Sometimes life it takes you by the hand.
I have done more living in the last four months than I have in the last four years.
Within one week of coming back I had a job.
By week three I had an apprenticeship.
After two months I started dating someone special.
Around the same time I got poached for a different, better part-time job and took it.
This week I tattooed my best friend, my mentor and the shop's tea boy.
Tomorrow I'm going to the London Tattoo Convention with one of my mentors.
By the end of the year I will be a full-time tattooist and have my own place.
As you may have read previously, when I lived in Belgium I struggled to find work. I spent most of my time indoors, entertaining myself with the dogs, the internet, books, video games and cannabis. I often found myself halway through the fifth joint of the day thinking to myself, "I should make the most of this freedom, I won't have this sort of time to waste for long".
I was right.
I now work seven days a week. I've had three days off since I started working and on only one of those days I spent a portion of the day doing fuck all due to exhaustion. My working week is anywhere between 50 to 70 hours, depending on my rota. I've lost more than ten kilos in weight and I haven't smoked a single joint for over a month because I just don't have time. Many people say that I've been thrown in at the deep end in many different contexts. They're not wrong. I'm swimming rather merrily.
In May I wandered into the first tattoo shop I'd seen in the area with my sketchbook just on the offchance. I was offered an apprenticeship that day. After scoping out the rest of Southend's tattooing scene, I accepted the offer.
The shop that I apprentice at is run by the president of a local bike and trike club and my mentors are also full members. The club itself is like an oversized close-knit family that I not only work with but also live with, frequently go out drinking with and, occasionally, go out riding with. I've been a fan of Sons of Anarchy since it came out, now I feel like I'm living on the set. I've got my own Chibs and everything. What can I say, I'm a sucker for older men with sexy accents, beards and tattoos. We can't get enough of each other.
Here's our song. It sorta picked us rather than the other way around:
Nowadays it is a rare occurance to walk along the seafront without being recognised and greeted by a familar face. I frequently get honked at by vehicles driven or ridden by friends. Sometimes people walk up to me and talk as though they've known me for years but, for the life of me, I don't remember who they are because I've met so many people!
The friends who are quickly becoming my family often chastise me for selling myself short, for biting my tongue and for not having enough confidence. What can I say? I've had it metaphorically beaten out of me over the years and my stay in Belgium put a few nails in that coffin. This lot are building me back up to where I should have been all along and replacing a lot of things that have been taken away from me or left behind.
I owe them so much for giving me a real chance at life where I (and others) have squandered it.
I am where I belong and I'm happy.