How Do You Change Your Life?
How it's going so far
Well. 2022 was quite the year. I got to experience some of the greatest moments of my life. My daughter had her first birthday, and at Christmas she had become so much more responsive to the idea of presents, and she likes them.
I also got to stand up in front of my friends and family and get married to my beautiful, amazing wife last summer. The day was everything I could wish for, and now my family is larger than it was before, I couldn't be happier.
But with the sun must also inevitably come the rain, and later in the year I found myself looking for employment. I hadn't lost a job since I was working part time around school, and the suddenness of it all took me by surprise. After some deliberation with my wife, we decided to move our little family 100 miles up the road. We are closer to her family now, and my brother-in-law was able to secure me a job interview at his place of employment.
The job was through an employment agency, so the whole prcess was completed in a couple of days and I was once more gainfully employed after a period of about two weeks. The job was working in a factory, something that I hadn't done since I was 16. My employment experience was almost exclusively call centre and retail based, so I was aware that a culture shock was coming my way. The shifts were also interesting, 12 hours long, 4 days on followed by 4 off, rotating between day shifts and night shifts.
Aside from all my shifts either starting or ending at half past five in the morning, the industrial estate that the factory is on is quite literally miles from anywhere, and as I don't drive then that meant cycling. There are two routes between Thirsk, where I now live, and Dalton. The shorter is about 5 miles, but two of that is on an incredibly busy dual carriageway. After finishing my first shift at almost 6am I headed out that way. Never again. Whilst it is technically legal to cycle on a dual carriageway (I checked), I would not advise it. I honestly have never felt closer to dying. Even at that early time the traffic was constant, I had a two foot wide gap to keep my bike inside and every time a lorry passed the wind buffeted me almost off the road entirely.
After making it home with my life, that route was clearly out. The alternative path was a six and a half mile trek down unlit country roads and through farmland. The good part being that I was much less likely to be hit by a car, as there wasn't really any traffic at that time. As well as not working in this field for nearly 20 years, I also hadn't ridden a bike on a regular basis since I was 14, so to make sure I was on time and had time to change and get into the factory on time I was leaving my home by 3:45.
This is all a round about way of saying that my work days were long, and honestly, I was exhausted by the time I arrived, before the work even started. It took some time to be able to make it through a full shift without feeling like I was going to collapse. I had taken on a lot for someone of limited physical fitness, the work wasn't overly mentally challenging, but dealing with heavy packaging and dangerous machinery meant that switching off your brain was a bad idea. The team I worked with were highly experienced, and very good at their jobs, so I picked up how to do the basics relatively quickly, with further duties added as I gained experience.
After a few weeks I began having conversations with the manager of the department, as he advised me that a permanent position was due to come available, so I had to think if this was something I saw with long term potential. This is not something I had envisioned ding as a career, it was exhausting, and four days out of eight I practically didn't see my family. But my fitness was improving, I'd lost almost 10kg in my first six weeks, and the pay was fantastic. I was literally earning 50% more as a production worker than I did as a shop manager in retail, with much less responsibility.
In no way could it be described as my dream job, but it would pay the bills, and more besides. Wage should not be the only deciding factor when you look for work, but being able to pay the bills and support your family is a necessity. I tried further education when I left school but didn't get on with it, so I entered the workplace and after that, education didn't seem as important as earning a wage.
So I decided to go ahead and apply, it would be good to get off the agency, I've never been a fan of them as you lack any form of job security. I was proven right less than a week later. Two days before Christmas the factory told the employment agency that they didn't want me, and straight away I was once more out of work. Because I was and employee of the agency and not the factory there was no meeting, no disciplinary, and no explanation given. Just wham! You're done. Still not entirely sure what it was that I did to warrant such disregard, but what can you do?
It was an awful time to be made unemployed, there were not a lot of places arranging interviews in the week between Christmas and New Year. So I spent the week making sure my little girl had a good Christmas, whilst wallowing in the despair that I had moved my family to a new town that we didn't know anyone in, for a job that had lasted two months.
In my first bout of unemployment, I was frenetic in my search for new work, but honestly now I don't have the energy. I don't want to throw myself into another low wage, low qualification dead end job that I don't want but do because I feel I have to. I'm going to have to do something, I have a family to support and bills, like death, wait for no man.
But in 2023 I want to do something. Something to better myself, and to make life a little better for my family. I always regretted the way my education ended. Like a lot of people, I used to suffer from "Gifted Child Syndrome". From the moment I entered school, I tested off the charts. At age 8, I was entered into a pre-MENSA after school club. At 14, they made us take some kind of aptitude test that looked suspiciously like an IQ test. They never gave us a score, but I was informed that I had scored 2nd out of 270 students.
This can motivate people to great things, but unfortunately just bred complacency in me. I floated through until my first year of college, when at that point no-one was making sure that I actually went to class. I managed to barely scrape some passing grades, but a personal issue combined with my poor attendance from year one meant it was my last.
So now, 18 years later, I've decided to do something about it. I've signed on to do a degree with The Open University. Only 17 years too late but next week I start a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing. Thought I'd play into the whole writing thing. It's part time so it is going to take me 6 years to complete, but it will allow me to work to pay bills and stuff alongside earning a qualification. I was a little worried about the timescale, in 6 years I'll be 42 years old, not giving me that much time to use my degree, but I figured in 6 years I'll be 42 whether I do this or not.
It's going to be a challenge. The first year covers an overview of all the arts and humanities, from the reputations of Cleopatra and Charles Dickens, to ancient Greek plays, to the artwork of Benin and how it was affected by colonization. And I have to get back into, or more appropriately getting into in the first place, a learning mindset for a higher qualification than I have attempted before.
It might not work, I might be entirely out of my depth, but I won't know until I try. So this is me, trying to change my life.
Wish me luck.
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Wow! My heart goes out to you - what a trying time. Your attitude and resolve are inspirational, though! This is a wonderful piece, and it's awesome to see you back! Thank you for writing and sharing this 😄💖
Inspirational!!! Thank you for sharing the fantastic and good events along with the challenging!!! Defintely can relate to your story!!! Best wishes!!!💕💖😊
Good Luck Luke. I always enjoy reading about your experiences. You have such an interesting life.
Good luck, indeed. Love this statement "but I figured in 6 years I'll be 42 whether I do this or not." So true, and so motivating. Go for it!
Wishing you all the luck on the next leg of your journey!
Wonderful to see you on here again! I am so glad you shared this honest, heartfelt piece. Looking forward to hearing about your new journey :)
I applaud you and wish you the greatest luck with your choice to move forward! 😄
Hi, Luke. Congratulations for everything. I have subscribed to your work. Cheers. 🥰
First of all, welcome back Luke! Congratulations for your daughter’s first birthday, your wedding, your new job, your weight loss and your degree! Oh and good luck! 💖