Monday, April 18, 2011

Becoming whole

People seem to spend a lot of time separating their lives into categories according to what they think defines them and what they definitely don't want to define them. I know I do it, at least. I like to say that my job, what I do during the day, is something I'm good at and pays the bills, but it's not 'me'. My career, my calling, who I really am is an artist, a writer, someone creative.

So I go about my life downplaying my day job, excluding it entirely sometimes, to such an extent that people don't even realise what I do.

Recently that all began to change as a new line manager was hired. This man is incredibly good at his job. I think he could teach people how to manage if he wasn't so busy doing it himself.

He read my CV, listened to me when I told him this is not my dream job and there are no ladders I wish to climb in the charity sector. I've done my not-for-profit time. I gave my heart and soul to a brilliant organisation which has gained an unstoppable momentum. I've been there, done that. I'm ready for something different.

But my CV is now full of years of not-for-profit work and it was that which got me this job in the first place. What's kept me at the job has been the slow (sometimes agonizingly so) but steady changes to my role which have allowed me to be more and more creative. At first it was little things - designing a 'merchandise' catalogue, creating a layout template for a registration form, having input into the website. But recently, thanks to the best manager I've ever had the good luck of working with, those changes have been more significant.

As a result, I've been starting to think of this job less as something separate from me, and more as a place where I can express my creativity and earn a pay cheque for it.

This change in my usual resistance came to light on the weekend when I attended the London Marathon. This is arguably the most famous marathon in the world, albeit one I'd never heard of until I started at the charity. Of course, why would I? My athletic interests include things like Belly Baseball, Kick The Can and Dodge Ball, stopping short of anything truly competitive or physically demanding. The entire idea of running 26 miles, never mind on concrete through the streets of London, makes my legs hurt and my lungs twinge. A runner I am not.

But an artist, and someone with great enthusiasm, I am. So, this Sunday, for the first time, I incorporated my art into my work. I attended the marathon to cheer on those running in aid of the charity, to show support and gratitude for the money they've raised and the months they've trained, and I went in costume. My zebra costume, to be exact. And it was fun to be asked about what I was wearing - a vest supporting the charity and a costume I made myself for Mardi Gras some years ago. I handed out my business card to a few interested people, shared details about the team running for the charity and felt quite whole. Quite a lot like me, as I am. Not like charity Kait or professional Kait, nor even just like artist Kait.

I was just me, through and through.

And I have to say the best bit, the bit of the day which really put a grin on my face, happened as I was walking up the street to my house.

I'd left for Tower Hill at 9:00, a trolley loaded with supplies in tow. I stood for hours along a crowded street in direct sunlight in a plaster mask. I shouted my throat hoarse. I walked through the thousands of spectators and caught crowded busy tubes, all the while towing a cart. I didn't eat well. I left to go home at 5:00, to endure more crowded tubes.

As I was finally nearing home, the contact lense in my right eye sticking and burning, my feet screaming to be released from my hot, sweaty Doc Martens, a man driving past pulled over. He leapt out of his car and crossed the street and I became aware that he was talking to me. I turned and looked at him, bleary eyed and dazed, "Sorry?"

"Did you come from the marathon?" he asked again.

"I did, yes."

"You didn't run in that, did you?"

"No, no," I laughed, "I didn't run in this. I was cheering."

"Well you look bloody fantastic. I just wanted to tell you," he grinned, shaking my hand with both of his, the compliment genuine and heartfelt. And then he turned, walked back to his car, got inside and drove away.

And I grinned through all the pain and exhaustion and hunger (and by this point, a very full bladder) because I looked bloody fantastic, enough for someone to stop their journey to come tell me so.

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