3.  Taking Back Control

3. Taking Back Control

I spent a lot of time considering my options whilst I was in Spain over the New Year and a plan formulated whereby I would apply for an extended leave of absence from my job and travel to South America for seven months.  I was accepted onto a volunteer programme in Peru and my leave was granted, provided I waited until the autumn.

One morning in April I woke to the sun streaming through my bedroom window and an internal monologue in my mind that was chanting over and over in my head, ‘Why wait?  What are you waiting for?” 

Shut up! I told the voice.  I won’t let my employer down, I don’t want to let my colleagues down, I always do the ‘right thing’, I have always shown loyalty and commitment regardless of the detrimental effect to myself…on and on it went for the next twenty minutes and then, silence.

I thought about how I had arrived at this point and what I hoped to gain moving forwards.  As if in a dream I got out of bed, opened my laptop and I wrote out a letter of resignation there and then.  I showered, dressed and took the bus into the office where I printed the letter out and asked to see my manager.  For the first time in a very long time I was doing something solely for me.  To compromise on fitting in with the best time to take a leave of absence was not serving my best interests.  To restrict myself to seven months of travel would not allow me to feel the freedom that I craved.  I knew that whilst I had an end date in the diary I could never feel free, so despite the best efforts of my boss to change my mind, I left the office knowing that I had to work just three weeks more and without a return date or job to return to.

I phoned family and friends to tell them the news and rather than feel apprehensive I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from me.  For the first time ever in my life I had no responsibility to anybody or anything.  My life ahead was an open book with blank pages just waiting to be filled.  I could influence my own path.

The next few weeks flew by as I arranged to stop the tenancy on my apartment and I gave away almost everything that I owned.  I still had my trip to Peru planned but in the meantime I could spend the summer testing the waters and discovering what I might be capable of.

At this stage, if my children had reached out to me or had responded to my messages I would have willingly given up all of my plans and stayed, but they didn’t so I went out and I bought a backpack.  Whilst the biggest challenge of my life would be to travel solo and my biggest desire was to test myself by doing just that, I was also quite relieved when my then boyfriend suggested we set out together for just a couple of weeks.

Between us we had several ideas of where to go – including Morocco, Portugal and Italy – but I wanted to be as spontaneous as possible and to throw caution to the winds – why not start as I meant to go on!  I had never done anything except to think logically and to weigh up the pros and cons in my life and I now wanted to experience life in a different way.  So we wrote down our options on pieces of paper, folded them all up and we asked a friend to simply pick one out of a bowl.  No matter what choice came out, that was where our destination was to be.

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