Bound for the Big Apple

I’m just about to leave for the airport to catch my flight to New Jersey, and in the unlikely event of not being able to get online when I get there I’m writing today’s post before I go. The last few weeks have been such a whirlwind, I can hardly believe I’m sitting here now, my job and big race behind me and only a week until I start my new job and part time career as a freelance writer.

I never thought I’d say this but being told my job was at risk of becoming redundant was the most fantastic turning point in my life. Granted, at the time it was a bitter pill to swallow, but I’d been thinking of leaving for so long and never had the courage to take action. It just goes to show that opportunity can come out of even the bleakest of situations.

So here I am; suitcase packed and ready to board a plane to America, where I will be spending six days with a girl I met in an Indian ashram two years ago. Life is so wonderfully random. I know I’m going to sound like a raving hippy saying this but it does feel like there’s a reason for my going on this trip. I’ve felt a strong pull to New York and the friend whom I’m visiting ever since she moved there, and I can’t wait to find out what that reason is. And also to eat lots of pancakes with maple syrup, OBVIOUSLY.

Time out

I probably shouldn’t admit to being short of inspiration today, but there you have it: My confession. It’s been a taxing start to the year, to say the least, and I’ve exhausted all of my energy stores – both mental and physical. Training for next weekend’s 16 mile run isn’t helping on the physical front, but it has at least given me a focus for which I’ve been grateful in my lower moments; hard as it is to get out and running when the axe of redundancy (or any other challenging life event) is hovering over your neck, it really is true what they say about exercise making you feel better. Though I’m still not convinced I’m going to enjoy tomorrow morning’s scheduled 12 mile run in the rain….

But this is not to be a negative post, far from it. I’ve found a new job that I’m itching to start, have already got some freelance irons in the fire and genuinely feel this period of change will be the making of me – I’m just looking forward to the change phase being over and the new phase being underway, because it’s the change phase itself that’s so very tiring.

Rather than go home and slump on the sofa this evening (as is my body’s inclination) I’ve decided to be proactive in beating the tiredness, and am planning a return to the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Putney for its evening Satsang class. The Centre is a branch of the ashram in Kerala (southern India) where I did a two week residential yoga course in 2011. Satsang is a free class which comprises a twenty to thirty minute group meditation session, followed by 45 minutes of mantra chanting and a talk on the philosophy of yoga. It sounds a bit crack pot, I’ll admit, but I actually find the whole thing very relaxing, and a great way to ‘switch off’ the mind after a long day or period of stress. To any disbelievers reading this post I will say only this: Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

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Writing this post reminded me of the few days post-ashram when I and two of my fellow ashramees [sic] spent a few days on the coast, in Kovalam. This pic was when we were still full of the enthusiasm of regular yoga practice – how times have changed (for me at least, I can’t speak for the others!)

Nothing ventured, nothing lost?

The old adage, “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” might just as easily (slash negatively) be “nothing ventured, nothing lost.”

At least when one does not seek to rock the equilibrium in their life they can be relatively assured that nothing will change for the worse – right? I used to think so, but since joining the ever-growing ranks of the redundant (well, nearly-redundant – I got out just in time) I no longer agree.

Why? Because there’s no such thing as equilibrium in life, it’s a fallacy. Everything is shifting and changing all the time. Anyone who thinks they are immune to change is most likely in for a nasty shock at some time or other, whether personally or professionally. We humans are hardy creatures, but we’ve evolved over millions of years to be this way. If we hadn’t adapted to change we would no longer exist. Just like the dinosaurs – and HMV.

What I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is that it’s far better to seek out change than to wait for it to be thrust upon us. At least that’s the argument I’m currently using to make me feel less panicky about the particular path I’ve sought out; that of the part time PR professional/part time freelancer.

Last night I sat down and took a long, hard look at my finances. And it wasn’t pretty. If I was scared to go part time before, right now it wouldn’t be far off the mark to say I’m petrified. But as I’ve already said, there are no guarantees of constancy in life, and who’s to say I won’t make millions from my leap into the unknown once the initial (and sadly inevitable) period of poverty has passed?

Today, in reaction to the rising sense of panic about my impending part-time-dom [sic], I’ve been updating my online biographies and tidying up my website in preparation for my ‘official’ launch as a freelancer. I’ve also emailed a couple of agencies about getting on their books. Already I’m enjoying this feeling of being in control of my career. Long may it continue.

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This pic makes me laugh – it was taken during a pub quiz a couple of years ago where the quizmaster gave each team two pots of play doh and challenged them to make something. I forget the exact theme, but I was clearly feeling similarly worried about money – or lack thereof – as I am now if what I made was anything to go by!

Desiderata

Three weeks ago I was informed my role at work was being made redundant. Well, the official line was that there was a business case for it to cease to exist and that I would therefore be entering a period of consultation, during which I would be quite welcome to put forward a counter proposal should I feel disinclined to agree with the reasoning for terminating my employment.

I felt no desire whatsoever to oppose the business case, in part because I knew I could never continue working for an employer that valued my contribution to the workplace so little they had held the metaphorical axe over my head in the first place. In the main, however, I didn’t wish to oppose it simply because I felt my time there was up.

It’s never nice to feel you’re not wanted, especially when you feel you have worked hard and delivered everything that was expected of you – if not more. But it’s vital for your sanity not to take it personally and to try and move on. You know your value even if they can’t see it, so instead of waiting around for your turn in the hangman’s noose find a new opportunity and avoid it.

It’s this attitude that’s helped me to see my impending redundancy in an entirely new light. I’d been looking (albeit casually) for other jobs for several weeks before the news came, and whilst it was a bolt out of the blue it’s a plain fact I wouldn’t have stayed for that much longer anyway. Being faced with redundancy was exactly the catalyst I needed to make the change I’d been craving, and fortunately my employers have at least been accommodating when it’s come to needing time off for interviews.

Speaking of interviews, I’d forgotten just how much I hate them. It’s horrible having every aspect of you put under the microscope and scrutinised; I’ve often wondered how introverts cope. A good interviewer can put you at ease in a moment – to some extent at least – but a bad one can leave you traumatised for years. And it’s not just down to how skilful the interviewer is, it’s as much about how well you ‘fit’ with the organisation itself.

Take the interview I had this morning as an example. On the face of it there was nothing wrong with either the organisation or the people. In fact, as my preparation had progressed I felt increasingly excited by it. But as soon as I walked through the door something felt amiss. There must have been nearly forty people in the room yet you could have heard a pin drop. Then, when I sat down in the interview room and reeled off my ‘pitch,’ I felt I had impressed them to some extent, but simply didn’t feel any rapport with them. We were all smiling, but to me those smiles felt empty. Something wasn’t right, and I knew in that instant I could never be happy there.

In stark contrast last week I had a second interview at another, smaller, organisation, where I felt I had clicked instantly with both the CEO and the lady who would be my boss were I to be offered the role. The atmosphere was relaxed and even though the interview itself was rigorous I didn’t feel at any point I was being deliberately caught out or put on the spot. Afterwards the PR assistant took me for a coffee to find out more about me. I knew they had seen ten people at first interview and were seeing me and one other people at the second stage, and I was told at the end of the day they were going to take the weekend to decide and come back to me on Monday.

After this morning’s interview I must admit I felt despondent. I knew if they asked me back for a second interview I wouldn’t want to go, but I also knew if the place I really wanted to work came back with a no I’d be back at the drawing board; not a drawing I was keen to start from scratch.

I walked along the river thinking about all I’ve learned over the past few weeks; how much of a difference it makes to at least try to be positive (even though it’s sometimes hard) and how important it is to make the most of every second, and not take people for granted. By the time I got to the train station I was feeling a lot better, and ready to rationalise whatever eventuality came my way.

Fortunately it was exactly the eventuality I’d been wishing for. And I’m now not only going to work for an organisation I think I could really, truly love, I’m also going to have time to pursue my dream of becoming a freelance writer.

To conclude I’m going to use the final verse of my favourite poem, Desiderata, by Max Ehrmann:

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.