I decided it was time to write a new blog post as a) it’s been overdue, b) I had some free time.
I’m currently sitting in a hotel room overlooking Disneyland in California following a few incredible days both personally and professionally. The other morning I received an email that could well turn into one of my most rewarding opportunities. Yesterday something happened which happens a lot – I was wearing my Los Pollos Hermanos t-shirt and a few people commented on the show. Usually I get a surge of excitement where I want to scream ‘Yeah, I’ve been working with Charles Baker and HE’S MY BEST FRIEND IN THE WHOLE WORLD’ before self-awareness takes over and I shuffle off quietly after polite acknowledgement. I don’t say that with any boastfulness and I hope it doesn’t come across that way.
I know that the people who know me will know what my wife Stacey and I have been through in the last year and I know those same people know of everything it took to get to this point and also that these days may represent a pinnacle but, not yet, a peak.
Last Wednesday I celebrated my 35th birthday. We flew into Los Angeles and that evening we had dinner with Charles, whose autobiography I have worked on, and his family.
Going back five years… My 30th birthday was enjoyed in Animal Kingdom Lodge in Disney World in Florida. We had been given two free nights by Disney to spend anywhere on resort after getting married there and we decided to combine our belated honeymoon with my birthday. At the time I had been working in London for a year and I absolutely loved it. It was only a customer service job but I mixed with people from different cultures, people from all around the world, people I’m still friends with. I felt as if I had come out of my shell and grown as a person. I was confident for the first time in my life, and I felt good. Then I got what was ostensibly a promotion at work; it led to a move back to the north of England, and it led to deep unhappiness. At the time I thought it was to do with events at work, broken promises, and office politics, but looking back I recognise that it was to do with fulfillment and a sense of regression.
In 2012, when I took the chance when interviewing Manchester United legend Brian Greenhoff to suggest writing his autobiography, it was a great leap. I knew instantly that this was what had been eating at me. It was what I wanted to do. It had always been my dream – as a thirteen year old, I wrote on my school report it was the only thing I wanted to do – and I think I lost sight of it somewhere. Life took over. In July that year, with the polarising existence of long depressing and anxious days at work and the excitement of working with Brian at weekends, Stacey insisted I should quit work to concentrate on writing. It was a risk – and a lot of pressure she took on – and it was scary, and I had to get some part time work as a consultant to help at the start. I also knew there were plenty of people hoping that it wouldn’t work out. People doing whatever they could to make sure it didn’t.
Four years on and it’s still a work in progress. There are days when it isn’t so easy. There are days I have written about on here, there are weeks even, when it seems as if nothing is happening. But then there are times, seconds, days, conversations, meetings, when everything seems incredible. We’re at least stable on the journey and the experiences are something that we wholly enjoy and indulge in.
The opportunity to work with so many incredible people, to have our lives enriched in these ways, is something we appreciate completely. It has absolutely been worth the four years of long days and hard work and, probably around 18 months ago, it had turned around to the point where the days were still long and the work was still hard but it was simultaneously exciting, rewarding, and most of all, fulfilling. I wake up each day and I’m not certain what’s going to happen throughout the day. That is magic.
Working with Charles has helped me discover a new perspective on many things. He has helped me see things in a new way and I have been able to articulate a great deal of things to myself, incomplete thoughts and ideas. I don’t think that I have reached the conclusions and closure on most of it, but then that’s somewhat the point. There are people we describe as friends, as colleagues, there are people we recognise as having changed our lives, and then there are those whose influence is so significant that it helps you realign your sense of self and reveal the person you always wanted to be. I have been fortunate enough to enjoy that personal liberation through my work and just five years ago I resented the work I did because I felt like it prevented me being the person I wanted to be.
It may seem like a simple thing to most but I now wake up every morning excited to open my emails. It’s a level of contentment that means even after such a rewarding time in the US spent working on things I can’t wait to share and indulging in the most incredible of life adventures, the idea of returning to the UK after being commissioned to work on a new book back ‘home’ isn’t too disheartening (and to another imminent launch of one of my books). It’s another opportunity, and after the last year, the thought of tomorrow – tomorrow as a day, just as it is – is exciting.
Like I said above, though it probably hasn’t come across this way, this isn’t meant to be boastful, but it is a post of appreciation. I have had to work hard for these few days, I’ve had to work for long days, I have had to work hard for the opportunities to present themselves, and I have also had the fortune of helpful people along the way. Whether it be positive critics, enthusiastic publishers, encouraging and supportive families. I am so deeply appreciative of the role everyone has played in order for us to have enjoyed these precious few days. And who knows what tomorrow might bring?