Thursday, August 11, 2011

Change

A month or so ago my managing director walked up to my desk and asked me to come into his office. My heart started beating quickly. Suddenly, I was eight years old again, worrying that I had unwittingly transgressed one of the grown-ups’ rules. Had they discovered that I hadn’t ordered my post-it notes from the preferred supplier?

I did the walk of shame through the vast open-plan office and noticed eyes quickly dart in my direction. I tried to look as nonchalant as possible, but sensed that my face was glowing. It had to be bad news.

I sat down and listened to what sounded like a preamble to something unpleasant. The managing director showed me a series of spreadsheets with figures that seemed to merge into each other and talked about budgets and long-term strategies. Then he came to the point. My department was now the most profitable part of the business and it was time to think about the future.

It slowly dawned on me that this wasn’t bad news. I listened as my managing director talked about expansion, moving to a separate building and investing in the project, realising that this was actually very good news for me. At last, I had the potential to earn some serious money.

But I felt utterly miserable. Why?

At first I couldn’t understand why I had reacted so badly, but on reflection it made perfect sense. Things had changed. My son and mother needed me more than ever and even though my employers had been very understanding, the 9 to 5 routine no longer made any sense. I needed to work in Lewes; preferably for myself, as this would give me the flexibility that I needed.

Today I handed in my resignation. In October I will be self-employed for the first time in my life. The whole thing feels unreal and slightly terrifying, but I am absolutely certain that I have made the right decision.

I will need to have enough money to pay for food and bills, so I’m planning to do what I do now on a smaller scale: Steerforth Books. I’ve also been offered a few pieces of work by other people, so I hope that between running a small business and doing a few short-term projects, I’ll survive.

I may just have made one of the silliest decisions of my life, but somehow I don't think so.

(By the way, this blog is five years old today. It began almost by accident – a nasty bout of food poisoning from bad oysters left me bed-ridden for two weeks and out of sheer boredom, I created a blog. It would have probably been swiftly abandoned, but Ms Baroque generously responded to my fatuous first post and I was hooked. I couldn’t quite believe that you could type any old nonsense on your laptop and with minutes, complete strangers would come up with pertinent, thought-provoking observations. It was wonderful.

Thank you to everyone who has posted comments over the years. I only wish that we could all meet up in a pub one day. I have met a few bloggers in the flesh and, without exception, they have been even more likeable and interesting than their blog selves.)

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good luck, Steerforth! I think you've made the right choice. Change is always scary, but when you feel in your gut that it's the right thing to do, go for it!
All the very best to you and your family.

I hope you will still have the chance to blog occasionally, as I for one will miss your entertaining columns and observations if you don't! (Selfish of me, but there you are!)

Good luck now and in the future.
Canadian Chickadee

Cliodhna Marie said...

Well done! That was a really brave thing to do.

LUCEWOMAN said...

Congratulations, what a brave and sensible decision. You're obviously good at what you do, so why let anybody else reap the benefit of your skills?
I hope you find time to keep blogging, I wish I'd discovered it sooner. Well done on entertaining readers for 5 years.
'The Age of Uncertainty' seems more apt a heading than ever for you.
Good luck with the next leg of your journey through life, and do write a book at some point - please.

Matt Holland said...

Congratulations and good luck!

Lucille said...

That sounds like a change for the better. If you didn't know how well you were doing for the company then the company didn't deserve to have you. I wish you all possible success with your new venture and hope to hear more about it here. Congratulations on 5 years of 'clifying' blogging. (That's the wv so I'm making use of it.)

Genius Loci said...

I'm absolutely terrible at dealing with these kind of decisions, they are so hard to make. So, massive respect to you for gritting your teeth and doing it. I'm sure you will be thankful you made the right decision in the months to come.

I also hope you can keep blogging Sir! And if there ever is a blogger get together down the pub, what are you having?

All the best.

Kristin said...

Congratulations! These decisions are always a bit scary, and often fraught with anxiety, but no great thing happened without a bit of risk. I hope this is the start of something wonderful for you!

Roger said...

Good luck.
Leave a note for your successor at work pointing out that s/he has excellent material for a blog.

Martin H. said...

Every good wish, Steerforth. Your decision isn't brave or daft. It's what feels right, and I'm sure it will be exactly that.

Matt Doar said...

I've been enjoying the blog greatly!. Do please let us all know where we can spend our money on books and things so that you can make this change.

Gardener in the Distance said...

What wonderful news, Steerforth. However risky - and the risk would also be a stumulus to succeed - working for yourself must be incredibly rewarding. I hope you let us know much more about Steerforth Books - looks like you've already got customers waiting.

Gareth said...

Permit a frequent reader and infrequent commenter to salute your brave decision. All the best, and I'm sure if we can help your future business enterprises succeed we will be glad to. And thank you for the blog so far. I hope there will be many more years of it.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Wow, that's fantastically brave! But probably the right decision if it feels like it.

Change must be in the air as some significant changes in my own life too at the moment, though not quite as dramatic as yours.

May god bless Steerforth Books and all who sail in her!

And happy blog birthday - for me your blog is the epitome of what a blog should be.

Mrs Jones said...

Ooh, blimey - how very brave and also scary. So, can you give us more details about what Steerforth Books is actually about? I'm not sure I know what it is you do, other than look through old books....

Alienne said...

I wish you all the best for your venture; it sounds as if it is a very sensible move given the demands of your family and I hope it goes really well.

JRSM said...

Well done! I'm very much looking forward to patronising (in a good way) Steerforth Books!

Bob said...

Mate, all power to you. A really positive decision.

With all best wishes
Bob

Between Channels said...

A bold, and I think correct, decision. Best of luck with the new venture. I've always loved the tone of this site; never snarky or mean-spirited, yet full of witty and incisive comment. And very, very funny. If you find to post, brilliant. If not: cheers and thank you!

Kári Tulinius said...

Oh wow! Good luck! This sounds like it will be fabulous! It's always scary to follow one's instincts, but it's usually the right decision.

MikeP said...

A man with too many books writes: well done and congratulations! I often think of doing what you're doing (assuming I have understood it correctly), but never have the guts to do it. Lewes always seems an excellent place to be a bookseller. My visits, although officially billed as 'going to see my mother', always involve more bookshopping than anything else. (Your mother and mine have made contact, by the way!)

Grey Area said...

How exciting! Under no circumstances listen to anything I say about being self employed, I may moan constantly - but between you and me, it's brilliant.

I salute you, sir!

Anonymous said...

The start of a new adventure; please let us be part of it, we'll all be anxious to know what you're up to...
I've had some nasty (at the time) stops and starts in my life, things that at the time frightened and worried me, but in retrospect, each and every one was the start of something better and in every case, my life is better than it would have been if I'd carried on a smooth progression. And it will be for you...
Every good wish, Steerforth. You'll be just fine. AnnaC

Steerforth said...

Thank you for your much-appreciated words of encouragement. It was a difficult decision and to get such a positive reaction makes a real difference.

If all goes according to plan, I'll be selling books on-line (and maybe bookfairs as well) in a couple of months. It all depends on how quickly I can find the right storage unit.

I will be in my current job until October. My employer has generally been very supportive over the last couple of years and I want to make sure that the handover goes as smoothly as possible.

As far as blogging goes, I intend to carry on. I'll still have the book-related ephemera and with a few extra hours in the day, the quality of the writing might improve.

MikeP - My mother mentioned meeting yours, who said that her son had 'boggled' me on the internet. I've tried to explain the blogging thing to my mum, but she has no interest in it at all.

Little Nell said...

Let me add my congratulations on the blog’s birthday and my very best wishes for the sucess of Steerforth Books. Making these life-changing decisions is hugely stressful as all the pros and cons are weighed up, but once made it’s as though a weight has been lifted. You are definitely starting with the right attitude of positive forward-thinking. Rather selfishly I suppose, I too hope you will find time to blog occasionally - all that ephemera deserves an outing here.

Anonymous said...

Good luck! It's always hard to make a change, but buckle down and keep us informed. You have lots of people out here rooting for you.

Séamas Poncán said...

You're doing right by making the transition smooth for them. Never burn any bridges. Good luck!

Steerforth said...

Séamas - I agree. It's stupid to burn bridges. There are some things I'd change about the company I work for, but they gave me a great opportunity and I feel indebted to them in many ways.

Hopefully, I'll continue to work for them in some way, as I've become quite fond of some of the people there.

Sarah said...

Good luck and congratulations!

Rob Spence said...

Good for you. I look forward to a visit to Steerforth Books.

Anonymous said...

Best of luck!
Hope your blog continues as I need it for mental sanctuary.

My first name is Pam. and, yes, I dislike the name too. I've trained all but family to use my initials.

-P

sukipoet said...

good luck to you. it takes much courage to walk away from a job such as you had, but i know it will reap great rewards for your soul, if you will.

sukipoet said...

ps there actually is a Steerforth Press here in NH USA not far from where I live. They publish wonderful literary works and republish out of print authors at times.

Anonymous said...

Relieved after reading the comments to see your words that you will still be blogging ... we are all interested to see how this next stage of your life will unfold and selling books on-line? we shall buy them!

the essence of life is change ... to not accept this makes life a misery ...
Kim, who moved (alone) from Canada to England at the age of 40 ...

Judith said...

I'm late to the party but let me add my congratulations also. Plus best wishes and great respect. Change is scary but it is also what makes life worthwhile. I am so glad to hear that you'll continue to blog. Good luck with Steerforth Books!

Ms Baroque said...

Ohhh, lordy, it's changes all round. I've just finished making not one but two websites - a new one for corporate copywriting etc, at katyevansbush.com, and a NEW Baroque in Hackney which should transfer over to the new site by tomorrow morning I hope? The thing is, my job ended and once again I'm out there loose, and I've decided to go for it and go freelance too. It's the Zeitgeist, and I'm kind of happy we're in it together Steerforth! And you by choice. All will be well, I have my fingers crossed - I'm sure it will be. Lots of things need to sort themselves out, what a year this is.

Enid said...

Best wishes for the new venture.

You'll be fine! How can you not be with all the good wishes we are sending you.

Blessings.

Michelle Trusttum said...

Good on you! I wish you every success. I'm sure in another five years you will look back and say it was the best decision.

I hope you find suitable premises soon.

And I am so glad to hear you and your family are safe after recent events in London.

Camilla said...

Good luck with your big move! Very exciting stuff - I hope it goes well. Do you already have firm plans for what you're going to do with Steerforth Books, or is it still in the drafting stage?

I'm also heading towards self-employment (April next year, going full time with the freelance editing I've been doing on the side for years), so can relate to the combination of terror and excitement that this entails. All the best to you. :)

Camilla

Steerforth said...

Pam - I never liked my name either, but. There are no square-jawed heroes in books called Philip, only bespectacled bookish types.

Thank you Sarah, Rob, Judith, Kim (I hope you don't regret moving!)Suki and Enid for your kind wishes.

Michelle - Thanks for your kind thoughts about my family. I travelled around a lot last week and didn't see any evidence of social unrest, but I suppose that the areas where rioting occured were places that people would never visit anyway, unless they lived there. I've just been reading your blog by the way and I'm very sorry to read about your mother. What a tough year you've had.

Ms Baroque - I realise that whilst I've been taking afternoon tea with the vicar, you've probably been in the thick of it, defending Baroque Mansions from the revolting masses. I hope you and your clan didn't suffer in any way.

Good luck with freelancing. What's the worst that can happen - genteel poverty? I'm already there.

Camilla - Another person going freelance? Good luck - we should all form a union or something (I'm sure that there probably is one already)! As far as the fear goes, I think the fear of not doing it is even greater isn't it?

Re: Steerforth Books - on the one hand the plans are pretty well advanced - I've done lots of profit and loss projections to see how feasible the thing is - but I realise that the reality will be quite different and I'll have to have a flexible approach.

Paul F. Martindale said...

Good luck Steerforth!

-Paul

MTFF said...

Steerforth, I am late to the party on this, but CONGRATULATIONS! I am so very, very happy and excited for you. I think it's going to be completely marvellous and you will do very well. It's funny, I was about to tell you about an article in the New York Times that was about the death of the idea (in relation to your more recent post) but instead you might want to read one from last Sunday about people who left corporate jobs to pursue their dreams. ALmost all of them had found it harder work than they had thought it might be, but a year on ALL (save one) were profitable and said they would never go back to the way things were.
I wish you the very, very best and I shall chart your progress with interest and great hope for enormous success. PLEASE keep blogging!
MTFF xoxo

RAMAN said...

Fantastic stuff! Congratulations! This blog of yours is really going to be inspirational for many who have been harbouring secret desires to make a change in life but r apprehensive and indecisive about it. Keep outpouring such pearls our way,sir.