March 2020 was set to be a big month. It marked the culmination of 12 months of work to set up two events, which in turn were due to launch a global touring platform for a company I was contracted to. Then came COVID-19 and, at the eleventh hour, with all infrastructure, personnel and expenditure in place, it was cancelled.
Shit happens. Then I had to find my way back from the other side of the world. In one swoop I was reconciled with my enormous privilege and obvious fragility.
CV-19 may have been meant to remind us of our mortality, instead it is showing many of us that we have no job security. For the last 15 years I’ve been used to working on short term contracts, knowing always that my grasp on the next pay cheque is only as strong as my last piece of work or my relationships with those who control the labour and the wage. The irony is that some of the steps you take to cushion the slack periods, the yawning chasms between jobs, are now the very things that prevent you getting government assistance. Aside from child benefit I’ve claimed no official funds in over 35 years, it feels strange to suddenly need them, even if that’s what they’re meant to be for.
I’ve always known that my work is inessential. No-one died through not being able to attend a concert, indeed some may have been infected through doing so. Few have benefitted from hearing my ads on the radio. No-one is saved by my scribble. My creative input is ephemeral. Most of the things I do could be done by anyone else. Being reminded of it is no fun though.
For many of the last few months I have been traumatised by the pressures of work. If not the work itself then the superficial smokescreen of having to be seen to have done something, to have had an input even if none was required. It has tried my patience and tested my resolve in a way I could not remember before. I was actively seeking an exit route, a path to less responsibility, where the job requirements were simple and you could ‘clock in and out’ in specific hours, without worrying about the work all of the time. I was trying to find my transferrable skillset and embellish my achievements and qualifications, whilst being desirous of some simple tasks with recognised end-results. I could see that some of these things were simultaneously out of my reach and below my means. CV-19 has abruptly provided an unnatural end, forced my hand.
Many of us crave the prospect of retiring but few want to be forcibly retired. A lot of us find a purpose in work, that meaning and recognition may have been what’s been missing of late. I don’t know that it’ll ever return. Can things be the same again, is that what we really want?