‘ Well You, walked the plank; now get swimming’

Damn; Why Can’t I Sleep Tonight?

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It’s 11.10pm, Thursday 6 February 2014; I awoke just over an hour ago, I having a few slices of buttered bread, a small piece of chicken and a very large mug of tea, extra sugar. So why am I only just getting out of bed? Insomniac? No. Professional Night Crawler? No. Lazy bum who sits around doing nothing all day? Hmmm, pretty close!

No actually the ‘real’ reason is I’m awaiting a live seminar for students on a course learning internet business techniques and implementation. The Webinar is in the U.S at 9pm, not sure of the exact location, but here in the UK that’s 2am in the morning. Hoping to sleep until 1.30am, I found myself tossing and turning thinking it’s must be near 1am, I look at the clock and it’s still only 10.05pm, aaaarrg (went to bed at 6.30pm); I guess I must be excited, or nervous, either way, no more sleep so time to get up.

It might have been nerves preventing my sleep. I have been nervous all day, to put it mildly. A more precise term would be TERRIFIED; from the moment I awoke at 8.15 until about 4.10pm I was gripped with fear, and couldn’t shake it. Today’s bout of fear was easily the longest and most intense I’ve experienced since leaving my 11-year long job exactly 6 weeks ago.

Why this fear? My life is a self made conundrum at the moment, I’m in no man’s land not knowing where to turn and how to go forward, needing to work to pay rent, bank account shrinking, hating the idea of going back into another office, but knowing that doing so as a casual worker will offer the funds urgently needed to make ends meet for another couple of months, wondering if I’m insane for trying to see if affiliate work is a ‘viable’ option, wondering how I can make use of my other passion; piano playing, wondering if I am really listening to my inner voice, my gut, my intuition.

But let’s be really honest here, the crux of it all is in something that gradually occurred to me in the past two weeks. After leaving the job, I worked with another company as a casual for a month, and decided to take 2 weeks off to investigate other options and to indulge myself in an unreasonable amount of piano playing (which I loved 🙂 ). Well, during this two week break, something has slowly started to reveal itself to me; FEAR. I’ve managed to become completely ‘blocked’ by fear, I mean, yeah, I listened to my voice (after many months of self nagging and pleading) to get out of a job that was making me very unhappy, but now I feel almost completely immobilised by fear.

Prove It To Me!

 Judge

I took this two week break, but it’s not exactly what I really wanted, but was a way of settling because I didn’t have the courage to tell the people I was working for that this is definitely NOT what I want to continue doing and that I was looking for something else, the words just couldn’t leave my mouth; I felt ashamed as I walked home on that last day before the 2 week break.

I have a glowing CV ( I think it’s called a Resume in other countries) (Ok I exaggerate a little about the glowing CV), but 11 years of experience means I would have no trouble slotting into a temporary post, but for fear of rejection and possibly getting ‘lazy and complacent’ and stuck in another office job again, I am too scared to send my CV out to multiple recruitment agencies.

Even with this course and the training involved, I get terrified by how ‘pro-active’ one needs to be in setting up an internet venture, and that MORE THAN ANYTHING has got me panicked and wanting to run for the hills, except in this part of London, there’s hardly a hill in site, and anyway, who would I be escaping from? Myself? Hmmm, now that sounds ludicrous to me, how can I escape myself? I mean when I got to the safe destination, I would still be there, hot on my own tail; all that running for nothing.

Who The Hell Am I?

So this revelation has been quietly creeping up on me over the last few weeks until yesterday and the day before, I started to feel embarrassment as the ‘Eureka’ light went on upstairs, revealing what I possibly am; a coward? Afraid to take the plunge? A sayer and not a doer? The irony of it is that (yes I’ve discovered that the universe is full of irony) one reason I dropped this job was to find out who the hell I am, and maybe the Universe has responded saying, ‘ok, you wanna know who the hell you are? Well, I’m gonna show you.. to the full extent’… and I found myself thinking this morning that perhaps the best thing that has come out of this two week break is this discovery of who I am, or who believe I currently am.

Ok, well after some thought and browsing the internet looking for products to promote, I stumbled across a web site discussing limiting beliefs and how to put them to sleep. Well after reading a few paragraphs, it hit me. This is where I am at the moment, this might be the cause of my inaction, self-limiting beliefs. I make it sound like an excuse, well it’s not, or maybe it is. I guess it’s something I’ve used as a way of not taking charge or taking responsibility for myself, always having to wait for others to say, Marvin, you have the talent, use it. People can only repeat this to you so many times before they get fed up of seeing their words fall on deaf ears of a person with a wishy washy heart.

So here I am in the quiet of my room now midnight exactly, a slightly aching neck spasm accompanies me, it has been my companion several times the last 6 weeks, it’s the fear and resulting panic manifesting in bodily symptoms, due to the mind thinking ‘You’ll FAIL, it’ll all go wrong, You won’t succeed.’

Why the hell am I blogging this? Why the hell? I don’t know, I thought it would be good to write it down. I’ve found that looking back on these thoughts is often an intensive to get my butt moving. I’ve walked the plank and now it’s time to swim. Paradoxically, even in the middle of these fear fests, some little feeling pops up and says to me, ‘Marvin, you’ve done the right thing, keep on going, keep on pushing, you won’t regret it’… and I believe that little voice 100%, because despite the fear, I have never felt so sure about the decision I made to walk out and start trying to find what I can be passionate about. Now it’s just up to me to ‘live’ it.

Actually, I wasn’t The First!

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Interestingly I’m beginning to understand that this angst, terror, overwhelming fear is a fairly normal reaction to this type of situation. The insight has come through reading many online blogs of those who have already walked the dreaded path; they eventually passed through the fire. It’s obvious why I hesitated for so long; 7 months before leaving, it was already the absolute final straw, but I still took 6 months to give my notice, and I have had several rants in previous years. It’s funny looking back on Face-book comments and emails of a couple of years ago with me saying, ‘what the hell am I doing in this place’, and noticing I was still sat there for who knows what reason. So I now understand what blocked the beginning of this journey and I appreciate it now. It is also understandable why so many people cannot take action towards an uncertain future which may or may not work out, and would rather stick with a painful but familiar situation (better the devil you know; as they say)

Honesty IS the best policy

I definitely belief this statement, though I’m a little suspicious of where it comes from. I don’t know what my future holds, I don’t know exactly what to do, I’m terrified at times, other times I feel this inexplicable happiness. Before moving on from the job, I was writing to a colleague and said to her ‘I can turn my had to anything’, and I know that to be true, I’m not blowing my own trumpet here, I think that’s true of many people; all the more so if you find something you are ‘enthusiastic’ about. The admonishment that has followed me from the back of my mind in these last few days is ‘Marvin, I know you’re scared, but keep on pushing through, keep on working at it, don’t stop, just do what’s required, do what you know you need to do’… I listen to this, and am becoming more and more convinced that the voice is right. As I walked down the stairs after visiting the bathroom earlier, before I thought of writing this blog, I thought to myself, an often repeated thought, that, I don’t want to die without having lived. In the last couple of weeks, whilst sat in my room looking out the window facing the main road (on my 2 week break from work) I have seen 3 funeral processions pass by; I also overheard two co-tenants talking about a friend that unexpectedly died recently; and with each of those events, that uneasy feeling visits again, what if today was my last day?

This isn’t one of those blogs where the blogger ends by saying they started a multimillion making internet company, or they sailed around the world visiting 40 countries, it’s one where the book has been opened and the pages are empty ready to be written on, I guess it’s where, the world traveller and the self made millionaire, or anybody else who in the smallest way took the reins of life, where they all began. Some of you are yet to get where I am, some of you have passed this road already. It’s been educational reading the many experiences from both sides of the water;

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The Day I left the permanent 9-5 (well, my mind left, but my body held on for two more years)

Recently I have been reading countless blogs about people who decided to be true to what moves them, to what makes them tick,  to their deepest desires, especially what work they would like to do. The stories and actions of all these bloggers have inspired me so much, especially since it sometimes feels easier to give up on trying to find something of value, something to wake up for every day. Would it be wiser to take the line of least resistance, doing what the majority do, taking the safe road? Well all this reading got me thinking, and I thought I would talk about my experience and what brought me to the point where I am reading blogs on this subject on a daily basis and wondering “what next?” and “how the hell do I move forward from here?”

The Awakening

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It was about 9.am on a weekday morning. As usual, my walk from the local underground station to my office was painfully slow. I watched as the usual ‘running late’ commuters sped past me at a frantic walking pace in an effort to cut even a few seconds off their lateness, in a maybe futile attempt to pacify their boss, or who ever would be witness to their lateness. Funny really, London transport can be such a nightmare between 8 and 9.am, with the mainline Victoria Station gridlocked, with train and tube delays, and limited passenger access to overfilled platforms.

You would think the regular late comers would just stroll into work 5,10, 15 minutes late, and give the usual excuse, “sigh…those bloody trains again.” But no, they run like hell trying to salvage an extra 12.3 seconds so their lateness doesn’t look too late, but more like an ‘acceptable’ lateness. So I’m observing the latecomers as I walk a painfully slow pace, almost as though I’m heading for my execution and attempting to delay it to the very last possible moment.  As I approach the main door of our office building I suddenly stop (this is wrong of course because I ‘should’ have been starting my ‘fake’ panicked-run into the office while pretending to be out of breath so I could give the impression that i did absolutely everything to NOT be late). I can’t remember what I had been thinking on that 7 minute walk from the station to the office but, whatever it was, it stopped me in my tracks, my feet anchored firmly to the office entrance paving.  I was going NOWHERE.  I looked around for a few seconds and then 7 words came out of my mouth in a whispering tone, “WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE?” This question wasn’t addressed to someone in particular, it was a rhetorical question just thrown out there. I didn’t need an answer, there was no answer anyway, or so I thought. 

In that very moment I ‘knew’ something was wrong, terribly wrong. But I would have to wait several months before finding out just how wrong things were and WHY they were so wrong. 

This wasn’t the first time I had asked this question. This type of questioning normally came after a holiday abroad spent doing things I loved; being with friends, day-long mountain hikes, banquet style meals on a warm summer’s evening surrounded by loved ones and laughter. Yep, the rhetorical why why why questions usually came in the middle of a post-holiday depression, after the ‘doing what you love for a few weeks’ had ended, and you then returned to doing things you definitely didn’t love, things you disliked, or utterly hated.

But this time, there was no post-holiday depression, because I hadn’t been anywhere. ALARM BELLS… From that moment on I realised my days were numbered in that office, unfortunately, at the time I didn’t realise that those ‘numbered days’ would amount to approximately 820, yes, it took me two years and three months to finally muster up the courage to tell my boss I was leaving. I was harboring so much ‘fear of the unknown’ that I was willing to sit in a horribly painful situation that was driving me insane, rather than take the plunge into the unknown.  So that was the answer to my question two years before; ‘What the hell am I doing here? ‘Fear of the Unknown’

I walked out of that office as an employee for the last time on 27 December 2013. It felt weird, well, maybe not ‘weird’, but it didn’t feel as I had anticipated, no feelings of elation, no jumping for joy, no tears of bitterness, just peace, just quiet, it felt as though I was doing something totally normal, nothing unusual. It was a very quiet sunny Friday afternoon, hardly any workers about, the whole train network system at Victoria station had seized up, nothing was working. So I took myself off via the underground to my second home, Guys Hospital where they have 3 grand pianos sitting in various public areas, and I sat and played for a few hours then I headed home not having the faintest idea what I would do next and how my life would pan out.

The Reawakening

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So what got me here to this place, walking out on a job I had been in for 11 years, not having any idea about where to go and what to do?

It all began one day in about February 2012 when I was working at the office with the radio playing in the background. Suddenly something caught my attention. The radio host was interviewing a former Australian palliative nurse named Bronnie Ware, her job was to counsel terminally ill cancer patients in the last days of their lives. What caught my attention was a list she talked about detailing the 5 most common regrets expressed by these dying patients.

The two regrets that made me stop and listen were:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me

  2. I wish that I had let myself be happier

here is a link to the full article;

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying

Being happier came in as 5th place regret. Being true to yourself was by far the biggest most common regret… This lady’s words struck me to the core, everything I was doing until this point was out of my willingness to ignore what I really felt inside, so that I could live up to other people’s expectations; I was even being called a ‘yes man’ behind my back by a few people in my social circle,  I was a chronic people pleaser, and I was addicted to listening to and solving OTHER people’s problems.

The Long Road To Action

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From that day on, something inside me moved, it took 2 years of constant reminders via painful situations at work, in my home life and elsewhere, for me to finally get the courage to start doing more of what I loved and to walk out of that office that was killing me. To some of my colleagues it seemed as if I was jumping off a cliff I walked with no guaranteed place to work. I feel I had no choice it was either, walk out of the job or walk into the nearest mental institution.

Shortly after leaving my job (look I’m still calling it ‘my job’, that’s how attached I was to it), I had several panic attacks, and overwhelming feelings of terror, visions of being homeless, not having food etc. But every so often, a different feeling overtakes me, a feeling of ‘thank you for listening to yourself, you have done completely the right thing’… this doesn’t come in words, it is a feeling, and it is an absolutely happy feeling of self love that I can’t really explain; I guess if you’ve had that feeling from following your path in absolute truth then you know what I’m talking about.

So, I’ve taken the plunge and am practically falling in mid-air… what next? I’ve no idea, after many years of working in many places prior to my 11-year stint, I know I can put my hand to anything really, but that isn’t the goal, it’s to find what I can do and love doing and do that, it may not be an instant thing, but the first thing is, I have the flexibility to decide when to work and when not to so I can give more time to my current passions. And it’s only just begun…