Ten years ago I left the north east and headed south as a fresh faced graduate with dreams of becoming a successful IT professional. Now a decade older and arguably non the wiser, it's interesting to see just how much my perceptions of life and success have changed. At 23 I was ready to conquer the world, an ambitious and confident young woman with the willingness to work hard to progress in the IT industry. My definition of success back then was pretty simple - to earn lots of money and to climb the corporate ladder. After five years in the company I had worked my way up to leading a team of developers, running client workshops and was a representative for the UK in a rather specialist area. Like most things in life this perceived success came at a cost. I was working 12 hour days 6 or 7 days a week, was stressed and felt undervalued, underpaid and overworked. Enough was enough and I left the big corporation to work in a medium size business, going back to my roots as a full time software developer and taking a nice ten grand pay rise. I thoroughly enjoyed the next few years of my 9-5 job with little responsibility but the hazards of the working world soon crept up on me again until I was back to working long hours to hit an almost impossible deadline with no real benefit and a rapidly diminishing will to produce quality work. I had again become disillusioned and felt that the only way to ensure my sanity in the workplace was to move on. At this time I had started to question my love for the industry and my role as a developer. Was this what I wanted to continue doing? The only answer that seemed available to me at the time was to find a similar role but in a different industry sector. I felt trapped in my career as a software developer as it was the only thing that I was qualified to do and at this point I had a mortgage to pay so I had to keep earning a certain wage. My new job took me into an even smaller company in the finance sector, one which I always vowed that I would never venture into but in my defence they offered 30 days holiday and another pay rise which in my mind equalled more money to spend on cool holidays. I had steadily been realising in the years that had passed that there was more to life than work and money. I wanted to go out and explore new places, try new things and be stress free. It seemed that what I wanted out of life was no longer to strive to be important and successful, I just wanted to be happy and to enjoy life but in the comfortable way I had become accustomed to. I already had a flat with a mortgage, a car, no big debts and I think that in terms of social perspectives that would be classed as being successful. The difficult thing about life though is that it can throw you a curve ball at any time and mine was just around the corner.
Outside of work I was battling with periods of unexplained low feelings and I was diagnosed as suffering from depression. On top of this I sufferend my first broken heart at the grand old age of 31 when my long term boyfriend suddenly turned my whole world upside down. I'd already experienced the pain of a mutual long term relationship breakup a few years after moving down south but it was nothing in comparison to the pure physical pain of losing my best friend and the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. That was nearly two years ago now but I'm still working my way through the loss. What I can say is that a lot has changed for me in the last few years, particularly the last 12 months. After many a sleepless night feeling that I was doomed to spend the rest of my life battling through a day at work and living for the weekends I decided to indulge my innermost dreams and go on an adventure. The one thing I will give my ex boyfriend credit for was introducing me to the outdoors, a love of hiking, camping and climbing. I'd also discovered a pure escape and freedom in cycling. From a colleague selling me his wife's old mountain bike and basically forcing me to commute to work on it, I developed a passion for riding which after a few years of crazy mini adventures and long distance rides led me to quit my job in April and set off on a solo 12 week bikepacking trip around the Scottish Hebrides. 84 days of riding, camping, sightseeing and meeting strangers was like nothing I had ever experienced before and I returned a happier person with a renewed sense of purpose and clarity about what I wanted from my life. My idea of success now at the age of 33 is rather different. Success for me now is happiness. To enjoy what I'm doing and to spend more time smiling and enjoying the simple things in life. It's not as easy to achieve as one might think, it will always be an ongoing journey and I'm not quite there yet. I have however made vast changes in my life in the last few months. I have left the rich pickings of the IT world for a new job that will hopefully satisfy my desire to be away from a desk and computer screen and into the fresh air. Two weeks ago I started working as a postwoman, out in the delights of the Great British weather and just in time for the Christmas rush and Black Friday frenetic present buying which means there will be a 110% rise in the number of parcels to deliver. If I can survive this, I can survive anything, haha! The important thing is that I didn't give in to the easy way of life which would have been to return to a well paid desk job that made me unhappy. I'm striving instead to pursue a new adventure, a different path in life that will lead me towards my idea of the success I want now. I won't lie, money is a big problem as my career move has meant a significant decrease in pay but I'm working on a solution for that and won't let it get the better of me.
The last ten years have not just been about my working life. As I write this a smile creeps across my face as I think of all the amazing friends I am privileged to have in my life. Funnily enough the majority of them I met at work and although I have moved on from job to job, the friendships have stood the test of time. Phil and Pete, my graduate partners in crime in the early days of 2007. Harber, Tim and Colin from my 'climbing the corporate ladder' days of 2009 - 2012. Nicola and Dave, my burrito and beer buddies from 2014 and most recently my wonderful prosecco partners in crime, Ines and Marion. Living away from my family, my friends over the last decade have become my second family. They have been there for the laughter, the tears and the ongoing struggle with depression. I have shared wonderful moments with some of them, seeing them get married and have kids and although our worlds are very different our friendship moves with the times.
I am also an aunty now and have two wonderful nieces. Watching them grow up is an ongoing world of fun and silliness. I've never wanted to have children of my own but I adore my two little Thompsons, they always make me smile and I love the feeling of teaching them something, so rewarding. I always like to give them back though, haha - no idea how you amazing parents do it full time!
I've enjoyed reflecting on this mini milestone in my life. It's our experiences in life that shape us as a person and I find seeing how we change and adapt through the stages of our life rather intruiging. It's hard to see the difficult periods in life as something that we can benefit from, but with time we see that maybe we are a better or stronger person because of those experiences. Nature and our exposure to the world around us will define our personalities and characteristics and those will change throughout our lives. Who will I be in ten years time? What will my views and thoughts and wishes for the future contain then? All I know is that life is one big adventure and I feel like mine is only just beginning.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did. ~ Mark Twain