Life Work

Going Balls To The Wall, Learning How To Fail and Other Life Lessons From Thailand

June 28, 2015

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I‘m going to start this story with another story, which is surely how all the best stories begin.

When I went to Thailand a couple of months ago I had the absolute pleasure of crossing paths with Laura, someone I’d known on Twitter for yonks and yonks. We’d be in Bangkok for 24 hours at the same time and had never managed to meet up in London so we agreed to hang out on the other side of the world. Casual.

Now, Laura’s blog is one of a few that I love. She lays bare her heart and her head in stories of raw, true human emotional experience and emotion. Some of it resonates and ALL of it prompts me to think and for that I adore her words. So I was looking forward to meeting her, sharing the life experiences I know we’d had in common and getting to know each other better.

I’m sure Laura won’t mind that I describe her as a force of nature. She is HERE, she is PROUD, she know what she wants and she ain’t afraid to get it. As soon as I met Laura we got into one of those conversations that is just so intensely interesting that I remember wishing more than once that I had a pen and paper to write down the golden nuggets of truth she was telling me (over pints of £1 Thai beers, natch).

In the last year I’ve had a personal motto, and that is JFDI. Just fucking do it. Because if you want to do something you should – life is too short and uncertain not to. Laura embodies this motto, she goes where her heart takes her, falls in love with abandon, tries new things, puts herself in uncertain situations… because what is life about if not that?

I walked away from my 5 hours with Laura feeling indestructible (and more than a little pissed, it has to be said). I’m so sure of what I want out of life but I have to admit that I’m still a little wobbly on how to get there, but Laura made me focus on what I want: cut the crap, balls to the wall, just fucking do it.

I want to travel, I want to meet new people, I want to write, I want to make people happy with my cooking, I want to be the healthiest I can be, I want to train, I want to work hard, I want security for my family. That’s what I want, and I will always love Laura for giving me the courage to  be proud of that. In the hours I spent with Laura she allowed me to summarise and process the changes I went through experiencing rural N.E. Thailand and converted that into ways I could live my life moving forward.

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On to the story part of my story.

Six weeks ago I was offered a promotion that was so very unexpected. I’d been working freelance as an Account Director at a Marketing agency and they asked me to come on permanently to take on their Head of Marketing role. I was stoked. I’d have a team, lots of great clients, autonomy, fiscal responsibility… it was a huge deal. I basked in the glory of my new job for a while – I’d worked so hard for the last few years, why not? – and got on with the job in hand.

Full-on is not the word. This was the challenge of all challenges. The Marketing team at the agency had gone through many recent personnel changes, there were difficult and time-consuming situations that needed resolving and I was leading projects that I had little experience in. Having worked in digital almost since I designed my first website 15 years ago it was odd to look at physical flyers with print lead times, traditional marketing plans, campaigns that didn’t have websites or Twitter or Facebook at their core. I felt out of my depth which is something I haven’t experienced in years. I was working my arse off, 70 hours a week at one point, but the job was never done. When I worked for myself I was always confident that I’d done the best job possible but working in a business when you’re responsible not only for your own actions but those of a team was hard – I was answerable for everyone’s work, not just my own.

I really loved the job. It was challenging, exciting, all-encompassing. But tough, TOUGH. I started feeling more stressed than I think I ever have, didn’t sleep well, was unconsciously grinding my teeth, developed palpitations. I was rushing around from pillar to post, neglecting my friends and becoming snappy with the children. Our house was a state because I just didn’t have time to clean and one week I ate cucumber for breakfast four days in a row because I hadn’t visited a supermarket in weeks. I was so tired that I became reliant on an afternoon pickup from those tubs of M&S Caramel Crispy Bites (I don’t do coffee). I’d be at work all day, pick up the children, put them to bed then get back to work until bedtime. It was relentless. Enjoyable but relentless.

And so I had one moment last Wednesday at about 11.30pm when I received an email I didn’t really want to receive and I burst into tears. My first thought was, “I really don’t want to do this anymore” and then my second thought was “so don’t do it anymore, idiot”.

Doh.

I’ll admit my pride was a bit hurt at the thought I’d tried really bloody hard at this job and just didn’t have the mental, emotional or physical capacity to see it through but in the end logic won. It would have been easier to keep trucking on with my lovely big reliable salary and impressive job title as I slowly descended into a pool of my own stress-related mentalness but I thought back to my time with Laura and realised this is not what I want. This is not something that makes me want to go balls to the wall. I want to do what I’m good at, be in charge of my own destiny, work in an area I feel real passion and a connection for (that’s you, internet).

Plus, come on. I’m a single mother of a 3 and 4 year old, it’s hardly realistic to be working 70 hours a week now, is it?

So this is me stepping outside the box, apologising for following my head and not my heart, for choosing money and security over what I truly love. I feel like I’m back in control of my own destiny and making that decision on my own feels really wonderful.

And I share this story because I want to say thank-you. Thank-you to Laura who puts her own self out there to help other people see they can do it (and you can read her own personal story about why it’s OK to quit here). Thank-you to the Universe for the series of events that led me to feel empowered enough to make this decision (that’s the biggest fucking hippie sentence I’ve ever written, right there). Thank-you to my mum who has held my own personal fort down and looked after my children while I’ve been living the stressed-out corporate dream. Thank-you to my friends who haven’t forgotten about me while I’ve drifted off into this period of craziness.

I also share this because I think it’s important to realise we don’t have to do what others expect us to do. We can take the road less travelled and discover that path is much happier. As Laura says, go balls to the wall… it’s a great way to take steps towards finding your happiness.

Internet, I am back. And by god have I missed you.

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27 Comments

  • Reply The Style Box June 29, 2015 at 6:59 am

    Loved this post. It’s so brave of you to admit that it was too hard and that you’d made a mistake. When I was 20 I was working in an office (nothing high-stress, just an office-administrator) because I thought that’s what I ‘should’ do because that’s what everyone else was doing and what was expected of me. In hindsight, struggling to get pregnant for 3 years was the best thing that ever happened to me as it put my life in perspective. I suddenly had to imagine a live without children and I knew that slogging away in an office with no real goals or progression was definitely not what I wanted. It really gave me the push I needed to get out of the 9-5 cycle. I’ve been freelance for 3 years now and loving it. Yes, it’s hard making ends meet some months but the sense of freedom is incredible. It’s also allowed me so much precious time with my son that I just wouldn’t be able to have if I’d gone back to an office.
    Also, totally LOVE Laura’s blog. I have a friend like her called Cheryl and she always makes me feel ballsy and like I can do anything whenever I see her. Hurrah for lovely lady chums!
    x

    • Reply alice June 29, 2015 at 9:50 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experience – isn’t it funny where we find our happiness? And you’re right, there’s nothing like that freedom of the freelancer!
      Hurrah indeed for lovely lady chums, I don’t know where we’d be without them! x

  • Reply Tori June 29, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Thank you for writing this – I’m in a similar place at the moment and it’s really helpful to see these words in black and white.

    I’ve transferred to another global office and despite the steady, pretty decent pay and convenience to home it is not what I expected (or was sold) at all. Very admin heavy and doing stuff that I haven’t done for about ten years and I’m embarrassed to say, I’m just not very good at. I’ve replaced one full time guy but only working three days a week and being expected to do the admin, the strategy and everything in between and it is making me anxious beyond belief.

    I got ‘that’ email today advising me that taking two days annual leave (which I was owed from working outside my standard hours) in a row to cover school holidays ‘isn’t ideal’ for the client (this is despite my making plans to not take all week off for school holidays and flying my mother over to help with the kids for the other three days) but that I would be allowed to do it ‘this time’ and I LOST MY SHIT. Only at my husband, but lost my shit all the same.

    Bizarrely I feel bad that I will be letting people down if I quit (they waited 5 months for me), that I will be more lonely in a new city by leaving the job, embarrassed that it’s not working and really sad that I am potentially going to be walking away from my ‘home’ of 7 years which I enjoyed so much up until recently.

    So I haven’t quite got the balls up yet to call time but wanted to share that you aren’t alone in the boat – wishing you all the best with what comes next :)

    • Reply alice June 29, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      I followed your move on Facebook – it looks glorious out there but must be difficult experiencing such a change in lifestyle and job – especially if you’re trying to fit a full time job into 3 days (tried it, doesn’t work ;)

      I’m like you, the feeling of letting people down is just the worst. It’s hard to isolate that feeling and know that if you’ve done the best job you can do for your life and family that’s all that matters.

      I hope your situation works out, whichever way it goes x

  • Reply Christine June 29, 2015 at 11:15 am

    I’m a long time follower of your blog, but probably only commented a couple of times. Anywho, I just wanted to say – nice one! Nice one for having the balls not only to make a life-changing decision, but nice one for sharing your experience and giving others (including me!) the guts to make changes too! Happy Monday :-)

    • Reply alice June 29, 2015 at 10:18 pm

      Thanks Christine! Happy Monday to you too x

  • Reply Liane June 29, 2015 at 11:30 am

    I love this post! I know I don’t know you but I’m proud of you for choosing to follow your heart! x

    • Reply alice June 29, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      Thank you Liane – that’s lovely x

  • Reply Katy June 29, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    Beautiful! This was such a joy to read, because it was so honest & real. I am struggling with this “just fucking do it” idea myself & it is not easy, I know. I wish you all the best on this new journey!!

    • Reply alice June 29, 2015 at 10:21 pm

      Thank you Katy! I don’t think it’s ever an easy thing to do, especially when we’re parents. I wish I’d known how important it was to step outside the box a bit more pre-kids when I actually had the time to do it and didn’t need such a steady income. I hope you find your way with JFDI too :) x

  • Reply Rachel June 29, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Brilliant, inspiring post Alice. I completely believe in following your heart, being brave and taking a step into the unknown, it is really hard though. This has really resonated with me, thank you, and good luck with your next adventure! x

    • Reply alice June 29, 2015 at 10:22 pm

      Thank you Rachel! x

  • Reply Muddling Along June 29, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    I am so proud of you – that you have such courage to admit you aren’t happy and to do something about it and not to just keep on struggling and making yourself utterly miserable in the process

    I just know that whatever comes next you are going to be awesome

    • Reply alice June 29, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      Thank you very much, I really really hope so x

  • Reply Molly - Mother's Always Right June 29, 2015 at 7:24 pm

    Well I for one am bloody glad you’re back. My inbox was a far less interesting place without you. It takes guts to admit when things aren’t going the way you’d imagined – especially when there’s a sense of public pride over doing a job with a title etc. I’ve been there and done that and know the scary feeling just before you make that life-changing decision to jack it all in. Well done.

    • Reply alice June 29, 2015 at 10:27 pm

      Thanks Molly… I missed your inbox too xx

  • Reply Alison June 29, 2015 at 10:20 pm

    *applauds*
    Wow. I am in awe. I have been in a job that makes me miserable a couple of times and it SUCKS. I wish I’d had the guts to walk away sooner like you have. Life is too short! You AJT are my new HERO.

    • Reply alice June 29, 2015 at 10:28 pm

      Thanks Alison! Life is so short for so many things… life motto x

  • Reply Emma Shilton June 29, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    I really admire you. I wish I had the balls to walk away from a job I really don’t like anymore but at the moment we just can’t financially afford for me to leave. I’m really inspired by this post and wish you every success whatever your job title may be xx

  • Reply Claire June 30, 2015 at 9:36 am

    Well done Alice. So funny how often as an adult we don’t follow “I don’t want to do this” by “I won’t do this”. So glad you’ve gone balls to the wall and actually done it! Good luck with everything you do! Your world will be a happier place with a happier YOU. love Claire x

  • Reply ems June 30, 2015 at 10:49 am

    High fives Alice, you tried it, it didnt work, so what, at least you tried. Why do something that makes you unhappy … i feel like ive just read a self motivation post, this has made me want to go out and do shit (whatever shit is) xx

  • Reply esther June 30, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    Bravo Alice! From one mother to another, nay from one human to another, bloody well done for doing it and saying it out loud for others. An inspiration… Thank you..x

  • Reply Penny June 30, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Love this post, grabbed me by the title and wouldn’t let go. So full of energy and passion. I reckon amazing things are ahead xx

  • Reply Lexi June 30, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    Great to read a post being honest about the pressures and well done you for making the right call for you! I’ve just made a decision to drop some hours at work to spend more time at home & more time on my blog & other interests. It means my career progression is on hold – but I realised my priorities had shifted and I needed to take a step back and work our what was right for me, now. It was a bit scary stepping off that treadmill but so worth it!

  • Reply Sherrie July 5, 2015 at 9:49 pm

    Just out of interest, are you still writing your book?

  • Reply Laura Jopson March 15, 2017 at 7:17 pm

    Alice, this was the first post of yours I ever read (and just loved) – and have just come back to it. I forgot how inspired I felt after I read this the first time – and perhaps even more so the second. AND LOOK AT YOU NOW! JUST LOOK!! Amazing xxxx

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