Is the Dream Possible?
PHOTO CREDIT: @daria97/Unsplash
Social Media, Reality Checks and Taking a Risk
I don’t recall the exact moment...
IN THIS PHOTO: The Labour and Wait in East London/PHOTO CREDIT: @tomasjolmes/Unsplash
I moved up to London (it is early and I can’t be bothered to check) but we are getting on for eight or nine months right now. Before then, I was living at home and working in temporary roles – the last full-time role for me ended in May 2018. The reason I came to London is because I felt it was impractical living outside the city when most of the music capital and opportunities are hear. I briefly flirted with Manchester but, after going up there several times and not being able to find accommodation, it seemed like that desire would have to be turned down. It was a shame but I couldn’t figure how I would be able to find a place when people rented to those who already had a job. Figuring out how to make that work – when I was still living in the South and was waiting for a job – was a nightmare so I think it was wise to try London, even if I did/do love Manchester a lot. I hope to move there one day and will get back up there this summer. London was a sort of compromise but, because it is close to home and there is a lot going on, it seemed to be logical still. Everyone says the same thing: there is so much going on here and you will be able to make it work. Maybe that is true for some but, despite some good aspects – there are worse things than having days like today off – it has not worked so far. Maybe I need to give it a bit of time but it has been a hell of a long time since I have had a full-time job and actually woken up feeling secure.
PHOTO CREDIT: @tomasjolmes/Unsplash
There were a lot of bad aspects regarding living where I did – not in terms of accommodation but the jobs I was doing – and I was not a fan of being in that environment. I felt a bit isolated and trapped; like I was spending a lot of time working jobs to pay rent and exist and not really doing what I wanted to do. London, therefore, was the breakthrough moment and chance to chase that. I have seen many people relocate and get great jobs; achieve their dreams and settle in really well. There is this hard decision, now, as to whether I wait it out for a few more months and hope that, a) a great job comes along I can last in and will keep me here and, b) if there will be the opportunities to get into music and do what I have always wanted to do: have my own radio show and get the chance to play my kind of music to the people. I am a music journalist but that has always been a sort of way of getting into radio and doing what I have always wanted. Ultimately, I want to work at BBC Radio 6 Music but that might be a few years off. Lesser-qualified – in terms of knowledge and passion – have worked at the station and are going to...I might need to work on my own show and use that as a sort of pilot before pitching myself to the big stations. In any case, I have a very specific desire and know where I want to be.
IMAGE CREDIT: BBC
I think a lot of people in music do know what they want to achieve and have that sight. Whether it is to play Glastonbury or get their own album produced, we all sort of have a flavour of who we want to be and where we want to go. The issues of London and its challenges have already got into my bones. Whether it is the increased pollution or a general stress but, more and more, I am finding myself struggling to remain healthy. Not just in terms of mental-health but physically. I have been trying to shift a cold for a couple of weeks now and it seems, with all the encouragement and medicine in the world, it is not going anywhere. I have picked up a few bugs since being here and never had that issue where I was before – it was very rare of me to get ill and it has been a bit of a shock. Maybe it is the fact you are packed onto public transport with so many people and it is harder to stay healthy. In any case, this stress and lack of 100% health has been a detriment when it comes to work and looking on the bright side. Mental-health has been affected as well and, more and more, London seems like a very lonely place. I know people here but they are more acquaintances than anything else. All the people I am closer to live back home so most of the days are spent alone or not really talking with anyone – which doesn’t really help when it comes to keeping my voice strong and muscular!
IN THIS PHOTO: Brighton/PHOTO CREDIT: @nabilaiman10/Unsplash
The depression side has got worse and there have been some truly bleak days – the past couple of weeks have been the worst I have ever experienced. Even if the money is getting low, I sort of have these sights still and know I need to go on. Brighton seems like the most attractive alternative because I love the place and the people; it is far less stressful and one can be a lot healthier and happier there. It would be cool to work at a record shop like Resident and live quite a calm life but I know, more and more, the fact London is not right at my feet would get to me. Brighton is my favourite place in the world but there are not really the same chances in the music world as there are in London. London is the place for people like me who want to get into music and radio and, although there are countless jobs, labels and stations around, the reality that you can a job just like that is not true. Many wonder why I am still seeking work but, after thousands of applications, a smattering of interviews and a lot of hard work, it has not yet happened. My qualifications are great (a degree at that) and I have plenty of experience; I am professional at interviews and there is nothing at all that would prohibit my from getting any good job, albeit a lack of specific experience for that role. I fared better where I was before and could get a job a lot easier.
PHOTO CREDIT: @antohakraev/Unsplash
London, despite all the good and the vastness of it is immensely brutal. Even when looking for a role that is non-musical – as I have been since I got up here – the competition is intense and very few people are willing to give you a chance or help at all. It would be ideal to a music-related role but, in most cases, there is the same level of competition and a lot of the jobs need specific qualifications that I do not have. In journalism terms, most roles are unpaid and, whilst it might lead to something permanent later, there is no guarantee and one cannot realistically live in London and work for free for any length of time. Unless you have a comfortable job locked-in and that security, the capital is a very tough and unforgiving place. Social media makes things worse to many people like me. Musicians and those in the industry are stubbornly ambitious and we want to get as far as we can in what we do – it is only natural we want the best and to succeed. There is this divide on social media between those who are sharing their success and happiness and the opposite: the affected and depressed who are struggling to cope. People tell you there are many in the same situation and you are not alone but, you know, the first statement is not helpful and the latter is not true: knowing others are struggling does not make me feel better and there is a genuine feeling of doing this solo and not having a lot of support in London.
PHOTO CREDIT: @jakobowens1/Unsplash
I am pleased we get to see happy stories and successes shared online but it can have a damaging effect on those who are not doing as well. Every post – from musicians and those in the business – that talks of streaming success, great breakthroughs and accomplishments is wonderful for that person but it can be quite sobering for people such as myself who do not get to enjoy the same bounty and fulfilment. I know those who are doing well have their own struggles but the other side of the coin, those struggling, also has a negative effect on the emotions. A lot of music-related roles have come up – and I have applied – but one seldom gets to an interview. My experience is quite broad and I have been running my blog for over seven years. I have a lot of different skills that could be brought to a role but, in music, there are not a lot of ‘me roles’ that are paid and available right now. I have to, therefore, look at something more ordinary and regular. That is okay but, even in that situation, getting anything at all is incredibly difficult. Moving further away from music is frustrating but not being able to find a job at all adds to that strain. Maybe it is the realities of the city and how hard it is but, after so many months, the original desire seems so far away.
PHOTO CREDIT: @ar_meftah/Unsplash
I will never give up on working at a great station like BBC Radio 6 Music and doing my own show because, really, that is the only thing I want to do. London provides me with regular illness and takes me money but music is the main thing (apart from family) that keeps me going and moving forward. It is tempting to move to Brighton and realise a more sedate and sunny life but I know, if it meant I was moving further away from my ultimate dream, then I would regret it and it would not be where I should be. Oddly, being less happy and struggling is what has to happen if you want to achieve your dreams. That might sound wrong but very few people who have got where they really want have done so easily and without setbacks. For me, I am the extreme and will need to abort London and living up here if the finances get too low. One of the main heartaches regarding money getting low was the fact I was given a substantial sum by my parents to realise my dreams and go for it. So far, that money has been spent on rent and surviving; none of it has gone into music and radio and, as time elapses, more and more of that money is merely being used to get by. This might sound like a general gripe but I wanted to ask whether, in such a busy and technology-driven time, achieving the dream is as easy as it should be.
PHOTO CREDIT: @samuelclara/Unsplash
Anyone who has a dream to be a success should always go for it and not be deterred by anyone else but I am finding a lot of hurdles being thrown. Social media is great for connecting and networking but hearing updates and posts from others who are doing well and loving their dreams can be a little deflating for those of us who are in a different boat. The demands needed to keep going and looking up are exhausting and toll on our mental-health is clear. Now, more than ever, I am seeing posts about suicidality and deep depression; people wanting something so bad but not being able to get there because life and its realities are impossibly tough. I know we all need that reality check and have a bit of common sense regarding dreams but it can be really tough seeing people do well – who deserve it and have worked hard – and knowing that we have put the same amount of effort in and are not doing what we want to do. With a never-ending cold and headache; another week looking for work and the charms of London to navigate – the packed Tube and lack of good news – it may all sound defeated and lost. My point is that there is a safety net and there is that option to either go back home or, more likely, move to Brighton and exist there – keeping an eye on London but being more secure and in a better environment.
PHOTO CREDIT: @dj_johns1/Unsplash
I know I have come a long way and invested a lot in getting to where I really want to end up. I am putting out a lot of posts and articles which, I hope, are of good quality and will continue to do that. The ‘real’ bits of life and London suck a lot and the shrinking funds are a daily woe. I know there are good sides and reasons why people like me come here. London is where the music industry in this country is based, really, and there are more big radio stations and labels than anywhere else. One can go to a lot of gigs and network with artists; there are communities and, although it is hard to settle in and succeed, perseverance is the key. I was unhappy doing a job I did not want to do and having money so is having the freedom to look for something better and being less-well-off any worse?! London, unfortunately, amplifies things like stress and depression but I am quite close to the BBC and there are loads of chances. Getting them is the main problem and it is really tough doing what you want to do. I think people can accomplish their dreams but you need to take a leap now and then and accept the fact you might have to struggle in terms of finance and health. I know my ambition regarding a BBC Radio 6 Music slot is a few years off but the only way to get there is keep doing what I am doing; keep close with musicians and do as much networking as possible.
PHOTO CREDIT: @bensow/Unsplash
So long as I can keep my head above water – the money I wanted to save for doing my own podcast and travelling might have to go – and can keep focused then that is the main thing. I think, essentially, you just need to have a very clear idea of what you really want to do in life and map a path to get there. For me, I have moved to London and ticked that off. I need to get a role – one of these days, huh?! – that allows me the stability to live up here and, week by week, make steps towards radio and music. I am seeing many others achieve their dreams and that is quite encouraging. One is always going to be pushed and pulled by the harsh realities of life and many people will struggle a lot more than others. I am not making excuses but I have limitations and psychological issues that are a bit of a hold-back and it makes it harder to do as well as other people. The only reason I get up and keep pounding (apart from family, again) is music and doing what I have dreamed about doing for so many years. Anyone else in the same situation and finding it hard to see the light should take heart in the fact they know where they want to end up. Many people in general have no idea of what they want to do and how their life should pan out. If you have a clear goal and idea then you are a lot further along than most. It can suck having to struggle and seeing other succeed and many social media is a bit of an unhelpful curse when we see so many people succeeding and sharing that news. Social media is also a very useful tool and can help you get where you need to so keep that in mind. If you can, like me, make a plan and keep the desire close by then things will be a lot easier. It may take a long time and money to get there; it may be a path littered with setbacks but, if you remain focused you will be able to…
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