A Norwegian explorer, by name of by Erling Kagge and who spent fifty days walking solo across Antarctica, answered more questions about adult life and the world of work more than anything I've heard previously.
"On my way towards the South Pole, I imagined the man in the moon looking down on the earth. There wasn’t a sound from our planet that was able to reach nearly 240,000 miles up to him, but he could see our planet and let his gaze wander far south. There, he saw boy in a blue anorak trudging further and further across the ice, only setting up his tent in the evening. The next day he would emerge from the tent and the ritual was repeated. The man in the moon watched the boy head in the same direction, week after week. He must have thought the boy was nuts.
Late one afternoon, just before I was about to conclude my day’s journey and pitch my tent, I peered up into the sky and imagined the man in the moon turning his gaze far north. Far below he could observe thousands, if not millions, of people leaving their tiny houses early in the day only to sit in traffic for a few minutes or an hour. As if in a silent movie. Then they arrive at large buildings, where they remain indoors for eight, ten or twelve hours seated in front of a screen before returning via the same traffic jam back to their tiny houses. At home, they eat dinner and watch the news on the TV at the same time each night. Year after year. The only difference over time would be that some of those people – perhaps the most ambitious of them – would move to a slightly larger house to spend their nights. As I released my ski-bindings that evening to pitch camp, I felt calmer and more content".
This is written in his book ‘Silence In The Age of Noise’ which I read earlier this year. Possibly one of the best books I've ever read, beyond the fact it still included pictures. I turned 24 on Wednesday 8th August 2018 and the thing I took from this book, is that I realised I’ve spent the vast amount of my adult life interviewing for jobs I didn’t even want.
I know I’m definitely not the only person to think this. Though what’s staggering to me is the number of people who have a job which they don’t enjoy doing. I know this isn’t everyone, as some people do enjoy going to work and love what they do, even if that is car insurance renewals. I’m not saying you need to wake up every Monday morning and dance and whistle down the street, but to live for Friday nights in clubs and 2 weeks a year in the sun makes a knot in my stomach that a boy scout would be proud of.
I’ve had lots of jobs since graduating in 2015. I’ve done sales, office admin, been a gardener; I was a maintenance man at a care home for a while and drove a van which was painted with a brush (you could see the brush strokes from 100 yards), and right now, I’m a teaching assistant. The only job I’ve enjoyed doing that has provided me with immediate income (as comedy for years didn’t provide a thing apart from, if you're lucky, a free drink after a five hour drive there) was working as a runner and production assistant in the TV & film industry.
That’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to a ‘real job’ which I loved doing. My role as a PA basically required me to help with all the pre-production details for a number of shoots. I learnt a lot from this and would later use it when producing ‘Howard’. It even took me to places I never thought I’d go. One being Sir Anthony Peter McCoy, OBE, commonly known as AP McCoy's, house as I moved his Christmas tree from the hallway to let the camera crew through the front door. It was part of a William Hill advert titled ‘Nightrider’ (It’s pretty cool, check out here if you fancy seeing it).
Running in the TV & film industry is the entry point for most people and in a nutshell means you do a bit of everything; but ‘everything’ meaning the shit little jobs like tea and coffee runs, fetching food (I say fetch as someone once asked me to 'fetch them lunch' like a golden retriever), transporting documents and setting up equipment. I often thought that runners were viewed as Victorian children: seen and not heard. It was the best part of my adult working life and it all came to stop 6 months later.
I gave it up because as it wasn’t a 9 to 5 type job, I was being told to cancel gigs (including the ones with free drinks), so I asked myself ‘What do I want to do right now?’ The answer was comedy. Fast-forward 3 months when I’ve driven 5 hours from Milton Keynes to Hartlepool to die on my arse and be heckled by a man who I think might have been called Gazza, and then drive 5 hours back, stop at a service station to eat homemade ham butties, I couldn’t help but ask ‘Is this worth it?’ as tears rolled down my face making the bread soggy. That was three years ago now and yeah it was worth it. I now make enough money through comedy to pay rent. Granted, I still need a day job -unless I wanted to eat super-noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner- but at least now when I stop for ham butties, if I am crying, I can use a £50 note to whip away the tears.
There’s a great scene from the film ‘Up In The Air’ which shows, in a nutshell, the trap millions of people fall into doing a career in something they don't enjoy, and the price they put on their dream job. These words aren’t mine but if there is something you want to do in life and right now you're doing nothing about it, what you're paid at the end of the year is the price it took for you to give up on that dream.
Up In The Air - 'How much did they pay your to give up on your dreams'
I know we all go to work for different reasons and most of the time it’s for money. Those who say ‘I love my job and I’d do it for free’ are psychopaths and shouldn’t be trusted. I understand and respect the fact that circumstances of life can push people towards jobs and careers that don’t match the expected or offer nothing else than a pay slip at the end of the month. For the length of time in your life that you have to hold down a job to continue to do something you don’t enjoy, in my eyes, is a recipe for an unhappy life. This isn't me saying to follow the footsteps of Erling Kagge (pardon the pun) and spend fifty days walking solo across Antarctica, and it is that that what will make you happy, but one thing is for sure: it's what made him happy.
There is something very affirming about Kagge's 'man in the moon' analogy. I suppose everyone has their own ‘blue anorak and tent’ which they trudge with them everyday, though it’s only a few that experience that same sense of calm and content that he felt at the end of each day.
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