“There comes a time in a man’s life when, to get where he has to go, if there are no doors or windows he walks through a wall.”
Actually, I’m sure there are stacks of times in men’s, women’s, maybe even dogs’, (I don’t know why I picked dogs) lives when, what was it? They walk through a wall? No, screw that. By way of clarification I should say that the quote above has absolutely no relevance to what follows. I simply wanted a portentous way of starting the blog. Impressive isn’t it?
The alternative is a little less imposing, I’m afraid. Superman II’s on the TV, I’m sat in an old pair of shorts, a cricket jumper and I’m trying to figure out a good way of kick starting this blog. You see I’m about to try and do something important and, if this is going to make any sense, I need to start by explaining a few things.
Nearly three years ago I was a different person, (that would have been a good way to start). I got up every morning, put on a fairly expensive suit, drove to Warrington where I sat in my office being very, very important. At that time, I worked for a US owned Recruitment Company, where, through sheer staying power, rather than any particular talent, I’d eventually wormed my way on to the executive team of the UK wing. This, I thought, was also very, very important. So much so, that I would consistently put in fifty hour plus weeks at the office, before taking yet more work home, (it’s hard to stop myself writing “what a sap” at this point). Anyway, that was nearly three years ago, then, one Friday night, (Friday September 14th 2007, to be exact) that guy died.
Hang on. I need to go back a little further. Sorry. When I was twenty one, (that’s going back a lot further) I contracted something nasty called Kerataconus. Essentially, it causes your corneas to change shape and become pointed, (coned, get it?) which means you lose the ability to focus. It sucks. It’s pretty rare, but it’s not uncommon. In my case, this was treated by grafting a new cornea onto my left eye. That’s a pretty nasty little operation and requires a boat load of aftercare, as the chance of rejection is present for five years. Anyway, five years and a lot of messing around later, I was in the all clear and it was time to start talking about a graft on my right eye. Only, at that time, I had other – more fun – things to do. Oops?
We now go forward in time, back, (?) to September 14th 2007 to be precise. I’m not going to go into details, that’s for another time. Let’s just say that there was a lot of alcohol drunk, a girl, a drunken argument and then I was lying on my back suddenly, and acutely aware that I couldn’t see shit. This wasn’t good. I found out later on in hospital that a right hook had caused my left eye to explode. Gross, eh? The surgeons had tucked the guts back in, (really, I’m trying not to be deliberately sickening, but, given the material, there’s not a great deal of wriggle room) but the vision was gone. That’s not to say they didn’t try. I spent the next three months either preparing, or recovering from various operations and drugged up to the eyeball, (sorry) in between times. I can’t remember exactly when they made the decision to abandon work on my left eye, but I remember the Consultant telling me that I was going to be blind in that eye with the same throwaway carelessness as he might comment on the weather. I wrote the song, Peter Falk and Me the next day, (he has one eye, too. Peter Falk, not the Consultant).
Look, this is not going to be a Blog about vision loss, if it was I’d have started that years’ ago. I’m just trying to set the scene. However, I will say that coming to terms with losing an eye is a bit of a bastard. In between writing the song, I remember spending the next day wandering around the flat like a ghost. Nothing seemed real. Outside, everything carried on as it always had, yet, within the flat, everything had changed. It was the enormity of the thing that really hit me; that the world view, (in the literal sense) that I’d taken for granted over the last thirty six years had been irrevocably and permanently taken away from me. Nothing was ever going to be the same again.
Enough of that. Anyway, I still haven’t told you anything about my right eye. Following a further operation, I was introduced to a brilliant man, Andrew Tompkin. Andrew works miracles on a daily basis. Actually, he doesn’t really work miracles, he makes very special contact lenses, but the difference they make to people’s lives is nothing short of miraculous. I remember during our first meeting, he said I was going to need a considerable amount of ‘character’ if this was going to work, by which – even then – I knew meant I was going to have to put up with a lot of pain. You see, it’s very much a process of trial and error, and the errors were always very, very trying, (ah ha! Get it?). It’s now just shy of three years later and, though putting the lens in twice daily is always painful, my life’s back. I say twice daily, because this thing’s the size of a brick. Forget those delicate little slips of porous plastic you see in opticians’ adverts, this thing’s massive. It covers the entire front of the eye, is around 3mm thick and isn’t even porous. Just to make sure the eye’s getting enough oxygen means having to take it out halfway through the day, before going through the pain of putting it back in again. However, it allows me to see. It’s given my life back to me and, apart from that little bit above; it’s not something I tend to complain about. I just needed you to know where I’m coming from.
During all this time, I was – technically – still employed, (I know, amazing, isn’t it?) Anyway, that was a situation my new employer, (this was now the company that had bought out the company that had bought out my company. With me?) was pretty keen on resolving. However, as part of the redundancy process, I was obliged to apply for, and they were obliged to interview me for, a senior management position within their Corporate Empire. I’ll be honest; the very idea of this was keeping me up most nights. I would wake at five in the morning, frozen to my bed at the prospect of working in an office, of commuting to work, of wearing a tie; essentially of getting a real job.
You see, I hadn’t realised it at the time, but I’d changed. Essentially, I’d become the person I was always going to be if that whole corporate crap hadn’t got in the way. I’d started playing in rock and roll bands again, hanging out with other musicians. I’d discovered the energy to go out at weekends and party with friends. I’d become me. There was simply no way that Me Mk II was ever going to fit back in with the corporate life. There’s nothing wrong with that life, if that’s what you do; only I just couldn’t bear to go back to it.
Which raised a pretty serious dilemma.
I had to start doing some really big thinking. I mean the kind of thinking that you never really get the chance to do in adult life. To ask yourself questions about what you want from life. To try and figure out what really inspires you. In short, how to go about building a new life.
This is what I’ve concluded; it’s time to stop thinking of life as a continuous story arc. If you want, there doesn’t have to be a beginning middle and an end. It can be a whole series of small, brilliant, episodes. It can be entirely random and it can be absolutely inspiring. Without vision, you have no choice but to live within your own head. I’ve spent the last three years trapped within my own skull whilst the world outside’s whirled around me. So I think it’s time I went and had a look at it.
I start my CELTA, (English teaching qualification) in Krakow on August 23rd and, after that, well, who knows? That’s kind of the point. To kick myself in the arse and take a big step into the unknown. This blog is intended as my record of that. I can’t pretend I have any intention of updating it at regular intervals. Odds are I’ll write a whole stack of updates, then not bother for a while. It might suck. I don’t know. This might turn out to be the world’s most boring blog. That’d be something, I suppose. I don’t know. If you’ve read this far, thanks. I really hope I’m not going to bore you.