Yesterday I published a post for the Good Practice Exchange blog to share that I’m moving to Devon to work for Research in Practice. It felt good to share that with the wider world, but it also felt like half a story because the rationale for making such a big decision was such a personal one.
A year or so ago, I met the love of my life in LocalGovCamp, an unconference for people working in (or with, or with an interest in) local government. It’s not what I set out to do when I got the 5:30am train from Cardiff, but Kelly took my breath away — she is ridiculously smart, funny and beautiful. I fell in love with her instantly, although it took me a couple of weeks to really get my head around the magnitude of what had happened. Things were also complicated by the fact that Kelly lives in Exeter.
Now I’m two weeks from moving to Devon, and in true unconference fashion, I’m going to blog about it…
Test, prototype, iterate
I’d been going out with Kelly for six months when I went on a Good Practice Exchange roadtrip with Ena to North Wales for our friend and colleague Beth’s wedding. It was a beautiful day, and the four hour car journey gave us a good opportunity to chat. I was definitely head over heels in love with Kelly at this stage, but I couldn’t see a middle ground between living and working in Cardiff and moving to Exeter. In the time it took to get to North Wales, Ena opened my eyes to the possibility of working from home for two days a week. This meant that we could see if we could live together without taking the massive step of quitting my job and moving to Devon. Taking the next step in a relationship is always risky, but this way I could take a managed risk knowing that I’d given our relationship the best possible chance of success. I’ll always be grateful to Ena for that conversation, and for the Wales Audit Office for allowing me to do that.
Be bold, be brave
Working for the Wales Audit Office has meant that I have had to be impartial and politically neutral, which has been a struggle at times. But it’s also meant being brave. Since joining the Good Practice Exchange I’ve repeatedly been told to “ask forgiveness, not permission”. Janet Hughes has written a glorious post about boldness as a value in the civil service, and this mindset, which I’ve encouraged and nurtured in my working life, has found it’s way into my personal life.
“fear isn’t always an accurate measure of danger, and that after trepidation there often comes great relief and reward.”
It took me longer than it should have done to move from Aberystwyth to Cardiff five years ago. I wasn’t feeling particularly brave about leaving my home, family and friends in West Wales behind. I was feeling very unsure in fact. But it was the right thing to do. Having made that move, I feel better prepared for this one. A big move yes, but a bold one that means that I get to find out whether Kelly and I have what it takes to make things work. And I couldn’t be more excited about that.
It’s all about purpose
Working from home in Devon has allowed me to really interrogate what I do for a living and why I do it. I wrote a post a while back about time management, which looked at work / life balance. I said:
“If you’re forever looking to be more efficient so you can cram more work in, then the likelihood is that you’ll be unable to avoid the stress that you were looking to combat. But if you’re instead looking to better balance your life, you’re able to ensure that you’re focusing your work where it has the most value. This approach has made my work more fulfilling, and I’ve been able to focus on my personal life and do more of the things that matter to me.”
Five months on, and I’ve really started to think about the purpose of work and how it fits into my life. I work hard to make people’s lives better — it’s been my focus ever since I started my first proper job at the Wales Council for Voluntary Action back in 2005. But I also know that I work to live, and that I’m not prepared to make the incredible sacrifices that my Dad made when I was growing up. Those sacrifices have given me so many opportunities in life. Becoming a stepdad has made me realise that I don’t ever want to go to work on Christmas Day like my Dad had to, and that that time is best spent with the people that you love. I’ve got my work purpose nailed; now I feel like I’ve got my life purpose nailed too.