Sunday, May 07, 2006

Next junction coming up: Preparation

There are points in everybody’s life when choices can be made which affect the rest of a person’s life. You might immediately think of births, deaths and marriages, but there are many, many others.

Think of the times in your life when you had the chance to change tack; to go in a completely different direction to the one you thought you were going to follow, were expected to follow, and which most of your peers had trod.

My decision to give up work and go to college was one such crossroads for me; I had worked in the engineering industry for about fifteen years, man and boy, as they say, when I was confronted with two diverse paths: one the more conventional route, and the other a wholly different, totally unconventional road to take. I chose the latter and have been well pleased that I did ever since.

I chose to go back to school; to study for my GCE A-Levels, which I never took when I was a schoolboy at Saddleworth Uppermill Secondary Modern School, in form 5 Alpha – the top stream and one in which the pupils were groomed to take GCE O-Levels and then go on to Sixth Form College and take A-Levels before going up to university.

That path was open to me, but I chose to ignore it, was more intent on getting an apprenticeship or going into the Police Force as a cadet. Actually, when I come to think about those two paths, they were both chosen for me by my father. He had my best interests at heart, I am sure, but wasn’t used to thinking I might be able to go on to university – people like us didn’t, and so it wasn’t even considered.

It was only later that I thought it out and decided that the time was right for me to have another go at getting the results that would allow me to get a place at a university of my choice.

In the event, I took my A-Levels, passed them and entered Lancaster University as an undergraduate student, at the grand old age of 34. That was one of the most important crossroads in my life, in terms of how much it affected my life afterwards.

When I come to think of it again, it wasn’t a crossroads so much as a fork in the road, and I took one of them. Wondering whether you’ve made the right choice probably comes with making the wrong one; I have never considered what my life would have been like had I taken the other direction, not until now, that is. I think that’s the secret; you know when you’ve taken the wrong one when you continue to either ask yourself a lot of questions that begin with the words, ‘What if..?’ or always regret the choice you made.

I have never once regretted my chosen direction; on the contrary, I have always rejoiced that I had the good sense to take it, even when some thought, tacitly, perhaps, that I was wrong.

Looking in on the person deciding which road to take, is probably something of an agony, if they care anything about you. I chose my direction quickly and without consultation or advice from anyone. I had that luxury; that I could please myself. I don’t think parents can make that choice for you – well, not when you’re a grown man, and so mine didn’t broach the subject, they just watched me and the direction I was heading, nodded their tacit approval, which I accepted and appreciated, though being tacit, I didn’t actually say or do anything. They could see that I was adamant and left me to myself.

That is a nice thing to do; to trust you, to leave you to make your own decision, make your bed and lie in it, if you want, but leave you to take responsibility for your own life. How many people are prepared to do that?

I took that particular fork in the road and I’m still on it; it’s been a long one, and I haven’t come to an other fork in it yet, but I think there’s probably one not far off, and I am approaching it faster than I might wish.

I am getting on, as they say, not too old yet, but coming up to an age when those in positions to do such things can block my way because of my age.

Actually, they can’t block anything except the road they happen to be the gatekeeper on. My road will have to be a different one, only this time I can see it approaching, whereas last time, I came upon it without much warning.

I also have the feeling that it will be a lot more arduous than the one I have been on for the last 18 years. Perhaps my thinking that way is a product of my age, of the more considered opinion I am forming regarding this next road. Perhaps it will be more arduous, regardless of how much I consider it, or how much I ponder over the vexed question of how to earn my living once my present means is denied me.

At 56, I don’t have the energy I had at 34, that’s obvious, so I will have to use what God gave me to compensate; I will have to draw upon my mental reserves of strength, which I believe are undiminished or even a little stronger than they were twenty or so years ago. I think I had more resilience then than I do now, but that too probably stems from being less vigorous now than I was in my early thirties.

I have my wife, Nazan, at my side now. She is there to encourage or warn as the case demands, to help me get a little perspective when I am going off the deep end, and to buoy me up when I refuse to go out of the shallow end into deeper, more hazardous water.

This road will need more preparation. I have already started preparing – making contacts, collecting information about where to obtain information. I think that is the key, being able to quickly and precisely get any information you need, and then use it, react to it, write about it and get it published.


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