Last May I handed in my notice at work. It had taken me several months after my treatment had finished to feel like I was myself again and by the time I did, I knew it was time to move on. The same day that I handed in my notice, I had a conversation with Pitch Publishing about my book after I’d sent them a proposal. I didn’t have another job to go to, but I did now have something to do in the free time that was opening up.
I had to give three months notice, so my leaving date was the end of July. As it approached I found myself feeling quite anxious and aware of what I was about to lose – wonderful colleagues, a good income, meaningful work, the status of leadership. Was I mad to let go of all of that, particularly after the challenge of cancer treatment? Shouldn’t I have settled for some stability and stuck with what I knew? Would I ever find another job? Who would want to employ someone in her fifties who has had cancer? Had I made the right decision?
The weekend before my job finished, I did a 20 mile run which included a lap of Richmond Park. I love Richmond Park but I’ve run or cycled around it so many times that it has become very familiar. I decided that I would stay off the main path around the edge of the park and follow some different routes. It’s surprising how you get a different perspective by doing that, even if you’re only a few feet away from the path you’ve always taken. I ran uphill from Kingston Gate, and took a path to the left. It twitched left, then right, and suddenly I found myself in what felt like a cathedral of trees – huge majestic trunks with broad canopies of leaves swooping above, standing guard around a rectangle of bare earth in the middle. I found myself overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude for the beauty of that place and I was in tears as I said ‘thank you’ over and over again. I continued with my run, but somehow the anxiety about leaving work subsided. That experience said to me: step off the paths you know, and you will find spacious places and things that take your breath away. I held onto that as I said my goodbyes and settled into writing my book.
I ran round Richmond Park this morning, and ran through that same space. The trees are bare, and the ground is muddy and it didn’t have that same sense of awe that I felt last year. You can’t recreate a moment like that, and that was what I needed then. I’m coming to the end of six months of space as I start a new job next Monday, as interim chief operating officer for Redthread, a charity that works with young people in crisis. It’s been wonderful to have time to write, to spend time with my family, to work on promoting the book, and I recognise that I’m really privileged to have had it. But I feel ready for a new challenge, to be part of something bigger than myself and I’m looking forward to the different places this new path will take me.