Everything Nothing Something

The First Chapter of Constant Traveller R801168

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. – Anais Nin

The twelfth of June, 2012, was my last day ever, in the work for wage economy. I had reached the age of retirement.

Since 2002, I had worked for mental health non-profit organisations. The clients were resilient, brave people, and it had been an honour to know and work with them.
Mental health is not a well-supported cause like breast cancer or AIDS, which meant as Executive Director, I spent a numbing amount of time writing funding proposals. I wrote them through the day between phone calls and meetings; then I’d wake in a panic at three AM, and work on them again because they weren’t finished and were due that day. I felt like a giant fountain pen, gushing forth proposals.

After saying goodbye to clients and colleagues, I sat alone in the quietness of my office. It was over. I had unhooked myself from pulling the heavy cart of other people’s causes. The phone stopped ringing. The barking dogs of work fell silent, leaving just the faint whisper of my breath rising and falling in the background. Work had been a long journey. I cast my mind back to my first job. I had hoped it would be more fulfilling than school, but it wasn’t, it couldn’t be. I wanted adventure, love, and meaning to my life. I needed to break out of the small box I lived in and experience the big world outside. So at sixteen, I escaped the drab dullness of post-war, class-structured England. I exchanged my family and the solid brick bungalow we lived in, for a life at sea — a watery, wanderlust world of changing latitudes, longitudes, shipmates, climates, and cultures.

I became a constant traveller: I rode out storms that tossed large ships around like twigs, ran for my life through a Senegalese village, kissed a man in Australia, got mugged in Tahiti, and almost killed the third mate in Sweden. How clearly the memories came flooding back.

I stood up, walked out of my office, and locked the door behind me for the last time. I went from being in charge of everything to private citizen Baker, in charge of nothing.

Nothing? Maybe I would turn nothing into something. I would write. Instead of proposals, I would write about my adventures at sea and through life.