Sunday, 24 November 2013

My birthday present to myself: Quit the job and move to Spain.

Dear all,

Sorry it’s been a while since I have blogged. I have been meaning to and meaning to…but…you know how it goes.

I should warn you, I’m going to do some uncontrollable chatting here, I’ll do my best to keep it coherent but it may meander. It feels like I have a lot to say, but it’s probably mostly headlines, let me get the initial news out of my system and then perhaps I can do further blogs later. 


Part One – Change

1. I have resigned from my job.

2. I’m going to move to Spain for a year.

I have been at my current place of work for nearly nine years but the last two have been pretty miserable. Now the thing is, my last day is the 23rd December so I haven’t actually left yet. I don’t feel it’s right to talk about it until I have gone. I won’t be mentioning names or anything like that regardless, but it just seems a bit unfair to talk about why I have decided to leave when I still have a month to see through. So this one is definitely a blog for the New Year, let’s catch up about it later. For now, let’s just say that it was a good job but I wasn’t happy there anymore.

Number 2 then.

I spent my 20s paying off the debt I managed to accrue from moving out of home at 17 and having a somewhat insouciant attitude with money (well, not entirely without merit, I did some good with it.) Then, so far, my 30s have been all about saving. I turned 34 last week and I have managed to save up a decent amount of money. I have no debt; I have no responsibilities at all in fact! And there is the key to it. A couple of years back, I had a girlfriend, I was enjoying my job, I was looking at options of buying a property and it was all going in the right direction. Then life took one of its somersaults it unpredictably decides to do every now and again and I find myself in a different position. The girlfriend decided her life was better without me in it, the job took a good left-right left-right combination to the jaw and when it finally came to being serious about house-hunting I realised I couldn’t afford to buy square root of bugger all. The thing that you have to appreciate is that I live in London and like many cities and many economies, there are always options, but you have to be careful. You can sign up to something that hurts you more than it helps you and did I really want to tie myself into a serious amount of debt when I wasn’t happy in the other areas of my life? Possibly trapping me into being somewhere and doing something I may not want to? You can look up all the statistics you want, you can compare yourself to a thousand different metrics, friends, family or just your own expectations. But when it comes down to it, you have to answer to yourself with brutal honesty, so I saw it like this. I have money saved, not enough to travel the world and live carefree, but enough that I could take a year out and think things through (frugally that is) so what is stopping me? The thought that I will shortly be in my mid 30s without a job, without a pension, without a home, without being married, without having kids…without having stability. Now you can read that last sentence like a worried and anxious parent who is concerned their child is throwing away their career…or you can read that sentence like Austin Powers who has just realised he is single again. Pessimist or optimist?

I didn’t think of it in either way if I am honest, but I did ask myself some very searching questions.

1. Was I serious about writing?
      2. Did I believe in myself?
3. Did I feel like an adventure?
4. Did I feel I needed to take a positive step in my life?

I answered all of those: Yes.

5. Did I enjoy my job so much that I couldn’t think of life without it?
6. Did I enjoy my job so much that I was happy with it taking away my time and energy from writing?
7. Did I love money so much I couldn’t give up my decent salary?
8. Did I see myself working until 65 (67, 68, 69…70!) in the same field of work?
9. Was I scared of trying something new?
    10. Was I scared of failing?
    11. Was I scared of starting all over?

I answered all of those: No.

Then I gave myself a whole bunch of ‘what if’ questions and tested myself over and over on how serious I was. Over the course of just a week, I finally made my mind up.

What if…I quit my job and used up my savings to live in Spain for a year? What if I lived on my own and wrote every day? What if I spent a year living healthily and exercising every day? What if I spent a year working on Thinking Plainly Limited without interruption? What if I just did it?

Well I am just doing it. My last day at work is the 23rd December and I fly out to Spain 8th January.

Part Two - Hopes

So whether you want to pat me on the back and say what a brave thing to do, or perhaps you want to give me a slap around the face and tell me how foolhardy I am being; here is what I am hoping for.

At the top of the list of course has to be the hope that I write every day. It’s not really a hope though is it! It is a promise to myself. A guarantee. A self-imposed directive. I must write! There is absolutely no point at all in doing this if I don’t work the hardest I have ever worked. Not in the same sense that you work hard for your company, or your boss, your family, your partner or whatever it may be, but in order to prove to myself that I am capable of doing what I think I can, then I am going to have to push myself hard every day.

This is where I need to stop and explain something that is niggling at me. I’ve just been telling you how the last couple of years have been tough blah blah as if I’m the only one who has ever gone through a difficult period, and in one respect it looks as if I am giving up on my current life because it hasn’t turned into the life I thought it would be…well that is sort of true. I am giving up. I am changing direction. I’m not where I thought I would be. However, I do not want to sound like a spoilt na├»ve don’t-know-how-lucky-I-am western developed world arrogant middle class pretentious kid. I know how lucky I am. I was born in one of the most privileged cities in the world, I had a good education, I had a mother who did everything she could for me, I always had support in whatever I wanted to do, I have had nothing but minor health issues, I have always had employment and I have always had friends. I’m not throwing that away in a fit of temper because I was dumped, or because my job has become more unpleasant, or because I can’t afford to buy a nice big house in the country. For anyone reading this who has followed me over the last two years you may be wondering what the hell I am complaining about! I set up Thinking Plainly Limited on the 17th January 2012 and therefore just a matter of days after packing my bags for the continent I will be celebrating the second anniversary of my own company. I’m fantastically proud of that and if I were to look at that alone, the last two years have been amazing! I have self-published, I have published others, I have met fantastic new friends and learnt more about the process and the business of writing than I ever could have imagined. I have more reason to be hopeful about the future than ever! AND THAT IS THE POINT! It is not because I am ungrateful for the life I have and it is not because I think I am owed a life better than anyone else. I just want something different.

So, yes, I saw myself working at my current job for many more years to come, at one point I saw a life long career there. Yes, I still love London. Yes, I still love my friends and family. But my circumstances have changed and instead of working around them and adapting to a new version of my current life, I am going to fold my hand in and ask for a new one. It’s only a year for goodness sake! It will probably go in the blink of an eye, who knows what I will feel like in a year’s time, what other influences will have affected me, what other opportunities or disasters may come my way. There is nothing wrong in giving something a try is there? It is almost guaranteed that if you offer up a suggestion like this to someone who is older than you, their first response will be to say something along the lines of, ‘I wish I had done something like that.’ They will encourage you to try, and to experiment as they often regret not taking a leap of faith themselves, and so all I am doing is taking them at their word and putting myself in a position where when I (cross-fingers!) turn 50, 60, 70, 80 years old I can be satisfied with myself that I tried. So should I come back in a year’s time, broke, unemployed, without a single page of writing to my name…but a smile on my face, I hope that’s good enough!

(But I won’t I promise you, there WILL be lots of new stories.)

So back to the hopes, thanks for keeping with me.

I hope that time out of London will give me the opportunity to slow my life down. I find it hard to accept that my last self-published story went online in July 2012. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the new Thinking Plainly authors, Rufus Garlic and Alfred Duff however, that has been enormous fun and a fantastic learning process that has made me a better writer and more focused on the business of writing than ever before, so I have a lot to thank them for. It has taken up a lot of time but every minute has been worthwhile. It is more that I have found it increasingly difficult to get home from the day job and still be able to clear my mind enough to sit down and write. It just doesn’t happen anymore. As a result I haven’t been able to finish anything.  My mind is cluttered. Having time away from everything I hope will empty my mind of anything not related to my writing.

I hope that alongside the writing itself, I can also focus properly on the business side of things. For instance, I haven’t concentrated any time on marketing this year at all, I haven’t developed my accounts with Kobo, Scribd and other platforms, I haven’t developed my knowledge of Google advertising and social media strategies, I haven’t developed…well, let’s just say I have a lot on the business side that I want to take more seriously and I hope this will give me the time to research and learn.

I hope to READ! Remember that! Ah, those wonderful days when you could float away with a book and not have the next day’s meeting on your mind, or the report that still needs to be finished pushing its way into your personal time. It has been years since I have devoured novels one after the other just for fun and enjoyment. I want to get back to that. My ‘to-read’ list has been disgustingly untouched and only grown over the years so I need to do read again!

I hope to become a calmer person. This is something everyone can relate to I’m sure but especially when living in a busy city like London you can allow the pressures of daily life to erode you somewhat. I don’t like the fact I can be quite a rude person when I am on the rush hour train, I can be irritable, unpleasant, withdrawn. I don’t like having to sit on a train, squeezed into an uncomfortable position, for up to an hour just putting my life on pause until I can unfold myself on the other side. I can’t take listening to people’s music devices playing too loudly out of their earphones, and sometimes, just straight from their phones or whatever. I can’t relax, I can’t settle. I don’t like how people talk about such private and personal information openly to a carriage full of strangers, freely swearing and cursing even when young children are present. I don’t like how people are so disconnected from personal-responsibility that whether it is a 45 year old businessman in an expensive suit or a 17 year old jack-the-lad in tracksuit and hoodie, everyone just discards their newspapers, empty (or still full) coffee cups, banana skins, chocolate bar wrappers and whatever else they have on them, straight onto empty seats near them or simply to the floor. People do not care anymore at all. They expect someone else will come along and tidy up for them. Someone, more often than not, from another country that has arrived to Britain to work hard for a better life and be part of a progressive liberal society, ends up picking up the litter of people who seemingly don’t care about anyone outside their immediate circle of family and friends. It’s like watching a distorted sense of upstairs-downstairs class and race snobbery every morning and evening.  That’s just one example. I could go on. I don’t want to get stressed anymore watching people disrespect their environment, their community and society in general. At the moment, I see it on a daily basis. As a result, I have become a bitter person. And I repeat. I love London. I just feel that a bit of space and time alone will help me feel compassionate again. I would like to be able to walk the streets, travel on public transport, drink in the pubs, eat in the restaurants without having a built up irritability ready to be triggered by the smallest of impolite gestures.

I am hoping to blog properly! As regular readers may have noticed, I haven’t been posting as regularly as I should have, and as I want to. I just find it hard to fit it in. Not only do I want to blog more often but I want to be a better blogger. If I can have the time to blog more then I would like to include my experiences in Spain, a sort of travel diary I suppose (although I won’t be travelling much, but you know what I mean), how I am finding it being alone and how my writing is going, perhaps to talk about other aspects of my life that are the background to my writing, maybe I can include thoughts on my influences, my interests, my struggles with writing, with my health, with depression, with money, with all the things that have made me, me. I have focused on writing specifically in the past because that is the community I want to be part of, but with more time, perhaps I can widen that so that it is a personal blog that doesn’t have to separate the aspiring writer me, with the me that makes up everything I am.

I hope to enjoy living in a different country! It seems obvious doesn’t it? It’s not though. People can find it very hard to integrate into another society. I’m only going for a year but I don’t intend on just sitting inside all day. I want to learn the language. I want to do lots of walking to experience the country. I want to cook their cuisine. I want to be part of their community. That doesn’t mean I am going to neglect my work. If I am serious about wanting to get a lot done then I expect to be at my laptop writing for several hours a day, writing can be an unsociable business, but I am not going to isolate myself. When I mentioned above why I feel I can be a less-tolerant person than I like to be, than I know I am, because of the strains of living in such a highly populated busy city, I know those same pressures apply to people all over the world. I don’t expect those to simply go away, but I do want to experience life without them for a while, I want to not always be in a rush.

Part Three – Keep Reading!

I want anyone reading this to know I am not rich. Once my savings go, that’s it. No one is going to bail me out, I don’t have a family trust fund waiting to mature, I don’t have a job waiting for me…I don’t have anything in fact! I have enough to last a year if I live on a very tight budget. I need to eat and drink with restraint (which is good because another thing about living in a busy area like I do is that the temptation to live off fast food has finally broken me. I used to exercise every day and cook. Now I rarely even go for a walk and eat take away food constantly. As a result I have put on a lot of weight this year and I am deeply unhappy about that) and enjoy the simple pleasures of walking rather than spending ridiculous amounts on going out. I don’t even think about it when buying a pint of beer in the pub and it costs £4 or £5, buying a very average sandwich for the same, it’s normal. The amount I spend on things that I don’t need to really upsets me and I want to get back to living a much simpler life. I’ve lost my self-control when it comes to that and I want it back. I hope I have come across okay in this blog, it’s far more personal than any I have written before, and it will only become more personal in the future, so I’ll say just one last time that I am a very average normal personal that wants to be a writer, wants to share my experiences and wants to take a risk.

Thanks for reading this, I hope you will keep reading my blog next year and keeping in touch with what I am up to (including those promised new short stories!) Don’t forget to follow me on all my other social media sites too. I have no idea what the Internet connection situation is like where I am going and how easy it will be for me to be active on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and all the rest of it, but either way, here’s hoping I get a lot of work done!

One more thing…don’t ask me about 2015…I have no idea!

Take care everyone,


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