18 months of freelance and the black dog
Hello. It’s been a while. I’m almost too embarrassed to write anything its been so long but the urge has been growing greater everyday and I have a list as long as my arm of things I would like to talk about on here so best get back in the saddle, so to speak.
I should explain my absence (possibly and probably you hadn’t even noticed my lack of posts but alas allow me the small indulgence to explain). It all began last summer…
- Very large client project to finish
- Computer died
- Moved to a new county (Norfolk if you’re asking)
- Moved in with my boyfriend
- Ill health and after months of fairly severe illness a wishy washy diagnosis
- Sick parents
- Debilitating homesickness
- I also had two black dogs come in to my life, one of which is called Fizz and looks like this
- The other however is not so cute, it is that destructive and dangerous devil known as depression.
Excuse the bullet points but I can’t RESIST a LIST (bit of rhyming there to lighten the mood or possibly I mean alliteration?! Anyway…).
I tell a lie, the second black dog hasn’t just come in to my life, I have suffered from the big D as far back as I can remember, I always knew as a child that I didn’t have the same capacity for joy that my peers did. I was what you’d call a peculiar child. Just look at this outfit…
Anyway I don’t want to drag you down with all the boorish details, who wants to hear about other peoples unhappiness, its… well… depressing innit? Suffice to say for the last 20 something years I did very little about it, I tried medication a couple of times, counselling a couple of times (I always worried about boring my counsellor so this didn’t really work out), I told a couple of friends and a couple of random people, I let migraines ruin my life, I overate sometimes, I over drank sometimes, I started getting panic attacks, two years ago half my hair fell out, I exercised obsessively, I yo-yo dieted. But all of this I did on my own as I had managed to stay single (with the odd relationship) for all my life. It was just a bit easier.
Anyway I digress! Everything was plodding along well enough last year (I was ignoring getting “ill” every few months as I always had and coping with it in my own peculiar and ineffectual way) until I moved over to Norfolk to live with my boyfriend. Suddenly I find myself alone here, no family, no friends, a newish relationship, a business that was starting to go places that suddenly stopped going places, commitments to other people such as step children, my boyfriend’s family, a nasty divorce going on behind the scenes, a tiny house whilst the boyfriend’s house was being battled over, no garden, three dogs, an office that consists of boxes of sh*t to eventually go on eBay and piles of ironing (seriously a 5 year old’s birthday party would be a more conducive working environment) and then I got sick, not head sick, but physically sick, really, really poorly. I won’t go into the horrid details but it was debilitating and one of the side effects of this illness is depression so HURRAH!! A double dose or ghastliness and then it all just fell apart. And that is how its remained on and off since then. The physical illness has been treated but its left me a bit broken, even more so than before, I feel like I’m on one side of some steamed up glass and all my ideas and creativity and energy are on the other and I can wipe the glass and get a glimpse of it but I can’t get to it. This morning I sat down to write a shopping list and I couldn’t manage it. I got half way through and nothing, I couldn’t make sense of it. The most simple tasks are horrifying at the moment. I started Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions in the new year but they are about as much use to me as a chocolate fireguard. I feel silly and embarrassed when I’m talking to the counsellor, she is so nice and I feel like we are playing a really pointless game, its exactly how I felt when I had counselling before, sort of guilty for wasting their time and a bit of a fraud. I suppose one thing has come from all of this and that is that I have finally admitted how poorly I am. I really need to help myself and sort this out. This depression will not go away of its own accord and to be honest it really frightens me these days. I find it hard to breath at times. I’m hoping that in the next few weeks and months my boyfriend and I will start putting into place ways of properly managing this. Writing this post is one of the first steps for me, I can’t carry on in the industry I love without a bit of honesty.
But this really isn’t about self indulgent ramblings or about what a mentalist I am. Its more about the web design industry and how isolated it can get for us working in it, especially freelancers and people who work from home. its about the need to create an environment of inclusiveness. This is a list of observations I’ve made over the last few months when I’ve been on the outside of it all (all these bloody lists are a side effect of being poorly, its the only way I can make sense of things, soz).
- There are followers on twitter and then there are friends on twitter, friends notice your absence, followers are only interested in what you can provide for them. Care about the first, don’t worry about the second. This is along the lines of Matt Gemmell’s recent post.
- I firmly believe that we are not always living an honest life. With the dawn of twitter, FB and Instagram we can create a perfect world online for all our “friends” to see and it bares no relation to whats happening in our real lives. I see so many Tweets about how so and so is rocking their day and killing some f*cking sick design (I have no idea what any of that sentence means but you get the gist) or where they’ve just landed the most awesome client ever and everything is perfect. Then they take a picture of there Eames chair and their 700” iMac and they wonder why they generate no empathy from anyone. I am as guilty of this as anybody. Please can we all be humans with all the foibles and idiosyncrasies that make us so complicated and unique and not vilify people when they show some rare and wonderful human vulnerability.
- There needs to be some more kindness in the world. We work in, as far as I’m concerned, the most amazing industry in the world. It is young, dynamic there are opportunities for everybody no matter what your talent. It IS diverse, women are slowly but surely growing there status in the industry, there is a lot of cultural diversity too. I’ve worked with people from all over the world, male, female, gay, straight, white, black etc etc. Lets live up to the industry we’ve created and not pull it down. If somebody wants to travel the world being a speaker let them, don’t try to bring them down and ruin their lives. As an industry we’re better than that for f*cks sake. On the flip side I know plenty of people who are extremely good at what they do and have never been to a conference in their lives, don’t know or care who half the speakers are and who have no interest in what goes on at these things. Thats fine too, it doesn’t make them any less good at their jobs. I know its a cliche, but live and let live.
- Be more kind to people, don’t dismiss their work, ways of working or ideas just because there is a modicum of anonymity brought through communicating in an online environment Encourage, enquire and even mentor others if you feel so inclined. There is nothing wrong with a bit of good old politeness either. If I ever ask a web celebrity a question I always try to be as polite as possible and I always remind myself that I am eating into their working day and if they don’t have time to reply then that is their right and its alright. Just because people are published or speak about their line of work regularly it doesn’t mean I have the right to demand an answer.
- Most importantly I’ve realised there is NOTHING in the world like real friends, tangible ones. Ones who are are really there for you. If some half wit says something horrible to you on Twitter or stops following you it REALLY doesn’t matter, not in the slightest. If someone says they don’t like something you’ve put on Dribbble, that doesn’t matter either, its just their opinion. What matters most is being well, looking after yourself, enjoying the real relationships in your life and loving your work. Its sad to read of so many good people considering leaving the industry due to a few f*ck wits, f*ck wits they’ll never (hopefully) meet. I’ve been there myself. But I’ve realised if I’m going to get my life and business back on track I need to concentrate on the positives and all the wonderful moments and opportunities this industry can provide. Last week I felt terribly sad reading some of the posts and tweets about the atrocious things that have been happening of late in the web industry but my (real) pal Sean Johnson reminded me what a fab industry we work in in his own succinct way.
Anyway I suppose suffice to say on a personal level I need to start looking forward and catching up with what I’ve missed in the last few months and hopefully that will go someway to getting me back on track. I feel so out of the loop these days, its amazing how quickly the industry moves forward in a few months. But I’ve realised that hiding away and pretending everything is fine whilst not actually managing to function is not working for me so its time for a new plan. I feel a bit the same about the web industry too, a lot of dirty laundry has been aired of late, lets now look forward to a bright future and building an industry of equality and acceptance for ours and the next generation.