Friday, June 29, 2012

Are mistakes and failures just part of our journey?

My daughters birthday present was a trip to the Warner Bros Studio, London, to see 'The Making of Harry Potter Tour'. It was no hardship for me, I'm a huge fan. I have to say that it was better than I expected, the detail in all the effects were amazing. Although I found the cafe and souvenirs a wee bit expensive. I'm actually writing my blog in the traffic jam on the way home, so forgive me if I ramble.

The whole family had a great time and my daughter was reduced to tears when she saw the model of Hogwarts.

J K Rowlings success is most writers dream. I wondered how she must have felt wandering along the set of Diagon Alley, seeing her mental creation in 3D? Most of us have heard how her books were rejected at first. But what I didn't realise was how long her first book sat on the bottom shelf of the film makers department. Video footage showed an interview with the person who happily described herself as being on the lowest, tea making, photocopying and shredding, rung of the ladder. She was asked to read the books none of the important people wanted to read and she fought Harry Potters case. It was her 'find' and she fought it's corner. JK and the office junior were both in the right place at the right time the tour told us.

Recently, I was having a chat with a friend concerned about her sons future. She was worried about dead end jobs and lack of opportunities at his college. I've had similar chats with other people, especially when I was teaching. Who knows what is best for a child? What is it about parents that makes them think it's their decision what their children do once they become 15 or 16 years old? I'm not talking about curfews and rules, but about the path they want to tread as adults. As parents we want to help, guide and protect. Of course we want our children to succeed, but does it matter when they fail?

I thought about some of my successes and some of my failures. My girls are asleep in the back seat. And it came as a shock to find that I don't have any real ambitions for my children. I want them to happy. I want them out in the world. I just have a niggling suspicion that surely they will know what is the best career path for themselves. If not, they just have to muggle along like the rest of us, something will turn up it always does. I'm keen to give them things and experiences I never had, I struggle to make sure they go to the Brownies and Guide camp, let have a chance to learn an instrument, I've made sure they get extra help at school when they need it. I supervise homework quite strictly, make it clear that I expect them to work hard and show respect. But I don't think I'm that bothered about what they are going to do in the future. No doubt I will churn out job application advice when the time comes.

It's made me reflect on my own life, especially looking at the art work today. I've done everything myself, pubs, cleaning, selling bacon, and one memorable summer of putting egg mayonnaise on British Rail Sandwiches. The strange thing is that no matter how weird of bizarre or quite frankly gross the job. They have always led to something. I have met someone, heard about something, learnt some life lesson or gained some determination to make changes in my own life.

Being self employed I'm now doing a social media course aimed for people running small to medium sized businesses. You're only as good as your weakest link, mine is the dreaded editing and IT. Last night I was stressed out of my head doing something as simple as a power point presentation, putting images behind a poets words. And I had the depressing experience of my ten year old daughter sorting my mess out.

I wanted to quit. Why bother learning about IT? Why not just ask my hubby the IT specialist, it would take him a few minutes? Why bother with tweeting, texting and blogging? Why struggle through the exercises in my social media course? What does it have to do with my dreams of being published?

The truth is everything. It seems to me that any action is better than inaction. My dreams aren't going to come true unless I do something to put it into place. Good old JK, got rejected then went along to the next agent. She was out there, trying her best to succeed and suddenly she was 'lucky' and got her film break. It's weird that the harder you work, the luckier you become?

Does tweeting sell books? Does it matter? Currently every time I pick up a writing magazine or listen to an agent or publisher speak, they are stressing the importance of social media. My journey has taken me into self employment, which means I need to get a handle on the dreaded IT, which strangely enough is what modern publishers claim they want. Yet things dove tailing like this happens all the time.

Another, writer friend who is currently at Chichester University was describing her life as a 'journey'. Some people have better breaks, true. Others have things a lot worse off. But all you can do is focus on your own personal journey and where it takes you. Too much self reflection and comparison with others is a negative. She also forwarded a great tweet about how we compare our backstage life to the red carpet version of others. It was a fab quote, I even emailed it to myself. She was told she couldn't go to University when she was a teenager. I have such admiration of the bravery and determination it would take to do a degree with young children and the responsibilities of running a household. Uni and twins! Crikey.

My friend is a doctor, and she told me that everything is a job in the end, they all have high points and low points. But her view is that the best option in your working life is not to chase the money, but to find a job where the money chases you. When her daughter finished school she went down the leisure and tourism route. My friend didn't think it was the best idea, but felt her daughter had to make her own choices. After she finished her degree her daughter was working in a bar along side people who hadn't done a degree. The opportunities she thought she would get studying leisure and tourism didn't amount to anything. She's now just gone back to university to study medicine. Where those first three years a costly mistake? Or part of her journey? My friends daughter needed those years on a fun degree, heavy on the socialising side to make her focused and committed to a different career path.

When I was at school I was gifted at Art and Textiles, and I wanted to pursue a career in making special effects. Looking around the tour today the old longing came back. The career adviser read my wish list and gave me work experience in a canteen washing up. My Mum, God bless her wouldn't let me work for free, I was already working weekends at a local food factory, I worked at the food factory full time for two weeks and was the only person in year ten (or fourth year as it was called then) that came out of their work experience with a pay packet. Of course Mum promptly took half of it which was the tradition in the North. Did she care about what options I took? No, as long as we didn't go into prostitution, she was supportive of any job but we had. But we HAD to contributed to the running of the home. The result, I took my examinations at school a whole lot more seriously. Mum wouldn't let me give up my weekend shifts so I worked fourteen days in a row, I went right off bean sprouts I can tell you. Overnight, I felt strongly enough about my education that despite working full time during the summer breaks at school, I decided to leave home so I could study at college and university. My sisters and I have all had to pay rent the moment we left school, even though two of us went to college. And it was cheaper to leave home than pay Mum's rates. But I don't think I would change it. That tough love made me the person I am now. I went on holidays alone, worked abroad, had some great times through the journey I took.

Of course I accept that different backgrounds have different advantages. But it seems to me that each individual needs to have a goal that they are working towards. That goal can change, it's been a long time since I wanted to make vampire masks and draw wounds on actors. But at least I'm out there, trying to learn new things and make successes in my own journey regardless, whether or not I'm the next JK.

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