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Monday, 30 March 2015

NG: Thanks for the memories

It’s been a great weekend. I went to the wedding of Danny and Charmind (and stayed in a beautiful..... yet interesting room), my future Godson Jacob (who I can't wait to meet) was born to Mel and Tom,
I spent some time with my beautiful nieces, had a great Sunday morning at church and hung out with Wifey (whilst we were admittedly a bit tired / mildly hanging after the wedding). 
But now my attention turns to something that has been coming for a year – my final two days working for National Grid.

If I’m completely honest, I’ve got real mixed emotions about my last couple of days. I’m amazingly thankful that I’ve got a new job to go to and that I’m excited about (did I mention I’ve got a job lined up now - I can't remember?) and I’m pleased that this slow work death is going to be over with (a year is a long time to be building to any event). But at the same time after pushing down my feelings and powering through for the best part of a year, I’d be lying if I said anything other than that I’m hurting.

It’s not the leaving the job part that’s getting to me. I’ve got to the stage now where I’m running on autopilot and I need a new challenge. But the simple fact is that in two days’ time I’ll never be working with this bunch of people again. I’ve spent 10 years working with these people. We’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. We’ve grown together. We’ve stumbled together (mainly after pub time). We’ve grieved together and we have fought for each other. Our office is a community. Our office is a family. And my experience from other people leaving and reporting back is that our office is completely unique and that no one has ever experienced anything similar again. It’s something I’m immensely proud of.

Before you say anything, Yes, I’ll go into my new job with an open mind. I really am excited about starting something new and meeting loads of new people. But I’m not ready to think about that yet. Until the 3rd April (our final party), my mind is solely focused on making the most of the time we have together. It’s easy to say that we will all stay in contact with each other but the sad truth is that some will fall away. I understand that. I accept that. I know that I won’t let myself be one of the ones that do drift from our little family but for me that places even more importance on the time that we do have left with each other. A new chapter is about to begin but there are still a few pages left to be written in this one first.

So this post is dedicated to the people that I have had the honour of working with for the last 10 years. My colleagues. My friends. And the ones who have become so much more than that. The ones that I’ve grown so close to that this simply can’t be the end. It’s just the start of another step on our journey together.

Thanks for the memories :)

I’ll leave you with this song as the words, well….. 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Chapter 25: Future / Past

It's been a while since we last spoke. My bad. I've been wanting to write for a while but in honesty I've found myself too preoccupied with something that I haven't done for over 10 years – looking for a new job. But whilst I'd set aside today a while ago to write this chapter, up until yesterday afternoon this post would have had a completely different feel to it.

It’s funny how one decision or one conversation can completely change the outlook of something. And it's with that in mind that I want to jump back to a question that challenged me when I was in the pub with Lania, Howson, Hayley and Joe a month or so ago (and first started writing notes for this chapter). What I will say is that i certainly didn't expect to discover how relevant those thoughts would be today as I sit here to write this.

It's fair to say that I love spending time in the pub. It's not just the beer aspect, but it's also the social part. Questions can be asked. Questions can be answered. And you can generally find out more about someone in an environment like that than you can in any other situation. But whilst most conversations in the pub will dart around banter and questions that will make everyone laugh, occasionally a question will be asked that really challenges. And on a cold January night in one of Gloucester’s least attractive (yet splendidly cheap) pubs that is exactly what happened.

Have you ever stopped to think about the major turning points in your life and how they looked at the time? Did they seem significant then?

Every single one of us will have had a number of moments when things changed. These turning points might have been through our control or not. They could have been through decisions we have made or because of decisions forced upon us. But you should be able to look back and think of a few moments when things have changed for you. I've got a fair few that spring to mind. You’ll obviously have your own, but let me walk you through some of mine in a vague timescale order and then you can start thinking more about yours. What you’ll find as you start to go through them is how one outcome ripples and influences the rest. So here we go…..

1. Youth club. It’s hard to describe how influential starting to go to youth club was in my life. Youth Club has given me my oldest friends, my brothers and an amazing extended family. Was also when music started being a major part of my life.
2. Secondary school decision. Without which I wouldn't have met some amazing people but more crucially I wouldn't have met the music teacher who not only inspired me but encouraged me (and who I'm honoured to say is still my friend).
3. Started to get heavily involved in New Wine. Without which I certainly wouldn't have the faith I have today (and everything that comes along with it), be involved in so many amazing projects, have properly started leading worship or met some very key people who are still part of my life now.
4. Went to MUSIC college after secondary school. Without which I wouldn't have gotten a major taste of the music industry, started promoting or joined a band (which whilst occupying only a small portion of time in my life had a major impact on the future).
5. Moved to Cheltenham to begin the second stage of my life. Without which, well you’ll see – but I wouldn't have made this move if it hadn't been through the people I met at New Wine.
6. Started The Faction. Without which I wouldn't have met some of my closest friends or even stayed in Cheltenham. I couldn't have done this without the knowledge I gained at college. As a side note, Dan and Christine wouldn't be together and Amelia wouldn't be here if this hadn't happened.
7. Started working for The Quest. Without which (very crucially here) I WOULDN’T HAVE MET CASS. But I couldn't have done this if I didn't have the knowledge of promoting whilst working with the Faction.
8. Romance time. Got together with Cass and because of that decided to leave The Quest. Without which, I wouldn't have started working for National Grid.
9. Started working for National Grid. Without which I wouldn't have been lucky enough to meet some of the most amazing people that it could ever be possible to come across. A number of whom will be part of my life for years to come.
10. Got Married. Without which I wouldn't be the man that I am today. It's very simple. But very true. Alongside my faith this was the most important decision of my life.
11. Moved to Gloucester. Without which my relationship with my friends from National Grid would be nowhere near as strong as it is now (much less time together outside work). Would I even have stayed with the company?
12. Moved to The Bridge Church. Without which I would not be the worship leader I am today or have met some really key people in my life.
13. Started 1:27. Without which I would not have the contacts or experience that I have now. This stems back to a relationship that was built through the Faction and my experiences through it.
14. Joined Exalt. Without which I wouldn't have joined C3, started Seek, got involved with RIVERcamp, met more amazing people and probably wouldn't have the honour of travelling the country and leading worship.
15. Started writing for the Daily Cannon and started 10 Resolutions. Without which I wouldn't have the experience of writing as I do now, understand my football club (or football) as well as I do and crucially wouldn't have understood how important it would be for me to write down my feelings over the next couple of years (and counting).
16. Charis,Joey (and a bit later) Amelia. Without which I certainly wouldn't have the joy of seeing them grow up as I have in my life now, but without them I also probably wouldn't have come out of the next step as the man I am today.
17. Chapter 9. Without which Cass and my relationship certainly wouldn't be as strong as it is now. But if I'm honest about it, I'm still waiting to see the bigger side of this….
18. RIVERcamp, C3 and Seek. Without which I wouldn't have found the most amazing band, started my role for RIVERcamp or push in worship as much as I do now. The most amazing part of this step though is that there is so much more yet to come.
19. News of redundancy. Without which, well……..I probably wouldn't have forced myself into step 20.
20. New job (hopefully soon).. Without which, well…….

So there you have it. The key moments from my life in a nutshell. I'm sure that there are more that have escaped me. And there are also probably some that I haven't yet seen the significance of or properly understand yet. But as I've sat down to write down these steps I've realised how something good has come from each of those life-changing moments. I’d encourage you to do the same. We have all sat down and tried to think in the past about how life would be different if we had made a different decision at a certain point. But what doing this has done for me is to help me realise that I do have hope for the future. If something good has come out of each step (even if I can't see it or understand it yet) then how can I doubt that there will be something good around the corner waiting for me (even if I can't grasp it yet).

Over the last 2 months, my daily life and routines have changed significantly. No longer is the first website I check in the morning the BBC Football gossip column. No, now my morning routine exists of checking job alert emails, applying for any jobs that might have appeared since I checked the night before (it won't surprise you to know that very little changes overnight) and frantically hitting my email refresh button to see if anyone wants me to do a job for them. I've also found that I've been checking my phone unnaturally regularly to see if I've missed a call from anyone that might want to employ me – despite my phone normally being on loud (for the first time in as long as I can remember). Searching for a job is a frustrating thing and the sad truth is that no amount of outsourcing (whilst helpful) or people saying it will be ok (whilst lovely) can prepare you for the experience or some of the setbacks that you may well encounter along the way. There are close to 100 people in my office currently experiencing the same thing. At times, the process is nothing short of heartbreaking.

At the tail end of January I applied for a couple of jobs that I liked the look of and then in the days and weeks following I applied for many many more as the type of job I wanted wasn't readily available (or wasn't advertised). I started applying for roles in desperation as I hadn't heard back from a number of the roles I did really like. It became a bit of an obsessive addiction.
In the second week of February though, (whilst at my lowest point since I'd started looking) the situation started to change. I started to get emails and calls asking me to interview for roles. A few were for roles I really liked. Most however came from the roles I had applied for out of fear for not getting anything else. Over the course of the next couple of weeks I interviewed for a number of jobs, was on two occasions told I was overqualified and also found myself withdrawing from some roles that simply didn't feel right. But what about the roles that I like the look of?
One role had its job description changed so much between the first and second interview that I withdrew my application. Another role had lovely people interviewing me but I didn't feel that the role would challenge me enough so I withdrew from that as well. I then lost out on one of the roles I most liked the look of. I came 2nd out of 142 people but that was of no comfort to me as I didn't get the job. I correctly guessed the person who would get it if I didn't but then after going on LinkedIn to congratulate them, I realised that the person who got the job had previously worked with the advertising manager for 6 years and had been doing some extra copywriting work for them (covering the role) anyway over the last few months. When I found out that I didn't get the role I was gutted and I was hurt. But then the next day I had another email.

One of the first roles I had applied for was with a company that if you you had asked me at the start of all of this if I would like to work for them I would have snapped your hand off in excitement. But I hadn't heard anything. But last week I had an email from them asking if I would like to interview for the role. The interview was on Monday. When walking through the door I wanted to not like something about the company so it would make the possible rejection after hurt less. Yet what I found that was with every moment, I wanted to work for the company even more.

It's safe to say that I have never before walked out of an interview less sure of how I had done. I'd either done really well or really badly. There was no middle ground. And on the train on the way home my mind started to drift to all of the things that I hadn't said. My mind was preparing me for the inevitable. I was told that I would hear by Friday, but when I missed a call from them yesterday I held off on listening to the voicemail because of the finality to it. If I didn't listen to the voicemail then I would still have a chance. I'd spent what seemed like so long waiting for the result of the interview (even though I wasn't expecting the result until Friday) that I didn't want my chance to be over. I wanted the job, I wanted to work for the company. I wanted them to want me. I didn't want them to say no. I prayed for them to changed their minds and to give me a shot. But with a feeling of inevitable rejection I built up the courage to call the company back for my feedback and for them to say no.

But that's not what happened.

It turned out that I had done well in the interview. Very well in fact. So much so that they asked me to come in again and meet the person that would be my future boss for an informal chat. They really liked me and wanted me to meet the future boss to check that we clicked. This chat is next Thursday (a week today) so please spare your thoughts and prayers for me around 3pm that it all goes well. It's not done. It's not dusted. It's not final and it's a fair way off anything being signed. But it's a leap in the right direction.

I wrote at the start of this chapter that the tone of this post could well have been much different. And it could well have been. I don't know what I would have done if I had been rejected. It wouldn't have been the end of the world, I'm no fool I understand that. It would have been a setback. But with nothing else on the horizon, a rejection would have without question placed me at a new ‘lowest point’ since my search for a new role began. It turns out though that yet again I am reminded that I do have a hope and that I do have a future. I'm reminded again of what having faith actually is.

I don't know where you are at in terms of faith or what you believe in or what you don't. I can't answer questions on suffering, why it happens or why certain things or events take place. But what I do know is that looking back at my life I realise that there is no way that I could be where I am today without my faith or be the man I am today without it. There are far too many ‘coincidences’ across the course of my life to doubt that someone is watching over me and my very simple prayer is that as you read this chapter you'll go back over your life and look at some of your steps and see the bigger picture and see how those steps have shaped you. I want you to be encouraged. You do have a hope. You do have a future. And if you feel like you don't, just take a step back and look at the steps that have got you to where you are now. We might not be able to see the next step in our lives. We might not be able to grasp it yet. But it is definitely there. Who knows, the next step may have started but you just might not have realised.

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future".

Have fun. God Bless. Speak soon (I promise).