I went to my dad’s funeral in 2011. There, I met David. I’d never met or even heard of him before. He was one of my dad’s old friends. They used to go to the pub together. A smart, academic-type guy, we got chatting about what the hell I was going to do now. I’d just returned from backpacking, which was what I’d planned to keep doing for the foreseeable future. But I couldn’t do that now, obviously. I didn’t know what the hell to do.
I don’t remember the details of my conversation with David, but I do remember that around that time I was considering lots of things. Go on a road trip around the UK, visiting all the national parks. Do some more training and become a teacher. Move to London and start a proper career in journalism. Take an outdoor adventure instructor course and do that for a living. Study to become a radiographer. Start an Open University degree in Environmental Science (I am as confused about that as you are).
And, of course, move to Edinburgh, which is what I eventually did. What I didn’t know then was that I was going to become a freelance writer and create Untamed Writing, a business which now supports a lifestyle I’ve never before been able to afford.
Fast forward to the present day. I attended my grandmother’s funeral at the start of this year, almost exactly six years after my dad died. David was there, too. I hadn’t thought at all of him during the preceding years – after all, I’d only spoken to him for probably twenty minutes in my entire life. But as soon as I saw him, I felt a flicker of recognition. I couldn’t quite place him, but as soon as we starting chatting again, I remembered. Interesting, smart guy. Friend of my dad’s.
We soon caught up. ‘So what did you decide to do?’ he asked. ‘Oh! I started a business! I’m a writer now and I teach other people how to become freelance writers too.’
And that’s when it dawned on me how far I’ve come. From peeling potatoes in my hometown to pouring pints in an exciting new city, and now, to this – to Untamed Writing. In a way, I feel like I’m only just getting started with this writing-business thing. But I’ve been doing it for almost five years now. Not a long time, by any stretch, but still a third of my entire adult life.
If you’re feeling hopeless and unsure what to do next, look back six years. Or five, or ten, or even just one. What were you doing then? How much has changed? And did you have any idea you’d end up here?
And now look forward six years. Who the fuck knows what awaits? The only thing that’s certain is that things won’t be this way forever. And the little decisions you make along the way could add up to big changes, even if they don’t feel like anything at the time.