A change in direction – follow your heart

I broke out of a “story” inherited from my family upbringing, school life, and the general culture I grew up in, a story that really didn’t work for me.   When I left school to start out in the big wide world I had taken on some very strong messages about the important things in life: getting a job that would give me the highest financial rewards I could achieve, and the best promotion prospects; joining the culture of the never-ending struggle to acquire a big salary, seniority, house, car, holidays, gadgets – in short, joining the “rat race”. For me, this was a merry-go-round of external recognition, status, and rewards.

But one of the first problems I faced was leaving secondary school without the qualifications to get into college or university, let alone an apprenticeship scheme. How could I now get a “good start”? And so I joined the Royal Navy. That way, maybe I could get an apprenticeship or training in a recognised trade; the navy also provided an escape from a somewhat broken and turbulent family home.

And indeed, for the next decade in the navy I progressed well. A more practical hands-on approach to education saw me go from starting as a junior mechanic to ending as a Senior NCO in with a BTEC Diploma. After leaving the navy I used my experience and quickly went into the management side of the service provision business. I did well there for a few years, rising to a senior position, only to be moved sideways by a ‘new kid on the block’ trying to impress his masters. This sideways move came after years of jumping through hoops, trying my best to achieve the impossible, coping with ever-increasing pressure at work.

But despite all I’d achieved, I still believed I was a failure….and I was still too attached to status and external recognition from my job. So, when all this was taken away, I tipped into depression. After time off work and taking anti-depressants, I found, luckily for me, MKP and started on the road to recovery. I gained balance and perspective in my life, learned what didn’t work for me, and got the tools to change other things so they worked better for me.

I started the process of dealing with life’s challenges in a more healthy way with MKP in December 2002. When I was finally made redundant from the same firm in January 2007, I was able to get through the process into my next employment, with a little help from a few good warrior friends, without becoming depressed or needing any medication.

I know I handled this much better than I would have done “pre-warrior”. During the gap in my employment, I rediscovered what’s really precious to me and what would serve me better in my life. I discovered I wanted to work in a more practical environment with some connection to outdoors and trees. Later, I found I wanted to be away from larger companies, with their politics and endless, impossible, goal-oriented policies. I wanted to work for a small company and be seen as an individual, not a number.

And of course, the jobs I started to look at were all paid much less than I’d been used to – and this brought up lots of fear. How could I maintain the lifestyle we enjoyed? Initially, I kidded myself I need to stay in “the rat race” to keep the status quo, to remain happy and settled where I currently lived, keep the long-term mortgage, and support two boys in the middle of apprenticeships.

But after a while it dawned on me that I needed to allow myself to accept a change in lifestyle and to let go of some material things I didn’t really need. At the time, one of the most significant things for me was giving up gliding, a sport I’d only recently got into. Now, I realise the gliding was largely about helping me keep my sanity whilst staying in the “rat race”, and that didn’t work for me anymore! What a crazy situation!

Lucky for me that my wife was also at a turning point in her working career! After much deliberation, we decided to try and get work together as a couple in the ‘Domestic Service’ arena. Initially, this was a struggle as we were in the midst of the recession of early 2009, and the market seemed flooded with couples who had relevant previous experience; we kept getting passed over. Our luck changed when a warrior friend unexpectedly had a vacancy in just that line of work - so we now work for him and his partner, my wife as the housekeeper and me in house and grounds maintenance.

We are both much happier now enjoying the many, very varied tasks that life on this small Equine Estate throws up for us. We are part of a small team, and this works for us on many levels – not least, we have an appreciative relationship with our employers.

If someone had said to me a few years back this was the way my life would change, from being Senior Manager in a Global Corporation to Maintenance Man, I would, to say the least, have been sceptical, never imagining I would find my way to where I am today.

But I’m happier now in my working life and besides that, life itself works better for me on so many levels. This I very much attribute to MKP and the many gifts and varied learning I have received from so many men in the organisation. I have also done some twelve step work; that has also helped me grow along the way, and it’s another thing I most probably wouldn’t have found without getting involved with MKP.

So where does this find me? Most certainly very much happier than I was “pre-warrior”, a saner, more balanced person, I believe; a better husband, father and man, part of a network of like-minded men. By no means sorted or “there” yet, and still a work-in-progress, still working through “my stuff” as life challenges me, but much better equipped to deal with it all.

So to close I send a big thank you to all the men I have met on the way, and who’ve helped me with support and teaching: specifically but not limited to Dermot F., Mark F., the Reading I Group, the Romsey Tepee I Group, and many more.

The journey continues!               

Chris Lee