Quote of the Week 28: Make a living or make a life?



I chose this quote for this week a while ago. Now with our lovely Conservative government’s new budget, I’m finding it a difficult one to write about.

Last year, I was made redundant when my employers decided to close the charity I worked for down due to lack of funding. I’d already spent years working in a job where there was work but frequently not enough funding to pay my wages. I also worked for a national charity (also now closed down due to lack of funding) for free. And in the last four years (and years before that when I was still a teenager) I’ve given a lot of my time, resources and knowledge to a national charity. This is not me going look at me! I’m awesome. I have been volunteering since I was 14 years old – whether it was helping at Brownies or assisting with children’s dance education. I didn’t do it because it was good for my CV. I did it because I loved doing it. Ok. I may have started helping at Brownies because it was earning me a badge too (Service Flash any 90s Guides?). I loved helping at my dance schools – especially when it was taking a little kid struggling with a certain exercise, breaking it down and doing it more slowly until they finally nailed it. I still remember standing with my baby sister in my Dad’s hallway “forward, backward, hop, step” – practice makes progress. And it did.

I’ve served at soup kitchens, led campfires and singing times. I’ve babysat for families for free to enable them to run marriage courses or go on dates. I’ve baked for fundraisers. I’ve done more youth work jobs with no pay than I have been paid.

Yes I have given.

But I’ve also received.

I’ve made friends, had the opportunity to learn new skills, to try things out, and I’ve got to see the difference that money we’ve raised has made. I’ve got to watch my friends’ kids grow up and seen them overcome obstacles, bullies and become awesome people with compassionate hearts. I watched young people try things, learn new skills, build supportive communities and gain confidence that they have something important to contribute to this world.

I don’t make much of a living. I never really have done. The government doesn’t see Community Education as a priority. Never mind that any cities where we’ve seen crime rates massively drop, Community Learning and Development is usually a major factor behind it.

But I do have a life.

All of you who aren’t earning much money (if any at all) – remember you still have the opportunity to make life. For parents and community volunteers this is especially true. You give spaces for learning, community building, creating, support and care. Parents – you are nurses, counsellors, teachers, community builders and engineers (unless you get someone else to build those cots, beds, bookshelves, bikes and bugaboo prams).

You have lives. You make lives better by everything that you give.


The difference between living and earning…

churchill quote

Four months ago, I was made redundant. I had been working as a manager for a local pregnancy resource centre run by a small non-profit organisation. During the seven years I worked there we ran things on a shoestring budget, and struggled to survive. Yet our client base kept growing as the funding pot diminished. It was crazy. So it wasn’t a total shock when our board of trustees told me they were closing the charity – it had been a possibility the whole time I was working there. But after seven years I just never thought it would ever happen. We always made it through.

And then we didn’t.

I’d never struggled to get paid work. I would go around, look for work, apply for something I thought I’d be good at…and if I got the interview I usually got the job. So I naively assumed that with so much more experience, plus now with half a postgraduate degree in the bag (still got the other half to complete this year), I’d be able to find a job fairly easily.

I was wrong.

At first it was fine, I had money to keep me going, but when I went two months with not even an interview despite applying for more jobs than I have fingers to count, I began to get depressed.

Not being able to go on a train to visit friends was hard. Not being able to buy my friends birthday presents when they’d been so generous to me when I entered my thirties this year was horrible. Seeing friends enjoying holidays as they shared photos and videos on social media sites made me jealous. And I began to feel like a big fat failure.

The thing I’ve not taken into account is that I never stopped working. Yes, for sure the working has been less – but since becoming unemployed I’ve been a judge for a writing competition and the trustee of a charity. And I’ve finished my Girlguiding Leadership Qualification and continued to run two Girlguiding units – the second of which has doubled in numbers since we started it two years ago.

I’d put my confidence and identity into the work I do to earn, discounting all the work I do to give.

In two weeks time I will start a temporary job over Christmas for a shop in the city centre. I will be earning again (not much, but better than nothing!). The same week I will be a chaperone for the Edinburgh Gang Show and I’ll be starting my final theory course for my postgraduate qualification.

Of course I hope to be earning in a job with a more permanent contract in the near future, but I need to remember those words. It’s not about what I earn, it is about what I give.

Because in truth, I know which ‘work’ has been the most rewarding and fulfilling!