I may be crazy... but I'm quitting m y job in teeth of recession
I'M either stark raving insane or rapidly slipping down the slope of some sort of degenerative disease of the mind, judging by some of the shocked and concerned reaction to my announcement that I am leaving full-time, secure and pensionable employment to 'do my own thing' -- in the middle of one of the worst recessions in Irish history.
I suppose I can understand why some might assume I'm having some sort of mental breakdown and that my mostly cheery demeanour is merely a symptom masking a dark and possibly dangerous, self-destructive streak.
After all, who would do such a thing? Who in their right mind would even think about throwing in the towel after 12 years in full employment on a national daily newspaper enjoying the sort of opportunities thousands study years for and may yet never succeed in achieving.
It's not like I can say it hasn't been a blast, a privilege even, meeting and often working with some of the most talented and intelligently eccentric people in Irish media. It has opened doors through which I've met and managed to connect with authors, movies actors, TV and music stars. A dream for some has been week-to-week existence for me and the experiences I've had have been unforgettable.
I will miss every bit of it, of that I have no doubt.
So why go? Well, call it mid-life crisis if you will, but I have honestly come to believe that I've had my priorities all wrong.
And I'm sure I'm not the only one.
Think about it. We watch the seasons change through the windows of an office or a train or a car in traffic. We see our children grow and get older only during the few minutes it takes to guzzle a cup of coffee and kiss them goodbye in the morning or in the short hours between coming home and bedtime.
At the end of a tiring day, all too often our conversations with nearest and dearest rarely stretch beyond 'Pass the potatoes' or 'Pass the remote control'.
We wish away our lives until the next two-week holiday to somewhere sunny where we overspend to make up for all the months we forgot to treat ourselves and our families -- and then we spend months paying back the credit card before it's back to work and trying to claw back more paid time off.
And, let's be honest, who amongst us never ponders those 'what ifs', the plans and pipe dreams we may never see fulfilled because we're so caught up in the day to day.
Meanwhile, we face mounting pressures of pay cuts, rate rises, tax upon tax until all we have left to show from the fruits of our labour, week in and week out, is the paltry pittance we either put towards our pipe dreams -- or into a pint glass -- to dull our desires.
Like the poor old farm horse in George Orwell's Animal Farm we soldier on and pledge to work harder, as our dreams to start that business, to write that book, to spend more time with the children, begin to slip away into the distance beyond the rain-spattered windows of the prison cells we make for ourselves out of our own fear of failure and fear of the unknown.
But enough about the 'old me'.
The new me has plans -- plans, well, to start that business, write that book and spend that extra time with the children. Sound familiar?
Look, I've no doubt that there will be snorts of derision, even anger, especially from those who have lost jobs through no fault of their own, jobs they loved or jobs that were vital to pay bills and feed mouths.
I know there are people who would do almost anything for a full-time, pensionable position in the current climate -- and some who would kill for the very job I am giving up.
However, if each of us were to legislate our lives along the lines of what we should feel lucky to already have, would any of us ever make the brave decision to break out and go our own way?
Because it is brave. I would be a fool not to have occasionally almost bitten my own arm to stifle the terror at what I am about to embark on.
But then I have stood back from my life and looked at it along with my wife and family and then we have sat down and made our plans.
We squirrelled away what little we could and we tried to make best use of the intelligence bequeathed to us by a million years of genetic lottery.
Human intelligence if put to work properly, whatever the economic climate, should be more than enough to put food on the table: it should also be sufficient to realise the dreams that most of us stick in a tin in the back of a drawer.
We're smart creatures, we humans -- and smart people shouldn't have to sell themselves into indenture for pensions that become virtually worthless, to pay huge taxes that are squandered by crooks or to prop up big money corporations, all with the very brains and abilities that we could use better to make ourselves happy and wealthy on our own ticket.
So it is that my family and I are taking a voluntary vow of poverty, jacking in the secure job, willingly looking to give up many of the comforts we've taken for granted and ratcheting things down a notch or ten in a bid to achieve some of things for ourselves that have always only ever been the stuff of 'what if'.
And when we're having our first office meeting while walking up the local beach mid-morning as our dog chases seabirds in the roaring autumnal waves, it may well be that I'll involuntarily let out a maniacal giggle and the heart of some bewildered passerby might go out to me.
"Poor divil," they'll say. "Mad as a brush."
If that's the case, cart me off. Life's a loony bin. We may as well enjoy it.