Go Fund Yourself
By Phoebe Harper
Photography by Emma Stevenson
This summer I graduated from university with the first class degree I had dreamt of, but never really thought I would achieve. I had always imagined myself leaving university a young, free and single woman, making my way to bright lights and a big city, away from the rural background where I was raised and where I went to university. Unfortunately, with a bank account hemorrhaging worse than an extra in Holby City, my choices were limited and verging on desperate, despite slaving away in several part time jobs during my entire university career. But my final year, amidst all of its trials and tribulations brought along with it the ultimate blessing; I fell in love.
I had somehow always perceived a ‘return to home’ as synonymous with some kind of failure. To me, it suggested a lack of independence, an inability to go out there and make it on your own. I always knew that returning home after university wasn’t an option for me, unless I was to live on my mum’s sofa with all my belongings in the garden, jostled in a space amongst discarded camping equipment and old toys gathering dust. But before I knew it, I soon found myself back on Suffolk ground. I am incredibly fortunate to have met the only 25-year old boy I’ve ever come across with his own car and an entire house where he lives alone. After four months of being together, he asked me to move in with him. The normal pace of a relationship became quadrupled under the pressure of my precarious situation, but somehow it has worked. I now find myself in a beautiful, quiet little country house, a red brick’s throw from the dingy city flat where I imagined I would be, out every night, and continuing to thrive on beans on toast.
Sometimes I am overwhelmed with frustration. Where’s the pulse? This surely isn’t what my generation and someone as young as me is meant to be doing? How can I make this place my home when I can’t even pay rent, and why is it still littered with the remnants of one particularly prominent ex-girlfriend? I had never counted on my heartstrings cementing such concrete attachments. He is a new, delicious and beautiful factor that I now have to consider with every decision I make. Do I want to travel the world? Heck yes I do, but am I really going to take that teaching post in Japan for six months, away from him for that long and missing him the way I do when he just comes home late?
My partner is one of those lucky few to have found his calling and be in a convenient position where he gets paid for it. He has been successful on the quest for that elusive ‘dream-job’, although obviously it’s not without its bugbears. As a cameraman the hours are cruel and there is no typical ‘working day’. Although now at the bottom of the food chain as the company’s bitch, he’s still on a promising path and I envy him that.
Even though he often comes home and wonders what the hell I’ve been doing with myself, fearing for my sanity and boredom, the day normally falls into a typical routine completely without my meaning to: wake up (late, I normally zombie back to sleep after having been woken at an ungodly hour by my departing bed partner), coffee, laptop on, job search, apply, go for a morning scroll before trying to write about something I actually care about.
After that it’s an elbow-deep battle with the daily detritus left from the night before; washing up, clearing empty beer bottles and overflowing ashtrays, pants littering the floor. I try not to see this and the subsequent rounds of clothes washing that I inevitably do as too regressive with regards to my feminist principles. I also desperately try to ignore my bigoted grandmother’s quips from overseas referring to me as a ‘kept woman’. I hate the feeling of not paying rent and being self-sufficient. I do miss my independence when all I had to worry about was providing for myself, and despite the soul destroying exploitation that is minimum wage hospitality and retail work, putting money in my bank off my own back gave me immense satisfaction. Being employed gave me the chance to prioritise what I wanted to do, and gave me a greater sense of what definitely wasn’t for me.
Despite all this, I count my blessings every day for the incredibly fortunate situation I am in. Yes I am stuck in the bubble, but who knows, one of these days a certain application could pay off and I might just be able to find myself whilst I fund myself.