Reading Al Boudreau‘s wonderful post “It’s all about you” a few days ago, I was struck by how closely his thoughts on the subject chimed with mine. Years ago, I was standing at my reception desk having just returned from a wedding in Cuba thinking “I don’t want to be here. I want to be over there.” Then I kind of turned round and said to myself “Well, quit whining and do something about it.” Less than six months later I moved to Peru and lived there for two and a half years.
Ever since I grew up to the point where I was willing and able to take responsibility for my own happiness I have found it tremendously liberating to take risks such as these. The question I always ask myself when I’m getting nervous (as I did three weeks before moving to South America) is “Will I regret NOT doing this? Will I look back at the age of 93 and wish I HAD done it?” Tellingly, when I ask myself this question about bungee jumping the answer is always “No”.
We are encouraged, from the cradle to the grave, to ‘do the right thing’. But often the ‘right thing’ isn’t along the lines of returning lost wallets stuffed full of money, but to get a ‘proper’ job, often behind a desk for eight hours a day, five days a week. We certainly shouldn’t take off to Peru for a couple of years simply because we feel like it. And creative pursuits such as writing, music and art are ‘hobbies’ and not something anyone seriously considers earning their living with.
Except that so many people do! The huge number of writers I have encountered on Twitter and Goodreads shows that there are thousands of writers alone who want to express themselves creatively and earn their living at it. I should mention here that I have encountered a couple who are happy with their day job and writing on the side, which is fine. But it seems the majority would rather the day job be the writing.
And thus it is that I find myself at a crossroads which isn’t really a crossroads. I haven’t been able to work since January because of back trouble, but I was still officially an employee and getting paid. That changed yesterday, so I am now officially unemployed. But whereas normally when you lose your job you would simply start looking for another one, I can’t do that. My back is still a mess and will be for a while, which means I’m not able to work. Which means I won’t be getting paid by anyone for a while. Therefore I am still in the situation whereby I have a lot of free time in which to write. Nothing has changed except for my income level which I am powerless to do anything about.
I suppose what I’m saying is that when you have the option to do something risky, you should take it. Because having to do something risky through lack of options is by far the less enjoyable route.
Have you ever taken a calculated risk and made a major life change like my move to Peru (I did organise myself a job before I went out)? Would you like to? Or would you rather work and then do the risky stuff with your pension in the bank?