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

penguin-waking-bear

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

wake up call chicken

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

12914461-winding-long-road-in-the-beautiful-countryside

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…

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