As many charity shops will testify, lockdown was a perfect chance to sort and de-clutter, seeing many of us rummaging through the top-heavy totem-poles of our possessions with mild stupefaction over what we’d previously thought to need, keep or want.
So it is too with the clutter of the subconscious. For the first time in years, life beckoned me a few weeks back to grab its torch and grub about my basement for one very particular storage box – that strange container of peculiarities we call The Job Interview. Ah, there it was, firmly wedged on the ‘Things to be Dreaded’ shelf, languishing rather timidly beneath six years worth of dust! Full of odds and ends I have scant memory of owning, and a rather shabby collection of 1980’s records I’d never replaced.
And that’s when it hit me: I’ve been living life like an old jukebox on legs. For every blank-canvas of possibility life’s kindly waved my way, I’ve tossed in the coins of my true currency to play a familiarly-outdated track instead. How long have I hummed blithely along – without pause, question or thought – to a perennial playlist I’ve barely noticed anymore?
Oh bloody hell, I’ve had ‘Man Has to Struggle’ on repeat all these years!
How empowering it is to check these inner indexes, to take a peek at what we’ve unwittingly tucked away; to see the libraries of belief curated under each-and-every category. Songs about risk, songs about strife; songs about effort and danger and the sharp edge of life.
So many of us sail through the world on these tightly-lashed rafts of belief, built so hastily for survival when we first arrived. From the plastics and driftwoods of all those who came before, we gather and cling to whatever’s washed up on our childhood shore. And so we scramble to bind it all together, to fasten, weatherproof and seal, launching into the great sea of adulthood on the salvaged dais that helps us feel secure. But it’s our desperation to stay afloat that fills the patchwork of our sails, and the great winds of our fear that propel us hither and thither.
For so long I’ve navigated job-interviews like shark-infested waters, swimming only in the safety of a metal cage. Controlled the display of myself like a presentation-stand of artfully-branded free gifts, pulling my mask-strings ever tighter to hide the grimace underneath.
Why oh why do we buy into this strange idea? That our true self is too risky, too dangerous to let free? We suffer instead beneath the weight of disguise, eternally longing to scratch the itch of our false-beards. So many of us clutching grimly to our socially-acceptable fig leaves, hiding the poor, shriveled genitalia of our glorious inner-beings.
Tear them off, tear them off – let our truth dangle forth!
Ah, what a moment it is when we stand before the whole quantum-shop of music; toss the old records aside, and choose anew. Strut down our stairs with Freddie-Mercury audacity in whatever pink-twinset, mustache and PVC-combo we’re inspired to enjoy! Mix up the ingredients of life’s kitchen in fresh bursts of floury glee, and realise at last that we can see things differently.
And so, for this interview: a new recipe. Not a trial or a test, nothing to fear or resist, just a synergy of sharing in the bright blender of authenticity.
With a cloud of flour and an apron tossed aside, I clicked on the ‘Join zoom meeting’ and opened my heart. And almost three hours later, after a dialogue of connection and laughter, the meeting ended and two new tracks began to play:
‘What a wonderful world’ by Louis Armstrong,
And good ole’ Frank Sinatra;
‘I did it my way’.
I’ve had many surprising incarnations in this life so far; academic, nursing assistant, footballer, rugby player, au-pair, epidemiologist, fancy-dress enthusiast, ice-hockey player, circus performer, professional gardener, artistic doodler and occasional duck. But in forty years, writing is the one area I’ve most deeply yearned to express myself but rarely found the courage or pluck. And so now I’m travelling this inner journey of exploration and expansion at last, a curious cartographer of inner worlds and outer reflections in the mirrors of life, gently unpeeling layers of my created self to unearth the rich bedrock beneath. And I offer my journey here, to whoever it may reach, as a token of connection, courage, love and trust.