When it comes to work, and the reasons for it, the [Spunge] song 'Jump on Demand' usually comes to mind for me:
"I'm not the kind of guy who likes to go to work,
It's just I need the money.
I don't know why you find that so funny!"
Because there are lots of positives to work, don't get me wrong. There's the camaraderie, the opportunity to learn new things, the routine, and the life experience. (And the money, don't forget the money.) It's just that I'd sooner be a lady of leisure. :)
2004: I got my very first job when I was 16, when I started as a kitchen help at St. Joseph's private hospital. Friday evenings after school, and Saturdays 9am - 2pm. In 2005 I took on an extra shift on Sunday mornings, cleaning on the wards, and then later that year I decided to remove myself from the UCAS process because I was full of existential teenage angst. Not having thought the move through I ended up working at the hospital pretty much full time after leaving sixth form as a member of bank staff, rotating through the roles of kitchen help, ward cleaner, ward hostess (the people who take the food trolley round), hospice cleaner, and canteen girl (operating the till, oh yeah).
Even though it was pretty much just never ending washing up or toilet scrubbing, depending on the rota, I got on well with everyone and I have really fond memories of my time there. I learned lots about food hygiene and the whole thing was a huge help in overcoming my crippling shyness. Plus I was on pretty good money for my age, which is always a bonus.
2007: So, I liked the hospital but I really didn't want to be scrubbing suspicious stains off someone else's toilets forever. I reapplied for university and went off to read history at the University of Cambridge, an institution stuck in another time if not another universe. Students may not be in paid employment for more than ten hours a week because, well, you should be rich enough not to need to, I guess. I worked back at the hospital during the holidays and volunteered with the Eating Disorder Mentor project and Linkline, the student nightline, during term time. That mostly involved freezing to death in a grotty office, listening to the regulars ramble. I learned that one day, if I wanted it bad enough, my hand would turn aquamarine blue through the power of thought. That day has yet to come to pass...
2010: When I left university I wasn't at all sure what I wanted to do. Youth work seemed as good an idea as any. I started volunteering with a youth charity; that turned into a work placement, which turned into a full time job - just as I was about to start a temp position with Primark. (I still got paid for their induction training though, so it was a win-win.) The kids were great, and it was really rewarding, but the rest became a bit of a nightmare and I wanted out. I was volunteering every Tuesday evening with the CCYP, my local youth centre, and Vintage Vision, a really cool little business, on the weekends so I figured that was covering my work experience. I was going back to college!
2011: Initially I was going to do a MA in regional history, and that turned into starting a PhD on the Georgian gentry. For money I did a bit of undergraduate lecturing which was awesome and terrifying, and also became a dinner lady at Woodlands Primary School. I learned there that you should never suggest little kids try something they don't like (carrots, in this particular case). They have a bewildering habit of bursting into tears.
2012: After a short stint at the school, I bagged a great job at Journeys, a depression support charity based in Cardiff. I loved it there and wouldn't have left if it weren't for the timing - I had put my name down as a Labour Party candidate in the then upcoming local government elections, thinking it would look good on my CV. Much to my surprise I topped the ballot in my ward and was duly elected. At first I intended to keep my job on but it soon became apparent that I'd bitten off more than I could chew. What with one job, and the other, volunteer positions (I'd joined the board of Maendy Praimary School earlier that year, for instance), and the commuting between everything, I had no time to study, let alone get my head together.
2014: I finished at Journeys after a few months but, looking back, the damage had already been done. I had a bit of a breakdown and it's only on the other side I can see that I just wasn't coping with anything. I eventually dropped out of my postgrad course which was just about the hardest thing I've ever had to do - I felt like it meant I was a quitter, a failure - and really scaled back my volunteer work.
But the reduced stress had an almost immediate effect. I fell pregnant with Marianna.
2015: Marianna was born on New Year's Day 2015, and I went back to work at the beginning of March. It had been a tough pregnancy so it was nice to be able to function normally again, without having to keep nipping out of meetings to go and be sick somewhere! It was more than enough to be a backbench councillor but I did start to branch out a little into new areas; for example I joined the Gwent Police and Crime Panel, the body which scrutinises the Police and Crime Commissioner, and I set up my very own parenting and lifestyle blog. (You're reading it right now!)
2016: The downside of working as an elected official is that to keep your job, you need to get re-elected! The next Welsh council elections are in 2017, so it is quite a worrying time right now because, obviously, if the public don't want me back I'm going to need to find another job very quickly. This is the main reason I have been working so hard on the blog in my spare time, in the hope it will be able to tide us over if the worst comes to worst.
On the positive side, I was appointed Deputy Mayor this year which has been a real privilege, and if I do get re-elected, next year I will be the Mayor of Torfaen. It would be such an amazing experience, and something I really hope Marianna would be proud of me for. Fingers crossed, I guess!