My name is Anne. I am 36. I have no children or pets, and no mortgage. I live in a rented flat in the centre of Brighton.
In the spring of 2014, when I was 33 and a half, I decided that enough was enough. In defiance of my usual risk-averse and routine-hugging nature, I gave up my well paid corporate job after 10 years to take a six-month career break.
I always knew that my old job wasn’t really me. I just didn’t know what was really me. After studying English Literature at university, I realised that a previously-coveted life in academia wasn’t what I wanted after all. Doing a PhD straight after my Master’s was always my only career plan – I never had a plan B. So with plan A abandoned, I took a temping job in an office instead to save up money to go travelling with my then boyfriend. Needless to say, it never happened. Meanwhile, the temping job turned into a permanent job, and then a career.
I handed in my notice in January 2014 and left work the following April. I had no clear plan for my break, other than to find interesting projects to work on and interesting people to work with, so I could expand my horizons, develop my skills and confidence, and gain inspiration for my next career move. I focused on ‘the arts’ in the broadest sense because that is where my natural affinity lies. Other than my doodles, I don’t really make anything arty myself – but I love playing a role in other people making interesting stuff.
Lots of people asked me why I didn’t go travelling. ‘Going travelling’ seems to have become a kind of integral part of growing up in the Western world and being an interesting and rounded human being. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to travel – maybe one day I will get the chance. But I wanted to do something constructive with my break, and I wanted to steer my career in a different direction. Going away for six months would have meant coming back to nothing and still not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. And, as Seneca once said, you should change your attitude and not your sky.
So, I stayed in Brighton and I did a variety of different jobs and projects, most of them voluntary but some of them paid. The paid jobs meant I could enjoy myself and go on holiday a couple of times, and that I could stretch my six months to about eight.
This blog is my way of recording and reflecting on my experiences. It started as a mainly personal endeavour (I know myself well enough to recognise that the obligation to post regularly would be the only way to ensure I kept up the writing), but I greatly enjoy other people reading what I write and love to hear from you. It’s been hugely encouraging to read your comments as I put what I feared might be a really stupid idea into practice.
Writing this blog also allows me to deal with my natural tendencies to worry about things, and to put things into perspective. Sometimes, when you write down what’s bugging you, you realise it sounds absolutely ridiculous. I find this very helpful.
Before I handed in my notice, I asked myself ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ This made me realise that I was enough steps away from ending my days in the gutter to consider that risk as reasonably marginal. So far, so good.
So what do geese have to do with anything? As recorded in my first post, finding a blog name is really bloody hard. In the end, I settled on a reference to this marvellous poem by Mary Oliver, which has always been one of my favourites:
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.
The call of those wild geese seemed quite apt. Also, geese are not too hard to draw, which is an added bonus.
All images in this blog are my own doodles. Feel free to use them, but please credit me if you do.