Don’t Look Back – Monday 27th Oct 08

Mary Engelbreit’s greeting card appeals to me at this moment in time. By now the people I am close to at work know that I am leaving and on the whole seem very happy for me. Some people think I’m being foolish leaving and not having a plan but to me it just seems more foolish to stay when my heart’s not in it. I feel liberated and in touch with myself again, even though I don’t have a clue about what it is that I want to do, but that blank canvas doesn’t frighten me too much. My last day is November the 28th and it will be the end of an era for me. It’s been one of the best learning curves of my life. After I finished university when I was 21 I went to work in Canada for a year with just a rucksack, return flight and no plan. It turned out to be one of the best things I ever did. 4 years later and I feel ready to take that plunge again.

Greeting card by Mary Engelbreit

Greeting card by Mary Engelbreit

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Mentors

Today I was offered a new project to work on with my previous boss; same salary, more control, familiar team and prospects of working in the States for some of it. I felt the pull, and I could taste the regularity of my skinny cappuccino sipping back into my life. I could work on it for a few months and then think about going it alone, perhaps this project would arm me with better skills to go it alone. Something held me back and my hesitancy was detected. I was keen that it not be thought of as being ungrateful and after much probing from my former employer I managed to utter the words that I was thinking about going it alone. Even as I said the words I felt foolish and doubtful that I could even do what I was talking about. The reaction I received was one of support and understanding from someone who had decided to go it alone when he was just a year younger than me. His support was a real blessing as I appreciate the investment he has made in me with time and patience over the last two and a half years.

Knowing that the cat was out of the bag, it made me think there was no point in holding back and I decided I would hand in my notice tomorrow, meaning I will be out of work much sooner than I anticipated which is exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. I began thinking about my boss’s words of encouragement and it made me think about the mentors I’ve had in my life, and the other times when I’ve felt I was missing the guidance I needed. For a while I thought the answer was in one long term mentor who was perfect, and believed that if only the right person took me under their wing I could achieve amazing feats.

In Dr. Dyer’s Erroneous Zones, he actually declares the opposite, that no one should be put on a pedestal above you, and that by doing so, you limit your own ability by saying “I’m not as good as them”. I found this difficult to believe at first. Surely there’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be like someone you admire? And how, at the age of twenty five, when in my eyes I haven’t achieved anything in the field of my dreams, be my own mentor? I realise that he means our strength should come internally rather than relying on anyone else to pick us up and make us feel better. This is easier said than done when you feel like the world has trampled on you all day and you haven’t a clue to what to do with your life. I do hope that one day I may have the resolve to be my own counsel, but until then, when the chips are down I’ll probably still ask myself “what would Bruce or Dolly do?”

Passion

Following on from my last entry about happiness it made me think more about devoting time to the things in life that excite and amaze us, and it may not necessarily be limited to what we believe we are talented at. Last weekend when I found the old list of goals, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed about each item I was unable to cross off. Though I feel tired just thinking about how hard I have worked my first thought was that I must have been inefficient and unproductive. Since then a further notion came to me. I had not included on the list any goals for my day job.

I began to consider what may be perceived as my professional achievements in the last two years. My salary tripled, I have helped choose and worked with a team of talented people whom I greatly respect, I have learned firsthand from some extraordinary entrepreneurs and witnessed the inner mechanics of a multi-million pound company. I’m proud of my work and grateful for the range of opportunities I have had, which makes me wonder: had I pursued my passions as fervently and diligently as I have pursued my work, would the list be a little more complete, and would I be able to earn from this success?

There are a million moments that exist between now and finding out if I can achieve my goals and by focusing my efforts which excite me I hope to enjoy those moments more, rather than working hard, waiting for the payout. I would certainly love a house with a heated pool and holidays in Barbados, but I feel I would be trading those moments in between to achieve this. The path of my passions may not be as immediately lucrative as the path I’m currently on, but I can’t help feeling there’s not much fun in a swim up bar if I’m exhausted, anxious and on the verge of a breakdown.

Perfect Day

I went to see Felix Dennis at his poetry reading last night in Brighton. I’ve never read any of his poetry, but loved his “How to Get Rich” book that my dad gave (yes dad it was given, not leant) to me.

One of the poems struck a chord with me as I’m in a reflective stage in my life at the moment!

Perfect Day

Today was one of the best days of my life.
Nothing of any importance occurred –
I cut my finger on a paperknife
And marvelled at a busy hummingbird
Plucking out wet moss by a waterfall;
Broke bread with friends and shared a glass of wine;
Wrote this poem; swam; made love. That’s all.
Why should it be some days erect a shrine…
A cairn, a white stone day, in memory?
Is it, as Buddhists claim, a lack of need,
Or want? Or simple serendipity,
The perfect flowering of one small seed?
The wise will say our frames are none too pure:
How many perfect days could we endure?

August, 2007

The phrase that reached out to me was “lack of need” and it made me think also about the line in Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee’: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose”.

At the prospect of leaving my job, I thought of all the things I would have to go without for a while, Starbucks, new clothes, nights out, trips away, company phone. After the initial nervousness, I thought about how much of these things I actually needed, and then stumbled awkwardly onto the conclusion that these little treats may actually have been holding me back from making this decision sooner, by making my unhappiness into something bearable. I think it’s common to accept not enjoying your job –I have been very lucky until recently that I have enjoyed the full time jobs I’ve had. I think if people were miserable in their work and then unable to enjoy the fun things after work, they would perhaps be more inclined to leave their jobs. For example I know for me it was very easy to have a bad day at work and say hello to Mr. Wine as I walked through the door of an evening. Or spend a weekend with friends or shopping, only to have that faint drudge on Sunday night of “oh, back to it again”. This routine sees life becoming a trade off between doing something we don’t enjoy to make money for the things we do enjoy. My question now (and I have no answer for this at this moment in time) is can I upset the balance and do something I do enjoy…to pay for other things I enjoy? Is that madness?

As I stripped away the excess of things I used to think I needed to survive I realised actually how little I did need, and felt more mentally agile and more free. Never having a coffee shop again isn’t going to kill me. Rent, food and good health are pretty much my top three things for my survival kit and once I began to think like that, the smaller things are a bonus. When you’re closer to the ground, you worry less about falling over and I think I’ve always seen going it alone in terms of what I could lose if I fail rather than what there is to gain if I succeed.

The evening was very enjoyable, and I was envious of the free wine, but I stuck to my water. I don’t know when I will drink again but I have a feeling I will know the right time. At the end I queued with my hardback version of “How to Get Rich” – which Felix laughed at but happily signed it and at my request wrote “Keep Believing” in the front before thanking me and kissing my hand. I was tempted to ask him questions about his success but part of me now thinks the time for prep work is over – I just need to get out there and figure it out myself.

Felix Dennis book tour

Felix Dennis book tour

Old Goals Sunday

Since deciding on a final date last Friday I’d be lying if I said doubt hasn’t crept in. As pointed out by my friend – there’s a credit crunch happening and as my boyfriend’s mum queried “Doesn’t she have a good job?” There’s certainly a lot to be said for financial stability in uncertain times but I’m no longer convinced that a job guarantees any such security, unless you’re employed by the Government perhaps, which I’m not. I’m dependant on other people to run a profitable company to see that I get my wage. To me that seems less secure than if it’s up to me to go out and get my wage. Granted I know only a little about running your own business and I’m not even sure of what it is I want to do after I leave, but I just think I need to at least try and do it myself.

I have been organising old photos and ticket stubs for my scrapbooks – I am about 3 years behind though everything is still hoarded and ready to be put together in my illustrative medium of recording my life. I came across my “10 month plan” which I had composed March 2006, 2 and a half years ago at 23. This would have been when I first moved down here. It’s interesting to note that the same dreams I am having now I had then which gives me some confidence that I am at least consistent. The main ones are:

1. Sing regularly

2. Improve Spanish

3. Brainstorm ideas for your own company

4. Try and get your dissertation published

5. Submit your short story to be published

6. Join a script reading / writing group

7. Begin developing an idea for a series

8. Dance

9. Brainstorm ideas for a self help book for women

Despite these being dreams and goals, before they were an arduous list to be fitted in around work, snatching 40 minutes here and there with a cup of tea and not knowing where to start. Now I hopefully have time to make this work.

There will also be new ones to add:

10. Have your own website

11. Have a blog

12. Do more Pilates (just to make use of the giant rubber band I received for my birthday – and to improve my hip for running – there’s nothing wrong with it but you never know)

13. Travel as part of your work

Just writing these excites me. I know it won’t always be like this, and I’m going to face a lot of rejection and uncertainty and difficulties, but that’s just life, and as Bill hicks told me – life is just a ride.

In essence – I am happy and positive, let’s see how long it lasts before my cynicism (caged for the moment in the beauty I’m seeing in the world) breaks free.

Come to the Edge

“COME TO THE EDGE! “We are afraid.”

“COME TO THE EDGE!” “We will fall.”

“COME TO THE EDGE!” And they came and he pushed them,
and they flew!

(Apollinaire – disputed?)


It’s a quiet day and a pigeon is happily chuntering outside my office window. Sitting in my office, which has too much space for one person I have had a very productive day. My inbox is almost empty, whiteboard half erased of completed tasks with short and long term projects and deadlines drafted in the pad beside me. My job isn’t without pressures, and I certainly don’t mind working hard, but I realise that I can’t remember what I was thinking about that kept me awake worrying a few weeks ago, or what I achieved within the last few months that made me proud. Instead I’m looking at the pigeon and thinking about how nice it would be to just sit on a windowsill and chunter…without the aspect of my own poo rotting my feet. (look this up people – you have to feel for pigeons). Normally this would just be that Friday feeling at the end of a week’s work, only I’ve been thinking like this more and more and like a break up you know should happen I realise my heart is no longer in my job.

I gave up booze 83 days ago and haven’t had a drink since (except a shiraz jus I had with some lamb by accident – I don’t think that counts but it feels good to get it off my chest). I didn’t give up because I had a problem, no nasty drunken incident that put me off, I just woke up one morning (yes with a mild hangover) and thought I’d like to give it a try. It hasn’t been easy but it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would. It certainly makes you think more, and is probably one of the reasons I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’m no longer happy. It’s been a slow revelation but a revelation nonetheless.

Though I feel as though I am on the edge of a precipice, it hasn’t been the whirlwind journey of discovery I had expected. I’ve been moping, anxious, bored and at times just unpalatable to be around. To tie in with not drinking I was offered a fantastic promotion opportunity that I seized. I threw myself into it, working round the clock, working weekends, reading on an evening and taking notes from industry books on theories and practices I could implement. It was in the middle of an office relocation, so stressful times but I enjoyed the challenge…up to a point. I was working hard, but felt more and more disassociated and unable to get behind the company ethos and I felt frustrated that I was unable to get myself into this mindset. I read more books, tried different tactics, convinced myself that I could solve the problem of not enjoying it and that the power to be happy in this job was up to me and no one else. This is all true, except that today I think that the key to enjoy my work is to walk away from this job.

You know those important decisions. The ones your mind has been telling you for months only you no longer ignore it. The moment you acknowledge it, it’s as if everything around you goes quiet and the clutter in your head disappears. Today feels like one of those days.

Appollonaire’s quote keeps coming to mind. My English teacher used to tell us this to encourage us to have faith in our own abilities. I trusted him implicitly when we said we could do it, but what I really need to do now is trust in myself. It’s time to take that leap and see if I soar…or land in a mangled heap on the rocks as target practise for the seagulls. I really don’t believe there is any inbetween.