Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Butterfly Effect

The first short story I remember reading was Ray Bradbury's A Sound of Thunder'. I was in third year of high school in Mr Bradbury's English class. Until then, I'd hated English classes. Two years of Mrs Jackson giving us comprehensions, lessons in grammar and enunciating my name with every syllable every time I moved. But, these classes were different. Mr Bradbury wanted us to write poetry and I remember clearly reading Ray Bradbury's story and the feeling of oh my god in the pit of my stomach as I was reading it. It was like a switch inside me that never turned off again.

I read it again this morning for the first time since I was 13, and it still holds the same power, and I experienced a similar compulsivity when reading it. But I'd forgotten how beautiful his description is, how the tension builds slowly. It's an amazing short story.

Last week I handed in my 8 weeks notice at work, after a very strange few months that I haven't been able to write about. We found out at the end of March that the funding for our service will end in September. I knew it was coming in a way. It was no surprise, let's say. With the £110 million cuts that our local council has to make over the next three years, I had a sense that our small service could easily be one of the many cuts it would choose to make. We were a relatively new team delivering a preventative service to families where there is a child in need or at risk, and I'm not sure how much preventative services have a place in the current political climate. And most importantly, we weren't meeting our targets. Yet. We've spent an awful lot of time building the work, rolling it out over a whole city with a significant level of problems, getting our service known, encouraging referrals, and learning the work as we were going. So, I knew in reality that further funding was a dim possibility.

All the same, being told that your project is going to end is hard news to hear. It was one of those hit by a bus feeling. And then a slow dawning question about what the heck are you going to do. Everyone reacts differently to news like this, and at first I figured I'd be fine, that as an employee for over five years I would get a decent redundancy payout if my employer couldn't find me another suitable job elsewhere. I've had friends who have faced redundancy and they had good payouts that gave them enough time to find other work without a huge financial worry. Other friends have decided to use the opportunity to take a little time out of work and write or travel. So, I tried to see it as an opportunity.

I started to do a little research, checking the jobs bulletin, read the redundancy policy. And this was when I discovered that redundancy can mean very different things. It can mean generous payouts or it can mean statutory payouts. I was shocked to find out that statutory redundancy pay is one weeks pay for every year you're worked, which added up amounts to very little in the context of mortgages and bills and the cost of living. My options became much narrower. redundancy was not going to be much of a safety net.

There haven't been many jobs out there. I'm not sure how many people are looking for work at the moment. I feel lucky to have found a decent job, it's not permanent, and it's part-time. So, I will have to find some extra work to get the income I need, but I can also have more time to write and dig and relax more. It's a good move. It's a move I'm not quite ready for, but life is pushing me on, challenging me. I'm not sure whether it's the right move, but I've decided to take the chance.

It has struck me a few times... if I'd have worked that little bit harder... approached the work differently, gone for quantity in my work rather than quality... would this still be happening? Perhaps the world would be a different place if there was one thing I could have done or said. Or if the political world was different, if we didn't have this Government, and the council was not being forced to make radical cuts, would we have been given the chance to build our service up more so we could have met our targets?

The butterfly effect is not comforting to think about. It somehow makes it harder to face change, because you keep thinking, was there one small thing that would have made the difference? could I have been better? made less mistakes?

But that's not helpful, sometimes life just hammers us with things and we have to face them. The reasons why don't matter, what could have been done or not done in the past isn't helpful. It's just a case of suck it and see. Get on with it. Try and trust somewhere that this fits in with some wider plan we have no idea about. Or it's just random life. No reason for it, just one in a long line of things we have to deal with.

There's time now to prepare, to adjust, get used to the idea. I'm thankful for the time. Some people lose their jobs within weeks and are left picking up the pieces. But I've landed in a decent place, and maybe the change will be a good one?


Megan said...

So sorry to hear about the loss of your service, Annie. So many sad, shortsighted cuts happening.
But wishing you all the very best with your new job.
And more writing. That will be good xx

sonia said...

It's so sad that a preventative service has been cut but alas knee jerk reactions to situations are often short-sighted. Well done on getting a new job in this current economic climate! Happy digging and writing!!! x