I spent all of last year on a self-sanctioned sabbatical from ‘real life’.
Fed up with my often unbearably overwhelming hometown of London, I moved (quite literally) to the other side of the planet to Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne is dubbed the most liveable city in the world, which is ideal when you’re in pursuit of the exact opposite metropolis by-line to “if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”. That might be about New York, but Frank may as well have been signing about The Big Smoke too – not just the Apple.
Lots of friends told me how brave I was as “people never leave London”, but I didn’t feel it. I felt like I was running away, a failure, a deserter of the young professional dream. I couldn’t hack freelance life any longer, or the constant desire to puke each month when the rent was due. Eventually it was the pressure of constantly hustling and searching for the next opportunity – having to say a reflex “YES” to any project that came my way in order to ensure ‘luxuries’ like food on the table – that finally broke me. The city that raised me was drowning me, so I escaped before it could swallow me whole.
Once I’d settled into life Down Under, and the sour taste that was left in my mouth had been washed down by an Adelaide Hills red, I realised that the problem wasn’t London itself. The problem was me; it was that I had lost sight of the reasons I wanted to work in a creative field in the first place. I wanted to be creative: to make things I care about and work with people who felt the same.
My super chill lifestyle in Melbourne afforded me the time and disposable income to work part-time in a bar, as well as picking up fun projects that engaged my other skills and developed new ones, keeping the cogs in my right side brain oiled. I also enjoyed time spent not writing desperate Facebook statuses saying: “Hi guys, I’m currently free for work if anyone knows of anything going, thanks xx”. Instead? I thought about what I was good at, where I wanted to go and how that could make me money.
Creativity and freedom are cute and all, but so is being able to eat regularly. While I wasn’t nearly as creatively productive as I had fantasised – no Tony Award winning scripts penned as yet – I successfully left Australia only a fraction as anxious as when I arrived. My head was infinitely clearer, and my goals and values far more defined. Not to mention the fact I had finally shaken off that feeling of guilt that living in my hometown so often left me with when I wasn’t actively grinding.
Nurturing my neglected abilities and passions also opened me up to new opportunities that hadn’t been on my original path – something I’m very grateful for. Case in point: while I’ve always enjoyed illustration and design, I would never have had the gall to call myself a graphic designer a year ago. Still, this is a string I’ve added to my bow, and it’s something that has proven to be my most lucrative freelance role this year.
Career paths are not linear; sometimes you have to go round the houses to get to the right place. Sometimes you have to clone yourself and go down every path until you figure out which one is right for you. Sometimes they all are right, and sometimes they’re all wrong and sometimes it’s totally fine to reroute. Being a bartender led me to figuring out that I am a Multimedia Content Producer – a title that encompasses so many things I have done, am doing, and currently working towards. I might be a Multimedia Content Producer, but I’m one who can make a banging espresso martini – which, let’s face it, is the most useful skill of them all.
Kirby is a Multimedia Content Producer from London, currently based in Accra. She is currently working on freelance design and writing projects for small independent brands and also a YA novel series. You can RT all her ‘Bad Girls Club’ reaction gifs at @STFUKirbs
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