I achieved one of the major goals I set for this year: as of yesterday, I am no longer on benefits. I stopped claiming ESA.
People keep telling me how awesome this is — even when I mentioned my intentions, people responded with enormous enthusiasm — but my overarching emotion at the moment is not joy or relief or excitement. It’s fear.
All leaps are a leap of faith
Why am I scared? Because I have lost my safety net. Living on benefits is no fun, for sure, and I didn’t receive a lot (just over £5200 a year, which would be impossible to live on if it weren’t for the support of my parents), but it was a regular income. Now, as a self-employed writer, I am responsible for providing myself with as regular an income as I can. Part of me wants to run away and hide.
Yet I know that this is an essential step towards achieving my long-term goals. I also know that there is a good chance I will be able to make it work, aided by my new job writing CVs for an international company. In some ways, that makes me more anxious: when there is a good chance of success, failure seems less excusable. It puts more pressure on me because there are more expectations.
So why am I putting myself through this additional stress? Because the alternative is less palatable. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life on benefits, never able to buy my own home or even move out of my parents’ house. I want more than a miserable existence punctuated by the odd fun night out. I want to earn a living from the work I enjoy and I want my life to be meaningful.
I believe this is possible. I don’t have a great deal of faith right now, but I found enough faith (and hope) to make the leap.