The road less travelled

Recently, I’ve been getting itchy feet.

(Not of the fungal infection kind.)

Change is in the air. I’m restless. I want something different.

The past two years have been … tumultuous. Largely good, but rough, at times. I’ve been shown evidence of the frailty of human existence up very close, no fewer than three times.

There was a different outcome on each occasion.  Each time took its toll, in a very different way.

But I learned a lesson. It’s that life is so, very short. So very fragile.

It’s too short to spend it in a way that means you’re not happy.

I learned another lesson.

It’s that the most precious things in your life are people that surround you. Your family. Your friends – the family you choose for yourself. If you’re lucky enough, the one person you choose to share your journey with, for whatever portion of the way. Nothing, but nothing is more important than those people. Nothing.

After almost six months of constant working almost to the point of exhaustion, I took some time out.

I realised how little I’ve seen my family over that time. I noticed that my friends were busy making plans, and I wasn’t being included. I saw how I’d shut myself off from the world, buried in a laptop, or sitting late in the office. It dawned on me that I’d felt for a long period that the very idea of a relationship simply meant more demands on the time I didn’t have.

To be fair, I’d been working on some great projects. Met some incredibly talented and inspiring colleagues and clients. I’d been learning about things I’d never otherwise have, and uncovering insights that made me feel genuinely excited.  But in a quest to gain experience in the sectors which I felt made my job worth doing, I was sacrificing the time that made my own life worth living.

Such is the nature of agency life, I’m told. Sometimes I drive myself too hard. It’s true. But in a quest to find projects in line with my own values, I ended up sacrificing them.

There’s only so long you can go on like that.

So I went away to the sun. As soon as I stopped, the cold that had been chasing me for weeks caught up with me. I coughed, I sneezed, I sweated and  felt sorry for myself.  When the fever lifted, I slept. Then for days I read. Glorious, glorious books! A joy I’d forgotten. I switched off my phone, ignored emails. I got up at dawn and watched the sun rise over the sea. I took time to breathe, and do nothing at all.

And I thought.

I thought – what is it you want to do with yourself? What do you see yourself doing in five years time? And I couldn’t answer. The only conclusive answer I came to was: Not This.

So I decided – I needed to do something. With no alternative on the horizon, I decided to force myself into a making a change. I decided it was time to leave my job.

I came home. I talked to my family. They stopped just short of telling me I was mad. (I appreciate that they didn’t.) I talked to my friends. They left me in no doubt that they thought I was making the right decision. Some made me feel like anything in the world was possible, and I hope I’ll be grateful to them over the coming months for helping me to believe it. Someone else told me that I “won’t starve”. I hope they’re right.

So, I find myself at the beginning of October, facing into an unknown future. I have just under twelve weeks left to work here, before facing unemployment. It’s daunting.

Scrap that. It’s more than daunting – it’s terrifying.

But … it’s also exhilerating.

I have a blank canvas. Whatever happens from here on in, it’s my decision. I can stay where I am. I can move county. I can move country if I wish. (But I don’t think I will. I like it here.)

I’m scared. Scared that I won’t make this work, and that I’ll have to go back to my employer, cap in hand, and beg them to stay. To be fair, they’ve been incredibly supportive. But to do so in my eyes would be to fail. I feel I have to make this work.

All I do know is that long-term, I want to work in an arena which I know in some small way, helps to make the world a slightly better place. I’m happy to work hard, as long as I know I’m making some small difference. There are things that I’m passionate about. There are things I’m good at. If I can’t find a postion straight away where I make a living working doing things I’m passionate about or good at – fine. I’ll have more time to devote to them outside of my paid employment. And eventually it will come. I want to be able to wake up in the morning and know that I am contributing something to the people around me, to my family and friends, and even to some extent, my country.

And I’ll make it happen. In time, somehow.

Wish me luck. I’ll need it.


13 thoughts on “The road less travelled

  1. Of course, you'll do it, AM. Anyone that has the balls to take the leap WILL NOT fall. I'm living proof of that. I believe 110% you made the right decision. The road ahead may not be the easiest but it will be better than the road behind 😉

  2. Oh Ms, I am beyond delighted for you taking this leap! The previous commenter has it quite right- anyone who has the courage to do this will *thrive*.

    I wish you every bit of luck (not that you'll need it) & am eager to hear how it all goes. Best to you.

  3. Thanks D & R for the encouragement and the good wishes. If nothing else, it means I'll get to read write more, and draw more, and read more. And they can only be good things, right?! Watch this space! 🙂

  4. You know, Anne-Marie, I was thinking about you earlier today and wondering when we would see another blog update from you. Lo and behold, on my way home my email 'dinged' and there is a link to your latest post. And what a post it is! So honest – written from the heart as always. You are absolutely right – life is too short – too short not to pursue what you are passionate about and what makes you happy. Is it daunting and scary? Of course it is! But you are doing this for all the right reasons and you WILL succeed. I'll be watching this space! 🙂

    Bravo you.

  5. Hi there, I worked for 21 years in a very successful career, by the end of those 21 years i was thoroughly spent.I went back to college at 37 and made a complete change from hairdressing to child protection. The last 10 years have been the very best of my life, I am fulfilled, energised,and thirsty for more of what life has served up to me.I wish you well in whatever your chosen field is, take the very best parts of your life now and combine them with your new career choices and you will be on a winner.
    Check out

  6. John, thank you. What a lovely comment. And thank you for even thinking about my blog – I'm blushing! If nothing else, at least I'll have some more time to write over the next while, which I'm really happy about.

    Adrian – what you've written is really inspiring – I want to feel fulfilled and energised too! Stories like yours are what I need to hear. I've had a read through your blog, and am looking forward to reading more – thanks so much for getting in touch.

    Annmarie – we'll stay in touch! 🙂

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  8. amf
    ….end of July2013 might be a bit late to wish you luck, but here it is. Tonnes of it.

    From own experience, i know it can be done.
    And yes, i learned that same lesson
    (quote: ” It’s that life is so, very short. So very fragile.
    It’s too short to spend it in a way that means you’re not happy”)

    Stumble and fall -and getting up- is part of the process, part of the going/growing in the right direction. Keep going!


  9. Thank you Aafke. It’s never too late to receive good wishes – as I’ve discovered, this is very much a work in progress and from next week I’m embarking on the next stage. It’s a valuable lesson to learn.

    And stumbling and falling ultimately toughens you up and makes you wiser I think. At least, that’s what I hope.

    All I know is that making that decision was the best thing I have done in a long time and I haven’t looked back once.

    I hope you’re well too. Thanks so much for reading. xx

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