I suppose I should start this story by wishing you a Happy New Year and all that, but I’ve something far more sincere and personal to share with you if I may.
I’ll get to the point. I think I’m having a mid-life crisis.
I’m 45 years-old, life is comfortable without being extravagant.
Family life settled. Work steady. Good regular clients. Just enough to go around.
I have a decent house in a nicer area than I grew up in, although that wouldn’t be hard.
Where I played out my formative years was a council estate called Stonebridge in north west London.
It was a rough and ready place where a section of its less aspirational residents thought you were posh if you had a job.
And making your way from the local Spar supermarket back home without being mugged or harassed was a genuine reason to be grateful.
But I loved it. There was a sense of community. People knew each other and would help one and other.
I’m not getting all sentimental in that way which seems to blur people’s recollections of the Krays lording it over East London (you know – ‘always wore clean shirts’ and ‘only killed other gangsters.’)
The people in Stonebridge were generous considering they didn’t have much. And what they had was either hard earned or paid for weekly – like our telly and VHS top loader from Radio Rentals.
So, when I look back on my life and where I’m at and what I have. I should be doing cart wheels leading into roly polys and ending with several star jumps.
But the trouble is I ain’t.
I woke up one night over Christmas and stared at the ceiling.
For hours. And it was dark, so I couldn’t even see the bleeding ceiling. I was literally starting into darkness.
All I could think of was ‘is this it?’ Is this my lot in life and if so surely I should be grateful, not gloomy?
This feeling hadn’t just leapt out of the blue like Cato jumping on Inspector Clouseau. It had been stalking me for a while. Cleverly creeping up.
I wouldn’t call it a bout of depression. Or an anxiety attack. More like an episode of ‘why can’t I be arsed to do anything.’
I felt, and had been feeling useless. For a good while. A missed deadline or two here, skipping a call there, and a sense of being totally and utterly demotivated.
And I was drinking too much to numb the boredom and try to shake the stagnant feeling which weighed heavily on me.
Those dark hours on December 27th had me beating myself up like a wicked stepmother would a bad stepchild.
“I’m wasting my life.” “I’ll never fulfil my potential.” “I’m pretty fucking useless.” “Why am I not motivated to make more of the few skills I have?”
Then the penny dropped.
And the answer came from my old Stonebridge stomping ground. Literally (all will be revealed in a bit).
It was like that scene in the film Jerry Maguire when Tom Cruise’s character realises what he needs to do to be happy and to have a real sense of purpose in his work and life.
So, you see it wasn’t a mid-life crisis it was my Jerry Maguire moment.
Cancel the sports car, hair dye and affair with a younger work colleague (for the record I’m self employed and share an office with a fifty-year-old bloke).
Please let me explain.
In the run up to Christmas the only thing which gave me a bit of joy and satisfaction from my work was helping estate agents who were collecting for their local foodbanks.
It was a campaign I’d instigated and was working on for free.
And the idea for it came when a client in north west London made me aware of the work a foodbank which his agency supports carries out.
The charity is called Sufra and is based only a five minute walk from where I grew up.
Because it was making a difference.
Less fortunate people were benefitting from my skills in promoting the campaigns and my clients’ generosity. A dozen or so agents gave their time and efforts to collect as much as possible. It was an all-round success.
I was seeing the best sides of people. Generosity, compassion and goodness.
So, sitting at the kitchen table in my current home it was my old neighbourhood which had given me the answer.
And that was, and is the answer to my mid-life crisis, the response to my Jerry Maguire moment.
I stayed up the rest of the night thinking of how I could turn the moment into momentum for a new start in my working life as that’s where I was feeling really stuck.
And it wasn’t even hard.
From now on every time I invoice or do a bit of work for someone I’ll make some sort of donation to a charity via the B1G1 organisation.
It stands for Buy One Give One. It’s a fantastic charity which makes it easier for businesses to support charities in the UK and all over the world. The concept is simple – someone buys something from you – you give something to a cause or charity.
I’ve still got to do the I’s and cross the T’s on the admin side of it but simply knowing what I’m working on will have an impact on more than my clients and myself motivates me immensely.
And it is going down well with the clients I’ve mentioned it to.
It’s like a big charitable kick up my backside and has filled me with a new sense of energy, purpose and positivity.
I’m also going to volunteer somewhere for two hours a month – not sure exactly where but I’m going to do it. Ideas are welcome.
The day after my mid-life crisis ended and my Maguire moment grew I walked past a shop window in the little seaside town I live.
It was closed but the sign it displayed spoke directly to me and my new approach to life.
“Do more of what makes you happy.”
Thanks for taking the time to read this.
PS: There’s a few estate agents using B1G1 already – worth a look at www.b1g1.com.