Three years ago I had just started my new dream job. Within months everything had gone to shit (it wasn’t anyone’s fault – I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time). As things got worse I found myself in San Francisco, preparing to quit my job and with no idea what would happen next. I decided I needed a project to help me become the person I knew I was – and thus the Road to San Francisco was born.
I’m now exactly two months away from setting off. Two months from leaving my wife and cats for three months, two months from leaving my mum for three months, two months from a three month break from work. I honestly quite get my head around everything that needs doing – as you might expect I’ve made this ride as complicated as I possibly can. This ride is lots of things – a fundraising ride, a mental health awareness raising ride, a once in a lifetime trip across America – but it is also the final stage of my recovery from my depressive episode.
So I thought this would be a good time to reflect on how my recovery has gone, and how my life is right now. And honestly? It’s pretty flipping good. It’s not perfect, but I’m pretty happy with how things are going. On my darkest days you were there by my side, reading my thoughts and sending me positivity – so I hope you don’t mind me letting you know how well things are going now.
The best thing in my life – the best thing to ever happen to me – is my amazing wife. I’m lucky to have found a love that is so natural that I can’t imagine life without it. On our dark days we’re there to support each other, and on our good days we’re there to share the joy. And today it is joy. Those of you who know us know that we like to take it in turns to have mental health wobbles. At the end of last year Lizzie was unemployed, on sick leave for her mental health, with nothing lined up. Since then she has done a temp job so successfully they tried to keep her on, got a fixed term job at a lovely and supportive organisation she’s worked at before, started going to the gym more regularly, taken steps to understand and deal with a long term health issue (that it turns out is caused by a severe dust allergy), started to do yoga, and performed her first ever improv comedy show to a packed audience with 12 hours notice. I’m honestly so proud of everything she has achieved in just a few short months – so proud of the resilience she has shown and of the fact that I get to call her my wife. Going to America for three months will be tough, but I know that Lizzie’s got my back and I can’t wait to finish the ride and get back to spending the rest of my life with her.
Then there’s my job. I have an amazing job (I literally got paid to spend time with cats today). I get to work with students who are struggling, using my experience to help them find ways to look after their wellbeing and support them when things get tough. I have the privilege of being in the right place at the right time to be able to help change peoples lives and I’m grateful for that every day. But amazing as this is the best thing about my job is the wonderful team I work with. Two of my wonderful colleagues have recently secured new jobs and so I’ve been reflecting recently on how lucky I am to work with such a lovely group of people. My manager is incredible – supportive, compassionate, and human. I can share everything safely, knowing it will be used to give me the support I need to succeed in my job and in my life. They’ve taught me to be a better person and a better manager. They are more than a boss – they are a friend who I enjoy spending time with. And then there’s my colleagues – from ex-beatboxing instructor to a colleague who has worked in refugee camps supporting female education. Each one of them brings something unique to the office, each one of them deserves respect, and each one of them is a pleasure to work with. They all care about the work that we do, and play a role in the success of hundreds of students every year. I hope that they are as proud of themselves as I am of then. Of course teams change constantly, but we’ve had a golden year together and I am confident that the positivity our team shares will spread to whomever joins us in the future.
I’m also lucky to have some amazing friends. As I prepare for the bike ride I’m fundamentally being very selfish – I have very little time to give in my friendship groups, but often end up taking. But my friends are incredible. Whenever we meet – whether it’s been weeks or years – we get straight back into things as if no time or distance has passed. I hope one day to be able to repay the kindness they have shown me. I’m also lucky to have family who love me, and who demonstrate how much they care for me all the time. Sure, things aren’t perfect – I doubt anybody who had the choice of writing how their life went would introduce Multiple Sclerosis into the story – but both my parents are still here, and they are both the kind and loving people who helped me become the person I am today.
We live in a complicated and often difficult world. Pain is all around us. But in the darkness there is light – and after having spent some time in the shadows I’m now aware of how wonderful this light can be. If you’re reading these words when you can’t see the light, I hope that they give you the same hope that my friends gave me over the last three years. And if you’re lucky enough to be reading this without oppressing darkness in your life, I hope that it helps you reflect on everything that is wonderful in your life.
Sure, I might be the only bugger cycling across America, but I’m not the only person on a journey. Take care folks, and be kind to each other.