“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
On a crisp and bright Monday morning six months ago, in a sun drenched office and in the very briefest of conversations, I was made redundant. It was a total shock and completely out of the blue; one minute I was on a packed commuter train, running late for an early meeting, the next I was in an empty carriage homeward bound, more than a little dazed and wondering what on earth to do with myself for the rest of the day, let alone the coming weeks and months of my gardening leave.
The first week was taken care of as I spent most of it having a minor meltdown – panicking about what on earth to do next, especially as I was on the verge of signing up to a huge new mortgage to buy a very small mews house in Notting Hill. I also really missed my team – they made a reasonably stressful job utterly delightful, and I hadn’t been able to say goodbye to any of them. It was a bit like being dumped by a boyfriend and knowing he was still going to see all of your friends, all of the time, but without you. My heart was tinged with sadness.
After a little over a week of wallowing in self pity, drinking lots of tea and fixating over motivational quotes on Instagram (which, let’s face it, simply gets rather dull and far too worthy after a while), I decided to take the bull by the horns and use this opportunity to completely change my life. I just didn’t feel ready to throw myself back into the corporate world and all that it entailed, in fact I felt queasy at the mere thought of it. Sometimes, I thought, you just have to throw everything up into the stars and see where fate determines you should land. And lo and behold, the cards slowly started to move in my favour. The headhunters I spoke to didn’t really have any enticing jobs on their books and citing Brexit, the buyers pulled out of my house. This transpired to be the perfect turn of events, as being shackled to a huge mortgage would have scuppered any financial freedom I had and forced me into finding a meaty, salaried role as soon as my gardening leave was over. So instead of selling my house, I rented it out and reassigned my stamp duty savings into my newly formed Adventure Fund.
Then came the next big question – if I wasn’t going to get another ‘big’ job then WTF should I actually do? I had worked pretty much non-stop for the last 23 years. And I liked working, I was good at it, I’d always had jobs I’d really enjoyed and I liked earning a lot of money and spending it. Rightly or wrongly my job was an important part of who I was a person, it defined me. So, if I didn’t have a job, then who would I be? What would I stand for? Could my ego cope with not saying ‘I’m the CMO of…’ when asked?
An old personal trainer used to really wind me up by telling me many times over that “great things never come from inside your comfort zone”. Oddly enough I never found it helpful to hear that when I was puce with exertion, my thighs screaming doing ‘only ten more’ reps. But, with this in mind, I consciously chose to see my redundancy as the expiration date of my old life and the turning point to set my sails on a different course for my future. I made myself a promise, that I would live a life worth living according to what was important to me, as opposed to merely making a living.
It only took fifteen trips to the tip, ten trips and countless boxes to the charity shop to de-clutter sixteen years of stuff from my home. But hey, I had time on my hands to do it. At one point, every dress in the Trinity Hospice shop window was one of mine, which filled me with a mix of pride, satisfaction and a tinge of regret (damn it, I wish I’d kept that Pucci dress).
I had a digital de-clutter too and, not without a heavy heart, unsubscribed from a plethora of marketing emails. Bye-bye Matches Fashion, Net-A-Porter and J Crew, hello budget.
I have had one self-indulgent splurge on a fully renovated 1969 Series IIa Land Rover, called The Beast due to the fact that he’s so heavy to park. (Toned arms, it transpires, are an added side benefit of a two and a half ton landy with no power steering.) I did a half-day mechanic course on his internal workings – I know where he needs water, oil and can locate the manual diesel pump and battery. And I purchased curious sounding things like a bottle jack. (Not that I intend to use any of my new found knowledge as, much to the relief of my course teacher, I have paid for comprehensive European breakdown cover.)
The Beast, proudly sporting a black and silver GB sticker on his bottom, feels safe – he can’t go more than 60mph and is remarkably easy to drive once underway, which is handy as we’ll be driving on the wrong side of the road for most of the year.
So where to go and what to do? First stop, Tarifa, via ferry, Santander, Salamanca and Seville. Why Tarifa? Well, I have friends there and I’m not yet quite brave enough to go somewhere where I don’t know anyone at all. Plus, it’s simply lovely.
For the keen cartographers amongst you, Tarifa can be found at precisely 36 degrees latitude. It’s a beautiful, old, Moorish walled town and is the southernmost point of Continental Europe, where the Mediterranean collides with the Atlantic, and looks across the Straits of Gibraltar to Africa. The Costa Del Crime or “No Carbs Before Marbs” scene it is absolutely not. It gets very, very, very windy and is the kitesurfing mecca of Europe. And conquering kitesurfing is what I’m going to do. There is a stunning, five mile long, sandy, crescent shaped beach for walking Tiggy, the restaurants are very dog friendly and a decent glass of Rioja costs a mere two euros.
It’s Einstein who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing, time and time again and expecting a different result.
Who am I to argue with such genius? Making a big life change and walking away from the corporate world (particularly the salary) is a bit scary, but you know what’s even scarier? Regret.
And what will I say now, when people ask me what I do? Well, I’ve had six months of gardening leave to practise. “I’m on eternity leave”, I shall reply, which is completely and utterly impossible to say without an enormous smile.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we’ll enjoy living them. For more pictures and fewer words, please do feel free to follow us on Instagram @sophielovespink
Sophie, Tiggy & The Beast X