Last year my partner’s father passed away quite suddenly. We went to Greece, met our families, cried, bonded over the loss, and spent a boiling hot morning dressed in black under the sun, our shadows holding hands, saying goodbye.
When we returned back to London, I stood for a moment in our living room. Everything was still; silence. A moment where the earth slowed down on its axis, the wind stopped to look inside our apartment, and the minute crammed a few more seconds in the present.
The next day I went back to my job and gave in my notice. The HR manager took me aside and asked me in the most efficient and managerial way why I am leaving, if there was anything they could do to change my mind, if I knew how much they valued me, what an inconvenience my leaving would be, and after being knocked back by my determination, how I made up my mind in such a fast and rigid manner.
I explained to her that after the funeral, I stood in the courtyard of the cemetery. Families were coming in and out, keeping tears back, holding each other, putting one foot in front of the other and making their way to a final farewell that was impossible to really utter. I have always been aware of the nature of death- my grandfather died when I was a teenager, so I was introduced to the practicalities of the concept then; the funeral, the visitors, the black clothing, the muffled tears, the way that life finds a way to move on, making the pain a memory, an invisible scar. However, at that moment in the courtyard, it was as if I was watching a movie I had seen, only in 3D. It was real, it was happening, life was happening and it could stop at any moment; Irvin Yalom calls realisations like this the ‘awakening experience‘, the deep and earth shattering understanding of our mortal nature. Now, there are three ways you can go about it after experiencing this: panic, forget it or embrace it. I think that the moment in the courtyard was my awakening, and the moment at my living room was the point where I embraced it. I decided that I will not spend another minute in a job I don’t want to be in, and that I would start doing the things I want to do. I realised even back then (more than a year ago) that it was not going to be done overnight- even today I can not say I am fully there and that I actualise my potentials or focus my life energy directly to the things I wish to do, but I am much closer to that by this leap of faith, this handwritten resignation. I did not say ‘I quit‘- I said ‘I am moving on‘. I will start walking again.
As i explained all that to her then, she said that people that are going through situations like that have a clouded judgement-their emotions stand in the way of reason. I smiled, look at her and said in the warmest, most compassionate (to her but also myself): ‘my emotions don’t cloud my judgement. I have never seen clearer. You can not wish to reach your destination if you are standing still’. One step at a time.