Image Source: Lachlan Donald on Unsplash
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about crossroads – the metaphorical kind of course – points in one’s life where decisions with the potential to change the trajectory of one’s life are foisted upon one. The triggers for this latest bout of thinking are varied but the one common thread is a sense of dissatisfaction which has simmered below the surface for most of the year. Turning forty is certainly part of that, particularly as in its immediate aftermath, it felt like I had reached the top of a mountain only to find there was nothing to be seen there. There is also the desire to head down south for good for family reasons, which perhaps has declared open season on everything I have done for work over the past fifteen-ish years. In the rarefied atmosphere in which my thought experiments exist, everything is an option: from a complete pivot away from oil and gas into something more tech-related, through a less severe move away from being the (siloed) technical specialist I have spent the past few years evolving into becoming more of a generalist to a gap year, travelling the world.
10 years ago if you asked me, I would have sworn off getting into the world of managing people and the (in my opinion) the murky world of office politics but I am finding my revulsion for that less iron-clad than it once was. Truth is when it all comes down to the brass tacks, the things which drive my decisions are the things which drive us all: family, financial security, flexibility and opportunities to get ahead not some rose-tinted version of reality.
Of course, desires are one thing, but they only materialise when desire meets real-world opportunity. Time is also a factor, which is where I find myself now with irons in the fire taking however long they will take whilst I ponder what viable options remain. The option to cut ties and sail off into a different vista is one my friends M and O have taken over the past few months, as have a steady stream of people in my wider cycle. If all goes to plan, I may not be far behind them. Fingers crossed.
It was meant to be a quick year off work- away from what had quickly degenerated into a morale sapping, five-year-plan derailing slog complete with over-paid and over-pampered expat bosses more keen to leave a boot in to demonstrate their continuing relevance than develop fresh graduates. That year’s appraisal was the final straw – the spiel about the ranking process being an assessment of the best and the brightest and the slowest driver in a Formula 1 race being a darned good driver somehow put the lie to being ranked firmly in the middle percentile AND yet being offered a position of greater authority.
I took the first opportunity to bail – grad school, pipelines and the prospect of a study leave for it all seemed a good safe bet. All unpaid, but with an almost iron-clad guarantee of a return to the very well paid job I had, or so I thought.
All that was not to be, the official company line was they couldn’t find a role that fit my skills and experience.
At first the lostness was intentional, a purposeful forgetting of the past and its accoutrements – an attempt to isolate myself from the longing and nostalgia for dirty, rowdy, yet loveable Lagos. And I didn’t go back for the first three years.
These days, it’s more a case of never quite fitting in – neither in Nigeria, nor in the cold, wet and windy corner of the world I have squirrelled away in..
It’s been 4 years, 7 months and 17 days but yet there is no abatement of the inner lostness.
Big, potentially career defining, decisions to make..
- The safer option – stick with my current job for the next three years and decide what the next steps after that will be: The pros – stay in a truly professional work place where my skills are appreciated, working for a boss whose ar*se I don’t have to kiss, remain in an environment that allows me complete my progression to Chartered Engineer status. The cons – sky high taxes, an increasingly hostile host population, remaining in a section of my field I’ve spent the last six years – and some – working in and a government that seems intent on playing to the gallery on the immigration debate.
- The other option – damn the consequences and return to the job I left in Nigeria: The pros – a company with a world class reputation, a niche of my field I’m actually keener to go into, lower taxes, the organised bedlam that is Lagos and loads of gorgeous Nigerian women around. The cons – going into work everyday on the other side of the fence from people I once worked with (and the attendant putdowns I am bound to get), the Nigerian factor (kissing bosses asses, and all), potentially one year’s assured work and then a decision to make, proximity to the Mum and her ‘harassment’,
Between the devil and the blue sea.. or….. Sigh.
Between listening to Josh Harris share Tiffany’s story at New Attitude 2004 and listening to the message preached at church last Sunday, I realise there is a lot that needs to change in my life. From being the poster child for the good, dutiful, spiritual one, I have morphed into a self serving, increasingly desperate, relationship obsessed wreck. Albert Einstein is said to have noted that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. From where I stand, that defines me at the moment. I’m deciding to do things different for the next 90 days, to see if I get different outcomes.
There are a few ground rules:
- Significantly scale back my Social Media involvement: At the moment, I’ve got both a Facebook and Twitter account alongside this blog. I’m taking this blog private (to record my thoughts over the next 90 days) and deactivating both my Twitter and FB accounts. I suspect that as social media usage has expanded in my life, I have lost control of my free time, and what little real life social skills I used to have are disappearing. So one dimension of taking my life back has to be to scale back on social media.
- Engage the Bible and Prayer: If – as my current worldview suggests – the bible is a living,breathing book, then by engaging it on a daily basis, it should begin to affect me profoundly. By coupling it with prayer, I am hoping to break out of the spiritual rut I appear to have gotten in to over the last few year.
- Invest in real life connections: I think over the past few years – since I became immersed in my social media life – I have neglected my real life connections in favour of virtual ones. Over time, I think the bulk of the people I have called my ‘friends’ are people I am yet to physically meet, or with whom my engagement has been largely virtual. A measure of how serious this has been is that I got romantically involved with someone who I communicated with primarily over the internet. Changing my results in the rather unfortunate area of my love life dictates that I change my modus operandi to one that is more ‘real life’ than virtual.
- Document the journey: Looking back over the snippets of the journal I kept in early 2009, the way I morphed over the course of the year became very visible. In going 90 days from today, I am looking to document the journey as a reference for the future. Hopefully at the end of it all, I will emerge a better, more complete person.