Mid-life crisis

I think I've touched on the fact I was made redundant last year but avoided many details because I've struggled with it until very recently.

I turn 45 this summer. Up until last October I'd been working for John Lewis for 22.5 years, half of my life. I expected to work there for the same number of years again until I retired.

For those who might not know, John Lewis is a British department store chain owned by its staff. It's probably the most well-respected and successful retailer in the country. I joined on 4 April 1995 as a selling assistant in the lighting department. One year later, I was accepted onto the Section Manager training scheme and did six-month secondments in the kitchenware and book departments. Another year later I became section manager of gift food.

I remained a section manager for 13 years before my dream job became vacant, that of assistant editor of the staff magazine in my branch. I didn't have any formal journalistic training and went all out to demonstrate my capabilities by creating a portfolio of work using a trial version of QuarkXpress, the software used to produce the weekly magazine. My enthusiasm and potential must have shown because I was offered the job and, despite the massive learning curve, I loved it more than anything else I'd done up until that point. I never minded when Monday morning heralded a new working week and I never watched the clock.

In my position of assistant editor at Peterborough I had counterparts in all the other department stores around the country. We got together twice a year for conferences. I'll never forget how nervous I was the first time I went to a conference, still feeling as though I was pretending at a job I wasn't qualified for and about to meet dozens of others who were well established and fully qualified.

At the annual awards six months later after a year in the role, I won the best newcomer award; it gave me a huge confidence boost and I pushed myself to get better and better. A year later I was runner up for the top award of Chronicle of the year, and then I took home the top award two years running.

I just adored everything about that job and the unexpected news they were going to simply stop producing the branch magazines and make me and fifty-or-so of my colleagues redundant came as a huge shock.

I loved the job and I loved the company I worked for. I loved being a part of two teams - the journalists around the country, and the staff of the branch I worked in and wrote about and for. And it was just going to end.

I didn't work the final couple of months, getting signed off work with stress, anxiety and depression.

I had to go in to my shop for a couple of hours in the final week to clear my desk. I chose a time there'd be hardly anyone in the open-plan office. Boxing up twenty two years of personal belongings, I did quite well not to cry until one of the section managers spotted me and came to give me a hug (I'm welling up writing that several months later).

The stuff from my desk and lockers is still in my car boot - I haven't been able to bring myself to do anything with it.

I wasn't myself for several months. I applied and was unsuccessful for a couple of jobs at magazines and for several admin roles in schools.

Around a month ago I started walking dogs through a mobile phone app called DogBuddy. After a week walking the dog for my first client I knew it was my new career. I'm at my happiest outdoors and I love animals so it's another thing I can hardly believe I get paid to do.

I've had five dogs on my books already, though only three seem like they'll be permanent, so I've a way to go to build business up to a sustainable level. But having a plan at last has helped my head no end.

I went in to John Lewis for the first time two weeks ago. I think finally having something to tell people I was doing when they asked was the turning point.

What has any of this got to do with my travel blog? Probably nothing. Maybe some back story if you'd like to understand me a little better. Possibly an explanation for how come I get to tour France for six weeks in a few days time.

But also, you might not get to read this at all because I haven't decided to hit 'publish' yet.


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