As I write these words, I figure I will decide afterwards whether to publish this post or not.
Since I started writing in public, I’ve had a couple of people tell me they were surprised at how honest I am when I write about myself. One even suggested I should hold some stuff back as it might reflect badly on me with a future employer.
The way I see it, I’m just writing about what’s going on in my head. Sure, at times I expose some of my insecurities and challenges, but I’ve never been embarrassed to talk openly about them. Writing about them actually helps me figure things out and move on.
If I’m judged or looked upon badly for that by someone, I don’t want to work for or with them anyway.
And if you hadn’t already guessed, this is going to be one of those types of posts
Looking back on the last couple of years
I’ve been reflecting about my life quite a bit over the last few weeks. Things are starting to come together for me and make sense. This is good because I’ve felt very stuck and lost for all of this year. Nothing was making sense and it was driving me up the wall.
With a clearer mind, I can now kinda make sense of how I have been feeling for the last few years and particularly why I have been feeling so stuck in 2014.
2012 and 2013 were very up and down for me.
In 2012 I was working for Jagex and I decided to leave because my heart just wasn’t in it any more. I loved the company and people, but I was just going through the motions. I was going through long stretches of feeling down with only small periods of feeling motivated and energized. I just couldn’t break out of that cycle, so it was time to leave.
Working at Mind Candy in 2013, was kinda the same story. Decent company and I met some really great people there, but very much the same type of ups and downs. Things never quite felt right and I had to continually dig deep to keep moving forward.
I think I did a good job at each, but I was definitely ignoring how I was feeling.
I actually think if I had stayed for another year at Mind Candy (or in a similar company and job) I would have had some type of breakdown. I know that sounds dramatic, but I really wasn’t in a good place and it was slowly getting worse.
Now that I look back, I can make sense of things better.
I wanted a personality transplant
What it comes down to is I found myself wanting to be a very different person. This had been brewing for the last two years, it just happened to come to a head at the end of 2013.
My main goals since I was 25 was to be CEO of a technology company and to have £1M net worth. Then I would be sorted I would think. I would have a great job and financial security. Life would be sweet.
Everything I did in my life was to move closer towards those goals. I prioritised my career and saved as much as I could. Sure, I let off steam along the way, but ultimately I was very fixed on those goals. Work and money became my main values and all what was important to me.
But in the last couple of years, something changed in me. I started to not like myself very much and I also worried a lot about having major regrets at the end of my life.
I was impatient and irritable. I felt tired most of the time. I was short with people. I would judge people harshly. I was very emotionally detached about most things. I wasn’t as good at making decisions. I felt sad and unhappy quite a lot. That’s not how I wanted to be at all.
I wanted to be kinder and less judgemental of people (and myself). I wanted to help people more and make a difference. I wanted to have energy and be happy. I wanted to be present in what I was doing and enjoy my life.
I didn’t want my career and money to be my core values or literally the most important things in my life any longer.
I wanted my health to be more important. I wanted my relationships and experiences with those I love to be more important. I wanted to be more adventurous, see and do more interesting things. I wanted to be a more interesting person actually. I wanted those things more than I wanted a successful career and financial freedom.
I started to see people 20 years older than me and it scared the shit out of me that I might end up that person. The fear of having major regrets kept coming back to me.
So, at the end of 2013, I kinda snapped. I panicked a bit and basically did what I needed to do in order to move as far away from my current situation as I could. I left Mind Candy and vowed to take some time out.
Man, I had no idea how hard it was going to be. I completely underestimated how long and hard it would be to make the type and size of change I wanted.
Taking time out
So, in January 2014 I found myself exactly the same person, with the same values – just with no job. Turns out you can’t have a personality transplant overnight.
The other thing that was apparent was I had very few interests outside of work. Sure, I liked to exercise, read, see friends etc. But, I didn’t have anything I really loved doing, like a hobby or an interest. Something to build or do.
So, I found myself in no man’s land. I no longer had the life I didn’t want but I couldn’t seem to adjust to the life I felt I wanted. I continually worried about screwing up my career and going backwards on the money front. Every day I was frustrated, worried and was losing confidence.
It turns out being in no mans land is even worse than doing what you don’t like. At least when you’re doing something you don’t like, you’re actually doing something and therefore have a story that everyone expects to see. You can hide behind that, but you can’t hide behind literally having no idea what to do. I used to hate the question ‘so what are you up to at the moment?’ so bad.
My fear of having regrets and wasting my life got me thinking way too much about my own mortality too and this led to a severe anxiety around my health. I’ll spare the details, but it wasn’t fun at all.
So yeah, Jan to April, 2014 was pretty fucked up.
May and June got better though. I seeked some help from a few people and slowly made some pretty important realisations.
The biggest was that my transformation will take time, perhaps even 1-2 years. Changing values and habits that have been held for a ten year period simply takes time. It can’t be rushed into 1 or 2 weeks.
I need to take a 1-3 month view to things. That way the daily steps feel like progress and you don’t feel overwhelmed by massive expectations. Under planning or over planning is not going to be good for me.
I need to let go of the insanely high expectations I have on myself for everything I do (both the result and time period to achieve). They lead to overwhelm and self doubt, and subsequently inaction. Instead I should focus only on 3 months out and see things as a journey / experiment.
I had to start slowly getting used to doing things for fun and pleasure and not see it as wasted time. Just enjoy things for what they are.
I can’t let myself linger in frustration. The moment I feel it comes, I have to try something else or go out and exercise. Basically snap out of it.
And lastly, I need to stop searching for the magical answer for what I want to do with my life. It’s simply not possible to just come up with it. It has to unfold naturally and can’t be forced.
Instead I need to work on the type of person I want to be.
I need to look after myself. That means exercising, eating right, sleeping well and meditating.
I need to start experimenting and exploring new things and activities (for work and hobbies). Get out of my comfort zone and just try some stuff. This is actually very important and something I have been procrastinating on. Who cares if I don’t get into it, I can just drop it and try something else. But nothing will happen if I don’t try stuff.
And lastly, I need to network and be around people. Just stay in touch with the awesome people I have worked with and meet new and interesting people who are doing cool things.
If I do those things, I’m going to slowly become the person I want to be and I’ll stumble into what I want to spend my time on. I need to let things grow from that and not have any expectations. It has to be that way round.
The rest of 2014
When I started 2014, I figured anything less than a personality transplant and to be firing on all cylinders on something I love within a couple of months would be a complete failure. Damn those expectations.
Now I have some quite new expectations for the rest of 2014.
I want to have looked after myself and feel great.
I want to be someone who is happier, kinder, less judgemental of others (and myself) and less emotionally detached about things.
I want to genuinely feel as if living and enjoying my life is as (or perhaps more) important than money and career.
I want to have experimented with a number of different hobbies and work ideas (if something sticks, all the better – but if that comes next year that’s ok).
And that’s where I find myself today.
I’m in a pretty good place now. I think the first half of this year had to happen that way. I needed to go through it to realise a few things.
I’m looking forward to going through the journey of becoming a different person and to settle on something I love doing. Perhaps that’s similar to the type of things I used to do, perhaps it’s a mix of that and new things or something entirely new altogether. We shall see.