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Fall forward

So it’s been awhile.

Just over 7 weeks now. So what happened? I know fall forward is an enigmatic title. It will all make sense in the end, I promise! I would like to explain if you will indulge me for a little while. Life is precious – we will get to that! But hopefully, it will be worth you spending a little of yours. I hope I have something valuable to say and it will be worth it.

This white blank screen stares back at me as if daring me to write something. Anything. It’s always like this in the beginning. As with most things It’s hardest to take those first tentative steps. When you’ve thrown your hat into the ring and committed to the thing then it’s far easier. Well, unless you are learning the unicycle. Expect broken bones. Don’t learn the unicycle.

So, I’m just going to start writing because if I don’t then nothing will get written and too many days have gone by with that happening. Too many days lost. There have been quite enough almost or maybe days. Enough.

So it’s been awhile.

This is my first blog update to the “Life section” of my blog and it’s unclear if I’m writing this to you, dear reader, or to myself. I suppose it’s a little bit of both. When we create, don’t we always give life to the thing by giving it a little bit our own heart and soul? That’s art, it’s always a reflection of the artist. This time is different. This is wholly me on this page – all my hopes and fears and failings. It’s a difficult thing for me but it’s an important part of my journey. I have, and continue to push forward and change myself and my life. I continue to test the boundaries.

Near Death Experience

Fall Forward - Amit Ray quote
– Amit Ray

Everything I do is driven by a near death experience.

Briefly – a few years ago I was suffering from a long and extremely dark struggle with deep depression. It was a personal apocalypse. Maybe it seems melodramatic to call it a near death experience; But for me, it felt that way and I consider it to be. The complete destruction of self. The most horrific thing I’ve had to endure. Even now it haunts my memories like the phantom of an ill-omened evil ghost. I feel the pain echo through my past into my present days. I was in all senses dead metaphorically and such was the absolute hell – I seriously considered making it a literal death. Anything to escape.

When life gave me a chance to be bright again, to find myself, to throw open the doors of my heart and soul to the light, and banish the darkness – I took it. I travelled and I found myself again. And slowly the light came. I was changed but fundamentally felt like me again or at least the version of me that I would recognise and welcome. Once I was back from my travels I vowed that I wouldn’t fall back. I would fall forward.

Much has changed. The journey continues. But I don’t think the darkness will ever be gone for good. It lingers at the edge like a pack of patient hungry wolves simply waiting for the light to waver or fade. I’ll be back it promises. I can wait. And the thing that scares me to my core is that I know that it can happen. There is a splinter of darkness in my soul that I’ll never be free of. I can only take each day at a time. I can only try to love this life, those around me, and importantly myself as much as I can. And if, WHEN, it comes back again, hopefully, I’ll be ready for battle and win.

For my part, I think depression is the subconscious mind trying desperately to get your attention. It’s a smoke signal from your soul. It’s telling you that something is wrong. It might not be obvious what that thing is but if you can figure it out then you can heal. This is my own personal opinion. I have no scientific evidence to back me up. I only have my own experience and feeling. This is true for me but it might not be true for you. When I am living the best life I can live. When I am working hard towards goals and dreams – making the moments count – working towards the light, I find I am not depressed.

A Life worth living?

Fall Forward - Steve Jobs Quote
– Steve Jobs

The life that led to the fading of the light was one of predictable routine that so many of us endure. An insidious slow fall into this life kept me from noticing the trap until it was far too late. A life that I never imagined would be mine and it was easy to fall into.

This kind of life we are all indoctrinated to live. Good little consumers who obey and never dare to dream. It’s a life of waiting, isn’t it? Conditioned that things will make us happy. Lied to and caged with the promise that if we are good a reward awaits us at the end. Told that life is at all fair or guaranteed. It’s the lies that bind us. The lies that they tell us and the lies we tell ourselves.

It’s a life of waiting.

Waiting for the dull workday to finish. Clogged arteries of tarmac thick with the lost and damned, trains of canned commuters. We endure our awful journeys and lost time so we can numb ourselves by the uncaring glow of TV and Phone. Those blurred nights burn away in LCD dreams and advertisements that assure us we can be happy if only we buy this new thing.

Waiting for the week to end and enjoy a weekend (if you are lucky) before it starts all over again. The dread creeps in well before Sunday night. Trapped on a treadmill of drudgery waiting for the weekends and praying you are not too tired to enjoy them.

Waiting for that one holiday in a year of weary work and toil. A precious week away from your life and never questioning at all why that’s even necessary? Never stopping to wonder why you might need a week or two escape from your life?

Waiting, finally, for that mythical far away reward of retirement. You married the girl, got the dog, (or cat, hamster, goldfish, pet dinosaur ) had the kids, brought the car and the house. You did your TIME. Worked every damn day in a job you hated. Swallowed pride and dream. Took every insult and indignity. You did your time. worked hard. kept your nose to the grind wheel. Waiting. Waiting for retirement. You’ve done everything asked of you and everything you were supposed to do and now you’ll get your reward.

The thing is, retirement may well likely never come. Many will die before ever reaching it. If you actually reach retirement, you’ll be lucky if you are actually healthy and wealthy enough that you enjoy it – many won’t. And what about those that do actually manage to make it? You cross that arbitrary age finish line and have your health and a little in the piggy bank to enjoy your freedom. Congratulations. Enjoy it, because the clock is ticking. Most of your life is gone.

The average age is 75. In the UK the retirement age is currently 65. So on average, you have just 10 years. It’s nothing. Imagine only ever having your favourite food 10 more times? Imagine only doing anything you love 10 more times. 10 years. That’s only 10 summers left on the clock before it’s all gone and you are dead. Can you imagine only 10 more summers?

The chances are that you won’t even make that far. Death comes knocking often and indiscriminately. Maybe you’ll be dead next week or even tomorrow or tonight? Without knowing, as you meander wearily through your day, these could be your last moments. The clock counting to zero as you pass the time on the toilet flicking pointlessly through Facebook.

Hope & Dreams

Fall Forward - Seth Godin Quote
― Seth Godin

These aren’t despairing or hopeless thoughts. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. It can set you free. We have so little time and that time is precious. Time is the most valuable thing in our life. This fact should set us free. It should light a bonfire under us.

If making a change makes you feel afraid or living your dreams seems foolish – then consider how little time you have. If you are worried by the what-ifs then imagine how that would all melt away if you were told tomorrow that you only have months to live by a doctor? Life is a chaotic mess. Look at this pandemic. Stuff will happen. Hiding from it isn’t going to be any safer in the long run. You might as well take a chance and live as best you can.

So this is where I am right now. If you have read this far. Thank you, firstly, Now you understand what drives me and why I’m making the choices that I make. Additionally, I hope I’ve given you something to think about. Hopefully, I’ve lit a few sparks.

Quitting is the beginning of a new Chapter

Fall Forward - Tim Ferriss Quote
– Tim Ferriss

Just over 7 weeks ago I quit my job.

I only took the sort of work that I did in my old life so I could raise the money for more travel. I put my plans with the stars. I forged a dream. I had a goal. Raise enough for at least 3 to 6 months of travel then quit. This is what I said I would do. This was my heartfelt promise. The plan was never to stay.

I reached that goal but obviously travel is almost certainly – at least as things stand right now as of writing this, is out of the question. Furlough was wonderful for me, actually. I will never understand, and it’s with a little pity, when I hear people say they are bored with so much time. I could never be bored. I was writing, blogging. photographing, creating, cooking, exploring and so much more.

The prospect of going back wasn’t one that I relished. I had my travel fund so why to go back again? How much longer will this pandemic last for? Months? Years? And although it would be great – better than great – to continually grow my travel fund, it would be so scarily easy to fall back into the old life again. And the longer I stay, the harder to leave and greater the chance.

It would start with the little lies. Those are the worst. Life has inertia. The longer we do or are then the harder it is to stop. It would be so easy to pack up my silly dreams and place them in a box. Of course, I’ll tell myself that I will unpack them someday but someday has a habit of never being an actual day that comes. I’ll tell myself that this isn’t so bad. I’ll begin to live for the weekend and dose myself numb on media.

No. This is the time. I promised myself I would raise enough money to travel again. I promised myself I would try to do things differently this time. It was a pinky promise to heart and soul. I aim never to break a pinky promise. It seemed like this was the time to act. To make a clean break. To make a stand. In doing so I open myself to endless possibilities.

But moreover, if I leave I’ll have the time, energy, and motivation to explore other alternative ways to make money that I may actually enjoy. If I stay, those will never be more than dreams. I’ll write an update if (when) any of these become reality.

I also have my creative projects. My blog! How I have missed writing this. I’m really proud of Travels with my Belly and I hope some out there enjoy reading it. I would be nice! I feel awful that I neglected this blog but I’m back here again. I’ve always been happy writing – giving life to dreams. It’s not just that but, as shy and awkward as I am – I have always felt much more comfortable communicating in words.

Photography! I’m enjoying this again more and more. I’m actively uploading to Shutterstock and a few other stock agencies. If I can hit the quality and quantity mark necessary this could net me a few hundred a month… I’m not banking on that but if I manage to do it then that’s an extra revenue stream. But most of all, I am enjoying the hell out of it. My brain is constantly thinking of new ideas for stock photography. I’m also on Fine Art America so if you are planning on a beautiful print you know where to find one! It’s never too early to think about Chrismas presents! 😀

Quitting gives me space for things to flower into. It gives the gift of potential wonderful things.

Fear and Loathing in London

Fall Forward - Judy Blume Quote
– Judy Blume (NOTE: pictured, my sexy leg and magnificent socks.)

So how does all this explain your 7 week absence, you ask me!? Impatient, aren’t you!? I’m getting to it! Get on with it? Well. How rude but since you insist then I’ll do that very thing.

Whenever I tell people about my travel, the time I travelled to the U.S on my own or my recent 3 months travelling across South East Asia, they almost always ask me if I was scared? Was I scared? Yes. But I did it anyway.

The thing is, truthfully, I am scared all the time. I’m painfully shy and even chatting to people online is scary for me because I’m so introverted. I’m full of self-doubts and insecurities.

I’m scared that I’ll fail at whatever it is that I will try. I’m scared to blog. I’m scared to try new things. I’m scared of looking like an idiot when those dark voices tell me I will inevitably fail. I’m scared to put myself out there with its blog, with social media like Twitter and Instagram. Was I scared to quit my job? Yes. It’s the hardest most terrifying thing that I’ve ever done. It took me days and days to work up the courage and weeks to centre myself.

The truth is that I am scared of so many things pretty much all the time but I won’t, I refuse to, let that stop me. And yes, I might predictably fail and those dark inner voices will say “I told you so” but I’ll get back up again and I won’t stop trying or growing and changing.

So it’s been a while. I quit my job and all the self doubts and fears smashed hard into me like a midnight freight train. What have I done? Am I nuts? I’ve asked myself truly am I insane? What’s wrong with me? You had a well paid decent job with okay people and you quit during a pandemic and economic downturn the like of which we haven’t seen for generations? What are you thinking? Seriously, are you crazy? Do you know that there are people in the world struggling to make ends meet that would kill for a job? What is wrong with you?

The wolves. Remember the wolves of darkness waiting ever oh so patiently at the edge of my bonfire heart? Waiting for the light to waver and fail? Those dark things came rushing to attack. I felt them there at the edge. Waiting. I could feel the dark in me. I felt them coming.

I could feel the triumphant dark and the cold invade me and it was terrifying. Not this again, Please, I begged empty air and imaginary wolves who all bore the name depression… But they came and they took me down without mercy. I seriously considered counselling and drugs because I can’t go through all this again. I don’t think I have the strength for it. It was too horrible to endure.

For a time I just shut down and shut off from everything. I battled. I had barriers and defences built up to aid me: meditation, positive thinking, day blocking, to-do lists, and more. I fought them tooth and claw and slowly I beat them back to the edge of the light once more. And they wait there. Patiently because they know the light will fail again but I’ll be ready with shield and sword raised. Each day at a time.

And once I had beaten them back again I was left with the questions like sea shells on a shore. Weeks went by while I wrestled the choices made, my future, and the big questions that keep us all up at night. Sometimes it’s drinking too much coffee that keeps us up but this time it was the big questions.

Was I right? Am crazy? I think without a shred of doubt that yes, I did the right thing. Am I crazy? yeah. A little bit but I like to think in a good way. You have to be little crazy to dream, to create, and to dare.

There & Back Again

Fall Forward quote by Denzel Washington
– Denzel Washington

So it’s been awhile.

So here I am. Back again. I made this blog my touchstone. My return. This is my affirmation. This is a line in the sand. This is my fist raised. This is my face turned to the light. I shut down from everything but knew that if I can write this difficult post then I’ll feel properly back.

It’s taken far longer to write this post that I would like: partly because of my perfectionist drive and partly because it’s difficult being so open. This is new for me but I think it’s important. I’m proud of this post and happy to be blogging again.

So I am back again. I am ready, happy, and hopeful for the adventure that I am on. I still have no idea “what I want to be when I grow up” which is a terrible phrase because I never want to grow up. I don’t want to let go of the curiosity, wonder and sense of fun. There are a lot of people that will tell you they have the secret one truth to life and happiness but you know there really isn’t just one truth. I think this is mine. It might be yours or it might not be. In the end, we all have to discover what it is. I’m endeavouring to find out what mine is.

I have no idea where or how all this will end. Maybe I will fail terribly. Maybe this is silly. Maybe I am crazy or simply an idiot but at least I will be able to tell myself that I tried and have a heart full of stories at the end of the trip. I think that is all I can ask of myself. I think, even if it all comes to nothing it will be okay that I tried at least. Life is short and we must try to make the most of it.

So I’m back again, dreaming big and determined to fall forward.

Be safe, and happy travels ✈️????????

Coda

“Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable, let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”

Douglas Adams

As ever, your comments are appreciated. Please share this if you enjoyed it and think others might also. If you are suffering from depression please know three things.

  • Firstly, that there is nothing wrong with you and you have nothing to be ashamed of. Mental illness is as valid as a physical illness.
  • Secondly, please don’t suffer alone. I did for many years and lost so much time and so many things to the awful dark. I was ashamed and I didn’t think people would understand. It’s still not easy for me to speak about but it’s important that you do. There are many resources for finding help.
  • Thirdly, the dark voices are liars. Never listen. They’ll tell you that you are not good enough. They will tell you that you are alone and there is no hope. The voices are liars. Understand that, please.

I don’t feel qualified to really fully advise people but my hugs are free and I’m here via email if you feel like a shoulder to cry on. Here are a few professional resources: Mind (UK)NHS support groups (UK)Depression hotline (USA)