential crossroads I’d need to explore over the next ten years of my life that would impact my future decisions, personally and professionally.
I crave the freedom that comes with financial stability, regardless of how limited that is once you’ve paid your heart and lungs for rent and travel within London. I enjoy that I can afford to eat out once in a while or go on a holiday twice a year without having to count every single penny that comes in and out of my bank account. My other half is a freelancer, meaning that regardless of our situation, we are always covered by my salary, which I know for many people around the country is a safety blanket that isn’t available to all. In reality, if I ever choose to make a drastic career change, I know that I would sacrifice my salary, something that I’m unwilling to lose when I’ve only just adjusted to the security of having it.
The Baby Factor
While it won’t be a concern to everyone, planning to have a family is one of my considerations for the not so distant future. In reality, I’m at a comfortable level in my career that I could choose to put my life on pause to tread into the mad world of motherhood, however the weighing scale of pros and cons jolts from one side to the other on a daily basis. It isn’t just the year of maternity that would be an adjustment, I still feel the need to consider the impact on my ability to merge my professional and personal life.. If your children are sick, you need to look after them; it’s school plays and afternoon pick ups and all the other small parts that come along with the role of mum that seem nearly impossible to imagine alongside the intensity of my career right now. I wish I could say that every media company has the same mindset of Netflix with their generous annual leave allowances, but the reality is that I had to argue with HR for months about getting additional ‘volunteering’ leave because of how much annual leave I was losing to being a Scout leader, how could I go about arguing my working times may have to shift to accommodate another element in my life? I’ll let you and the patriarchal values of the industry decide that.
Fear of Missing Out is potentially one of the crucial killers for most of my decisions. Can I have my cake and eat it too? Can’t I just enjoy what i’m doing as opposed to seeking out the next step in my new five year plan? Why didn’t I go travelling straight out of university? Why am I not getting married? Why am I not in mind for that new brief at work? Why am I not allowed to send an email without twenty people “sense checking” it? I feel out of control now that I’ve hit a milestone in my own estimations, and yet out of all the options I don’t know which way to proceed.
There are worse situations to be in (I’m not so detached not to realise that) however my dad was right. I’m currently in my mid twenties, still early in what will hopefully be a long and successful career, and yet all I can think of is when I am going to be able to progress. I have yet to find the joy in the present…Maybe the first step is finally deleting Facebook and spending my time not trying to define myself by my past and future and to just enjoy now.