It’s been 2 ½ weeks since I left our grassy knoll and found myself back in the concrete jungle of Sydney’s CBD and the daily grind of a … oh my goodness… a job. I’ve picked up a few shifts in the newsroom – handy for $$, and good to get my toe back in the door. But that’s all that’s got in really – just my toe, because the job is one I did many years ago when I first started my slow crawl up the ladder of – what was my – career. Bizarrely, it suits me right now because I don’t really want any work stress right now – life is busy enough. But I do have to chuckle (all right – if I’m completely honest, I don’t always find it amusing. Sometimes it’s just downright sad) when I find myself sitting alongside those ‘young-uns’ just starting out. And sadly, their grasp on technology is already much greater than mine…
…So, what happened to my ‘grand plan’ of media domination?
When we bought our 50 acres of grassy greenness after Dougall came up for a family reunion about 12 years ago, we formed a 10 year plan – buy the farm, rent it out for 10 years, then move up. We lasted one year. Then Dougall moved up, Jack the Puppy moved in, I travelled up and down every 2 weeks, and 12months later I followed with all of our worldly possessions.
Having accelerated our 10 yr plan so substantially, I found myself commuting up and down the highway for work in Sydney on a weekly basis. So choosing life over work, I went part-time. Sill, in the car I went. Up, down, up, down. I became a Pacific Highway pro. I knew exactly when peak hour finished on a Friday in Sydney, and could time my arrival to exactly 3 1/2hrs from door to door. I had my favourite stops, depending on the time – and let me know you, if you happen to be passing the Bulahdelah Bakery soon after 6am, their pasty snails are hot out of the oven and absolutely delicious. In fact, thinking about them now almost – almost – makes me want to do it all over again.
Because that commute wasn’t all bad. In a life which was becoming increasingly hectic, spending so much time in the car can be quite therapeutic – if you’re not in a hurry. Sometimes, it was almost… gosh, almost meditative. Alot of uninterrupted thinking can occur in 3 ½ hrs in a car on your own. Sometimes I would become so deep in thought, that good ol’ automated pilot would kick in until I would suddenly look around and think – … where the hell am I?? And if a couple of weeks passed without the commute, I really missed that time on my own. Summer nights were the best – favourite CD (remember those?) playing, window down, balmy breeze blowing through the car…
But on the other side, there were those days when I just couldn’t be bothered. On nights when others were stepping out for a night out with friends, I would step slowly into the car after work on a Friday and wish myself at the farm or out to dinner. Those 250kms would stretch endlessly in front of me, one long big grey ribbon of road loaded with semis and night lights. Not to mention doing the trip in reverse in the morning before work, with the sleepless nights worrying about missing the alarm…Ah, poor me.
Fortunately, I was very lucky with my job. I was able to work from home when possible, and for a few years there I worked the ideal number of 4 days a week instead of 5 (highly recommended. 3 days is of course better, but hard to live on). Then I was lured back into a 5 day working week with a promotion into field producing for television, with travel (yes, more travel) and creativity thrown into the mix. Off I went, back into the car and now onto a several planes several times a month, and my ever supportive parents provided my home away from home.
It was great. But admittedly, my carbon footprint in travel terms grew huge, and after several years I was rather… tired.
All up my weekly commute lasted 5 years. Then I gave it all up in one fell sweep when young Thomas was born. That was 4 years ago and it was a shock. A welcome shock, but a shock nonetheless. I was suddenly on the farm all the time, just me and the baby and Dougall when he was home, with no prospect of an interesting paid career on the horizon. Because how can you commute weekly with small children? Hmm… how can you do it with big ones?
Living in the country is a wonderful move, but it has forced me to re-think my working life completely, and that is an exhilarating but also terrifying thought. When I joined the workforce, much of my identity was forged around what I did. Much of my self-worth in terms of ‘contributing’, in hindsight, stemmed from my work. I was proud of it, and had something to show for it at the end of most days. And then suddenly – whoosh – it was gone. And whilst I have watched friends go back to work after having children, for the most part picking up where they left off, my career options are, well, a little slimmer than they would have been in Sydney. Interesting jobs in the country pay less, involve more daily travel, and are thin on the ground. Yes, I know, I should take pride in my job as a mother – but I don’t get paid, I’m not always proud of my work (!), and it’s wow isn’t it relentless! (See, interesting isn’t it – at this point I feel the need to add that I do adore them, they make me laugh, and when I’m not screaming I am often beaming with pride at them… ). Perhaps my restlesslness is completely selfish – after all, why do I feel that me as a mother is about them, and me as a professional working woman is about me?… This inner could go on and one, so I’ll stop now).
I’m not complaining. Because even though I can’t have very interesting conversations right now, I’m content with my choices and the lifestyle they have given us and our children. But I do feel a little like I am treading water waiting to find validation in a career I can base from home. In the meantime, I will continue to precariously balance myself in-between country and city
careers jobs, and grab those better paying city shifts when they pop up.
But perhaps the longterm vision doesn’t have to be what I did for 12 years. A few weeks ago, I was tossing up being a teacher. This week, a chocolatier (this one is winning).
Life can be full of options after all – they are just not necessarily the options I had originally planned for. So, as long as you’re not in a hurry, watch this space (need to wait for the children to get a little bigger). Who knows what can happen.