Discover more from My Goodness! From Jo Elvin
The Phillip Schofield news has triggered me
A sudden change in your identity is a big deal.
Whatever the truth is about why it ended so abruptly for Phillip Schofield, seeing him squeak out a plaintive, high-pitched - and as it turned out very last - goodbye, it stirred up memories for me.
The TV veteran and I have absolutely nothing in common. But this week, he left a job overnight after 21 years. I had a similar experience at Glamour. After 17 years, suddenly it was announced that most of the team would be made redundant, and that included me. Like me, he even legged it straight down to Cornwall to clear his head.
(Back then, if I’d had Phillip Schofield Money, I’d have probably soothed my redundo pain in The Maldives. But sure, Cornwall’s nice. No shade to Cornwall.)
It was an odd and sad way to see such a big TV star leave. Normally we would expect a loving farewell tribute of a show: favoured guests rolled out to say lovely things about the departing host; lovingly produced highlights reels of all of someone’s best bits from more than two decades on the same cosy mid-morning sofa. Tearful hugs from all co-presenters and crew. But no, nothing.
It brought to mind the day I asked if I could take my jobless colleagues for one last cheeky pint on the company, and being told no. We all left, in dribs and drabs over the coming days, our creative genius now being put to use on tens of those parody covers that all staff get when they leave a magazine job. Sometimes you can go years without having to think of enough jokes to fill one - suddenly we had to produce about 20 so as to give everyone at least a bit of a send-off on their way to the dole queue.
I imagine that Phillip may well be churning over some of the same issues I did for many weeks after I left. In the wake of it all, you look back and realise that others must have been discussing your doubtful future, long before it actually came to pass. Suddenly, horrifyingly, it makes sense as to why you were struggling to pin down that colleague for a meeting - because they could smell the career death on you and it might be contagious.
My last issue of Glamour was on its way to be printed when I learned I was leaving. I was offered the chance to delay the presses for a few hours and re-write my editor’s letter, a proper ‘goodbye’ to the readers. It came with the condition that my words would need to be approved by management. That was a first in 17 years - the implication that I couldn’t be trusted. They’d have had nothing to fear and I’m sure they wouldn’t have felt the need to change a word. But on top of all the shock and sadness about the way things were ending, that was an insult too far for me and so I declined the offer. I figured I could talk to the readers on my own terms, in my own time, when my head wasn’t suddenly swimming with questions and anxieties about my future.
Maybe that’s also why Phillip said nothing - simply in too much pain and shock. What could be said in those last few seconds on air that would feel ‘big’ enough? After a week of watching a man’s easy swagger just crumble on air, it might have felt like an impossible task.
I’m not here to judge whether or not he should have gone, or speculate on why he did. For whatever reasons, the situation became untenable between two people who used to be sibling-close and that in itself is very sad. Of course Phillip will be fine. His career has made him a wealthy man. He still has a contract with ITV and will no doubt continue his presenting life in other guises.
But nothing, least of all money, saves you from the emotional churn of a seismic change in your value.
Getting over it takes time. Lots of it. I’ve written before about how I threw myself into relentless activity. Much of it was pointless: Meetings for the sake of it, knowing they’d probably not lead to work. Everyone at the time urged me to take a long break and I didn’t listen to them because I was too scared to stop and be alone with my thoughts. If I could do that time all over again, I’d be kinder to myself. Because when I wasn’t racing all over London by day to have tea with that person and a brainstorm with someone else, I was lying awake at night churning over the pain of being dumped. And my need to fill my life with activity, any activity, took me to the brink of nervous exhaustion.
For most of us it can feel embarrassing to need to ‘get over’ a job but it is the breakdown of a relationship. We are encouraged to find jobs we love. It’s going to hurt when it doesn’t work out. Frankly though, everything ends. And I’m still convinced I had been there too long to find the confidence within myself to just up and leave for an unknown adventure. When I look back I’m grateful for the incredible opportunity that whole time was. It led to everything else that’s happened, every door that’s opened since. I loved every second of that job and I still have many many friends from those years.
I’m also - maybe weirdly - grateful that the way it ended taught me some valuable lessons: mainly to not let a job get too cosy and comfortable, and to keep looking forward to new challenges rather than fearing what’s next.
I remember worrying that I would never work again. I’m sure many of you would think that was irrational of me and yes, it probably was. But when your confidence has been dealt a body blow, it takes time to recover. Or maybe it’s just me who goes to very dark places very quickly.
I think what helped me more than anything was simply looking around at people. I might sound so basic and stupid but I often look at people on the train, in the street and remember: there are millions and millions of people who are figuring it out. They’re paying bills, getting food on the table. Ultimately that simple fact gives me the faith that maybe I can keep figuring it out too. All my good and bad experiences - the highs, lows, successes and failures - have led me to where I am right now, enjoying a varied hybrid of roles. No two weeks are the same for me at the moment. And every experience I’ve had in my 30+ years of working has made that possible.
The me of 2017 couldn’t have imagined the varied stuff I’m enjoying doing now. So when I look at look at those pictures in the paper today, of Phillip sitting looking all glum in his car in Cornwall, I think I know exactly that feeling in the pit of his stomach right now. But I also know it can be the start of something else that’s great.
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