Most of those who know me, will know that I’ve decided to take a 9 month career break this year. The plan is, I have no plan, other than to start with 3 months in India, followed by who knows… I’m going to be blogging about my experiences, but as a way of introducing myself and my blog, I thought I would start off attempting to answer the question – Why?
A big question, granted, to which all clichés readily apply…. Why not? If not now, then when? Life’s too short, *insert any other motivational life quote here*… but I’ll try to shield you from the obvious and attempt to get under the skin of my reasons. Allow me to try and explain;
I was lucky enough to win a pretty decent hand in the life lottery and grew up with a very solid and loving foundation. My parents worked hard and earned a decent living, which meant we lived in a big house in a good neighbourhood. On reflection I had just about the right balance of freedom and discipline (something my teenage self would vehemently deny!), but I was allowed to spend as much time as I liked reading, writing, trying to record the Top 40 on a cassette whilst doing normal kids’ stuff. I never had to worry about anything, other than the things I was supposed to worry about – boys, school, friends, whether butterflies are confused when they emerge from the chrysalis. You know, the normal things. I always knew where my next meal was coming from (although when it was liver and kidney I wished I didn’t), my parents didn’t get divorced, I was never really ill, I had an education, went on the occasional holiday, got new school shoes when I needed them (stress on the word ‘needed’ and not wanted – we were even privileged enough to not be spoiled). Resolutely middle class would be the perfect way to sum me up.
My fortunate upbringing has helped lead me to the dizzy heights of the top 0.08% richest people in the world in terms of income. I am the 4.6th millionth richest person on the planet according to the global rich list. Don’t be fooled, I’ve worked hard, sometimes really hard – I’m not a natural at many things, but I’m fortunate that hard work is an inherent part of who I am. I’m not so naive to not understand that the same isn’t true of billions of people – many of whom are, or have the potential to be so much smarter than I am. Have I really worked harder to reach this elite club than the 7 billion other people on this planet? Very short and simple answer to that one – no, I have not.
I get to choose. From the significant to the trivial. What I wear, whether I choose the hoop or stud earrings, what car I drive, where I live, who I live with, whether I drive the long way to work to see my favourite tree (actually that is no longer a choice, it now feels like a necessity) what job I do, which friends I have, where we go for dinner, which wine we have with our meal… you get the point. The plight of the Rohingya people in Myanmar has been on the news recently, which really got me thinking about the choices the estimated 600,000 refugees have. They can choose how early they join the daily queue to get their rations, but they don’t get to choose what food they eat, let alone when. Any possessions they had, all lost or left behind. Living wherever they can find a space, spending their time attempting to survive so that they and their families can live another day. I’ve not been there, but I imagine the only real choices they have left are how they choose to behave and what they believe in – they can choose pride, resilience, kindness, generosity, hope and happiness and I’m sure they do when they can.
As most people, I’ve lost loved ones, heard so many tragic stories, seen unimaginable terrors, and more often than not, each time, uttered those immortal words ‘life’s too short’ before momentarily resuming my very normal, short life.
I’m aware that life can also be too long. Too long to spend it doing anything less than something brilliant. We tie ourselves in knots trying to live up to the world’s expectations of us. First as children, then as parents, employees, friends and couples, society has clear beliefs about what is wrong and right. This can often force us to forgo our own beliefs, instincts, expectations or dreams and in my case spend too long living in the corporate coma of conformity.
Call me selfish, flighty, call me egocentric, careless, altruistic, call me what you will, but please don’t call me boring! I’m excited to try on a new coat and see if it suits me, whether the cut feels right, or if I’m ready to collect my old one from the cloakroom. I know that fear will come along for the ride, but I’m adamant I won’t allow it to be in the driving seat.
I have no idea where this adventure will take me, but I do have a primal awareness that this is absolutely what I should be doing with my life right now. Who knows, but then that’s half the fun isn’t it?!
I refuse to curb my curiosity
Curiosity’s a strange thing. For something so brilliant and with such unharnessed power, why do the raft of adults entrusted to make us good human beings slowly but forcibly eek it out of us as we grow up?
As a child, I used to drive my parents mad. Not intentionally, but I had a question for every situation, an incessant need to dig just that bit deeper and try to fathom why. Usually after the 3rd or 4th “why”, the bog standard “JUST because!” was rolled out. That’s not my parents fault, they were busy, I was an annoying kid with 2 equally demanding siblings.
Given I was a shy child, it didn’t take much to curb my curiosity at school either;
Me; “Sir, are there infinite words?’
Maths teacher; “No, only infinite numbers”
Me; “But if there’s a word for every number, there must be infinite words?”
Maths teacher; “Stop answering back – detention!”
I’ve also been guilty many times of not indulging my kids wonder at the world;
Mia; “Mummy, if humans descended from apes, when was Grandma one?’
I look around me and see so many people have resigned themselves to living within the bubble they have so consciously created for themselves, losing their curiosity along the way. Working themselves into an early grave to pay for the car they need to drive them to work, the holidays that mean they get a break from work, the hobbies to take their mind off work, the medical health professionals they visit to combat the stress of work… Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of being one of these people too and I know it can make life flow much more simply, but since when was easy fulfilling? Since when was the way to live your life well, to be unchallenged by anything? Why do we so readily silence those niggling “what if’s”?
The world is so much bigger than my life. I owe it to myself to discover why and what that means. In the beautifully eloquent words of Chris Martin, I’d rather be a comma than a full stop.
Because I can
I walk for those not able,
I see for those who can’t,
I’m curious for those who’ve lost perspective,
I choose for those without an option,
I live in support of those who need me.
So I hope you can join me on my journey. I can’t promise it will be inspiring, fun, compelling or even remotely interesting, but I can promise I’ll be honest, transparent and myself and maybe, just maybe I might sow a seed of encouragement for you to take a step outside of the ordinary.