Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Age of Uncertainty

This evening, as we were driving home in the dark after returning a van to a slightly menacing industrial estate, my wife turned to me and said, 'You haven't done your blog for ages.'

This came as a shock. Obviously I knew that I hadn't written any posts for over a month - the longest gap in five years of blogging - but I had no idea that my wife was aware of this. She used to claim that she never read my blog, as she was far too busy being an übermother to fritter her time away on such trifles.

I hadn't intended to stop blogging, but it seemed a rather self-indulgent thing to do while I was trying to establish an internet business. Also, I couldn't think of anything to say. However, after receiving several kind emails from people who have wondered if things are okay, I thought I'd write this brief post.

I've now been self-employed for 11 weeks and, although it hasn't been a particularly easy time, I feel liberated in so many ways. Steerforth Books didn't get off to a rip-roaring start, but thanks to the kindness and generosity of a fellow blogger (I won't embarrass them here, but I am eternally grateful), it received a huge boost and the business no longer feels like a pipe dream.

I've no idea what the future holds. I've swapped the dependable, but soul-destroying, certainty of my last job for something that makes emotional sense, but may lead to financial ruin. Have I made a terrible mistake?

All I know is that the worst decisions I've ever made have all been rational ones that appeared to make perfect sense, whilst the best ones have been inspired by childhood fantasies, daydreaming, gut instincts and my adolescent sense of right and wrong. In the last two months, I feel that I have become me again, after years in exile.

Perhaps this is my mid-life crisis. All of the elements are there: an aging parent, a child entering adolescence and the sense of having possibly passed the halfway point. Some men respond by dying their hair that weird, chestnut colour and sleeping with someone in their 20s. My ambitions are hopefully less ridiculous.

I apologise for the solemn nature of this post. I have just been to Sainsbury's in Newhaven and it always has that effect on me. I've no idea why.


lucy joy said...

I plan on making lots more mistakes in my life. So far, they've led me to the very best experiences.
Another mid-life crisis option for you (though, would sleeping with a 20 year old REALLY be 'ridiculous'?) is to become a meeter and greeter in a large store. There was one at Marks and Spencer's last week. "Feel free to come and have a nibble on my Bourbons" he said. Honestly.

Keep being you.


Clive said...

It just goes to prove how feather-bedded you were as an employee (like most of us). But we are all very relieved to learn that you are surviving in that dark cold world of sole trading. Welcome back. Did you count how many hits you had during your absence?

Rog said...

My blogging activities were severely curtailed when I went self-employed. It wasn't just the availability of time, I think there seemed to be less desperate need for a personal outlet from the frustrations of employment.

Steer forth and multiply!

The Parrot said...

Nothing profound to add, except that I really like your blog, and can identify with the returning from exile thing.

Anonymous said...

Oh it's so nice to have you back!

Little Nell said...

A collective sigh of relief greets this post I think. As your listing in the 100 Best Blogs is what got me into this business, I’d be mightily upset if you stopped now- so please don’t (she said selfishly).

I’m so pleased that your business received a much-needed boost to start you off, let’s hope the New Year brings many more.

Lucille said...

Sainsbury's anywhere has that effect on people. I have just come back from one and have nothing original to add. I did wonder where you were though. I decided that no news was good news and that you were rushed off your feet with orders.

James Golden said...

Having labored in a soul-destroying business for many years and now become semi-retired at age 66, I report promise, even fulfillment, from the other side. Life has never been better. Good wishes to you.

Steerforth said...

Lucy - I knew things were desperate in the high street, but I didn't know that Marks and Spencer were now resorting to biscuit-themed innuendo! I used to do the 'meet and greet' stuff when I was a bookshop manager and I can still remember the look of fear on people's faces as I approached them.

Clive - Yes, it was a feather bed, but one I was allergic too. No, I didn't count the hits, but the graph showed a slow but steady decline, rather like the economy.

Rog - I think you have a point - there's nothing quite like a bit of angst and alienation to get the creative juices flowing.

The Parrot - I was talking about this issue at a party last week and found several people who'd recently left secure jobs because they felt that they'd lost their way.

AnnaC - Thank you. And I'll try and come up with something more entertaining and less maudlin in the next post ;)

Little Nell - 100 Best Blogs? Where was this listing? I'd love to know. I'm glad that it introduced you to the pleasures of blogging and I've really enjoyed looking at the photos of your life in Lanzarote,

Lucille - I suppose we shouldn't be rude about Sainsbury's - after all, they did win the 2011 'Chain Bookseller of the Year' award. Next time I want to read some Paul Auster, I shall be popping down to the Newhaven branch!

Thanks James - I like to hear positive accounts from the 'other side' (and on a dull, grey Wednesday afternoon, the beautiful photos on your blog have added some much welcomed colour).

Martin said...

Believe me, Steerforth, all will be well. As for mid-life crisis...pah! Have a great Christmas and an exciting New Year.

Foxesatdawn said...

Good to have you back, Steerforth.

Of course Mrs Steerforth checks your blog - how else would she know if you were sleeping with 20 year olds?

Séamas Poncán said...

Certainty? There are such jobs?

David said...

I'm glad you're still there, I assumed you were just working hard on your new business. You will tell us, won't you, once you're up and running?

Camilla said...

Glad to see you again! I look on my feed page every day to see if you've posted, so I was very happy to see a new post today.

It's good to hear things are going well, and I hope they continue to do so in 2012. Do you have an official launch date planned? I have my forefinger poised above the 'pimp this site' button on my keyboard in readiness. ;)


ps Just over three months before I take the plunge too. Eeek and hurrah!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

'This is only the beginning' as I wrote in a certain individual's 50th birthday card yesterday.

I was also a little concerned that you hadn't blogged for a while (not that I can talk with my own being so sporadic at the moment.) However it was not hard to deduce that getting Steerforth Books off the ground was taking up all of your time and energy at the moment. Great to hear about the breakthrough. Again, it's only the beginning!

As for twentysomethings, it would only be foolish from the point of view that you'd be wasted on them, not least when you already have a glamorous, culturally-literate and appreciative partner in the form of Mrs Steerforth.

Ms Baroque said...

Hmm, Sainsbury's often leaves me feeling distinctly trivial. Or is it 'trivialised'? Well, once more you have bucked me up, Steerforth, saying what I should be saying to myself. I have no margin or help with the bills and I can't afford to fail - but the answer clearly lies in choice, and self-direction. And Christmas begins to be over next week... In the meantime, it may as well be eat, drink and be merry -

Steerforth said...

Martin - I hope you also have a very enjoyable Christmas and New Year.

Foxes - You're partly to blame for that comment, after telling me about some men of my age who'd done just that to their long-term partners/wives. Do you remember?

Séamas - No, there probably aren't, unless you're a funeral director.

David - I will. I think it's going to take a while.

Camilla - I don't have a date in mind, as there are still too many variables and I've been advised that setting up a business of this sort always takes longer than you'd expect. Of course I do have an unofficial deadline, which is basically when the money runs out!

I'll keep my fingers crossed for you in three months.

Laura - I'll pass that on to Mrs Steerforth. She was saying something similar about you the other day. As far as the twentysomething issue is concerned, who are these attractive young women who find balding, greying men attractive? Perhaps its a trade-off between men who are running away from death and women who want money and stutus (unless, of course, you happen to meet a soulmate who just happens to two decades younger).

Ms Baroque - I've been wondering how you were getting on. Is the recession making it harder or easier for you to find freelance work?

RAMAN said...

well i think u have a logical reason to be in the state of mind u r in, but at the same time i can see that fr a person of ur intellect and experience it will not take much time to prove ur mettle in this new field also.

Thomas Hogglestock said...

Many thanks to Mrs Steerforth. I too noticed recently that we haven't heard from you in a while. I was getting ready to send an email. Glad to have you posting again and have a very merry Christmas.

Little Nell said...

I believe it was The Sunday Times. Mrs Trefusis was on it too, so you could check with her.

Doofus said...

I think your intuition is working perfectly, Steerforth. There must be something in the air at the moment, lots of good things happening, lots of people seem to trying very hard to be true to themselves.

Glad you are ok.

Steerforth said...

Raman - Thank you. I hope you're right!

Thomas - I didn't intend to stop blogging for a month. I very flattered to think that people noticed. I hope you have an enjoyable Christmas in your beautiful home (I've been looking enviously at your latest blog post - I love the picture of the dog sitting by the fire).

Little Nell - I know that Mrs Trefusis was on the list (deservedly so), but as far as I know, this blog wasn't included.

Genius Loci - I'm a great believer in intuition. Seven years ago, intuition told me that there was a recession coming, even though all the figures seemed to suggest otherwise. On the other hand, 'rational' decisions like abandoning music, getting an endowment mortgage and a private pension plan all turned out to be huge mistakes.

Suze said...

'Have I made a terrible mistake?'

'In the last two months, I feel that I have become me again, after years in exile.'

Uncertainty is the guardian of the liminal state. Nothing happens, really, until we approach it and allow fear to wash what's left of our hair.

Steerforth said...

Suze - I like that - not only wise, but poetic too. I'm going to remember those words.

Anonymous said...

Like your other readers, I'm so pleased to see that you're fine, and as it turns out, doing well and feeling more true to yourself! As others have said, the only sure thing is uncertainty, so keep following your instincts. And I'm not surprised that Mrs. Steerforth reads your blog!

I wish you and your family a relaxing and fun Christmas, and all the best for 2012 when it comes.

Steerforth said...

Thanks Christine, and best wishes to you and yours for 2012.

zmkc said...

Happy Christmas. Thank you for your lovely blog and also for your generous comments on mine. I look forward to your new business going from strength to strength in the coming year.

Brett said...

From one bookman to another, merry Christmas, Steerforth. May your stock and custom increase.

Steerforth said...

And a very Merry Christmas to you too!

Rob, The Blog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Steerforth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.