Taking the plunge
Two weeks ago I resigned from my very safe and secure IT job. I feel sure that a lot of people I work with and that know me think I am either mad or going through a midlife crisis.
My truth is that this event has been building for a while. I have read and heard from a number of different sources (M.J.De Marco, Osho to name a few), that to succeed in life and truly be free you have to go all in. I had been trying to prove them wrong by staying safe and building my dream then jumping – trying to guarantee certainty. As Osho says somewhat dramatically in his book Courage: the joy of living dangerously “people who want to live comfortably – they are seeking death, they want a comfortable grave” he goes on to say the other type of person “they choose to live dangerously, because life thrives only when there is risk”. Until last week I was living in a comfortable grave. Not anymore.
Why did I ignore this knowledge for so long? Simply, I was not ready, I had a comfortable life and I was afraid to lose it. Fear, fear has held me back from this path for so long and perhaps it is foolhardy to jump now. Now when I have a wife, a son and an unborn son to support. Perhaps… but that is not what I feel in my soul.
Once the initial adrenalin rush of sending my resignation passed, I felt and still feel a very calm sense of things. The risks are real, they are not going to change, my family needs money to survive and I have to provide that. There will be challenges, I welcome this period of unpredictable adversity. I am excited, for a long time I have known I can do whatever I set my mind to. Although, that “knowing” was somewhat empty and hollow. It seemed to be distant, hazy and intangible. As I sit writing this in my home by the sea, watching the sun dance on the ocean, I know I will succeed, I know it will be hard but this sense of calm that I feel is so powerful, so definite. We will be ok, I will be ok.
I heard Nic Gregoriades say a few times on his Liberation Mentor podcast that "you find what you need on the other side of fear”. I had this truth, this piece of knowledge written on my wall for months, it has gnawed at my soul and I have skirted around the edge of it. Like a child circling a cold outdoor swimming pool, fearing the cold water, fearing to jump in and take the plunge, tentatively dipping their foot in only to get confirmation that it is indeed cold. Having felt the cold, retreating to the safety of the warm dry towel all the while craving the exhilaration of the cold water.
Now that I have embraced my fear and jumped in the pool, the shock of the cold water is over, I am in, it is exhilarating. I am still cold but my body has adapted and my skin has begun to glow, it isn’t so bad. I can stay here.
That little analogy best sums up how I feel about the future, I'm in and I'm all in.
At the start of this year, I had clear and definite visions of the future and how I would achieve my next set of dreams. Then around late May June, these visions faded, my clarity and drive left me and apathy took its place. I remained in this state until late August when it occurred to me that instead of trying to get my drive back I should understand why it left me in the first place. I started thumbing through my gratitude journal (this habit along with my writing and other positive habits had slipped a bit) and I came across a note I had written in there from a meditation on 9th May. I had written “I believe I am living a bold and courageous life” my soul spoke to me “but you aren’t”. I thought about it. How could I write about freedom and believe that I am bold and courageous when I am not? When I live in a comfortable grave? I couldn’t, where was the risk, where was the truth?
Another overlapping event that has carried me to this decision was a specific song. I have thought about whether to write this or not as I doubt it will have the same meaning and bodily effect on others that it had on me. My friend Ryan introduced me to “Sons of Winter and Stars” by the Epic Metal band Wintersun. When I first listened to this track I experienced frisson and felt my energy and clarity return to me. I have listened to almost daily ever since, each time, certain verses, certain riffs connect with me somehow and I have a very clear vision. It is hard to explain this connection but it is something exhilarating, positive and alive that I take to be the truth of what life is about.
For any sceptics out there (and I would have been sceptical too once upon a time), frisson is a real thing. There have been studies done into the skin orgasms people get when they listen to certain musical pieces. The origin of the term Frisson comes from the French verb frissonier – to shake or shudder. Don’t take my word for it though, have a look into it yourself it is an intriguing topic.
The third event that I believe has shaped this decision was giving up alcohol. Where alcohol is concerned I am no saint, I like a beer or two and I definitely drank way too much when I was young. For the past few years, I have cut back on volume, drinking a maybe two to four bottles of beer in a night or a few glasses of wine. I cut back on how frequently I drank as well, only drinking on Friday and Saturday nights (although sometimes this slipped from Thursday to Sunday). I was not an alcoholic but I did drink for unhealthy reasons... saying that I could easily nail a few glasses of chilled Rose or Chardonnay on a hot summer afternoon!
A good friend of mine has just completed a year without booze, he pointed out that alcohol-free beers have come a long way in the past decade or so. I listened to yet another Liberation mentor podcast around this time, Nic and his guest were discussing alcohol and how it is a blight on society. I am not sure how long after listening to this podcast this happened (I think a week or so) but what they had said kept gnawing at me.
One morning I was stood looking out of the window out to sea and started thinking about what made me want to drink? What did I get out of it? Why do I need it? It came to me that alcohol for me was a distraction, a distraction from work “stress”, a distraction from things that I didn’t want to face up to. I faced up in that moment, I drank because the thought of getting up and doing another day of corporate IT literally sucked the life out of me. I drank because I felt trapped by the need to have money and a comfortable lifestyle. These were not good reasons to drink, so I stopped. I took up the year challenge my mate talked about and began counting backwards from 365. In the past three months there have been fleeting moments where I thought I wanted a drink but when I examined my feelings it lead back to stress about work.
On reflection, I had negative habits, coping mechanisms that would kick in when there was something I was afraid to look at. In the past, that long hard look in the mirror was too terrible for me to face up to. Perhaps this is what Wilde was alluding to in his novel “The portrait of Dorian Gray”, that the reflected image of self is too ugly and terrible to behold (or so we think)? Although, Dorian’s soul was twisted by the heinous acts he committed whereas mine simply scared and ashamed. Anyway, back to the negative habits (mindlessly watching films, zoning out playing X-box games, drinking beer or wine). One by one I have chipped away at them like a sculptor working on a piece of marble, it has been hard, there have been relapses along the way but I did it.
While removing these coping mechanisms, I was forced to look where I didn’t want to. What did I see? A myriad of things, although nothing as terrible as the portrait of Dorian Gray. I saw (and still see) what I think we all see when we dare to look – a scared, embarrassed child, fearful of the world's judgement, fearful of not being safe, fearful of being found lacking, fearful of being judged as a failure, of being outcast, or scorned, laughed at for past mistakes, for immaturity, for all these things. Seeing all this and more and trying to accept it wasn’t so bad in the end. Once I looked, it wasn’t so bad, some of my childhood is still too terrible to say out loud but I see it now and I am working on not carrying that burden.
Perhaps all of this is just part of growing up? Of maturing into four decades of life? Perhaps others go through these doubts without vocalising them, stoically keeping calm and carrying on?
Work had been full-on for weeks, I didn’t mind, I was on auto-pilot apathetically carrying out instructions on a fairly tough project. The project was coming to a close but over-lapping with a new tougher one, the pressure was mounting and the telltale negative habits started creeping in. I was comfort eating baked goods, not drinking enough water, drinking too much caffeine, I wasn’t keeping up to my gratitude journal or my yoga. The saving grace was that I didn’t feel the need to drink alcohol or zone out of life watching films or playing the x-box.
I stepped away from a particularly energy-draining conference call, I couldn’t engage and felt the pressure of the mammoth task ahead of me. My old friends; blame and anger, that I have been working to pacify and replace with acceptance and calm overspilled. The overspill was minor, I shouted at the dog who excited to see me was jumping up nipping my arse as I walked down the corridor.
This was my moment. I stopped walking, I felt like Neo in the Matrix when the hail of bullets is coming at him down the corridor… time slowed down “No” the imagined bullets stopped in front of my face. “No, I do not want to do this anymore. No amount of money is worth this, I am done, we will be ok”
A wave of calm came over me. I walked into the living room, stood at the window staring at the sea as the sun danced on the water and said to my wife “I am going to resign” “good, do it” she said. She had been telling me to quit for weeks, that there was no need to feel trapped, that we would be ok.
So here I am, still two weeks of the job to go. It isn’t the company’s fault, truth be told I have always disliked the corporate world. Perhaps because I saw what it did to my Dad, perhaps because it felt like grown-up school? perhaps because I don’t like authority? Perhaps all these things? who knows? it isn’t important,
What is important is that I haven’t panicked or felt like I have made the wrong decision. I have felt calm and centred, I know this is the right decision. It is time to finish my book and try to get published, it is time to strike out on my own and live my passions. As the age-old break up saying goes "it's not you, it's me"
Instead of letting my fears boil around in my head, I wrote them on our blackboard wall. The picture above shows my current fears, the same as my childhood fears: judgement, lack, exile, failure, shame & uncertainty. Vocalising them, being open about them is refreshing, men are forced not to show emotion, not to engage with it, not to talk about our feelings and our fear. I think this is wrong, there is nothing wrong showing your fear and vulnerability as long as you try to master and pacify it. Stuffing it down within you to fester only leads to the erosion of happiness and for what? The perceived judgement of others. To be clear, I still have that fear, the difference is that I recognize it for what it is - an irrational emotion, that if I let it will hold me back. I face that fear, accept it, acquiesce to it and carry on - I know it will not be easy.
My final business trip with work meant going to Tauranga. Whether I flew or drove, I was looking at three to four hours travel each way. I chose to drive. I like the journey to Tauranga from Auckland, down through Paeroa, meandering through the Karangahake gorge, being master of my own destiny for a few short hours. Being able to stop and listen to the river roar and gurgle its way through the gorge (interrupted by the dull groan of passing commuters) so much better than the Air New Zealand lounge regardless of how much free cheese and beverages there are! The other reason I chose to drive was so I could absorb some useful knowledge from an excellent podcast I listen to called “Mind Mastery and Manifestation” one of the episodes talked about being “authentic” something of a buzzword in today’s world where we people invent bullshit stories about how great their life is to post online. Strutting like virtual peacocks for likes and shares, ah there it is, my critical judgement of others, still work to be done eh?! Social media does trigger me and piss me off, why can’t people just be honest? Life is not perfect and you certainly aren’t meant to live it “online” Post about you, your true feelings and happiness, share knowledge to help others. Or as Seneca wrote:
The irony that I am going to post this on my blog which I will share on social media is not lost on me. I justify it because I feel that I am writing my truth, none of my articles are made up, there is no bullshit. Only my unfiltered perception of my life, the twists and turns of my evolution. I am not seeking validation, in fact, I am fairly sure not many people will read this. My voice lost in the chatter of countless millions trying to be heard and perceived as relevant, cool or just out to make some cash. Anyway, by writing that at least I can add a couple hashtag buzzwords to my “insta” post later on. Now I have my creative freedom I plan to post more frequently about how I am getting on. I am weirdly excited about what life is going to throw at me next and how I turn up to that adversity.
To cap it off, some gratitude, to those whose examples have supported me, inspired me and lead me to this moment: my wife, Nic G, Matt, Tim and Barry. Thank you.