Life. We’ve all got one. Until we haven’t.
A succession of challenging life events has brought me to a tipping point. The last decade has seen the end of my ambulance career due to back injury, the death of both my parents and my 15-year-old nephew, and most recently the drain of working in healthcare through the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of long covid on my own health.
Of course I have had many life-affirming experiences too that have been shining lights in my often dark journey – I wouldn’t want this post to seem like a cry for help. Chief among them has been my ever-present, supportive, wonderful wife and our two young daughters. Our life together so far has been tumultuous and serene, frustrating and rewarding, and absolutely the motivation to overcome the terrible things life has presented.
But those terrible things – the deaths, the responsibility, the survivor’s guilt – remains a weight that I carry. Early last year I started to channel this burden into my writing. I began a project that started life as a short story borne out of my grief for the loss of family, and grew into a full-blown novel concept.
I made good initial progress, writing several thousand words of planning and world-building, as well as initial drafts of the first five chapters. Alas, life had other plans for my time. Balancing productive writing with a healthcare career and a family was already challenging, but the tidal wave of responsibility that came with the pandemic coupled with (unrelated) family health challenges forced my writing onto the back burner.
It’s funny how life works; contracting covid in January and failing to recover from it has been an infuriating experience which has impacted me physically, psychologically and financially. However, it has put me in a position where my best option to get better while being productive on my own terms is to step away from healthcare and focus on writing. It’s something I can do in fits and starts when I’m well and rest when I’m not.
I’m grateful that my employer has granted me a 6-month (unpaid) sabbatical, during which time I intend to write and to recover. I’m being as pragmatic as possible about it with safeguards in place, and I’ll be as industrious as my health allows while being realistic about the unlikelihood of my endeavour even paying for itself.
I absolutely recognise that this is perhaps a foolhardy, ridiculous decision, to walk away from a salary during such troubled times. But the aforementioned tipping point, the ever more frequent reminders that we aren’t guaranteed a long life, compel me to take the chance, to strive for something I can leave behind.
I’ve got stories to tell.