Walking a tightrope of fire without a net.
I started the Uninvisibility project to show the brilliance of mid-life women to a world that ignores them. We feature brilliant, highly-experienced women and tell our stories.
Well, some of the story.
The project is doing brilliantly. In the last year, I have gone from complete invisibility to meeting royalty at St James’s Palace, I have won awards, been on lists, been seen all over the media and guested on more podcasts than I can recall. Uninvisibility blogs are shared widely, our social media following is avid, we’re receiving briefs from major brands and companies for our services, I have an offer on my book, and we are in serious discussions with investors for the new agency we’re about to launch.
Last week I was served a final eviction notice.
People applaud my bravery for standing in front of audiences and telling them about being underemployed for years because of in-your-face ageism. They don’t know I work 60 hours a week on the start-up where I give the impression of being the queen of the world. And another 40 on anonymous copy jobs at a mid-weight rate to just keep our heads above water (and nowhere near out of debt).
I’m faking it till I make it. And I hate it.
And I’m not alone.
The whip-smart investigative journalist I sat opposite last week described women like us as, “warrior women walking a tightrope of fire without a safety net.” It’s a sad indictment that we both knew all the acronyms for eviction notices, that it takes three to six weeks to get an appointment at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, and we both rolled our eyes when we talked about the benefits cliff.
Last year, a gutsy fifty-something founder and I sat outside a cafe where we were making plans to take over the world while watching out for traffic wardens because neither of us had the money for the meter. Now she can’t find the £680 to file for bankruptcy.
The most brilliant woman I know who’s launching a genius business that will change the world just got served for just £500 of rent arrears.
It appears the end of a career for the women who were actually some of the first in them looks like three demoralising years of applying for job after job. By the time we realise our previous positions are dead our life savings are on life-support.
We’re bootstrapping with frayed laces. Starting up with kids to support. And building brilliant businesses on nothing more than bullshit and benefits.
Six months of Brexit uncertainty put our plans on hold but we still had to put food on the table.
We’re out here doing everything we can to create our own opportunities but can’t admit our vulnerability. Bravado is bullshit. Bravery is leaving for business meetings after the bailiffs have turned up. Or arriving in town to sell million-dollar ideas by jumping the turnstiles of the tube (which is no mean feat with dodgy knees, trust me!).
We’re banging our own chests like 300-pound gorillas (thank God your tits don’t hurt past menopause). We know we’re great, we know our ideas are great, we know we have a lot to give and we’re not giving up.
Like all good tightrope walkers, we’re not looking down. We know the next few steps will burn like hell. But we’re just about to jump off (take a big deep breath) and then help as many other women across as we can.
We don’t want charity. We just want to work.
We need help to bat away the distractions. We’ve set up a fund that will help us get legal and financial advice, remove piles of stressful paperwork, and clear our heads so we can bring our world-changing ideas to life.
Please be our safety net as we take these last few dangerous steps.