Sunday, 31 October 2010

a year on

HOW did that go so fast? It's only because today is Halloween that I realised this is actually the anniversary of this blog project. It was a year ago today that I walked out of my much-loved job and gave myself a year to get a life. So having turned my career and our family life upside down by quitting and moving to the country, where are we a year on?

Things my son has learned in the last year.
1. Those are not generally known as 'little pig houses', and they will not be blown down by a big bad wolf. They are called thatched cottages and weekending bankers pay fortunes for them.
2. That is not 'a milk float'. That is what buses look like in the country.
3. Where to find blackberries, how to catch crayfish, how to tell if a horse is about to bite, what a day-old calf looks like, and why it's not advisable to wade into a river deeper than your wellies.

The things I've learned are a little more complicated, however.
1. That desperately wanting to spend more time with my son doesn't mean it will always be blissful. It took a while to accept that there were good days and bad days at home, just as there are at work - and that's okay.
2. That my dreams of a smooth and harmonious domestic life in which nobody ever loses their keys and I have time to hand-stitch quilts were precisely that: dreams. We still have no bathroom curtains. I still kill houseplants. Perhaps if I was at home full time instead of working three days a week, that would be different, but I doubt it: wherever there are small children, there will be chaos, at least if I'm in charge. It's just that I'm no longer too exhausted to cope with it.
3. That the earth isn't flat. I was privately afraid that by going freelance I might never work again: I'd just fall off the edge of the world. Yet having sailed blithely over, it turns out there are whole new worlds out there. Going home doesn't mean being defined by home.
4. That what I thought I wanted isn't really what I wanted. I thought I needed a complete change of career: now I see I still love writing, and the old career just needed tweaking to fit.
5. That I don't much care what other people think. There are many ways to be involved in a public conversation: what I now lack in depth of involvement in politics, I gain in breadth of ways to cover what interests me. A few months ago I wrote about domestic violence for Red magazine, and a reader wrote in to say it had given her the courage to stay away from her violent partner. I can't remember much I wrote as a political editor that had a direct and practical impact on people's lives.
6. That I wouldn't go back: not for double or triple the salary, and regardless of what happens next. And that for once, I'm genuinely looking forward to the year to come.


  1. Gaby

    I re-read your original article:
    ...and your blog entry tonight is also so thought-provoking. Good on you.

    Jim Riley
    Twitter: @tutor2u

  2. so much of this resonates with me - from another who has left the previous shore never to return and enjoying charting new waters! At the risk of sounding like I am talking in cliches, life changes and it is sometimes refreshing to embrace that change and see where it takes you.

  3. This is the first time I've read your blog. I wish I'd done it earlier. Three weeks ago I handed in my notice to end a corporate contract writing e-learning courses for the oil industry. I hate it and I've just had a book published in Australia so I took the plunge and quit so that I can write book two and do a few hours of teaching to keep me sane.

    I'm probably going to be a little bit poorer for a while but sometimes you've just got to do what feel right..even if it doesn't make sense on paper.

    This is my last week of writing about flanges, pipelines and natural gas compositions....I hope.

  4. I left a well paid secure job last year because, despite its many advantages, it had started to make me unhappy. I do believe in regrets, so it gives me great pleasure to realise that while I often think "What am I going to do?" I have never once thought "Oh no, what have I done?". Your post is thought provoking and inspiring, all the more so for being honest.

  5. Gaby
    I have read every single one of your posts and look forward to each new one! Thanks for your wise words of wisdom and much luck in your continuing new career :-)
    Helen Palmer

  6. I'm so glad you've no regrets. I feel the same myself having ducked out of the rat race a few years ago. My life is much more rounded now.

    Onwards and upwards!

  7. Very heart warming post. Pretty sure I can speak for most who follow you when I say we were all cheering you on when you quit for a different kind of life. Pretty great that you got it.
    Also thought provoking to read this when I'm thinking of jumping back to something I didn't love in order to keep hold of someone that I do. We need money to have more than one bedroom and a garden; I've got an opportunity to make some, so the dreams might have to take a backseat for now. Which sucks, but life doesn't always work out how you want it to. Glad it did for you though.

  8. Good for you Gaby, with all the ups and downs you've done it, changed life for the better and that's a brave thing to do especially when you're at the top of your game. Listing all the learning is a brilliant idea which I might just try, thanks!

  9. I'm so glad you've had a good year overall. The lessons you've learnt in that time are similar to my own during time away from work and like you, I'd never go back to how it was before.

    I read your piece in Red too. How wonderful for you to get that feedback from a reader. I bet that was the icing on the cake of a good year!


  10. I wanted to say thank you for writing this blog. I don't have kids or work from home, but it's really reassuring to have as many role models as possible who are making it work, and creating a life that's a bit more balanced. I look forward to another year of posts!

  11. You make a good point about how you wondered if you should quit your job and go freelance - people are often scared to make a change. What you say is great just go with your gut. Glad country life worked out for you cowpats, wellington boots and all.

  12. I love your courage to make a life change. It is admirable and inspiring. "Self-REdiscovery" is scary, but rejuvenating, I would imagine. I learned of your blog in ELLE and am glad I did. I look forward to more posts.
    Thank you for sharing.

  13. Its posts like this that are spurring me on to grasp the mettle and do something about my job issues - to realise it won't be perfect but that some change can make a big difference

    I think I've been walking around with that copy of Red in my bag - must get to read your article