If I were to take a quick straw poll of average humans on an average day in Averageville (Popn: Lots) asking how they thought their lives could be improved I’m willing to bet (don’t quote me, I don’t have a lot of spare cash right now) an above average number would claim that the addition of stuff (or indeed, things) would be the way to go.
And they’d be wrong.
Poor, sweet, hypothetical fools.
Today marked the end of my fourth week in a new job. People change jobs all the time of course, but for me, smack in the middle of my forties and with no experience of life with another employer on the African continent it was quite a scary leap.
It’s the best decision I’ve made in a very long time.
And it isn’t down to the addition of something. It’s much more about the things that have been taken away.
This isn’t a soapbox post where I spend the next five minutes bemoaning and badmouthing. There is good and bad in all things and in all places but even though I had a suspicion that the environment I was in was a toxic one in many regards, I don’t think I had any idea just how much it affected me and on how many levels.
I’ll say that I miss some brilliant people but not a lot else.
The last month has been as much about reinvention as it has been about rejuvenation. The chance to decide the kind of person I want to be professionally rather than being tethered by history. I’d genuinely forgotten what it felt like to wake up in the morning and want to go to work for me and not just for those I could help and influence.
In short, I made the right call.
Funnily enough it wasn’t the easiest start to a job either. I was sick for the whole first week and then I picked up an injury that kept me from running. Couple those with what had become my typical lack of confidence and it was a recipe for disaster. And yet somehow the absence of much of what had gone before meant I could take it in my stride and see the good rather than the bad.
I realise at this point that about 98.73% of my vast audience are hitting the panic button (cunningly disguised with the word “unsubscribe”) in reaction to this sudden change, but fear not. I may be in a good mood but I remain a cynical and miserable old sod at heart. The real difference is the cynicism and misery is starting to fall back into balance with the sense of fun and wonder that always kept it in the right degree of check. The fact that I’m sitting at a keyboard, typing out words with a smile on my face after a long week has to be a good sign, right?
It’s not only the writing. The reason I felt like scribbling tonight was actually down to running. I did about 13km late this afternoon through some scenic (hilly) spots that I regularly visit and was completely blown away by the absence of silence.
OK fine it’s a bit of a stretch to phrase it as silence being removed rather than sound added but it’s my blog and I can do what I want. Besides, if I back down now the marauding hordes of sweet (but murderous), hypothetical (but what if they became real?) fools I out-argued earlier will undoubtedly rebel so stick with me on this.
And if all else fails The Absence Of Silencemakes a lot better literary title than Noise.
What caught my attention was the sound of water.
For those of you who don’t know, Cape Town is in the worst drought cycle since records began. We have been on water restrictions for close to two years, and for most of the last year we’ve been asked to stick to 50 litres of water per person per day. We haven’t flushed a toilet with drinking water in a year. My kids only have a bath if we’re away on holiday (I had one last June in Wales) and the lack of water is constantly apparent. It isn’t going to change any time soon either.
So, to be able to run tonight and dodge puddles, jump over streams that have been dry beds and just listen to the glorious sound of water flowing at pace after a couple of days of rain was extraordinary. My body needed the exercise but my soul needed the experience even more.
This period in my life may just be a brief honeymoon, or it may be more than that. Either way I’d be (more of) an idiot to not capitalise on the positivity and start finding some joy in the things I’d forgotten I loved.
Who knows…maybe there’s a story in it somewhere…