It’s the blog post that none of us want to write. But I’m sorry to have to report that yes, it’s true … I’m dying! Now before you rush out and buy yourself a new funeral hat (is there such a thing??) I’d like to clarify that statement a little. I’m dying …. which is why, at long last, I’ve decided it’s Time to Live. Earlier today I took the first steps on what I hope to be a
new chapter of my life the first day of the rest of my life.
Number 1 on my bucket list …
leave a really great job to follow my passion
[a word of note – the following is direct from the heart … no filters, no bullshit and no side stepping … it’s the story of how I kinda found myself at this point]
So yes, earlier today I handed in my notice at work. As you can imagine it’s not a decision that I came to quickly, nor without a lot of soul searching.
I’ve loved working for Schlumberger. I’ve grown so much in my 17 years there. I’ve worked with some fantastic people. I’ve travelled lots, been involved in some fantastic projects and can look back on some great personal accomplishments. On top of that I was well paid. Now don’t get me wrong, disposable income has many uses and since Nicola and I have been unable to have a family we had more of that disposable cash than we perhaps expected. Over the past 5 years it allowed us to travel, to treat ourselves and generally have a lot of fun. The thought of giving that up has kept me awake on numerous occasions over the past few months.
Actually when it comes down it, my life, my reason for being … it actually was an easy decision
And then on the other hand this has been the easiest decision I’ve had to make in my life. Easy? Well let me share with you 3 things that have helped bring me to where I am today.
Firstly, a close friend and colleague of mine was killed in an accident at home late last year. It was a complete shock as Douglas was, to me, one of the strongest characters (both personality and physicality wise) I had ever met. Always insightful, he was my mentor when I first joined the company and ALWAYS had something useful and at times inspirational to say. My last words to him were nothing special. We greeted each other. Talked a little about his (and increasingly mine) beloved Scotland and I then headed for the door. To think that no more than 48 hours later he would be gone from us was a complete shock – and even today as I see his picture on the front page of our (or rather given his work on it) HIS corporate directory, I feel a great loss and sadness.
Secondly it was something that my dad had said to my mum before Christmas. Now of course since then my dad’s situation has changed dramatically, but it was actually something in a comment that shook me to my core. He had been talking to my mum and, given his advancing years, had commented that he wished he could do it all again. To have more time to spend with his family, to take (his words) moonlit walks with his beloved wife. To continue enjoying the simple pleasures that his family brought him. This really shook me as I know that dad has had a very fulfilling life, full of the things that made him very happy. It’s difficult to comprehend that this strong man is as fearful of dying as others – not you see for what lies beyond the grave, his faith in God and Heaven is rock solid – but for what he will leave behind – not money, possessions nor status, but his time with his loved ones. The things that really mattered to him. His passion.
Lastly, it was something that happened at Christmas just past. I had, as is a growing tradition, given my mum and dad a photo book – Images of mine from the past 12 months. Throughout the day many of my family members complimented me on the book. While they were doing this I had a very uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. The more the compliments went on, the worse the feeling got, until I could barely bring myself to discuss the book or even my photography in general. It hit me that I wasn’t at all happy with the images and despite the compliments, before me was a body of work which I can only describe as mediocre. The images, for me, didn’t represent what I felt I was capable of. I had settled. I hadn’t pushed myself. And I still called myself a photographer.
Never settle… always strive for your best
Something had to change.
- Death. Happens to us all and, despite our own grand plans to live until we are 90, it can quite often not work out like that. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow and yet we live today like we did yesterday and the day before. We plan our life for the long term. I’ll retire when I’m 50. Just one more salary hike. I’ll go tomorrow. Today, not tomorrow is the day to start living your life.
- Life. Then even if we do make it to 90 we will want more. More that this beautiful, complex and wonderful planet has to offer. More of the things that matter. My dad wasn’t talking about going back to do it again to make more money, to get a better car, or even to update his circle of friends on Facebook on his latest escapades. He was talking about doing it all again so he could spend even more time again with his family. To relive the things that really mattered to him.
- Passion. And then finally to ensure that we all follow our passion. I’ve come to realise that I can talk a very good game when it comes to photography, and heck I’ve certainly put in the hours covering the football (as well as my day job) over the past 18 months. The question though is am I pushing myself? Taking myself WAY outside my comfort zone. Given my passion for photography (and trust me – it’s an all consuming, almost crushing feeling at times) am I giving it my absolute everything? Well the simple answer is no. And that hurts me.
Now this change isn’t just about my photography. As I said at the start, it’s about living my life to its absolute fullest. There are a number of things I want to do; to experience, to taste, to see, to breath in. Simple things, like learn to swim. More challenging things like run a marathon on every single continent in the world. As I sit there there are many things which seem impossible and I’m sure you, the reader, are thinking the same. Every year I look at what I’ve accomplished and well, quite simply, it’s nowhere near what I wanted to. I’ve become too accustomed to taking the safe route. While comfortable from a financial point of view I’ve been lost in every other aspect of my life. Friends, accomplishments, health.
Family is my number 1 passion
I’ve not had the chance to be a dad. At times, when I look around at the army of runts smashing, shitting and generally bad mouthing their way to their teens, I’m thankful. So dam thankful. Of course there are plenty of other times when I realise I won’t get the opportunity to hold my own son or daughter in my arms. To be there for them, like my dad was for me. To share in their experiences. To help guide them through life. It’s not something us blokes talk too much about, but I still feel a tremendous hurt when I consider a life without my own son or daughter.
What I do get frustrated about though (and it’s an impossible argument to win) when parents cop out of life experiences because they have a family. Over the years I’ve lost many friends to the seemingly bottomless abyss that is having children. Oh and don’t even ask them about travelling to foreign countries? What about the children they exclaim? Yup, that’s right. Australia is well known for its kid cruelty. I know, as I said earlier, many will be shaking their heads and saying .. well you don’t know what it’s like to have kids. Well, perhaps you are right, but I also believe in my heart of hearts that I (neh, we) would have been true to our individuality and not simply followed the crowd with our children’s upbringing. Now don’t get me wrong. I see a lot of very good parents. Loving, kind, generous. In a world where so many children don’t have that, it’s wonderful to see.
Endless weekend birthday party after birthday party should be banned …
You, as a parent, say your family is your passion? So why do you work so many long hours? To provide I’m sure is your answer, but these days and weeks that you could be spending with the people that matter, you won’t get back. Now is the time to be true to your passion and not simply think you are. Stop chasing that bigger house or more money in the bank for your children’s education. We had very little money growing up, and yet a happier childhood I could not have wished to have asked for.
And that brings me onto the person who is my family. Nicola. Now I’m sure there are some who are reading this and are thinking “selfish bastard … a bit of a mid-life crisis then, what about poor Nicola???” …. Well you see she is actually at the centre of all of this.
I’ve found something special and I want to experience more of it
When we fall in love and get married we (as a human race) quite often settle into a routine, be that both working, or one working and one looking after a growing family. Heck, even if a family isn’t in the plans we still, as a couple, spend more time apart than we do together. Over the past 5 years the happiest I’ve been is when I’ve been on an adventure with Nicola – be that jumping of a cliff in New Zealand (despite the fact the guy helping us jump kept asking me if I was lying about my weight) or as simple as taking an overnight train in the UK, heading to Scotland. And I look across at Nicola and know that she is happy too. Really proper happy. A smile so wide it almost breaks her face in two. Not just with the experience, but also the time spent together.
You see I love her. Even more than I love photography. She is the whole reason for my being. She listens. She advises. She laughs with me, cries with me. She challenges me. She gets exited for me and disappointed along with me when things don’t work out. She completes me. Now it’s been a very tough ride to get here. Certainly not all plain sailing and at times we both did wonder if we would make it out on the other side together. I’m so glad we did. A lot of that has been down to her strength and commitment to us. And so, given I’ve found something so dam special, I feel I want to experience that togetherness more, much more. No more of this squeezing in a few hours here and a few hours there, or a 2 week vacation in the middle of 50 weeks of routine. Date night? Wonderful for busy folks, but there is more. I know Nicola won’t immediately drop everything and go live in a #TinHut (not a metaphor, believe me), but we have talked, especially about following our passions, experiencing the joys that life has to offer, both as individuals and as a couple. And she knows, as much as I do, that plenty of things need to change, both small and large, in our lives to make that happen.
Life is so short and so precious – Live it to its fullest …
So there you have it. I’m 50% terrified and 50% excited. Actually is it possible to be 100% excited and 100% terrified? I know this is going to be a challenge. Not just challenging from the financial point of view (we are not hoarding hundreds of thousands of pounds in an offshore bank account to allow us to live life in the lap of luxury, heck not even tens of thousands) but also from the actual challenge itself. There are many things that I want to get involved in, but right now, I’m pretty hopeless at them all. (aka most would probably kill me right now)
Embrace your early, mid or late life crisis
I mentioned earlier the concept of a mid-life crisis. Well I am 40 later this year after all, and that is what society would say I’m going through, right? Well wonderful news if it is. My only complaint would be that I wished I had had this in my 20s, as perhaps I could look back on the past 20 years with far more memories of the things that really mattered to me. Embrace your mid-life, early life, or late life crisis. We, as humans (the most complex of organisms out there) deserve it to ourselves to embrace adventure and not simply do what is expected to be done. Don’t sit about, watching mind numbing TV, cutting the grass at weekends, doing the 9-5, smiling politely, sipping cocktails, simple waiting to die. [I’ve been doing this for 20 years without even realising it]. Go out and find your own adventure.
I’ll leave you with a few final thoughts as I’ve rambled on enough and I still need to spend some time with my hand down the back of the sofa looking for any spare change.
- If a doctor were to inform you that you had 20 years to live (right down to the day), I’m pretty sure you would make those 20 years count – not from tomorrow or next week but right from today. Well wake up call folks; the chances are 20-30% of people reading this (including me) won’t even get that, some not even a 10th of that, and worse still won’t know that the end is just around the corner. As difficult as death is to talk about and to accept, until we do, we can’t start living. Take a moment right now to accept that despite how you feel today you are only for this planet for a very short period of time. Inside 50 years you will be gone. No more chances. Think of the happiest thing you have done in the past week. Even if it’s been as simple as watching the sunrise, eating the best burger known to man or holding your children. Those opportunities will be gone. Forever !
- Be true, to yourself and your passion. Don’t just say you are happy to make others happy, or to put on a show. In the quite stillness of night ask yourself are you truly happy and if, when the end comes, will you be able to look back and say, YES, I followed at least one true passion (and that CANNOT be any of the following; got married, got a big house, good job, got an even bigger house, or had a family !!) Make changes to make those passions come to light. Remember it’s those memories which will remain with us until our dying days. Remember your passion does not have to be epic in other people’s eyes. It has to be personal to you.
- This is not an audition for your next life; this is it people, no go-arounds here. And to that end, to give ourselves the best shot at making the most of it, be healthier. Make room for at least 30 minutes a day of exercise. It will benefit you in the long run (note I’m actually talking to myself here as much as anyone else)
- Travel…. LOTS …
evenESPECIALLY if you have kids. The world, these days, is such a smaller place to get around with plenty of options for singles, couples, families young and old. Education and awareness of our planet is out there – not to be seen through the GoggleBox or newspapers. Experience it for yourselves. Make up your own mind. Breath it in, the good and the bad. Educate yourselves and your children, not through books and schools alone, but through the experiences of both the harshness and beauty of this wonderful planet we call home.
Live a life worth remembering ….
Nigel (age 39 and three quarters)