When I moved back to London in February last year, I bloody loved being funemployed. I got to explore London, see all my friends I hadn’t seen in months/years, go to the theatre, cinema, go on nights out. I truly was a lady of leisure and I was having the best time. It was fun. Except after a couple of months when the novelty wore off, the fun stopped and I became incredibly bored and horribly bloody skint.
Being unemployed is only great if you can afford to truly be funemployed between acting jobs. And if the in between bit isn’t actually that long. But there are very few who are so lucky. Over the years, however, I’ve found that claiming funemployment benefits, i.e. sugar-coating the harsh truth that you’re not in work as an actor and not having fun, can provide an effective emergency rip cord to be pulled should you ever (and you will) need to avoid crash landing into a very awkward conversation.
“Me? Oh, I’m funemployed at the moment.”
Now, I’ll hold my hands up and say I’ve used this phrase many times. I definitely use it as a coping mechanism to hide my shame and sadness when asked ‘What are you up to at the moment?’ ‘When will I see you next on my TV?’ by every man and his dog. With a great big grin I’d say ‘oh I’m funemployed at the moment, just having a lush time in London, catching up with friends, seeing loads of brilliant theatre’. When in reality, I was in my flat – yes, in London – crying about next months rent, panicking that I was never going to work again, crying that I miss little old Wales and having no responsibilities, moaning LOADS about being bored and just generally being bloody miserable.
Now don’t get me wrong like I said, if you can financially support yourself in London in between acting jobs then well done!! For me it just wasn’t working out that way, it wasn’t healthy for me mentally and wasn’t healthy for my bank account, so I decided to get a ‘normal’ job.
The first normal job I had in London was a nursery teaching assistant and it was HELL ON EARTH. I lasted one day, yeah that’s right, one whole day. My friends still take the piss out of me now. Fish pie, screaming children, toilet accidents and cleaning up said accidents with no gloves or cleaning products basically equalled me sobbing for the forty five minute tube journey home.
Getting a normal job terrified me, I was petrified of people judging me, people thinking my career was over, the embarrassment of telling people what I was up to at the minute. I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself and made the whole situation so much worse in my head, I lost shit loads of confidence and constantly sat waiting for the phone to ring.
But I was getting poorer and poorer by the day and decided I didn’t want to wake up in my 30’s thinking why did I waste my 20’s miserable in my flat in London. After a few months of getting a grip, lots of coffees with my other actor friends in the same boat and thankfully some acting work it was time to get the next ‘normal’ job.
It has its highs and its lows this current normal job (I’m sat on my break writing this blog now) so I thought I’d share a few highlights that I’m sure at least one of you reading this will have been through like me.
- Being asked ‘What happened? You were doing so well.’
- Being asked to have your picture taken whilst in your work uniform and then see it appear on twitter.
- Being asked ‘Why are you working here?’
- Being asked ‘ Are you that girl?’ or ‘You look an awful lot like that girl off the telly!’
- Having people take sneaky pictures of you on the merchandise tray with your chins out in all their glory.
- Dealing with some rude customers that are so horrible you end up in the toilets sobbing and praying that an acting job is around the corner.
- Having an acquaintance/ex colleague/friend bump into you at your normal job and them giving you the look ie- oh you poor bastard working here. EUGHHHHHHH is all I can say about that one.
Having a normal job quite frankly SUCKS, but what keeps me going is knowing that I’m not alone. All of my friends who are actors have had to get one, whether it’s for one month or six in between acting jobs. We’ve all got a horror story to tell about them and will forever moan about having one, but like I’ve discussed above you can’t be funemployed forever. Reality will come and bite you on the bum either in the form of a tax bill or cleaning up an unsavoury amount of children’s wee. No matter how rubbish you feel at times in that normal job, just remember you chose to be an actor and you f*cking LOVE it. The acting bit is where the real fun starts.
Like it? Please share it with your friends and followers on social media. Have something to say? Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below. Have an idea for an article of your own? Find out more about writing for The Honest Actors’ Blog here.