Middle-aged woman turns freelance

For seventeen years, I have been working at a stable, well-paid job. I worked only for about 6 hours a day, so I had ample time to pursue any other interests – and I have: painting, crafting, writing poetry, playing the fiddle, horseriding and what not.

The problem with pursuing your interests (the real ones) is that, sooner or later, you get caught in them, and then your paying job becomes a nuisance, something you do only because you have to (we all have to eat, after all).

I realized this last year when I had a car accident that kept me at home for 5 months. At first, I was too ill to even think, and I was having medication which kept me asleep most of the day. As things got better, however, I began to realize I could not, and would not , come back to my teaching job. I wanted to paint and write, I wanted to move back to Ireland, and above all I wanted to escape from the oppressive feeling that was getting more and more at me.

So, after much thinking and planning, I decided to leave. Since my pets – two dogs and a cat- had to undergo quarantaine, I decided to buy a van (which took almost all my savings) and travel through France with a friend until I could take my extended family to Ireland. I would stop wherever fancy took me (I was thinking Normandy) and temp while I waited. I am quite a frugal person (more on that later), so I thought even if I only found a job as a waitress or cleaner or something like that, I could manage. And out we went for our great adventure.

Then, of course, disaster struck. The van’s engine broke down completely and I was left homeless, jobless and penniless. Fortunately, I could have a respite at a friend’s house and mull things over. Then I decided to come back to Spain, where I still had most of my friends, and begin afresh.

I am now living with another friend of mine (a fantastic woman who manages a dog shelter), giving private classes and doing writing and researching jobs whenever I can, sometimes for nonprofits and for free – and I’ve found it sooo liberating.

I am still – almost – penniless, but I feel completely freed from the daily drab. My private classes allow me to plan for students individually, increasing their success rate – something that didn’t happen when I was teaching large classes; and my writing and researching jobs, even if they are volunteering ones, allow me to learn and develop qualifications I didn’t even know that I had!

So I have decided to remain a freelance writer and researcher, and that journey is what I am going to talk about in this blog. Hope it is useful or entertaining to you


Enduring voices

I read a very interesting article on National Geographic today about endangered languages. Seems that languages are disappearing at a faster pace than they did in the past, taking with them the “key that can unlock local knowledge about medicinal secrets, ecological wisdom, weather and climate patterns, spiritual attitudes, and artistic and mythological histories”, as its author Paroma Basu puts out in such a poetical way.

Fortunately, the article goes on to tell of the efforts made by the Enduring Voices Project to document these languages with oral and written records, and to encourage their speakers to stick to their traditions.

But reading about this has made me think how many good things are lost for lack of care. I mean, every one of us is the only speaker of a very unique, very special language, whether as an artist, mother, or simply as a man or woman. Every day we are surrounded by people who have something to offer, something which is totally original, and which deserves to be heard. However, we rarely take the time to listen, and so we allow another language to be extinct.

We bloggers are in an extraordinary position to make this change. We, as the scientists from Enduring Voices, can set ourselves the task to save these unique languages by acknowledging them, by listening and letting our voice be heard out there. It doesn’t have to be about poetry or art – although I am quite sure there will be a lot of that. It is simply an act of self-recognition. So, next time someone rants at you for using your blog to say what you want said, you can gently remind them you are allowing the blog to be a tool, not only for your own self-expression, but also for theirs.

Spreading goodwill

I have mentioned somewhere that one of the reasons I wanted to quit my job for freelancing was to be able to devote more time and energy to volunteering.

Experts in economical trends believe that volunteering is the new work market. I would like to think that it is because people are more conscious of their privileged status and want to share some of their assets (money, time, knowledge) with those who have less. The payment is good, indeed: a clean conscience , lots of experience, people you have so much to learn from.

photo: A DOOR IN LONDON by Futurilla

photo: A DOOR IN LONDON by Futurilla

I started doing volunteer work seven years ago, after a specially hard time in my life. I worked at the Red Cross, helping immigrants write their CVs and participating in craft workshops and video-forums for homeless people. In these years, I have worked for a lot of other non-profits, have had some bad experiences, but mostly I am grateful to all the organizations I’ve worked with, because they have helped me to learn so much about myself and life.

Today I would like to highlight one of the most generous communities I cooperate with: the Hospitality Club. This organization has a host of volunteers and affiliates which provide free accommodation worldwide. You only have to sign up at their webpage and you can search for people willing to receive you at their home in whichever place you choose.

They do this only to facilitate the contact between different cultures, and they do not even ask for donations, but they have a huge need for volunteers. Anything will do, from answering emails to compiling a guide of your town. So, if you like meeting people from cultures other than yours, be hospitable! Join the Hospitality Club and spread the goodwill.

On being poor

Yesterday I was telling how, in spite of not having any money, I was having a great time, and I thought it would be good to explain how I manage.

Those of you who have read Julia Cameron’s invaluable book The Artist’s Way, will be familiar with the exploration Julia makes of preconceived ideas which keep us well away from trying to be artists. One of these ideas is that artists are constantly broke. While this might not be true when you have been pursuing your career for some time, it certainly is at the start.

photo: in flight by Lola_TC

photo: in flight by Lola_TC

But I have found you can learn to be frugal, even late in life (I never was frugal when I had a good salary, which I now contemplate as one of the main blanks in my education). So here’s what I do:
– First of all, I do not have a house or a car. Although this can sound a bit extreme to some of you, it has been perfectly convenient for me during these months, and saved me a lot of money. In a couple of months I hope I will be able to buy a second-hand van and take to the road again with four-legged family. I will of course live in the van until I decide where I want to establish myself (I am thinking Italy, which I haven’t visited in a long time) and can afford an apartment.
– Second, I am not one for luxuries like makeup, fashionable clothes, and the like. I am very careful with my look, but can manage with few well selected and combinable pieces and some high-quality complements. So, this year I have not bought clothes – except for some t-shirts to replace the ones which were too tattered
– Also, although I like eating well (I had an issue with melanoma three years ago and have taken good care of myself since), I prefer simple, fresh products and like to compare prices when I buy food. I eat a lot of fruit, vegetables and cereals (I am a vegetarian).
– As for healthcare, I believe in prevention. Fortunately, here in Spain, healthcare is completely free, as in most Europe. But even so, I only go to the doctor for melanoma revisions, since I have an otherwise good health.

So this is the way I manage living with less than 500 euros a month, and I even have saved enough for a van!

What about you? Have you any other suggestions on living thriftily to be able to devote yourself to your art?

Of this and that…

OMG, I can’t believe I let the dust gather on the blog this way! I have the usual suspects to blame, of course. Haven’t you heard you have to be careful what you wish? There you are. I wanted to be a freelance, and now I am, no fixed office hours anymore. Trouble is, not being fixed, office hours have a sneaky way to add up to 24 a day. Which means I have been translating and researching and networking and …I finally found a breath to remember I’m an artist too, and that, being an artist, is the most important fact in my otherwise boring life.

Doesn't she look completely self-assured?

Doesn't she look completely self-assured?

Well, I have more or less made up for it. I have written a couple of poems, made a journal page and a couple of small works (all of which you can see at my other blog, the Impatient Traveller), and even sat down long enough to start my forever-postponed novel (whose outline has been also gathering dust – literally).

All in all, I feel like I’m doing what I wanted to do, which is the most important for me. And it never fails to surprise me that, even with the dramatic altering in my circumstances, no car, no money, not even a house I can call my own, I had never felt so serene and centered. Have you undergone something similar? If so, I would like to know


Seems we are having an explosive cyclogenesis here in Spain, meaning we have winds of up to 150 km/h, rain and slating almost all day, and a biting cold.I have been working on my art (more on that in my art blog,the Impatient Traveller). Well, this was a quickie just to let you know I’m still alive and blooming. I’ll post another one later today or maybe tomorrow. Now, off to work

A touch of poetry

I have a new poem published at Associated Content,
Marine Love. Be sure to link and I’ll be raking the bucks!;-)

Blog? What blog?

Oh my. I have just remembered that I have a blog to keep (thanks Stacie!). I have been a bit busy this week doing some translation jobs and trying to regain momentum after the holiday season – I had momentarily parked several volunteering jobs, and last week I had to begin again. And I have been squidooing a lot (I confess), creating new lenses (the last one is about my trip to the caves of Niaux in France. Come and visit here. And, promised, I will be posting a new article on journaling in a couple of days