About 14 months ago, I had a wobble. In the grand scheme of things, my life seemed ideal – a permanent, full-time job teaching printmaking at University, and managing a dream workshop, with a fantastic team of specialists, and friends. I was pushing forward my own agenda, of women not just in print, but working in print, of inclusive teaching practices, fair hiring policies, and promoting and supporting good mental health in the workplace. My home life was as stable as anything, being lucky enough to be co-mortgaged forever to a tiny flat in Woolwich, a short walk from my studio.
The wobble came all the same. The noise was constant. The worry was incessant. And then the balance tipped one day, when a tiny incident became an enormous strain, stealing sleep and passion and energy. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault; I saw the sinkhole forming, and instead of swerving, I jumped in. I engaged when I shouldn’t have, I dug deeper to fill the hole.
Only when the balance tipped, did I realise how many items had been hanging on precariously the whole time. I realised I had only achieved balance by putting an equally ridiculous number of items on both sides of your scale, and that I was about to break the scale itself. That all of these objects were obscuring my view of the future.
This melodrama played itself out in my head, and for months, I was ashamed of it. Ashamed of my acknowledged privilege, ashen to allow myself to think that I had any real problems, when there were so many others out there who had real-er ones. This is, of course, absurd – I know I can only help others if I help myself. I know this, and thankfully, in my mind, knowledge still shouts louder than shame. It also helps to have the support of family and lifelong friends who are unafraid of telling you, you’re not quite okay.
So I’ve taken a sabbatical. Yes, the sabbatical is partly to make my own work, which I had largely abandoned; to visit and be inspired by other print studios; to draw; to read and think, but also to resist the urge to blame, and to take responsibility for my own choices. I’ll be back at the University in January 2020.