As has been the case for many nights in succession my sleep has been broken beyond repair and at 2am yesterday I once again found myself lying in the dark listening to the wind outside as I stared in the general direction of the ceiling.
From the perspective of my mood and emotional state it’s been a difficult month – because amongst other things (as mentioned in an earlier blog) in mid August I made the decision to leave my current job.
I did so with with a real mixture of emotions.
Everywhere I go I try hard to form meaningful relationships with people.
Sometimes it happens.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
In this case it really did – and quite out of the blue (almost a year ago) the universe unexpectedly guided me in the direction of a workplace where I met a lot of individuals that were well outside of my normal comfort zone.
For many years my confidants and peers have been almost exclusively my own age, and broadly speaking have just happened to share many of my core values and many of my opinions.
Often they also worked in the same industry that I used to.
When we bonded it was usually on a platform of shared memories, growing up in similar eras and similar tastes in music. We watched the same films in our youth and we collectively experienced and referenced the same world events.
The role I stepped out of yesterday was simultaneously familiar and yet also completely new.
It was an industry I’d never worked in before and for the first time in as long as I can remember I’ve been constantly surrounded by youth and enthusiasm.
Initially I was worried that we would share very little obvious common ground – but a lot can change in 11 months.
In many ways this has tied neatly into the transformation that has happened in my own life – because two years ago I doubt I’d have been able to relate to the people I now count among my friends.
This wasn’t because I struggled to talk to people of any age, but instead was due to the depth of my personal shame.
For so long I felt that I’d squandered the promise of my own youth – and has taken a childhood where everything was possible and turned it into an adulthood where I felt capable of nothing.
Back then (even as a grown man) I was bullied in the street and mocked by strangers. I was called names continuously when overweight – often by men in passing cars – and it always came when I least expected it (link) (another link) (yet another link).
Even though I’d previously been a team leader I had also always felt deep down that I didn’t measure up. I could never understand why anyone would respect me and on an almost daily basis felt like a failure and an impostor.
How could people respect someone who had let himself go in such dramatic fashion?
I didn’t respect myself so why should anyone else?
Things change however – and to underscore how dramatically on Tuesday, as I crossed the road some ladies in a car pulled up next to me and wound down the window.
In the past this sort of thing caused a tangible physiological reaction in me.
Adrenaline and fear.
However instead of calling me names these lovely ladies leaned toward the open window and collectively said ‘Dave you’re our hero!‘
Even though a lot of people know me these days I find it difficult to place all of the faces I’ve met through Slimming World and via my blog or Instagram.
I must have looked a bit quizzical – because they quickly said ‘You don’t know us…’ and then repeated ‘…but we just wanted to say you’re our hero!‘
All three of them were smiling and happy.
‘Thanks!’ I stammered – a little surprised. ‘Glad to be of service!’
I let them carry on with their day after making a brief (probably daft) quip about chips – but the moment moved my mood from dour to one of surprised elation.
My pulse had quickened and I felt excited.
Then yesterday morning, whilst buying some healthy snacks for my team on my last day (how can a man like me present other people with cake?!) I encountered a man in Tescos, who caught my eye.
I took an earphone out and said ‘Hello.’
‘I follow you on Instagram’ he said. ‘You look amazing. You’ve done AMAZING.’
‘Thank you!’ I replied. ‘That’s really kind of you to say!’
‘I’ve lost four stone.’ he said to me with a smile. ‘It’s not as much as you though…’
‘It’s STILL amazing!’ I said ‘Four stone is a lot! Well done you!!!’ I smiled back, shaking his hand before we parted company.
I left feeling ten feet tall – and whether he knew it or not he too met me in a reflective moment and also lifted my spirits.
I took a picture on the way to work and posted it to thank him.
I spent the rest of the day with my little team saying goodbye in a way that I felt was appropriate.
Although parting has an element of sorrow I’m left with little doubt that these particular youths have promise and that makes me happy.
They’ve also helped (even though in some cases I’m actually only a year younger than their parents) to make me feel youthful again and have shaken away cobwebs that I hadn’t noticed were gathering.
The truth of it is that when we spoke last night, while they shared Yeagerbombs with eachother and hugs with me (I drank cups of tea and coffee) it seemed they were convinced that it was me that had been mentoring them.
What none of them realise is that their acceptance and engagement has been a revelation too – because unconsciously they’ve been mentoring me too.
Through them I’ve been reminded that all experience is valuable – and absolutely everything in life has a use.
Failures make you stronger if you use them to learn and teach others.
All mis-steps are worth it if you can help others not make the same mistakes in life that you did.
My career is still something that I can’t seem to map, and my direction in life is once more (scarily) uncharted – but with each passing experience and every step I take on the road of self improvement I learn more about myself and others.
This year I’ve learned a lot, and none of it will be forgotten.
Neither will the people I’ve met.
So long and thanks for all the fish 🤗
P.S. that’s a quote from the ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘, NOT ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ as one of my young colleagues thought… 😂
Sigh. I’m gonna miss em 😏