You might remember that back in December of last year, I briefly mentioned in this blog post that my love Ben and I were parting ways. In the end, we didn’t quite ever part ways. He moved out to his parents’ as planned and shortly afterwards I moved out to mine whilst I waited for the sale of my flat to go through.
But we never stopped talking. We had (and have) things to work through, but ultimately, quitting the relationship didn’t feel right to either of us. So right now we’re together but not living together. We’ll see what happens!
I didn’t sit down to write about our relationship but I did want to write about something else related to Ben so I thought I better fill you in on the fact that he’s still around 🙂 I wanted to tell you about the journey I’ve witnessed him take in the just over two years that I’ve known him towards finding work he loves to do.
I should start by saying that Ben is fourteen years younger than I am (another story for another day) and so it’s been fascinating for me to be a part of this journey with him because finding and following your own path in life is a struggle I’m both intimate with and endlessly passionate about.
When I first met Ben he was working as a bicycle delivery courier for a café in town. He enjoyed that job most of the time but it was never his long term plan to stay there. Over time, he became increasingly frustrated and eventually handed in his notice. Honestly, he’s had so many jobs since I’ve known him that it’s hard to remember the timeline of when and how everything happened.
To cut a long story short(er), after that initial resignation he went on to get a job in a fish and chip shop and then at a fuel station. He then had a nudge that going to college and learning a trade could be good for him so he signed up to start a plumbing course at the local college and managed to get an apprenticeship with a reputable firm.
He loved the college course (for the most part) but it became clear soon after he started going out on jobs for the apprenticeship that it wasn’t quite right for him. He didn’t enjoy being inside all the time and he’d come home saying things like, “We ripped out a perfectly good bathroom to install a new one and it’ll all just go to landfill. How can I be part of something so wasteful?” So, he quit.
After that he reassessed, taking into account all the things he’d been finding out about himself through all these jobs. One thing he knew was that he was happiest when he was outside and I’d seen that he was knowledgeable and good at both gardening and fixing just about anything. He’d also had a long term dream of becoming a tree surgeon but had always told himself that he’d never have enough money to get the necessary training (it’s expensive and then you need a lot of gear).
He started calling and sending emails to local tree surgeons and before long he’d been offered some work as a groundie on a self-employed basis with someone local. That turned out to be a great move for him. He was self-employed; the one or two people he worked with were laid back and friendly; he was outside; it paid well and it wasn’t 9-5, five days a week. He picked up a couple of other jobs like this and he was the happiest in his work I’d seen him.
The only problem was that the work wasn’t always consistent and he didn’t always have enough money coming in. Recently he convinced himself that it would be a good idea to get something more ‘secure and stable’ where he could build up his skills and progress down the route of tree surgery. He applied for a job with a prestigious firm as a tree surgeon and got it. Ben is very good at getting jobs and we often joke that he should set up a business helping people write CVs and cover letters!
I think he knew before he even started this one that it wasn’t going to work but as we’ve all experienced, sometimes you have to go back (and back and back) to things you know don’t work for you or aren’t good for you to finally, finally, finally realise that you should never go down this path again!
He spent hours of his day sitting around because there wasn’t enough work (he can’t stand this), he was working in a team of people who didn’t feel like his true tribe (we all know how hard that can be) and there wasn’t enough variety, which he was quickly realising was essential to his happiness.
He quit after the first month.
I could see that quitting was harder for him this time. Not too hard, because he still went ahead and did it, but definitely harder. Harder because it was a prestigious company and people were telling him how great it was that he’d got a job there. And I think by this time he might also have been feeling the fear that he may never ‘sort himself out’ and find the right thing.
Still, a week later and he started a new job (the one he’s in now). He’s working on a 75 hectare estate doing everything from lime pointing, to tree work, to maintaining river banks, to joinery. It’s a mixture of outside and inside work, he’s sometimes working on his own and sometimes with one or two others, and he’ll be learning a lot of really useful skills for the time when he’s ready to set up again as self-employed.
Because ultimately, like me, he knows that he’ll never be happier than when he’s working for himself. I can’t tell you the number of conversations we’ve had where we both describe the anxiety we feel whenever we have to go to ‘a job’ versus the freedom and relaxation we feel working for ourselves. I think we both just really don’t like the weird rules of the ‘normal’ world.
Of course, self-employment comes with its own set of challenges but for me, none of those challenges is bigger than the challenge of waking up with a sinking feeling in your stomach about the day ahead. I’ve never had that feeling in my own work.
To many people, it probably seemed like Ben was crazy, jumping in a seemingly chaotic fashion from one thing to another. What I saw was a young man doing his best to navigate the tricky terrain of being in your twenties and trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do, whilst also making a living. I also saw someone who knew what felt right inside and what felt wrong and who refused to settle for anything that didn’t feel true to him. You can see why we’re well matched! 🙂
Every time he quit and moved on I supported him because I know what it feels like to be doing work that’s eating away at your insides. I also know how devastating it can be to feel unsupported. When you’re already terrified that you might be screwing up your life, the last thing you need is someone voicing that same fear to you.
I had (and have) complete faith that he would, in time, find the right work for him. And I believe having faith in and supporting the heart desires of those we love (and of anyone, really) is one of the most important gifts we can give.
The entirety of this story brings me back to the title of the post. Last week I was scooping chicken poop into a bucket when I had a realisation: I’d rather scoop chicken poop all day long than do anything that is not aligned with my soul.
I do a disservice to scooping chicken poop actually by implying that something ‘so gross’ is better than doing something not aligned with one’s soul. Because to me, scooping chicken poop isn’t gross. Scooping chicken poop is good, honest, real work. It’s an activity that is aligned with my soul and therefore I’m happy to do it.
But here’s the important part. Only I know what is in or out of alignment with my soul. Only Ben knows what is in or out of alignment with his soul. And only you know what is in or out of alignment with your soul.
There’s no right or wrong. There’s only you and what you know is inside you. I wish we placed more importance on teaching and supporting people to listen to the truth of their hearts and then to act from that place. Instead we seem to teach people to follow a system that makes most of us miserable and to see the whispers of the heart as fantastical dreams that have no place in the ‘real’ world.
It’s been inspiring to watch Ben following the nudges from within, no matter how hard it has been to do that sometimes. Witnessing his journey has reminded me just how important it is to keep being willing to take risks and not to let the ‘should dos’ that come from society and the people around us become more powerful than the authority of our own hearts.
Love and courage,
P.S. It has honestly been so nice hearing from you in the comments these past weeks. Keep them coming, I love hearing from you and thank you for being so amazing!
P.P.S. I haven’t shared many photos lately, but I thought you might like to see one of the garden at the new house. It’s looking lovely in the spring sunshine.