I chose to DNF from the rat race a couple of years ago. Unsatisfied with what I was doing with my life, I quit my job and rented out my house. At the time this was a huge deal yet looking back it seems to have been inevitable. I know, I value my time even more than I did before. This is a strange paradox as now I have more of it to play with?
My previous life would see me travelling rather a lot from site to site, and at its peak, I was driving around a thousand miles a week. Ignoring the phenomenally detrimental impact this had on my physical state, so much time alone with only the radio for company was often difficult to deal with. It further added to the sense of containment I felt while I was at work. My car was my prison.
I think I was about 19 when I stopped listening to Radio 1 and switched to radio 2. Don’t. It gets worse yet, or does it. Yes, my preferential switch from the cool audio vibes of radio one may have been premature, but I believe it was the very first step towards who I am. Before I was 21 I had left Wogan behind and found myself ears deep in Radio 4. As you can imagine this did not make me a popular choice for being the designated driver on a lot of my early adventures… what a pity.
I felt strangely at home. I felt content listening and thinking and it soon became the highlight of my day. I remember around autumn one year I stumbled across a copy of Harry Potter on audio CD. “Well, that would be my entertainment for the next few days of driving,” I thought. This was the next step. Unrestricted by the confines of the Radio 4 schedule I could now listen to Stephen Fry, of whom I was and still am a huge fan, enchant me with a world of witchcraft and wizardry. No one ever said I wasn't a geek, and I'm fine with that.
After an almost nonstop binge of the entire Harry Potter series I was hooked on the concept of audio books and revelled in the opportunity to sit and listen to stories of my choice and get paid to do so. This served two-fold, A) it kept me sane a little longer at work and B) took me one step closer to a more open-minded approach to life.
It seems completely logical that when on the hunt for my next audio treat that I should once again bathe in the company of Stephen Fry and his audio biography “Moab Is My Washpot”. Little did I know at the time that this would be my final step. Aldous Huxley’s door had been opened and I was about to fall straight through it.
As I sat listening to Stephens early years, one chapter shouted out to me. He told of a realisation that all the really clever boys at the school, where always carrying books. Already branded a smart arse and not one to disappoint he must read more books. Yep, here was I sat in my car in ore of the advice from an 11-year-old Stephen Fry.
For the following four years of my career, I would never be without an audiobook. Some stories but for the most part I would consume science, history and religion, all nonfiction! I was on a one-man mission to understand more about the world, life and my part in both.
Looking back, I now realise the contentment I found from Radio 4 wasn't just the fact it had been permanently played in my family kitchen. It was that I shouldn't have been there, and we all love to be places we are told not to be. The seance of self-importance I quietly obtained from being a part of this intellectual forum was intoxicating. A dyslexic kid from the sticks that was banished to very special needs class going. I was not supposed to be a part of the academic elite that radio 4 listeners attribute themselves too. But there I was, and no one could stop me. Yes, I wanted to be cleaver, but not to prove my teachers wrong, rather because I wanted what I was told I could not have.
Using that seemingly empty time on the commute to work educated me in ways that the school system can only dream of. The choice to focus on subjects that interested me personally and the easily available content was a recipe for success. I was in my late twenties before I woke up.
For those that are still here and are interested here are some of those books:
A Briefer History of Time - Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
To make sense of the all-consuming size of things from the supermassive to the microscopic.
The Happiness Hypothesis - Jonathan Haidt
To help join the dots between ancient minds and my own thought process.
Chariots of the Gods - Erich von Däniken
To help me keep an open mind and respect others points of view.
Zen Budisim Stories - Trout Lake Media
To help keep things in perspective.
The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
Cus it’s a cool story.