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.