A favourite film character of mine once said:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Which is about where my life was a little over two years ago, when I applied to leave the Civil Service on voluntary redundancy. For those who read this blog or know me personally, you’ll be aware that this is a subject I have written about before… many times before!
I’m writing about it again as the decision to leave was the biggest decision I’ve ever made in my 37 and a bit years of life.
As I prepared to leave, and since I have, anytime someone asked me what I was going to do, I would reply with “I want to work with children”, which I do but perhaps I was also trying to convince myself that I had made the correct decision.
The choice I made wasn’t carried out in the best of frame of mind. I haven’t made the reasons for leaving that public (I have mentioned it recently to a few people) but anyone that was close enough to me at the time, probably could have worked it out.
At the time, the office I worked in was winding down. There were two of us left in the four jobs in the department. My boss moved on earlier in the year (maybe even the year before I can’t quite remember the timeframe!) to continue his career and the department head was granted voluntary release in the first tranche of redundancies; I was in the second tranche. She would leave a month later at the end of December 2011.
We had been a busy office looking after a multi million pound account, which was slowly reduced over the years due to bureaucracy and so called ‘good ideas’ from way up the chain of command.
When I started in 1996, the Civil Service was still considered a job for life, to see an office close and redundancies across the department was a shock, so I was disillusioned with the system.
I also thought I had had enough of sitting behind a desk. I’d done it for 15 years and felt like I needed a change, working with children out in the fresh air, seemed like the ideal job. I’d got the ‘bug’ from my volunteering work.
Lastly, and likely the best and worst reasons to make a life changing decision was the death of my Mum a month or so before I applied to leave. Mum died at 62 and I just thought I needed to do something with my life; I lived at home (and still do… for now!), had never had a girlfriend or any kind of meaningful relationship, hadn’t been on holiday for over a decade, I hadn’t done anything but go to work… I had no life.
Leaving just seemed like the perfect opportunity to change some of that. When I applied I was asked by a colleague if I would have made the same decision if my Mum was alive, to which I replied “No, I would have looked for another job in the Civil Service”.
I had to wait six months to leave, I was granted a leaving date of 29 June 2012. I spent those last months in another office, doing very little work, which was mind numbing to say the least. I did read a few books and planned two holidays though, so it wasn’t all a bust.
That summer I went to France with a group of young people, which furthered my interest in taking that forward as a career. On my return I enrolled on a Youth Work degree with the Open University, further convincing myself that I was doing the right thing. I finished the first module with a decent mark, even though I hadn’t really enjoyed the way you learn, I did learn some things that have been useful both at the Youth Club and on the second trip to France I went on in August 2013.
19 months on from leaving I’m no closer to working with children than when I left. I’m now job hunting but for office jobs, yep, that same person who said they didn’t want to sit behind a desk, is looking for a desk job. I have to be realistic, it’s what I can do and what I’m suited to.
There have been changes in my life; yes I’m still at home but that’s for convenience and I don’t have any money coming in yet. I’m slimmer, having lost 2 stone since leaving. I’m fitter too and I’ll be running a half marathon on 2nd March. I took a few holidays when I left work and I’ve been on trips here and there, mostly to London. I’ve seen lots of art & theatre. I also saw some live music, which I’m not normally keen on. I’ve made some new friends and perhaps most importantly I’ve found someone, or I should say She found me, to share my life with.
The next big decision I have to make will involve my degree and I’ll be making that very shortly. As I said, I’m no closer to having a career working with children, and now that I’ve had time to reflect about the course as a whole and where my life is at the moment, I’m considering stopping it. I enrolled on this current module about a week before the closing date, as I was unsure about going forward with it, the fact that I got a decent mark before, spurred me on, that and I thought I should do, as I told people I wanted to work with children. Not the best reason to fork out a few hundred pounds!
Starting it when I did was good for me, it gave me something to focus on, I didn’t have a job nor the intent to get one, so it was good but now I feel that I’ve moved passed that need to do it. I’m happy at the level I’m at, just volunteering. I can always do more if I feel I need to and of course I can always go back to the degree in the future. I’m sure, like me, as you read that, you can already see which way I’m leaning.
Ferris was right, life does move pretty fast, the first 35 years and 10 months of my life were a blur where not much happened but they’ve gone now I need to look to the future. I stopped to look around 19 months ago and I’ve enjoyed every bit of it since, I suggest you all stop and look around too… also Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is an excellent film, if you haven’t seen it then do, if you have, watch it again!