On Realisations

When have you felt most in harmony with nature?

I have a clear memory of the day I knew something wasn’t right with me. I was in second year of uni attending a big tower building in the centre of the city.

I come from the outer suburbs where the days churn by slowly, everyone looks the same and very little happens. I knew always that I wanted to be in the big smoke, amongst the hustle and bustle and all the people from all over the world and everything exciting and stimulating going on.

I couldn’t be more glad to take the hour long express train every day to be here.

One day after class I stepped out of the campus and took a walk down the central street heading downtown. Looking up at the architecture, the crisp blue autumn sky, I watched the people pass me on buses and in cars and pedestrians milling at traffic lights, waiting for their turn to cross, a swarm across the street.

I remember the prospect of possibility. Knowing that I was living my dream of getting an education – a good one – one that would take me places. My mind was full of new and fascinating ideas, my classmates engaging me during the day and the people I met at music gigs, pubs and nightclubs exhilarating me at night.

Walking down this street after class, understanding where I was and what was happening, I should have felt joyous elation at the life I was getting to live.

But I did not. Instead, I felt numb to it all. I looked up at the crisp blue autumn sky and understood it was my brain that told me it was beautiful, not my heart. I couldn’t feel anything. I was worried. I knew something was going wrong.

Have you got a memory that is crystal clear in your life? Was it something that signalled a turning point? Tell me in the comments.

On Dream Jobs

What’s your dream job?

I was thinking about this exact thing this morning, but couched as, what would I do if I didn’t have to work for money.

At school I was an academic student. The realities of home life at the time made it hard to get high marks. Despite my unwavering dedication to school and my determination to do well, my scores usually hovered between 80 and 90. In the end, my matriculating mark was 82%. I cried.

Something about that experience seeded in me that part of my identity had become a ‘B’ student, when what I wanted to be was an ‘A’ student. I am a confident person and I have high self-esteem. When I reflect on the inevitability of having low self-esteem while growing up and finding your place, I think this was the one that was central to me.

Since it belongs to another story, I’ll leave this illustration of the foundation behind this ‘B’-ness to another time. But I will talk about its effects.

With my lacklustre marks, I got into my second preference at university. Technically, I didn’t actually get in to my major, but as a freak of enrolment back in the days of paper (wow I am old) I was enrolled in the electives for that major and managed to apply later on and was granted entry. Skin of my teeth.

When I look at back at what the most important drivers of my career has been, of everything that was sacrificed, there appears a common thread: one, to challenge myself and do interesting things, and two, to make money. That is; to cement my own security and independence from anybody else. To be able to escape from relying on anyone who will let me down, which was the feeling that I think drove the ‘B’-ness.

Some of these things I have achieved, some I have let go. I have gained my financial independence. During COVID my fiancee was stood down and we have had no financial stress. I am very proud of this. Getting here from where I was took a really long time. Until recently I had a problem with debt: I had a problem with telling myself the word that I always heard from others: no. I had to resolve that before I could move on.

I have let go of my expectations of others. It’s not that I have low expectations, although from time to time this old protective habit wants to come up again. When it does I receive it, am present with it, unpack it and move on. The feeling gets smaller every time I do this.

So what does this mean for my dream job? Well, when I reflect on how determined I was to be financially independent  in the context of the things I’m dedicating myself to now I wondered why I didn’t choose finance, economics or medicine.

The reason was,  that was for ‘A’ people. In my core I identified as a ‘B’ person. So I chose a ‘B’ life.

Everyone deserves  to work their dream job. I was lucky to have examples to look up to, my dad and my sister are working their vocation. Nobody loves being an Electrician more than my Dad loves being an Electrician. Nobody is more born to be a Nurse than my sister is a Nurse down to her very being.

While I haven’t found my vocation, every job I have had has been incredibly fulfilling and helped build my understanding of the world. So, in a way, I have my dream job.

But when I ask myself, what would I do if I disassociated my career from my need to make money? I wouldn’t be in the hard sciences, in industry, in sales.

I’d do this. I’d write. This is my vocation.

What is your dream job? Do you have it in already? Tell me in the comments.

On Demanding Days

How do you unwind after a demanding day?

A long time ago, for a very long time, I was submerged in depression. Every day the burden of this reality wiped me out.

I didn’t exercise. I didn’t eat well. I didn’t moderate alcohol. I binge-watched television.

Sometimes the things that you think are doing to unwind don’t actually do that at all.

Unwinding is a way to decompress from the intensity of a stressful day. As it stood, the more demanding the day the greater the numbing required until sleep and repeat.

I was working too many hours for too little money; 40+ hours a week, every week. 12+ hour shifts regularly. My ambition and spirit was unafraid to take on responsibility to leave a legacy in the important role I had and despite promises made I was unfairly paid. I achieved my legacy. I was bullied by my boss.

Every day. Sleep and repeat.

It’s hard to think about this now. To be without an advocate, knowing something was wrong but oblivious to the misery and distress that was to come.

Fast forward to now. I have demanding days but not stressful days. In a way I’m grateful when I’ve had a demanding day. I feel invigorated afterwards, like after an intense workout. Since I’m either working from home or out in the field, I relish the null time during the drive to the gym after work to decompress, which I know how to do now. I reflect on the wins of the day, the challenges that were overcome, the difficulties that require more thought and then file them in order of energisers to repeat, skills to keep, and things to deal with tomorrow.

By the time I arrive at the gym I am ready for part 2 of my day: getting the work done.

Many people just want to get their exercise out of the way in the morning, like some kind of shore. I am the opposite, I look forward to it at the end of the day. The memory of the past is never far from my mind of My Alternative Life. My actual life, before I changed course.

No matter how hard my session is in the gym, my time there in the evenings is nothing short of a blessing and I am so grateful just to be there.

During COVID I don’t have the gym; I have to be disciplined as the cold and the wet discourage me from training all exposed on the driveway with my limited equipment. It is hard and I don’t want to be out there in the dark.

Reflecting on this today reminds me of why I train. It is a symbol of the energy I have for my life now. I unwind by being energetic. This energy honours a new truth: I have the power and drive now never to abdicate my right to authority over my own life.

What’s your favourite way to decompress? Tell me in the comments.