Self Employment; Living The Dream?

Walking through Manchester City centre at 8.25 this morning I am confronted by my alternative path. Thousands of people pushing down the road in the opposite direction. Away from me. All different but all the same in one way. They’ve all got that same familiar look that betrays their thoughts, they all have a face of dis-ease. Hunched shoulders and purposeful, urgent marching they make their way towards their place. Dressed and distressed like professionals. Professional what in, I’m not sure. Perhaps professional widows. They’re all actors definitely. 

 Typical morning on Deansgate.
Typical morning on Deansgate.

 

Ill fitting shirts and blouses and treading carefully on tight shoes some shuffle forward and some lunge. Some even lurch not unlike zombies hearing the distant drone of human flesh nearby. Me, I’m wearing shorts, a white t shirt and my knock off Ray Bans. It could be my imagination but I can’t help but feel side glance every now and then from some of them. Anger and perhaps judgment at me not wearing the money making clobber that 95% of the rest of the city centre has on right now. I must look far too comfy to them. If we are music then they are jungle and I am Elevator.  As I meander to the dulcet tones of a generic backing track they are confronted by a cacophony of clanging beats and sharps sounds. 

 I firmly suspect it may be the dirt and rust that is holding my van together.
I firmly suspect it may be the dirt and rust that is holding my van together.

 

I dropped my van off for its MOT this morning. That’s why we’re walking in opposite directions and hear different music. It’s the reason I wear shorts and they don’t.  This is why I have the time, not just to passively see their faces but to actually observe what is in front of me. I am self employed. Writing it like this makes me sound like I have a ‘condition’. Perhaps I do. It’s certainly infectious. Since I have become self employed I have influenced a number of others who have also decided to follow my path. I’m not sure how much they still like me now to be honest.

 

When you’re self employed your boss can’t sack you, but the universe can. You have no one to answer to, except the constant nagging voice in your head that demands to know what you are doing to get more money, to improve and succeed. There are no shit employees you have to deal with and this is because you are alone. Days can go by and no one will talk to you. You can take any holidays you want whenever you want and these will be unpaid and each will start with the desperate realisation that with every passing second everything you have built diminishes. You are the master of your own destiny, as long as you don’t expect that destiny to involve getting a mortgage. You get the enviable task of informing people at parties and social gatherings that you run your own company, which invariably is met with admiration and trilling about how others wish they had the guts whilst your own guts seize with fear at the sheer uncertainty behind every move and decision you take.

 

The suit I chose not to wear now is still on me. At the end of the day however employed people take theirs off whereas my one is unremovable. I am ready at any time to work because I must be. In the words of those fierce New York queens – I don’t get ready, I stay ready. I start to ponder about how this is really just a constant state of emergency.  

 I have become really quite good at thinking on my feet and getting shit done regardless the situation.
I have become really quite good at thinking on my feet and getting shit done regardless the situation.

 

With this my phone rings. The van has failed it’s MOT and it will cost too much to repair it. It’s a write off.  My money maker has given up the ghost and I’ll have to work out how to finance another. This used to be the stage at which blind panic would take over me and consume the rest of my day. But for some reason over these past weeks and months I have become more aware. I’ve shifted more into the present and I know that somehow, some way, this will all work itself out. 

 All easier said than done, but so worthwhile striving to do.
All easier said than done, but so worthwhile striving to do.

I guess that is the thing, I don’t have the consistency of a guaranteed monthly wage but time teaches you that as long as you work hard, are willing to be reflective and make changes and never give up then good things happen. Unless you’re a cunt.

We Are All Ruled By Our Own Fears-Breaking The Cycle

We’re all ruled by our own fears. Perhaps arrogantly I have always thought that I was the exception to that statement. I navigated my way through some tricky moments when I was younger and came out the other side to go to university and gain loads of letters after my name for which the Student Loans company charged me handsomely. I’ve moved to other countries alone and set up a new life bungs of times, I’ve changed career without a second thought, and thrown myself into massive projects with huge financial implications should they go wrong and I’ve done it with all the gusto of Honey Booboo straight after a bottle of Special Juice.  Yes, my friends I truly have not given a fuck. Zero fucks here for fear.

 

I sound great don’t I?  No inhibitions. Free to be who I want to be-I am the tampon lady that roller skated with Dalmatians.  Remember her?  What the fuck was that all about?

 

Problem is of course, that I am not all of the things above. I have done all of the things above apart from insert a tampon and go dog skating, but there’s time yet for that. At the heart of the matter I will not be stopped, but the cost of forging ahead with what I do in life is high. 

 Sometimes I repeat this quote to myself. Less is more.
Sometimes I repeat this quote to myself. Less is more.

 

Rewind to 21 and I had many a post-it on my bedside table with affirmations on them incase, in fact no let’s just say when I woke up during the night panicking about whatever my panic du jour was. Key things I loved to panic about were;

  •  money
  • lack of money
  • guilt about not spending enough time with family
  • the future
  • the past
  • what career I should go into
  •  my health
  • my relationship

 With the exception of the last one of those, as I think about that list, I realise my fears are pretty much all the same that they were 15 years ago. Although I don’t have the affirmations by my bed anymore. I prefer to drink myself unconscious and hope for the best. I’ve really matured in that sense.

 

I am a multipotentialite, a polymath, or as Emma Gannon puts it, I follow the ‘multi hyphen method’. What this means in laymen terms is I have a variety of skills that I put to use in order to further my career. Or as Robyn says in her song ‘Cobrastyle’ I have ‘relentless determination in the quest to get paid’.

From the outside this looks like an online retro furniture store, pop up homeware shops, a blog, an interior design business and various collaborations across the board. On the inside, well just basically start reading this blog from the beginning.

So as I said, the cost is high. I always strive for better and more. But I heard the phrase by Pedro Almodóvar in the year 2000 “ it costs a lot to be authentic. And one can’t be stingy with these things because you are more authentic the more you resemble what you’ve dreamed of being.” Sometimes that cost is material and sometimes it is mental. More often than not the latter I find, but I don’t want to sit in the sidelines and watch time go by.

 

A childhood friend of mine. The person I first got drunk with, and whose wall I later decorated with my spew.  The same girl I sang my first karaoke song alongside, and who left me to sing the unreachable high note alone – I WILL NEVER FORGIVE THIS – is now contending with terminal cancer. She has shown magnanimous strength, courage I can’t even imagine and a sense of control that astounds me throughout. I can’t change her situation and I think every day about it, but I can change my outlook toward the life I have. It won’t change things at all for her but I hope that she sees the impact her strength has on others and that this in turn gives her some small comfort. 

None of us can change what has already happened but we can shape what we have of our futures. I want to find out exactly who I am, and it may take a lifetime to discover. I am more than likely going to have to add many more hyphens to my job title in the process and considerably more wrinkles to my face. Fear gets in the way every day, hundreds of times but you’ve got to feel the fear and make the choice to just do it anyways. It’s what Deanna does.

 

 

You can read about Deanna below, and donate from the same link.

https://uk.gofundme.com/deannawilson

Instagram. The Tragic Tale of Compare & Despair

A question I get asked time and time again is ‘how do I manage to remain so fabulous at all times yet still consistently produce outstanding design and also restore top end furniture – piece after piece after piece?’

 

Only kidding. Never been asked anything like it.

 

Instagram is a funny one isn’t it. I started with it back in the day when it was totally cool to filter the fuck out of anything you uploaded. The more crackling and vignette you could apply the better. If you could ram an over the top border on there then you were really playing your A game.  Of course back in these days I was a happy go lucky coffee drinker in hipster city centre bars, taking more than my fair share of arty shots of daisies in milk bottles etc etc. Every now and then my eyes would glance across my follower number and perhaps take in that it had gone up or down. I’m not even actually sure I did to be honest. I always noticed the amount of likes a picture would get, but I think that’s more down to a predisposed genetic reaction more than anything else.

 

 Curved edge?  Check! Vignette? Check! 
Curved edge?  Check! Vignette? Check! 

Fast forward 8 years and we are not in Kansas anymore people. In my instance my profession changed and I began to run my own company and so I started coming at it all from the new angle of ‘more followers could mean a stronger business in the long term’.  I feel like the whole game has kind of changed for everyone now though hasn’t it. From the interiors obsessed stay at home mum to the dangerously skinny gym obsessed cowboy hat wearing socialites, it’s all about the followers and the likes.

 

There are courses you can go on to tell you how to get more likes, more follows, more interaction, more, more and more of everything. You can listen to podcast upon podcast analysing and dissecting every aspect of what makes ‘lovely squares’ and the difference between your main feed and your ‘stories’.  You can pay companies to managed your instagram. YOU CAN PAY COMPANIES TO MANAGE YOUR INSTAGRAM!?? Hashtags are key, always use 30, no more no less or the internet will break. Always tell everyone your life is utterly fabulous but (and here is the trick) link that with a slightly imperfect yet highly curated image. Or even better, brag about how bonkers your life is. The piece de resistance of course is just having a mental breakdown on your insta and then pulling up a pew with a brew awaiting the ‘you ok hun?’ and the ‘you’re amazing, just focus on being you’ messages. Oh yes and you can also sign up to newsletters by other instagramers that will send you weekly nuggets of wisdom on how to claw in as many followers as you can.

 

I got sucked into Instagram earlier this year. Sucked in I tells ya. The driven, competitive side of me kicked in and I decided that there has to be a basic formula to all of this. So I decided to do what I have always done in the past in order to achieve a goal. I read up, I looked around me at what others were doing and then I practiced my arse off at working to get the right blend to improve my presence on insta. Took about 3 weeks to reach burnout.

 

Then I read the phrase ‘compare and despair’ somewhere. The idea that we measure our own success against that of others based on minimal details.  This isn’t something I’ve ever suffered from but I realised I had contracted it in recent times. I was constantly looking at the work I had produced and measuring it against other, more engaging or ‘successful’ work. Fucking major alarm bells started clanging in my head. I had allowed myself to get sucked in to the vortex of instagram algorithm desperado hell. I was chasing likes and follows like they actually meant something. They do not. If instagram disappeared tomorrow, if we all woke up and the tile had gone from our phones not only would our lives simplify rapidly, but the only people that would be worse off for it financially are those at the top of the chain. 

 

We all know them. They’re normally self employed, and in their eyes they run the MOST popular and MOST successful businesses. They don’t have time for anything literally. Just so busy. No one can even fathom how they fit in the umpteen blogs they churn out a week reinforcing how fabulous they are alongside the seemingly never-ending instagram stories about their success. It seems a miracle they find time to take a shit let alone update us on how glamorous said shit was.

 

When I read on peoples feed about how utterly busy they are and how they simply do not know how they are managing to fit in all the quality work they are totally producing whilst still responding to the many people that are desperate to employ them or collaborate with them in one way or another what I think is; ‘why are you telling me this?’. Why do I need to know how great your life is? The rest of us are out there making the dream happen whilst these people seem to be more focussed on curating the dream.

 

 By all means I want to see nice images. I will always want to see them in whatever format they come in, but do I want to know how great things are for you as a stranger to me? No. Why? Because I alongside the rest of the planet, am only human and have to work at not comparing myself to you. For the most part I manage it, but for a little while I didn’t which led me to look around and see a lot, a big lot, of people who don’t manage it effectively either or maybe at all. There is a lot of frailty out there and a lot of low self esteem. More than likely to be the exact issues that many of the bragging instagramers suffer from themselves. 

 let's just all agree to be fucking fabulous and wait for others to recognise it. I think the phrase is 'may your character speak louder than your words'.
let’s just all agree to be fucking fabulous and wait for others to recognise it. I think the phrase is ‘may your character speak louder than your words’.

 

 

I’m no fool. I know that human nature is what it is and we are all different. It’s what makes us great. But my question is, if you are a person that suffers from looking around you and feeling like others are doing better then what good does it serve to start banging your own drum about how great things are for you? We end up in a cycle of compare and despair. One that can be broken at any time by any of us.

 

How about we all agree to carry on championing our best insta images but tone down the ‘I’m fabulous’ parades that go underneath your square? You’ll feel better because you won’t have to concoct a bunch of shite on the regular(and underneath it all we all know it’s shite), and the rest of us will too, because we’ll see you as human. Then we will feel more human and everyone will come down just a tiny notch. Just a smidge. Back down to calm and feeling ok about who you are. Back to normal. Back to reality. Namaste mother fuckers!

 

 

The Blog Is Dead. Long Live The Blog!

I started writing blogs back when I set the website up in 2015.  I didn’t really know what I was doing so I did what everyone does, looked around and tried to emulate what I saw. It was challenging but I saw that people were engaging with it to an end and so I pushed on and continued.

It was sparse and the themes were sporadic. For a wee while last year I seemed to get my groove on with it all managed to even set aside a day of the week to bash my blog out. This is really where it all went tits up. As business grew I started to feel like my blog was becoming a beast under my bed that constantly whispered in my ear tales of abuse and neglect. On every sixth day I would set out to write a blog but then emails would come in, and stock would sell or life in general would get in the way.

So instead of writing the blog in that glossy, loads of lovely pictures and quirky editorial, way I’d just not write it and instead feel guilt. Guilt that I was not juggling all the different tendrils of my business correctly. Guilt that I was not as bloggy as other bloggers. Guilt that my blog wasn’t as glossy and consistent as other bloggers.

Then I had a lightbulb moment.

I am me. I am no one else but myself. I can never be anyone else. I cannot achieve the dizzy heights of constant feed that many bloggers achieve because I work full time running several aspects of a business that are about to turn into 4 distinct companies. I don’t have any fucking time to take a shit let alone come up with dazzling fabulous witty blogs that tell you where to get the most darling plug sockets from.

So that is it, I am no longer going to attempt to be one of those bloggers. Sorry to anyone that perhaps thought that was the direction in which I was going. I got mixed up for a minute there but now I’m back to myself and I won’t get lost again.

So what does this mean now? Well it means my blogs are about to become a whole lot more frequent. But there is a caveat to that because they won’t be all about lights that are to die for unless I happen to find some and they won’t be about the most killerest garden ornament or paint colour unless these things literally fall into my lap. My blogs are now going to be about me. They will be about me, my travels, my food (of which there is a hell of a lot), my irks and quirks and anything that happens to fall out of the tips of my fingers at the precise moment of writing to you.

I feel liberated and understand if no one gives a shit about any of this from here on out. I’m still going to carry on though. I’ll do my best not to sound like a heinous twat. Although.

Picking Reasonably Priced Feature Wallpaper.

Ok so the script is that I am unwilling, for a guest bedroom, to shell out mega bucks for fabulous wallpaper. I understand that there is a time and a place for a bit of decadent fabulous wall art, and totally get that there are people out there that are more than happy to spend a months wages on hand scribed, gold embellished, one of a kind nonsense. I am not one of these people and don’t really imagine that I ever will be. I like bang for my buck and I also like low bills in all areas when redecorating. For this reason I don’t hire painter/decorators and for this reason I want to find a reasonably priced, unusual and fancy looking wallpaper that isn’t at total arse to hang.

 

This leads me to my quest for a nice paper that will go alongside the coral pink I have chosen for the ‘Story Book Guest Room’ – see my previous blog! I want something forest green and/or dramatic that will serve as a nice backdrop to the foliage in the room and gold gilt frames and mirrors etc.

So no decisions as of yet. I think I do want something on that wall and if anything I think the Muriva wins. I’ll send off and get a sample of it.  See how I feel after a few days.

New Year Resolution Embargo.

 

January.  Undoubtedly the most dour and lacklustre month of the year. Basically it’s the ideal time to commit to drinking wine every day and eating as much as Is humanly possible at all times. Although as we all know, for very boring reasons, this is something that we should try to do in modesty. I am Scottish so that is not something that comes naturally.

 My bedroom is the safest place to be in January.
My bedroom is the safest place to be in January.

 

One thing that I do definitely feel strongly about is New Years resolutions. I hate them and just basically feel that they set everyone up for miserable falls. Normally in about 3 to 5 weeks. On that note is anyone else getting relentless emails from gyms they left years ago offering free everything if we just promise to come back? So I will not be committing to any resolutions – haven’t done for many, many years now. 

 

I do take the time to reflect however, and set up some basic plans and guidelines for the next 365 days. For example this year I want to have either bought a plot of land somewhere in North England or be on the cusp of doing so (giving myself lots of manouvre room there incase I don’t manage it in time!).

 One of the current contenders for self build space.
One of the current contenders for self build space.

I want to sort the front garden out at my house also. You’ll see from earlier blogs, when I moved into the property it basically had a car park at the back and a waste land at the front. In my minds eye, I can see a living wall that defines the borders of the plot, perhaps with some kind of pergola along the side of the drive.

 I want to create a space that gives us privacy, but also is visually engaging.
I want to create a space that gives us privacy, but also is visually engaging.

I would absolutely also LOVE to go on another all inclusive holiday somewhere. Have you ever gone on one?  It’s the best thing in the world ever. Wine on demand, chips with every meal and by the end of the trip you can’t even remember where your debit card is, it’s been that long since you had to go through the stress of paying for anything. I am also going to start volunteering this year at a local charity, I want to give my time to my local community.

 13 million people in the UK don't have enough food to get by. We can all help by donating our time, money or kitchen essentials.
13 million people in the UK don’t have enough food to get by. We can all help by donating our time, money or kitchen essentials.

 

I reckon I am going to leave it at that for just now. Obviously there are all the usual work ambitions such as take over the interior design world, be nominated for every award ever invented, find every piece of the most amazing mid century furniture created and generally rule the world. Standard stuff.

 

I think the trick is to not be unrealistic about what you can achieve. You are good enough as you are.  Making mild changes over time and setting up medium and long term goals gives you plenty of time and opportunity to evolve and not feel that gut wrenching anxiety of looming deadlines.  In 2016 I read Ruby Wax’s book ‘Mindfulness for the Frazzled’ and that will continue to influence me throughout the year. I struggle with anxiety and an over working Capricorn mind so it’s literally critical for me to focus on controlling my thoughts or they control me with remarkable speed. As I go through life I find more and more people that suffer similarly. One thing I think we would all benefit from is being more mindful of our mental health.

At the end of the day in the words of Maya Angelou ‘nothing will work unless you do’ but in order for that to happen, you have to be in the right mental place so be kind. Set reasonable mid and long term goals and if nothing else works crack open the wine, and wait for February. Help is on the way!