In July of 2014, after a month spent gallivanting across the US with my best friend – a trip during which we busied ourselves mostly by both drinking too much and being really, obnoxiously Australian – I was offered a full-time position by Sneaky as their assistant and online editor. In the grand scheme of monumentally stupid ideas, Sneaky offering me full-time employment as a 20 year-old with no experience, no motivation to gain experience, and a borderline drinking problem had to be up there with "Hey, let's try invading Russia again, maybe this time in winter?". If you need a more coherent idea of the astoundingly few fucks I had to give at that age, when I took up the job I didn't even alert university that I'd be taking a break from my course, I literally just stopped going. I finished university two years later with fucking four failed subjects as a result.
Sneaky, for those who may not be aware, was a small, free publication and eclectic collection of odd, well-written pieces pertaining to whatever the hell the office happened to feel like that month. It was otherwise referred to as "Sydney's answer to Vice" and tended to appear in trendy bars, cafes and – as I frequently discovered – the bathrooms of warehouse raves. My monthly column for the magazine ran for approximately ten issues and consisted largely of me whining about my dating or drinking life.
Catalogue (who I still write for under new editorship) was under the same small publishing company, so by the mere convenience of being in the same room, I took up the responsibilities of their online editing as well. I had barely scraped out of my teenage years and for eight tumultuous months I was – for some ungodly reason – undertaking three different jobs, none of which I actually knew how to perform. With a concept of professionalism that was (and still remains, to some extent) largely based upon wearing a pencil skirt to work, eating nuts, and haranguing the office's lower rungs, I did not do a very good job.
I should stop at this point to make the following disclaimer: both the editors of Sneaky and Catalogue were wonderful, smart, driven human beings who took a gangly moron under their wings and lent me invaluable industry knowledge. I was not, however, prepared for the reality of having a boss at all, let alone two of the bloody things.
There were a number of things that I thoroughly enjoyed about the Sneaky office – the constant parade of freaks through the door, the uninhibited creative freedom that we were permitted, the insane cackle that the writers would emit when something particularly un-PC was jotted down and the subsequent shouting matches at whether or not it could possibly be published, the screams of "HR!!!!" whenever somebody was being inappropriate knowing full well that we did not have an HR department, the lines of MDMA that we hoovered off the tabletops after office hours, and the unmitigated glory of feeling as though we were achieving the impossible that swept through the place every now and again.
On the other side of the coin however, there were a number of factors that made that job a living nightmare and crushed me into a subhuman worm-person by the time it all came to an end – the painful clash of personalities in a small open-plan office that would inevitably make somebody storm out and cry at least once a day (usually me), the sheer exhaustion, the unignorable reality of the cash we were haemorrhaging, the shoddy egotistical writers (of which, yes, I was one), the wild management mood swings, and the constant crippling fear of turning up idea-less. I became so terrified of having no article concepts for the amount of writing that was required of me that nervous fantasies began to constantly unfold in my mind of openly suggesting things like, "Wait, what if we did a deep investigative piece on juice labels? That would blow everybody's fuckin' mindssssss!!"
And of course because I was so stressed out and anxious, I did inevitably turn up with a blank piece of paper every day and feel the distinct urge to beat my skull against my Mac until I eventually bled out into the keyboard.
I was so engrossed in the feverish fantasy of what Sneaky represented that ultimately I did a lot of things that I am not proud of. On the rare occasion that I did produce something valuable, it seemed to justify the whole process and nothing in this world felt better than earning the editor's approval in those moments. Ultimately however the stress, my general ineptitude, and the distinct reality of the magazine's insanity led to my decision to leave and return to university.
At 23 I finally have that goddam science degree (I get to attend one of those graduation ceremonies soon in a putrid gold gown – isn't that the dream?!), I'm a hell of a lot wiser (and slightly chubbier) than I was at 20, I've developed a fairly strong sense of responsible journalism, I've had great articles published (amongst a few dodgy ones but hey, they can't all be winners) and I'm seriously proud of what I can produce given a day or two. Do I want a full-time writing job? Dear fucking lord, no.
It's not necessarily because of my bizarre working history or the arguable-PTSD that I still have from that full-time experience but rather because I've finally learnt to feel at ease with who I am, creatively speaking. After Sneaky I became so paralysed by the fear that I wouldn't attain success somehow, that if I couldn't stamp my way into the magazine industry and make a name for myself, then I might as well roll myself into traffic. I think that ultimately a lot of us are petrified by the idea of failing to attain a label, an identity and a flag to march under – to some extent it is actually quite upsetting explaining to people at parties that you're a freelancer but yes, you do have rather a lot of other stupid jobs on your plate to pay the rent. I just don't necessarily believe anymore that working relentlessly in a single definable direction and certainly, being forced to define that path at such a young age, is a true or universally applicable definition of success or personal fulfilment. Particularly when creativity so often seems to suffer such a slow, quiet death at the hands of external motivational factors (look up the intrinsic motivational theory of creative psychology if you want to research further) like deadlines and team pressures.
It just seems as though our perceptions of careers, mental well-being, and how our work lives should be pursued is so skewed sometimes – so much so that even that criticism feels embarrassing to express. To even remotely think this way is ruled such a ridiculous semblance of wilfully alternative garbage that should be knitted up, rolled in hemp and given to a bunch of goddam hippies to play hacky sack with. I don't want to feel worthless for the lack of a full-time career because it's such a mindlessly judgemental point of view and one that I 100% used to subscribe to.
For the moment, for now, I'm happy for the fact that I have so many creative avenues to pursue; I'm happy for the fact that I have just signed up for a screen-acting course and I'm simultaneously jotting down concepts for science articles and scheduling in next week's modelling jobs. My life is strange and interesting and never ever boring, but I still have to actively quieten the voice inside me that scares me to death and reminds me that I can't live like this forever – I know that, thank you – but for now, full-time is not right, and full-time doesn't get shit done.