My "Woke" pre "Mid life crisis"

Since I was a young man child I have “known” that the rat race wasn’t for me.  I have never believed in all the corporate bullshit, “our mission and values” – jog the fuck on pal.  

The problem was that I didn’t dare to break out of it.  I didn’t dare to be different.  I knew in my heart of hearts that I could but society’s best weapon of control held me back – FEAR.  To this day, as I write this, from my comfortable home by the sea, I am still very much in the rat race but on my terms, I have an escape plan and I keep a close eye on how much "me" I put into my job. 

As a good friend of mine once said through a haze of alcohol, red bull and fear at 2am “is THIS fucking IT?  She promptly passed out and never did quite explain what “this” was to her but it resonated with me.  To me “this” was and is the mediocrity of being bound to a job you hate, struggling from paycheck to paycheck, drowning out the truth with alcohol, weed, coke, sex (not always in that order either) on the weekend, spending money on shit you don’t need, mindlessly watching films and tv, foreign holidays, etc, etc.  Anything to distract from the reality that this isn't what life is about.

So there I was, in a flat, stoned at 2am with a friend who “knew” that something was wrong with the rat race.  It was at that point that a little “knowing voice" jumped spoke to me.  I think the conversation went a little something like this:

Knowing Voice: “I don’t want to do this anymore”…
Me: “who said that?  Oh you, I thought I had repressed you.  What do you want to do then?  oh fuck, now I am talking to myself”
Knowing Voice: “I don’t know but not this… it has got to be better than this… this isn’t why we are here”
Me: “if you don’t know, fuck off back into that box I made for you until you do know”

Fortunately, the “knowing voice” didn’t go away.  I was stubborn though, I stuck to the program of what I was supposed to do.  I pushed harder at work, I crushed it.  I did pretty well, as a corporate drone, I did pretty well.  As a human being, I had (and still have) a lot of problems that I wasn’t facing up to.  I didn’t do very well as a human being, in fact I was a pretty shit human back then.

Now don’t get me wrong, this sounds doom and gloom and very negative.  It is, BUT I did do what I set out to do, I followed the plan they tell you to follow.  I got myself a well-paid job that took me all over the world.  I am not bragging, this was my rationale for ignoring the “knowing voice”.  I have been on every continent on this planet (except the Antarctic), I have worked in countries and cultures most people never will, all while getting paid for it.  Perhaps I am bragging, I need to feel that my early life had some worth, that some things were right.  Although, the thing I haven’t said out loud yet is that I was not truly happy.  I was permanently stressed, jet-lagged, hungover and on some sort of come down. 

I was not getting the message, life showed me again.  This time however it was a post a friend who had emigrated to Ozzy put up on Facebook.  The meme said “I would rather have a life of ‘oh wells’ than ‘what ifs’” 

            Knowing Voice: hi there
            Me: oh, hi, wassup?
            Knowing Voice: oh you know “wassup”, you need to sort your shit out
            Me: I want that life, the life of “oh wells”
            Knowing Voice: lets fuckin do this
            Me: how do I do this?  wait, what is I want?
            Knowing Voice: I am not sure but it certainly isn't what I have now

Finding “This”

Clare (my wife) and I sat down and got into a bottle of wine.  The conversation went back and forth on what we wanted to do.  I had always wanted to live in different countries across the world for half a year, a year or two.  Clare wanted to travel too, have adventures and be warmer (fuck the British weather).  We wanted to go on adventures together. 

Our first lesson from life was: what you often want isn’t what you really need
 and when it isn’t right, not what you are going to get.

Clare and I love Spain and wanted to move to Barcelona, the idea was that perhaps my job could relocate over there to an office the company I worked for had in Barca.  We decided to do a reccie, see if we liked it or not.  We spent two weeks living in the city, checking out suburbs, cafes, bars, gyms and all the other stuff we like to do.  We figured, if we are going to live here, lets not do the tourist bit too much, lets find “us” in Barcelona.  We loved it and had a great time.

To this day we still talk about living there, it is a magical city.  It was what we wanted but not what we needed.  Try as we might we couldn’t make it work, whether it was my boss not playing ball with me, me screwing up job interviews, etc; we just couldn’t make it happen.  Fear was still driving us you see, fear of not having, fear of taking a risk and going all in with no safety net. 

We were dejected, another bottle of wine on Sunday night after our third trip to Barca.  It was raining and cold outside our Manchester home.  We wanted the sun.  Then I heard it, “Knowing Voice” spoke again.  You don’t have to be in Spain, you can live anywhere”   Fuck, “Knowing Voice” you are right.  What was it we actually wanted? (the million dollar question)  Our dreams were to live by the sea, in a warm country and have a work to live life balance, to start a family in a safe country that wasn't the UK. 

I grabbed my laptop and started searching for jobs in different countries, I saw one in New Zealand.  At this point, neither of us knew much about New Zealand, we checked out the weather and saw that Auckland was pretty much surrounded by water and beaches.  We gave it a shot and have been here ever since.  It turns out that our “this” was emigrating to New Zealand.

One “This” invariably leads to another

If you thought I was nuts at the start of this article you will think I am bat shit crazy by the end.  We are in New Zealand, living the dream by the sea, working less.  Work.  That is where things got complicated again.  Whilst we had changed and learned so much on our journey to the other side of the world together (more about that in another article) my “work myself to death” attitude to work was so heavily ingrained in me that it took a long time for me to break and reframe it. 

Before that happened though, all the alcohol, drugs, jet lag and daily corporate butt fucking caught up with me.  I crashed, mentally and physically.  The lifestyle I had lead up until this point was the polar opposite of and detrimental to my biggest passion Brazilian JiuJitsu.  My lower back was in pieces (I could barely walk some days) and my neck was so weak I would tap out if someone put a collar tie on me (let alone a guillotine or darce choke).  I couldn’t do jits anymore, it turned out this was the straw that broke the camels back, jits had been (and still is) the main way I release my stress.  It is my church, religion, and obsession (the biggest one at least).  Not having that safety net took the lid off Pandora's box and slapped Pandora's face with it!

My internal dialogue sped up, I had constant problems at work, I realized I actually don’t enjoy what I do anymore.  The drivers for me had always been seeking knowledge and mastery of my profession, to be the best at it and travel the world doing it.  In the darkness of my mind, I realized I had reached the point of mastery before coming to New Zealand (arrogant I know).  The “knowing voice” broke through once again but at the same time so did the “fear” the fear of not “what if…” but what if I don’t earn money and save for retirement?, what if I am not seen as successful?, what if I fail?, what if Clare leaves me?, what if, what if, what if… WHAT FUCKING IF

It took a lot for my amazing wife Clare to bring me back from this.  I didn’t quit the job, I still do it (I have made my peace with it).  The difference is that I started working towards what I have known all along – the rat race is not for me, I want to be free (whatever that is), to seek knowledge and be the best man I can in this life.  Clare and I have several businesses we are working on, one of which is growing quickly and will be ready to scale up soon (so exciting, it makes my skin tingle when I think about it)

Summing Up

That is what these articles are about.  I want to share what I have learned this past decade in my “woke” pre-“mid-life crisis”  I write that phrase (mid-life crisis) somewhat tongue in cheek.  In truth I despise the label society puts on what happens to men when we figure out the path we are on isn’t the one we truly seek.  Society seems to think that it is because we realise we will not be here forever.  I think it is a convenient way to stifle us and keep us trapped in the rat race.  At least that is the way I perceive it, for now, perhaps my perspective will change with time.  

Coming back to the point of these articles (I have a habit of going off at tangents when a topic triggers me), I am going to write about a variety of topics that will hopefully help anyone seeking a way out that feels stuck.  These aren’t magic bullets, they are simply what works for me, they might not necessarily work for you but hopefully, they inspire you to do something. 

I would love to hear from anyone reading my articles, what resonates with you? what you didn’t like? how it comes across to you? whatever you have to say I want to hear it.  Please comment away, I won't be offended.



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