March Meet the Maker Day 6: Full or Part Time

This is a really long blog post to answer a really simple question.

The yellow photo was taken for March Meet the Maker a couple of years ago, at school with all the yellow things I had on me at that moment (it’s usually a lot; it’s my favourite colour) That is how I work on my business, in between answering emails on my lunch break, and now during baby nap times. I work part time in my business, but not because I want to. This is the story of why.

Common to all the immigrant families I know, there is a strong emphasis based on hard work (and food and family and home, but this post is about work). Mine was the same. Each fluffy career path I offered up to my parents, my dad especially, reacted initially with barely disguised amusement, and later concern that I might actually be serious. He urged me to work hard, choose something ‘sensible’ and that all my hobbies could be a something lovely to keep me busy at the weekend. I vowed I’d never be satisfied with such a small life.

Predictably I went to university, got a ‘sensible’ degree and eventually a job as a primary school teacher. I still drew, but mainly classroom resources, which didn’t quite satisfy the urge. I spent lots of my twenties furious that I didn’t get the same opportunities as all these middle class people I met who’d studied illustration or fine art and were now working in creative fields. “That could have been me!” I raged to anyone who’d listen, “if only my parents had understood me and let me study art!” Which of course was a load of old crap.

I had no clue what I wanted to do in my teens or twenties, except for it having to be ‘creative’ and I don’t think my parents could have nurtured me more if they’d tried. I remember them shelling out for a piano after I begged for lessons; dad never did anything by halves. They joyfully accepted all the handmade bits I made and cards I drew for them. They let me paint my room (ceiling and all) the most hideous shade of purple in the name of self-expression. And one of my fondest memories is of my mum helping me to dye my hair bright pink, and ruining her towels in the process. For such cautious people they were/are incredibly open minded.

In my thirties I decided to turn my part time hobby into a part time business. This isn’t quite what my parents had in mind, and my dad in particular worried I was working too hard. This  from the man who ran three businesses at once, and who at his peak worked 17 hour days. I suppose he wanted me to work hard, but not as hard as he had to. Because underneath all his ‘work hard’ ethic he also always said that finding happiness in life was the most important thing. This was completely at odds with the way he worked himself, rarely taking holidays and not being there as much as he should have. I know he regretted this in later years, and I don’t want to repeat that mistake.

For better or worse, I’ve inherited his drive and ambition, and since having my daughter I’m more determined to turn part time into full time. I am really trying, and hustling and hoping that one day I will be able to earn a living from drawing. But I also want to be happy, and I want my daughter to be happy. My mum and partner remind me to stop sometimes, to relax and not try to do five things at once. I want my daughter to know that you can work hard, dream big and find joy in the small things. That you can find ways to live your life on your terms, even if the path isn’t straightforward and  you have to work hard to get there.