I received an email this morning from Intelligence Squared. I often go to their topical talks and debates but the headline for this one really jumped out at me. '10 years on'. It referred to the financial crisis and it made me quite reflective. You see I was one of those left unemployed in the wake of the recession from my marketing job. First we saw those scenes of the bankers carrying out their possessions in boxes from their gleaming towers. Then it started happening to friends around me. People who were good at their jobs, hard working and loyal people. And then I got the call - come up to the office. My assistant was in tears, we all knew what it meant. As the inevitable and slightly condescending message was delivered (incorrectly and I definitely had grounds for compensation in hindsight) I felt a huge sense of relief. I packed up my desk and strode out onto Holborn. I didn't know what I was going to do. There had been some sense of preparedness - it wasn't a total shock - but I didn't have a plan. I had an expensive apartment to pay for and limited savings which weren't going to last me long in London.
I also had the looming expense of a photographic holiday I had booked. I contacted them to see if I could cancel it (it was £1000 I could scarce afford at this point) and received a friendly email back from an old colleague who happened to be one of the staff members on the trip. Come! He said enthusiastically and persuaded me that it could only be a good thing. In the meantime I continued to traipse around potential job interviews only to be told that they were just looking speculatively. I was disheartened to say the least.
As a bit of closure from my job I emailed all my old clients to say thank you and farewell. There was one man in Glasgow, who managed one of the venues that we had put on events at for Jack Daniels. I had literally had 2 cups of (green) tea with him but we had connected. 'Come to Cambodia with me if you are at a loose end. I leave in 3 weeks and going for a month. I know people.' A moment of indecision at the prospect of committing myself to an extended holiday with a man I barely knew before I thought 'what the hell... not like I'm busy right now'. And booked the flight.
So now I had two expensive holidays booked, no strong job leads and so I am forced to give up my flat and move back to my parents. My poor parents. You don't expect your 30 year old daughter to back in the spare room when you've only just gotten rid of the other child.
So first up. Cambodia. Having studiously ignored all of P's phone calls as I was terrified we wouldn't have anything to say and that the holiday would be awkward (I know, I know) the next time we spoke was as he strode into the terminal at Phnom Penn to collect me. I've got a ride outside, he says, showing me to the rickshaw. I won't go into much depth but it was a truly spectacular month of travel, adventure and getting to know a stranger who became a dear friend. 'Come and live with me in Glasgow and study photography', he suggested.
Fast forward a month or so and I find myself in Morocco on a 10 day photography course with Creative Escapes. I have a the worst camera of the group and one crappy kit lens. But I'm hooked, lined and sunk on the first day. Staying in beautiful traditional riads in Marrakech and Essaouira we spend the mornings learning a new creative technique and then for the afternoons we are sent out on assignment to put our new founds skills into action. Marrakech is a good city to cut your photographic teeth on, both for the unending visual delights and also the challenges of a very unwelcoming population who strongly object to being photographed.
It was a revelatory week. It changed the course of my career and ultimately life. When a portrait I had taken on the trip ended up as a full page spread in a travel magazine in the weeks following the trip I was so overwhelmed with joy and pride. It cemented my decision and I took P up on his offer and informed my bewildered friends and family that I was moving to Glasgow and enrolling on a two year HND in photography. I had no idea where this journey was going to take me but I knew that I needed to get out of London and not risk slipping back into my old job out of fear. I spent the most rewarding and relaxing few years in Glasgow - a city full of culture, passion and creativity - before returning to London and ready to embark on a new chapter.
Losing your job can be devastating and destabilising. It affects your confidence and self worth. Most people don't have a Plan B to fall back on and not everyone has long suffering and encouraging parents. I didn't have a back up plan but it forced me to re-evaluate the direction my life was heading. I was unfulfilled with my job - I wanted independence and to be more creative - I just had no idea how I would achieve it. I never in my wildest dreams imagined I could actually make a living by taking photographs. It has been stressful at times and it's been an 8 year journey to get to where I am now but I have never looked back and the next chapter is about to start.... more of which in a few months when I'll be making a big announcement!