To ‘real’ job or not to ‘real’ job 5

Amelia Brown

Today my cheeks hurt from smiling. I am watching a grown man tear a coaster to shreds and sprinkle it across the floor, people stubbing cigarettes into the wood and smearing ketchup across the tables. Parents who smile adoringly at their children as they throw fragments of chips across the courtyard.

“At least we’ve only got one more month of this,” my colleague shouts from under a table that she’s scraping chewing gum off.


“One more month. Then the season’s up. What are you going to do next?”


“Yeah, I’m applying for things at the moment. Think it might be time to get a real job, don’t you?”

I dig out my phone, pull up a calendar and glare at the date. How has four months gone this fast? I wait for the dread in my stomach to subside. You see what I hate more than anything, what haunts my nightmares more than clowns and cliff-faces, is applying for jobs.

“Why do you want to work here?”

“So I can afford to pay my rent and sometimes eat something other than rice.”

I tried that on the last form – I never heard back from them. It seems to me that I spend hours of my time filling in applications for jobs I do not want just so I can earn slightly more than my current minimum wage salary, and look to the world like I am on the conventional path to success.


I want to be writing now, making now, living now, and I am stubbornly refusing to give up on that


It is at times like these that I begin to question all of my life choices, to become envious of my flatmate heading out to work at 7:30am to her ‘real job’. I start to consider internships that only pay travel expenses and wonder if I have anything valuable I could sell or how my flatmates would feel if I sublet my room and slept on the sofa. This is when I begin to scroll endlessly through artsjobs and try and think of evidence for my ‘budget handling skills’ and ‘office management experience’, because it seems impossible to begin where you want to be. To get into arts organisations one has to accept that one will earn less than pittance on an intern scheme where someone hopefully takes a liking to you. Or maybe, if you’re lucky, you will find a salaried job as an administrative assistant and you will spend your hours doing someone else’s paperwork and desperately hoping they notice how creatively you file their papers.

But I don’t want to accept this. I’m not ready to accept this. And maybe that’s me being stupidly stubborn. I am working more hours than anyone I know for less money. I can only see my friends on Monday nights when most are unavailable because they have work the next morning. I eat a lot of jam sandwiches and get over excited by how much you can buy in Iceland for a tenner. But I feel free. When my shift is over, it is over, my boss does not have the right to Skype call me at 3 in the morning. If I see a short story competition whose deadline is tomorrow, it takes moments to swap a shift so that I can have something sent off in time. And when there are no customers we talk about the projects we are working on, the art exhibitions we are planning, the stories that are taking shape, so that it is possible to polish glasses for hours on end and leave feeling inspired.

So yes, I will apply for another front of house or bar job, just so I can spend my night off this week writing my novel, instead of pouring over a cover letter or an application form. I will stubbornly refuse to apply for the internships that would mean moving back home because in this room, I have space to write. And I will never spend my 9-5 stapling and photocopying and living for three years down the line when maybe someone notices me enough to push me up the ladder, because I want to be writing now, making now, living now, and I am stubbornly refusing to give up on that.


Banner image: Sofia Amador

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5 thoughts on “To ‘real’ job or not to ‘real’ job

  • Caroline Fox

    Hi Amelia,
    I have read your lines so many times – they are so moving and so to the point. Yes, keep going on your path and ignore – as best you can –
    the pressure of a society that “expects” certain things of you. You are a special person with special talents and you will go your very own way – no stapling and no photocopying! Definitely not! I did it for a while and it was so not me that I had to hand in my notice and go back to teaching with a lot less money (strangely enough) but with my heart in it and I still love what I do.
    I’m so interested in whatever you write – a wonderful talent – I have tried my hand at it – 3 short stories – an amazing feeling when you come to the conclusion and realise it’s all yours.
    All my good wishes and I really look forward to reading your next creative piece.
    Lots of love

  • David Kershaw

    A lovely and inspiring piece, Amelia.
    In The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho tells us, “As he mused about these things, he realised that he had to choose between thinking of himself as the poor victim of a thief and as an adventurer in quest of his treasure.”
    You’re an adventurer – stubbornly in quest of your treasure! Good for you!

  • Rose Sims

    What a powerful piece. Younger people face so many challenges today , but it is inspiring to hear, both the truth and reality of working hard for, often below the minimum wage, combined with real steel and determination. Good luck Amelia Brown!

  • Daphne

    Hey Amelia, really nice piece. It expresses all the feelings I am experiencing at the moment. I specifically liked the bit that you say that you are stubbornly going to refuse to apply for an unpaid internship, I think this is the mentality many people have to adopt in order to end the practice!