I was always told that working for myself was a far better option than working to make money for someone else. And I am now working for myself. It is tough – much tougher than working for someone else because nothing happens unless I make it.
And, although I am not working to fuel the greed of ‘big business’ or fund someone’s personal delusions of grandeur, I do still work for someone else – my students. And most of them still work to feed the insatiable demands of ‘big business’ or someone’s personal delusions of grandeur. This makes my working day most varied and passing strange.
I go from university canteens or cavernous common rooms to the hallowed offices of the managing director; from cold meeting rooms in glass-fronted subsidiaries on soulless industrial estates to the lounge in a shared flat – “just until I find a house.” I teach people at 6am and at 8pm; I battle traffic on the M6 at rush hour, or I drift down country lanes, burgeoning magically in the spring. I’m paid hourly in screwed up grubby notes hauled out of back pockets, weekly IOUs and monthly electronic transfers. I teach from dog-eared manuals and crisp new exam guides; I teach and coach, mentor and listen. I sit with lonely people needing to talk, people desperate for help to pass exams, people frightened of being in an unfamiliar country and people using their hour as a refuge, ‘me’ time. I am become ‘many things’ to a lot of people.
Practically, I won’t be able to retire early; I may eat beans on toast, drink cheap wine on special at Lidl and have deferred my many dreams, but as far as life experiences go, I have found ‘Eldorado.”