The Naked Cavalier

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Illustration: Luca Vincze for Finland Today

Recently, I was sitting naked in a strange room pondering the result of my nearly 34 years upon this earth, 2 and a half of which were spent in this wonderful, odd and sometimes intimidating country known to the English as Finland. As a resident of my home country England, I had studied hard and worked hard but always feared the day that I would have to leave the Sisyphean coalface of the telesales office and get a “real” job.

However, life had other plans for me and as an immigrant of love I arrived upon these shores filled with an even bigger sense of dread and despair. Here in Finland the one gift of which I had put to use for many years to earn my bread was of no use at all. The gift I speak of is the one “of the gab”. I used to be funny, eloquent and sharp witted back home, whilst here I am about as able to express opinion and emotions as a Finn could express interest in cricket.

So as I sat there, staring fixedly at my bare knees, further pondering my life in Finland, I realised that I did have a few achievements under my belt, albeit small victories. For example, I had managed to achieve a very basic level in the understanding of the language, I had entered frightening situations like job interviews where I had spoken mostly in Finnish too, I had also worked in a wide range of new, exciting places, ranging from radio stations and ad agencies to bars and music venues.

Finland has brought about the cavalier in me, a jack-of-all-trades that throws himself into new uncomfortable places because, here, that is all I’ve known.

Yes I had mostly been working in work placement or internship capacities but at least these placements were leading to other small paid projects, part time work and meetings with people who could help me in the future – and it has done wonders at improving my CV.

As a BA in music production who also studied composition and theory, I am realistic when it comes to looking for work. My main preference for any job is to either be within the realms of music or creativity no matter how tenuous, or at least a job that allows me to continue my creative endeavours independently.

With the jobs I have had in Finland I do tend to have bosses that are very well educated and significantly younger than me and I do seem to get a lot of dog’s body jobs lumbering stuff around. Some of these jobs would’ve seemed below me as the eloquent sharp witted Englishman back home, but being here, abroad in this far off land, I feel able to submit to a sort of relegation in job expectation and role.

Of course unemployment is on the up and I do need money to survive but where I would have always been able to seek the monotonous refuge of the telesales office back home, Finland has brought about the cavalier in me, a jack-of-all-trades that throws himself into new uncomfortable places because, here, that is all I’ve known.

Then it hit me, yes I am an immigrant. The term expat makes me think of gin sodden, ruddy faced Brits sat by a swimming pool in Spain that they have never used. Yes an immigrant is what I am and as an immigrant I must struggle to survive, I must take any job I can to make ends meet, I’m like one of those immigrant doctors who works 18 hour shifts as a taxi driver because the country where they graduated in medicine no longer exists, except I’m nowhere near as potentially useful or hard working.

The liberating pressure and desperation of being an immigrant brings about an insouciant attitude to the ascension of the greasy pole and rat race that I was expected to be part of back home.

When I think of all the jobs that I have done and still do and all the new experiences my situation has forced me into, I start to cheer up a little – they may not pay the most money or be the most reliable sources of income but I do feel that maybe I am starting to get to grips with this country.

I’ve been compelled to overcome fears and experience new things and jobs that are helping me pay my way and learnt that there is no shame in how insignificant the job may feel as long as you do it well and with pride. Maybe if I keep doing all these different little jobs I’ll find one that will afford me a couple of holidays a year, bigger house, a car.

Then, sat there naked, comfortable and with a feeling that everything will be ok I smile and let out a satisfied sigh, only to remember that I can’t actually move for another 5 minutes as there are 10 strangers sat around me trying to draw my image.

Well, as I’ve learnt, work is work, and still life modelling is certainly quite a few steps up from telesales!

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