There’s nothing quite like a day in London to bring it all flooding back. The hustle. The bustle. The pained and angry expressions on faces. The crowds; enormous, sweaty crowds. The quickness of step. The pushing. The shoving. The audible impatience seeping from every pore. The old days. My old days. The downs more than the ups. The darkness more than the light. The thin more than the thick.
Today provided a stark and tangible reminder. A day of flashbacks. A day to remember. A day to be thankful.
I have been in London for some meetings – really good meetings with really good people. It was a successful day and a day in which I had good conversations and made progress on the things I wanted to progress. But, and it’s a big but, it was a day that reminded me of the life I have happily left behind. Consigned to history.
My time in London remains one of the seminal experiences of my life and it will always be the place I met my wonderful wife and where our little life-completing Team Jones member was born. It was home for many years and a place where my career took off and helped me do what I am doing now. But I would be lying – no, I would be really, really lying – if I said I missed it. I don’t. Not one bit. Not for a minute. Not even for the time it takes to say “that London”. Every visit – like today’s – brings back all the memories and reasons why I now live over 200 miles away with my fantastic family in the choice county of Merseyside.
It is not simply the travelling experience this morning of joining millions commuting on the tube but the mirror it holds up of past times. I was reminded today of the daily pressure of a working day that was too full of meetings and too full of unnecessary demands. The mental juggling I did every day to prioritise and re-prioritise my workload by the hour to make it all work. The exhausting, endless stream of emails; one after the other, much of which wasn’t required, lots of which were others covering their posteria or passing on their stress to me. The behaviour of others – themselves stressed and under pressure – acting without compassion, just surviving.
I remembered the daily battle to get in to the office early for some quiet time before the daily circus came to town and, in my latter days at PwC, the sweats, the headaches, the feeling of someone sitting for minutes at a time on my chest, whilst wearing a heavy backpack, on horseback!
No, these things I don’t miss. No amount of career opportunities, cultural experiences, or the excitement and buzz of one of the finest cities in the world, can offset the cost – the heavy personal and wellbeing cost – that came from my time in London. Time that enriched me financially and helped build our perfect family but pushed me to my physical and emotional limits and at times beyond them.
Today, after my meetings, I have started the journey home to my parish; to my girls; to the life I have built where my family, my wellbeing and my passions take centre stage and my work plays a supporting role; a chorus member, never moving into the spotlight. As much as today reminds me of those old dark days, it makes me proud too; proud that I found the way out.