So, here I am, ‘technically unemployed’, happy about it and clueless about what comes next.
I say ‘technically unemployed’ as I am in the very enviable position of having 3 months ‘Gardening Leave’ where I am paid, but not required to attend work. Thankfully, neither am I obliged to do actual Gardening. It is late October, the grass needs cutting and there are leaves all over the place. I feel able to ignore the garden as none of my plants were uprooted in the ‘Great Storm of St Jude’, which in South West London was more of a huge gust of wind at about 7am on Monday morning, rather than a storm.
I was very grateful to stay in bed and just lie there listening to it all. Just a few weeks ago I would have been battling to leave the house by 6.30am and drive through the storm, just to sit at my desk at 7am and pretty much do nothing all day. The environment was one where it was seen as a weakness if you cannot get to work for any reason, illness, trees on the line, tube strikes, hurricanes, you name it, no excuse was acceptable because ultimately we were all trying to prove that we were more focussed and dedicated than the next man or woman (but usually man).
It has been a bizarre 9 months of my life.
For many years I have been turning up to work with a heavy heart and empty soul. In fact, I often joked that I had sold my soul, but deep down it saddened me that that was truly how it felt. Over the years my lack of enjoyment of my work became more of a strange martyrdom. I have earned good money which is a positive that really can’t be underestimated, but I have increasingly become a grumpy old cow, a poor wife and mother, a lacklustre daughter and an energy-sapping friend who can talk of little else than her miserable life and how tired and fed up she is. Sometimes I see a photograph of myself from years ago (when I didn’t hide from cameras) and I am smiling – really smiling, a big, broad, ear to ear smile. When did I stop doing that? Was it a sudden thing? Did I lose the ability to pull that face and now, like the rest of me, I need to retrain? Don’t get me wrong, I am fundamentally happy with my lot, but I just can’t remember the last time I threw my head back and laughed, laughed so hard that I couldn’t breathe.
Something needed to change. My job went from being almost tolerable to being mind-numbingly boring and a source of great stress and anxiety. I started obsessing about what it would be like to another job, any job instead of this one. I have never been sacked or made redundant and I have worked since I was 14, what would it be like to tear up my career and start all over again?
I found myself spending more and more time Googling ‘career change’ (and, truth be told a few Googles of ‘mid-life crisis’) during the working day hoping that the answer would pop up in front of me, let me add it to my Shopping Cart and checkout. Sadly, I slowly realised that the postman was never going to be able to deliver this particular wish list and it would be down to me to build my own career change from scratch.
In June I did the bravest thing I have ever done – I am sure there are many people that would say it was the most foolish thing I have ever done. I asked to be made redundant. Over the years I have heard many people say that being made redundant was the best thing that ever happened to them, and quite simply I was jealous and I wanted it to happen to me. There had been many redundancies in my business over the last 3 years, but I never seemed to be the Lucky One so I figured I should just ask. It didn’t work, they said no.
For the next two months, I was faced with the reality that you can’t force someone to make you redundant and that without a financial cushion, a career change is nigh on impossible. I was panic stricken and thought about little else.
However, scroll forward two months and, deepest of joy, I am finally made redundant – not because I asked of course. No, this was a well considered business decision made without considering my input. It was just a coincidence. Whatever.
So, high-fives all around, I am 48.5 years old and unemployed. Stage One of my career change is complete. I have an uneasy feeling that Stage One might have been the easy bit.