Last week I started to explore the background about why I decided to step back from my previous work and take up the mantle of helping to run this wonderful old charity.
Before moving onto some of the other factors involved, I think it is worth spending a bit more time unpacking what some I know thought was a curious decision.
The fact is in 2012 I was at or close to the top of my career. There were opportunities to continue it elsewhere. The company that made me redundant (Capita) were even prepared to have me back in a different lower paid role – albeit that was motivated primarily by their commercial desire to reduce their pension liabilities towards me – a subject I may return to at some later date.
I have spent some time pondering why I decided to go it alone at that time and simply run my own business and combine it with new local volunteering opportunities that were emerging.
Part of it was I wanted to test myself, see whether I could manage in a self-employed capacity on a much reduced income. In truth there was even a hint of arrogance in my behaviour there. I believed I could manage that alongside other new commitments and felt my family was alright financially.
However, there were a few other aspects which came into play to. One, I think, was also jealousy of my wife, Jil, who I could see had become ensconced in her local community projects and seemed to be enjoying it. The idea of travelling around the country living out of a suitcase was losing its appeal and I wanted to reconnect with my home and my family.
Another aspect, and I will definitely return to this another time, was guilt. At the start of every year, there is a lot of time given over to new beginnings, giving up stuff and sacrifice. There was a brilliant article written about this a few weeks ago which struck a chord: What we talk about when we talk about giving up | Psychology | The Guardian
I think, looking back on it, I felt guilty about having had a successful career in a job which was supposed to be primarily about helping people access affordable housing. During that time, I had also volunteered many hours for over a decade as Chair of Finance and Development for a local housing association but rather than go back to that something drew me to want to make a difference in a new sector.
The issue about guilt is something I have spoken about with my counsellor and it is very much tied up with self esteem and the imposter syndrome which many of us have experienced from time to time.
I’m not from a wealthy background, but I was fortunate to be part of the baby boomer generation and found myself, albeit through a lot of hard work and determination, doing well. I wanted to prove myself but felt guilty that this might be at the expense of others.
All of this is in hindsight of course. Was I consciously thinking any of this at the time? Not in the same way. Some people are very driven by a sense of purpose throughout their lives. A lot of our politicians and successful entrepreneurs are very focussed. I can’t ever admit to being that.
The reality in terms of my ending up leading this charity (and taking up other volunteer roles back in 2012) was that I was just in the right place at the right time. Fate perhaps, serendipity? The fact is my colleague, Jackie, and I both felt a drawing to this organisation that year and the rest, as they say is history. I’ll delve into that history and that ‘calling’ (for want of a better word) a little more next time.