The Blog

Happiness an Education

The most interesting people I met were the children. Most were too busy having fun to notice or realise that they were in a place of learning, while others paid close attention but still enjoyed what was being taught. Perhaps it was due to the efforts of the Outstanding Ofsted rated school that realised this.

Comparable to being on one of those popular 90s roller coasters you might find at the many neglected theme parks in the North of England, the life of a freelancer is bequeathed with feelings similar to that of the loose roller coaster straps, where somehow you end up squashed between two giant victims of the sugar addiction pandemic that's plagued this country since the 1980s, causing what should be a thrilling orgy of excitement into that of a turbulent ordeal.

A typical freelancing day is a barrage of rituals and routines. Starting at the crack of noon, the daily coffee fix is one such common practice among us freelancers. It's popular knowledge that Costa has the better coffee, but Starbucks has that sugar counter resembling a bourgeois breakfast bar that one might expect to find at a detached in the Cotswolds, (the vanilla and cinnamon dustings have always been a firm favourite of mine). But don't let this world of lazy days and impressive Minecraft palaces fool you. Sure, who doesn't want to spend their entire day watching debt buster loan adverts?

The various routes a life can offer seem great when daydreamt, planned, written down and finally realised. However, the harsh reality of freelancing is that when you arrive at the coffee shop, your card gets embarrassingly declined causing you to wish you'd picked up that collection of loose change on the mantel, if it was even there in the first place. 8 hours later you're slumped into the 100% polyester bright purple Ikea chair, 25% researching a subject you care little about and the remaining 75% spent people watching. Prams are aplenty, as are the other freelancers all trying terribly well to appear as having a better "deal" than you; the latest MacBook Pros are everywhere.

A further 3 hours later, finally, you're hunched over creating a project until regretfully you accept your £50 undercut commission paid via PeoplePerHour that first take a 20% cut, then transfer the funds into your PayPal account leaving you with £25, which, if you're careful, you might be able to access in 10 days time, only then to struggle to make it last for two days (it's a good job you love canned tomato soup!) Then, in a rather lame adult fashion, you call the only lender you know will always get you out of a scrape; Oh the shameful withdrawal joys from the Bank of Mum!

There are however, many alternative "means to an end" income generators that can be found in becoming waiters, bar staff or, in even more extreme cases, adult entertainers... Thanks to the demanding hours taking up the evenings, they leave the freelancer plenty of daytime hours to write, build, plan or draw. Nevertheless, due to the nature of the slave driven minimal wage, you'll be far too knackered to think or pick up a pencil to even contemplate your ideas, let alone realise them.

September 2013 saw me at my all time skintist. Reluctantly I put many of my most treasured possessions on eBay; all of my photography equipment, my motorbike, air rifle, iPhone, MacBook - things were pretty shit.

I needed a job, but I refused to give up my writing - a blog on the Huffington Post was my biggest achievement but I wanted more. Then, thanks to a dear friend, I was introduced to the UK's primary state education system. Being a writer, this newly discovered role was perfect for me, with a working day of 9 til 3:30pm and the most pressing of daily tasks taking the form of a 30 page A4 stack of photocopies from pages 5 to 9 of Winnie the Witch. I'd worked with children before and knew it to be an exceptionally rewarding, if somewhat tiring experience. As soon as he suggested it, I practically jumped at the chance.

For the 6 months that I worked as a Teaching Assistant in that North London primary school, I noticed that children possess an array of wonderful qualities that almost all adults with any slight degree of responsibility think and believe that they need to hide from their day to day personalities. Some even go as far to completely eradicating these qualities. What's left behind is a dull, sappy, grey pile of mass that cares more about the image it projects to all the other big grey blobs of dullness that wait so eagerly to judge them, with their only escape found splashing around in a glass of wine on weekday evenings.

I learnt two life lessons at this school that I plan to live by until death comes knocking. But before I do that, I want to share them with you.

The first is that being silly only affects your levels of respect among peers who's opinions, in the grand scheme of things, aren't worth anything to begin with. If you want to dance around your office when you close a big deal, do it. If you want to make funny faces at a colleague whose having a bad day in an attempt to cheer them up, how thoughtful. Being silly isn't a bad thing. Taking life and all the responsibilities that come with being an adult too seriously, certainly is.

Take a look at the most sad and bitter people you know, how do you think they ended up so angry? All twisted and evil, constantly complaining at the world, hating others, spitting jealously and rage like some-kind of forgotten mythological beast. They've lost touch to their core, they've allowed the troubles of an adult life to get the better of them. They've forgotten what it means to be a child.

Second is the ability to be interested and interesting at the same time. I only know adults that are one, the other or neither, the latter being the dominant case. This was in fact eradicated after spending some time with two exceptional teachers. The first being a bubbly joy of a woman. She commanded her classroom of 7 year old fidgets in an excited upbeat fashion. She was silly at times, and this made the classroom a lovely environment for both the adults who worked with her and the children being taught. I'll never forget her explanation of a math problem by using the fact that I wore odd socks.

The other was as stern as she was fair. An artistically creative educator that employed all of her children to never be afraid of using their imaginations, and that included all of the TA's she worked with, having me read poetry in a pirates voice, which, I might add, coming from the West Country was somewhat effortless.

But the most interesting people I met were the children. Most were too busy having fun to notice or realise that they were in a place of learning, while others paid close attention but still enjoyed what was being taught. Perhaps it was due to the efforts of the Outstanding Ofsted rated school that realised this.

All I was after in this venture was a way in which to keep my head above water, but I came away with so much more. I realised that children are absolute experts at being happy. They don't allow the pressures of their lives to be pressures, they simply get on with having fun and enjoying themselves. They're unaffected by the troubles of income and jobs - surely a society built from its core on such principles would be a better place for all of us?

It's ironic that we spend so much time educating them, when really we should be the ones doing the learning. Regrettably, most of us wont see such qualities as important, passing them off as silly wide eyed aspirations generated from the minds of the naïve, while they're all too busy caring what others think, acting dull and being adults.