I must say that 2016 started off pretty well for me. It was a fairly emotional start as I had taken the decision to give up my day job and do more of what satisfied me instead.
Not an easy decision, fairly brave some might say. but many things in the past couple of years had all pointed in this direction. My mother passed away, my brother and I sold our family home, it seemed like a good time for a new beginning. I am not getting any younger and so it was now or never to take the leap. Also, the rest of the world seemed to tell me in so many ways that life is short, way too short to be doing something that is killing you, depressing you or somehow just not the right fit.
So, here I am, near the end of 2016 and feeling sad and if I am honest, a bit lost.
What went wrong? Nothing for me really, more for people all around me.
Friends and neighbours suddenly started dropping out of work, but through burn-out or stress. They did not just give up their job like me, they had little choice in the matter. They were sick, it was or is rather symptomatic of our troubled and complex times. Companies are downsizing or restructuring and the remaining people are taking on the workload of the people who left. I think companies are also starting to demand more from their staff, it seems to be a culture shift. It was not exactly the case for me luckily, but it was certainly the case for the others in my entourage. Where are the companies that ban mobile phone use or internal e-mail sending after hours? It seems they can never switch off, even at weekends.
I am incredibly grateful that I am in a position to take a year or so out, I have savings, I got paid off some money too when I left the company and I have a very understanding and supportive wife and kids.
But I have mixed emotions, it’s as if I feel guilty for being off work, whilst others are dropping like flies all around me. People with no choice, no back-up plan, already struggling day to day without the means to keep their head above water for prolonged lengths of time.
What can I do? Naturally I want to help, but I am not trained, I can listen, support, be there for them, I could do more if they wished, but it must be very hard to ask for help, especially if you are at the top of your game and suddenly you are struggling and losing your identity and the strength to carry on. Sometimes, when you let down your guard and have several knocks and you get up and try again, something comes along that completely throws you off balance and it is all too much. Then the remaining partners/family have to take up the slack and before long they also start struggling. It is very scary, scary to be in that predicament and scary to watch it unfold.
It’s funny, I will remember the summer of 2016 as quite positive, our group of friends spent a lot of time in each other’s company, maybe supporting each other without realising it. It seemed every weekend was another excuse to invite people round for drinks and food in front of the roaring fire pit in the garden, with the kids all playing with each other and the parents drinking and sometimes getting rowdy and letting off steam.
But even that got too much at one point. We all backed off a little, the dynamics of the group changed somewhat, smaller groups were made, different allegiances were made. We regrouped.
So, where are we now? People are still suffering, we are still rallying around without being too intrusive, but wanting to help so badly. Brexit happened early on in the year, but as we are all fairly distant, mostly what we discussed was how can we all become Belgian or another European nationality (for those of us who are British anyway). Then Trump got in and it seems that people are wanting change from the old ways and this is the outcome.
The governments of today are so out of touch and far too harsh with their austerity cuts, people are rebelling. Good on them. But I fear we will all suffer somewhat in the coming years. Especially if the wars continue, killing millions and displacing even more with the far right rearing it’s ugly head all over Europe in response.
Where does that leave me?
Not sure, I am still searching for something that satisfies me, provides me an income, and gives me purpose/makes me feel useful and is family friendly. I need to feel more connected and at one with myself and with others. I feel smaller somehow, intimidated somewhat, but I know that I can make a difference, I know that I need to keep on keeping on. I have to expand what I already do and invent other things that are needed.
I know that I am A-typical, so many people have labelled me that, so I should embrace it and lean into it. Use it to my advantage.
I need to be bold and face these challenges. I’d love some company though. It seems easier when there are more of you. Join me?