“When life gives you lemons, just say: fuck the lemons – and bail.”
I’m 25 and I’ve just been through my first divorce. Okay, not actually a divorce – not legally, anyway. But take the breakdown of a four and a half year relationship, a property dispute and the ultimate abandonment of my largest friendship group, and we’re getting pretty close.
Walking across the park opposite the property in question, adjusting to the news my childhood friends no longer wish to own it with me, and for the first time in my life I wonder if there really could be some kind of divine being out there… divining.
How could such a year, such a progression of rejection fall to me at random? There must be a cruel and masochistic orchestrator. That, or I’ve recently developed a repellent quality, unknown to myself, so abhorrent people run screaming from my presence. A lingering smell, perhaps.
I’ve been advised that the latter fear is ludicrous, and I can’t quite bring myself to believe the former, my atheism far too stubborn to allow for such a concession. Instead I’ve decided to interpret the situation more favourably.
Either I’m an oblivious participant in a Derren Brown documentary, who’s putting me through my paces so I can realise my potential and overcome my deep-set mental barriers to fly a planeload of people to safety. Derren, the game is up.
Or, (I’ll continue this thought as we wait for his arrival) after observing my malaise over the last couple of years, a part of my subconscious has begun to arrange circumstances to shout vehemently, frequently and in no uncertain terms:
“Fuck off, Emily.”
The ‘type’ I’ve developed recently – a brand of man consistent only in beauty, frivolity and social ineptitude. Doomed to only one possible outcome, although occasionally dressed in friendlier vocabulary: “Fuck off, Emily.”
The steady growth of an incorrigible anxiety, an ugly toddler at the brink of tantrum clamouring for my every hour’s attention, pulling me from sleep, wrenching books from my hands and pens from my fingers to demand distraction and reassurance: “Fuck off, Emily.”
The weight of London. Faceless routine. The inescapability of the commute, the air a suffocating, relentless cloud of irritability. Every overbearing rucksack, every invasive curly-haired woman, every petulant tut: “Fuck off, Emily.”
Circumstances continue to conspire, the shouting of the phrase ever more incessant, until it’s that scene in every film where our unfulfilled protagonist reaches a climax of frustration, usually when confronted by an obnoxious individual with, one assumes, terrible personal hygiene.
There’s a close-up shot of my face, supremely deadpan. Think Wes Anderson deadpan, but with the suggestion of something stirring, waking beneath. An eyebrow twitch. A tear of perspiration. And then…
The glorious breaking point. The release. *Walter Mitty goes to Iceland; King George delivers his national address; Kady Heron snaps her Spring Fling Queen crown; Bruce Bogtrotter finishes his chocolate cake; Truman walks off set *some spoilers here. Everyone in the cinema fist pumps and hugs each other, the obnoxious individual suddenly aware of their irredeemable hygiene issues.
In reality, the moment is less dramatic. There are no meeting rooms free as I walk my boss across the office, so we have to perch on the high and deliberately uncomfortable stools in the kitchen. Our legs dangle in front of us comically, swinging through the sticky kind of silence that builds as we look at each other. He raises his eyebrows.
(Can I just point out here that we have entirely abandoned the obnoxious individual metaphor by this time. My boss is neither loud or suffering hygiene deficiencies.)
“I’m leaving,” I say.
A pause. My nervousness evaporates. I smile at the fact of it.
It’s not one of those Bridget Jones moments where I storm immediately from the office, a crowd of onlookers cheering my release. This is reality – I have a month’s notice to work. Besides, it’s not the job in particular I’m escaping. It’s the ideology.
So many of us go through life resigned to our own unhappiness. We become trapped into inadequate careers and their comfortable lifestyles. We allow ourselves to be pacified by materialism and as we build the prison around us, we become resigned to it. And escape seems ever more unfathomable.
But it’s never too late to tear it up and start again.
In a way, I’m glad for my year of ill fortune. It’s given me the clarity to change things.
In a few months, I’ll be volunteering in Central America for Global Giving UK as a Project Evaluator. This means visiting a number of grassroots charities in Mexico, Guatemala and Haiti, finding out about their work, reporting on it and helping in any way I can whilst I’m there. There’s some more here about this inspiring organisation, the programme and why I chose it.
After that, I plan to work my way around South America in my first adventure as a solo traveller.
It’s not that I’ve hated what I’ve been doing. I’ve learnt great skills that have given me the confidence to get where I am today. But there’s always been a lurking doubt and a quiet conviction I could be doing so much more and challenging myself to find my real potential. This is my opportunity.
So, to recap, what do you need in order to quit your job and change your life?
- An angry ex-boyfriend (not essential)
- A half-a-million pound property feud (not advised)
- Derren Brown
- Some (limited) savings
But that’s about it… So, what are you waiting for?