Someone asked me this week if I miss my old job. In the 6 months since I left my post as Senior Countryside Officer I can honestly say: Not one bit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m immensely grateful for the 6 years I spent working for Walsall Council. I had an amazingly supportive boss and incredible colleagues, and I was basically allowed to do what I wanted with the job. Each person in the role approached it differently, and for me, that meant science events, stargazing, bushcraft, basketry, peregrines, amphibians, bats, urban ecology and lots and lots of social media.
I spent almost the entire 6 years there at risk of redundancy; justifying my own existence; quantifying my worth, and watching my colleagues do the same, but in spite of that I loved the job. I really loved the job.
I think I was pretty good at it. I certainly had fun, made friends, grew as a person. I don’t know what really changed, but by about a year ago, I knew that it was time to leave. Of course I can list the logical reasons why I couldn’t stay: job insecurity, I had hit the ceiling as far as job progression (unless I wanted chaining to a desk), lack of personal and professional development… but it wasn’t that. I just knew something had to give.
I’m not entirely sure what the catalyst was, but somehow the last 6 months have meant a complete change in life for me, of my own choosing: I changed jobs, moved house, ended a 15-year relationship and have basically voluntarily upended my life. (Of course the little voice in my ear whispering the words midlife crisis is there, but I’ve always been the type of person who can cut their losses and start again, so I genuinely don’t think that’s what’s going on.)
As Ray Bradbury put it: I pack up my dinosaurs and leave.
So I’m wondering why I’m not scared. I’m wondering why I’m not sad. And here’s the rub: I think that, finally, I am comfortable in my own skin. No small feat for the girl who, 25 years ago, was a risk-taking, self-harming runaway, hitch-hiking across the USA.
You often hear it said: What advice would you give to your younger self? – What would I say to that headstrong and reckless 16-year old? The temptation to start talking about being true to yourself, to cultivate good friendships and prioritise your family, etc is a strong one, but you know what? I know from experience she’ll get there in the end.
So what would I say to her? Not a fucking thing. I’d listen to her, because she was brave and she was passionate, and these days I could learn a trick or two from her. As put so well by Tolkien’s Galadriel: …some things that should not have been forgotten were lost.
So, you know what? I don’t miss my old job. I don’t miss my old life. And I don’t have any regrets. I’m prioritising. I’m attempting to live life unapologetically. I’m bringing back the things that used to mean so much to me that I’d set aside, and learning to let go of everything else.
Guess I’ll let you know how that all goes…