Over the last few months, those who regularly visit this blog will have noticed that my posting rate has dropped quite dramatically. There’s various reasons for this, but primarily this is because I’ve been tied up in my day job rather a lot, leaving me little time to blog. This will hopefully change in the near future, as I’ve set aside the whole of April for editing the third book in my For Those In Peril series (called The Island At The End Of The World), and that will lead to me, once again, re-immersing myself in all things zombie.
However, while I’ve been away from the blogosphere, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about life, and how I ended up where I am today. Even five years ago, I had little idea that by 2015 I’d be a published novelist, and blogging was something I knew almost nothing about. This has brought me round to thinking about life and making changes in it.
My path through life has been rather non-linear, and there have been many times that I never thought I’d end up where I wanted to be – if I even knew where that was at the time. Looking back, though, I can see that all the twists and turns have led me to exactly where I would’ve wanted to end up, or at least I would have if I’d known it was possible.
It would be easy to look back and say that I’ve been lucky, and to some extent I have, but I’ve also made a lot of my own luck simply by accepting one simple premise: It’s never too late to change something in your like that’s making you unhappy. This might be getting out of a bad or dysfunctional relationship, quitting a job that’s sapping away your soul, moving to a better place to live, or even just fulfilling an long-unfulfilled dream.
When you are young, you’re always told that the decisions you make are forever; that if you don’t work hard at school and do well in your exams, then your life will effectively be ruined. I know why parents and teachers tell children this, and I know it’s meant to be a form of encouragement, but I don’t think they really think it through. After all, what happens if you tell a child this, and then they, for what ever reason, fail their exams? You’ve effectively told them that if this happens then their life is over, and it’s likely they’ll end up fulfilling that destiny.
However, is it really the end of the world? Well, quite frankly, no. Life is remarkably forgiving. If you screw up, it’ll give you a second chance. And a third one. And possibly even a fourth and a fifth. But there’s a caveat. You need to be open to the possibility of change, to the fact that it is within your power to do something about your situation. Life is forgiving, but only if you actively interact with it. You need to seize the opportunities life offers you, and not just let it passively pass you by.
And this, I think, lies at the heart of my present view of life (and it’s one I wished I’d had when I was much, much younger). If you’re not happy with something, you shouldn’t just live with it. Instead, you should sit down and work out how you can change your life until you are where you want to be. I’m not saying this is easy. Nor am I saying that it’s quick. All I’m saying is that it’s within everyone’s power to change their lives for the better, if only their willing to actively identify what the problem is and then work out a plan to change it.
Of course, it’s always much easier to say this than it is to do it. Then again, nothing good in life is necessarily easy, but it’s always worth making the effort so that you end up in a better place.
This is essentially how I ended up as a novelist. Writing is something I’ve always wanted to do, but my English teachers at school gave me such a hard time (because of being dyslexic) that it put me off ever trying to make it as a writer. I still wrote stuff, but I didn’t have the confidence to show it to anyone, let alone submit to anywhere. Instead, I threw myself into being a marine biologist. I’m not complaining about this, as it has taken me to some pretty amazing places, but it always ate away at me that I’d never given writing a proper go.
Then as I approached my fortieth birthday, I did the usual amount of contemplating and soul-searching, and I realised that there were only two major regrets I had in my life. One was that I’d never given stand up comedy a go, and the other was that I’d never followed my childhood dream of becoming a writer. Of the two, the one that ate away at me most was the writing. It annoyed me that I’d let the attitude of my English teachers take away my dream.
Then I realised I could spend a lot of time being angry at something which had happened half a life time ago, or I could use the same time and energy to do something about it. So I sat down and started to write. At first I was pretty awful, but the more I wrote, the better I got, and the more I realised that I might yet end up as the writer I’d always wanted to be. More importantly, I was much happier with my life for simply having given it a go.
So what about the second regret? Well, that took me a little longer to sort out, but in November of last year, I took to the stage of a comedy club for the first time and finally did it. It was scary, I have little memory of whether anyone actually laughed, but I did it. Why did I do it? Because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t give it a go. Yes, I’m forty-three, and that’s a pretty late start for trying your hand at stand up comedy for the first time (everyone else on stage on that particular night was much, much younger than me), but as the title of this article says, it’s never too late to make a change in your life, and changing it will almost always be for the better – even if it’s just a matter of being able to say that you tried something you’d always wanted to do. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? You find out you don’t like it after all, and even if that happens, at least you won’t spend the rest of your life regretting never having tried it.
If there’s one bit of wisdom I’ve learned over the years, it’s that life’s simply too short to spend it being unhappy, especially when there’s something you can do about it. And no matter what your situation, there’s always something you can do about it.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.