For many “Creatives”, the main vocation in our lives – writing, music, acting etc – can at times feel more like an expensive hobby rather than an actual career.
And we may spend so much time at our day jobs that calling ourselves a Musician or a Photographer can sometimes feel misleading.
I have spent a good portion of my career as an Actress and Writer actually working as a Tutor and yet, when asked that dreaded question “What do you do?” I stubbornly stick to the former titles, hoping that if I repeat them enough times it will one day be a full-time truth.
I have resented my Day Job often. For being so damn comfortable, for being so unglamorous, for not winning me any BAFTAs.
And yet, it is the very thing that has made my creative career possible – the sensible Adult that pays the bills and supports the passionate Artist in me. It is the constant in my temperamental career, the ever-fixed point in the tempest that is Show Business.
And more than that, it’s a great job. I get to choose my working hours and even what I charge. I get to go to people’s houses and drink tea and help them.
And I’m good at it. There are families whose children I’ve been teaching for years. I have seen the first sibling through primary school and into GCSEs and then started working with the younger sibling. There are mothers who have returned to education, now that their children are old enough, to gain those qualifications they never had the chance to before. There are students with Dyslexia and ADHD, Autism and Aspergers who excel when given that extra time and attention tailored to their unique way of learning.
And of course I have gained so much from them. My teenagers have kept me up to date with music, slang and how to save phone battery. My younger students blow my mind with their imaginative stories and simple yet profound approach to life. And every home I am welcomed into is an education in itself. From mansions overlooking Richmond Park to Safe Houses for families fleeing abusive relationships, I have learned so much about the concept of Home and Family and what makes one.
My Day Job has seen me through the ups and downs of life and provided an essential routine and stability that has been life saving.
There have been moments that have brought me to tears. The year one family moved into their new home and christened one of the rooms “the Nina Room”, the time when one of my students came out to me and that time when, at a particularly stressful period in my life, the Nigerian mother whose child I taught took one look at my unusually thin frame and plopped a plate piled with hot steamy jollof rice, chicken stew and plantain in front of me.
The ensuing fire in my belly kept me going for days.
Tutoring is a controversial topic and the whole concept of education has changed greatly over the years that I have been working in it.
The limited school spaces, challenging entrance exams and increasing focus on academic subjects has put pressure on children, parents and teachers alike and the effort to stay a step ahead of everyone else causes much stress and anxiety, not to mention financial pressure.
Tutoring has become big business and more and more a service only affordable to the elite.
I like to think I do my bit to redress the balance in my little corner of the world and inject some humanity back into learning.
But it’s just my Day Job. It’s not what I actually do.