The next chapter arrived for me last month when I parted ways with my company after 12 years. It wasn’t long after I wrote my last blog post, “Going Through Changes“. I don’t believe in coincidences. I heard someone say that once and adopted it, mainly because I lean towards it as a truth. Deep down, part of me knew change was coming when I wrote the piece.
In mid-October, I stopped full-time employment. I’ve worked for exactly 50 years, having left school at 16, gone straight to work, and stayed in employment throughout.
Do you think that a 50-year-long routine suddenly ending can throw up a lot of turmoil? You’re damn right. Some days, I wake up lost, panicking at an endless expanse of nothing to do. Is this the next chapter? Feeling lost, lacking self-worth, and worrying about money now my hunter-gatherer days are over? Am I now just hanging onto life, a marginalised figure stripped of his identity, which for so long was “what I do” rather than “who I am”?
Some days, I wake up excited that the old constraints have evaporated, leaving me to explore new ideas. On those days, I felt liberated and invigorated about all the new aspects of life I could pursue in this next chapter. A feeling of freedom, of not carrying the weight of responsibility and other people’s projections onto me. Someone said, “You will find yourself busy doing all the things you have never had time to do”. That struck me as a neat soundbite, but there’s a catch. I haven’t yet figured out what all these things are.
Some Things’ll Never Change**
The next chapter has some clear characteristics already. I’ve always been curious since I was a small boy. I’ve always been a dreamer, too. That hasn’t changed for me. I’m not one to mope and say, “If only.” I learned from my skirmishes with depression and anxiety that every minute spent ruminating is not only a minute wasted but it’s also another log on the fire of mental health problems. Move on. A very fine man once told me, “Steve, don’t you be a woulda, coulda, shoulda kind of a guy; it just doesn’t suit you.” The older I get, the more I realise his wisdom is priceless.
I feel simultaneously lost, sad, and excited. No one leaves something that’s been a blast without some tinge of sadness. Yet the gift of change is renewal, new opportunity, and new learning. Hence my excitement.
The hard yards have been ground out over decades: long weeks, long hours, never enough downtime or holiday taken. Sometimes, I lost sight of myself in that. Dealing with life change, illness, painful injury, but all the time doing those hard yards. That chapter of my book is certainly closed. The next chapter will be written to stimulate my brain from many angles. Still very busy, but with a broader array of interests.
It Took So Long To Realise***
It took so long to realise I needed to find my way home to myself. But I got there. I got there despite the obstacles. I got there because I knew that a better version of me awaited somewhere. I’ve always been determined, stubborn, or both. From an early age, when my mind was set, it was set. And that mindset led me to stick to the mission to find me, the real me.
Therefore, I go into the next chapter feeling excited and renewed. I know what I’m good at and not good at. The patterns of curiosity and intellectual challenge bring me satisfaction. I am at ease with my constant need to move forward. I am more accepting of myself and shorn of self-loathing. The inner voices quieted.
Renewal has extended into my physical being, too. My rehabilitation from my cycling accident has morphed into a 100-day-long streak of daily exercise, and I feel and look different. I even walk a little differently, more at ease, not apologising for my presence in the world.
Bring It On
We are only here for a short period. If we drop our self-importance, we are only a blip on the wave patterns that circulate the universe. Man makes plans, and God laughs, it’s said. So, I won’t regret, ruminate, or say “if only” about any part of my 66 years. Life is not supposed to be fair, and I’m not sure where we humans get that arrogant notion. Take what life brings and keep moving forward.
That’s my plan. That’s how I’m approaching the next chapter. While I’ve beaten the tenuous link between my changes and song lyrics to death, I will finish with one more fragment of a song which has been almost a life mantra for me:
“Cause people often talk about being scared of changeNick Cave; Jesus Of The Moon
But for me I’m more afraid of things staying the same
Cause the game is never won by standing in any one place for too long“
* from the track Changes on the Hunky Dory album, written and produced by David Bowie.
** from Changes, compiled from unreleased material after 2Pac’s death.
*** from Changes by Black Sabbath; the Ozzie Osbourne version of the band.