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Changing Lanes

Two things happened yesterday. I was on a train and got talking to this random young woman, Katie. I spend a lot of time on trains these days, and chatting to people is not an uncommon occurrence.

In the evening I also decided to do something I had been meaning to do, and make a montage of photos from my albums. I just wanted to choose pictures of moments that made me happy and people I cared about. I wanted a new lock screen image on my computer.

That’s it, two things, both simple. But they give a great insight into me as I am today.

Anyway, Katie asked what I did for a living, and I told her. Like most people, she was surprised. Again, not uncommon, most people find the lack of stability/certainty unnerving and lack the spine to leave a ‘comfortable existence’. She asked why I do it…  I told her simply it makes me happy. She then asked how I decided to do this, so I told her.

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It was around the start of April three years ago that I visited a friend of mine in London. On the second day, I remember walking through a market with her, and remarking that it had been years since I had felt so relaxed and happy. She replied that it was on me to change it, up to me to walk away from the things that made me down.

Weeks after that visit I started a regular 9-5 job I would come to dislike (if I’m being generous), earning enough to be comfortable and counting the minutes until the weekend. Then those words came back to me, and having had dinner with another friend I decided to make a change. I quit, much to a lot of peoples surprise, and changed career. That led to me moving abroad and living in a beautiful region of Spain, meeting some remarkable people, working all over the U.K. and experiencing things I didn’t know existed before.

April three years on, I walked through that same market, I sat in the national gallery in London, had cake and tea before taking a walk around to look at the art. I think I found the painting used in the James Bond ‘Skyfall’ scene where Bond meets Q. Outside I found a massive monopoly board and chatted to someone about football manager tactics, a conversation she started. I visited Buckingham palace. I had tickets to the theatre, Phantom Of The Opera, my favourite musical which I was seeing for the second time in my life. I wasn’t on holiday, this was just a master class on how to do Saturday afternoon. I’m not certain where I will be in 6 months, cannot even say for certain which country. Which would terrify most people. But here is the thing.

Instead of a ‘permanent’ 9-5 job, I have a permanent smile, instead of a fair sized group of friends in one place I have loads of friends on 5 different continents. If I knew then what I know now… I was told by my boss when I quit I’d regret losing the routine and lifestyle I had. Now approaching 26 years old and the only regret I have is waiting so long to live like this.

Why am I saying this? Simple really. When I told Katie I do what I do for no other reason than it makes me happy, she replied “Oh man, I am so jealous. I would love to be able to do something that makes me happy and lets me do things I’ve always wanted to do. I’m sick of getting up to go to a job I don’t enjoy, to work for people I don’t like so I can do it all again tomorrow. But I’m too chicken to quit.”

I wonder how many people I know would live differently if someone pointed out that they have the chance to live another way. I wonder how many people just accept that ‘this is the way they are supposed to live’ because its what they see others doing. I learnt at a very young age that everybody dies, it took a lot longer to realise that not everybody lives.

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But most of all, I wonder what my life would have been like if I hadn’t had a friend to remind me what it means to feel alive. When you can see a painting of Venice and think “that could be fun for a few months”, in my mind at least you’re doing something right. To others that feeling comes from coming home to a family, or having a lot of money. Others find it in sports or in a good book and a mug of tea.

And that montage of happy moments and people? Nearly every photo I’m using was taken after that April in 2013.

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