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#TacheTalk: Twelve Months On (Part 4)

Last Movember, I started #TacheTalk, a blog speaking to different men about their lives, health and happiness. Here’s the fourth and final of part of my catch-up with 26(ish) of the original 30 guys finding out what’s changed and challenged them over the last year.

Boaz

Boaz

When he moved back to Australia, Boaz started both a long-distance teaching degree and a business. ‘It’s been challenging moving from a busy office in London to learning and working alone from home most days. But I’ve had amazing support from people both professionally and personally, especially my brother and Jasmin, my business partner and wife.’

‘Our online florists Chivalry & Delivery is growing much slower than I’d like. We don’t yet have enough orders to make it sustainable in the long-term. It feels like we’ve got many other things right, and we’re constantly getting great feedback, but honestly I don’t know which way it will go.’

That business experience is central in Boaz’s clear hopes for the next year: ‘Start a family. A context of community for my work. A growing a profitable business, or not at all. A better sense of the role of teaching and the direction I’d like to take it.’

 

Charlie

Charlie

Charlie has changed jobs twice this year. Now he’s a branch manager for a wholesaler, opening a new Essex store in 2017. ‘It’s keeping me busy and sometimes I’m up working til 2am. But I’m looking forward to what’s ahead. It’ll be rewarding and worthwhile when we’re open.’

‘I’m inspired by winning, whether that’s securing a sales deal or having a good day. I get a good feeling from it in general, like Charlie Sheen.’ He hopes to move out of home and in with a friend by March, but hasn’t got any plans to be ‘wifed off’.

 

tom

Tom

After June’s EU referendum, freelance designer Tom lost a key client in France. ‘This was a major blow to me, as I’d already done lots of fun and exciting projects through them. It’s forced me to look further afield and find work closer to home.’

‘I’ve recently started design work on a local business app which is a new and challenging project for me. The key to success in something that is new is finding time to learn, being patient even if it means failing and most importantly the will to collaborate.’

‘I’m inspired by fellow designers. You can draw on so much when working together as a team to drive a project forward to new heights. Seeing a connection between two or three people come together and produce something is very satisfying. I never stop questioning a project, which allows me to continue to develop and push boundaries.’

 

Joey

Me, Joey

My work friend Ben lead a #TacheTalk with me last December. Last week he passed out from his Navy training and in September followed my lead to be an Attitude magazine Real Bodies model.

Like last Christmas, I know I need to look for a new job and know I can’t stay at home. I continually struggle to feel I’m worth enough, which is an easy feeling to have when you’re doing a part-time maternity cover role.

This year I’ve been inspired by unapologetic people who proudly use their voice and put themselves out there in every way. For three months I saw an LGBT-specific counsellor, who helped me give myself permission to strip back other people’s expectations and control more of my life. Even though my context looks very similar right now to last year, I have changed. I’ve found what I want to blog about and started doing it, ran a 10k, dated someone, been on my first holiday with friends and put myself in new LGBT spaces.

And if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll already know what my needs for 2017 are: a permanent job, a new home and a boyfriend.

What’s changed for the other guys I chatted with? Read part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Ian Sanders

Ian Sanders: ‘There is passion and power in our stories’

I asked Ian whose story inspires him. He looks and thinks, with the kind of excited energy I’m usually still conserving on the sofa at this time on a Friday morning.

‘Do you know what I’m going to say?’ he asks with a knowing look. I really don’t. Perhaps his Dad? The late grandfather we share as cousins? The rather handsome duo who run Barlow and Fields, the coffee shop we’re in?

‘The story that really fires me up is my own story. It’s a story of growth, survival, renewal. Our stories define us and learning from my own story has given me tremendous strength.’ Ian acknowledges at first it might sound a narcissistic response, but it’s one that’s heartfelt. He has something to share and a story I wanted to know more about.

Ian Sanders spent his early career working in broadcast media, quickly rising from a teenage volunteer at BBC Essex to working in music television and managing a radio studio. In 2000, he became a freelancer years before wi-fi and meet-ups made it normal and less isolating. He’s written books about the transition, but when we chatted in October he told me a different story: a tale of stress, depression and a breakdown that prompted this huge change in his working life.

‘At the end of 1990s I had – on the face of it – made it. I was managing director of a media company, I was out for lunch and dinner in Soho all the time, I was earning good money, I was living the dream!’, he says, describing a world where they’d all be in the Marylebone office at 11.30pm on a Friday, drinking M&S wine while playing Beat the Intro. But as more and more work built up on his desk, the culture at work became toxic where ‘no-one was looking after Ian’, he says conscious of the lump in his throat. He was meeting people like Tony Blair, Take That and the other pop stars who came through the radio studio, but cracks were starting to show.

Back home Ian was suffering from months and months of sleepless nights, as London Underground rebuilt the tube station platform next to his bedroom wall. On top of his workplace stress, he had major sleep disruption from the nocturnal construction works. ‘I didn’t have a hard hat on’, he says, suggesting that pun might be too corny to use.

Ian hit breaking point. When his GP suggested a course of antidepressants, he decided instead to change his life and quit his job, although continued working for the company as a consultant. It adds a fuller truth to his first book Leap!, published in 2007, that presented freelancing as an exciting, proactive escape from a corporate world. Today he’s comfortable sharing the real reason. Ian’s job had been making him ill – that’s why he quit to go freelance. ‘Sometimes it takes time. I don’t want to pin it all on age. In my 20s I had my success, in my 30s my struggles and in my 40s the dots have joined together.’

Now his own job description is just three words: storyteller, explorer and pathfinder. He’s spoken at the Do Lectures, takes clients on fuel safaris around Soho to help their career and leads storytelling workshops at the BBC. Recently he found those threads bound together in his attic, more specifically the 1980s inter-railing scrapbook he made as a student.

‘This scrapbook is the articulation of me, and my creative streak. I look back at this photo of me camping in Venice, and have no memory of seeing it before. And the blister I had removed in Munich, there’s a funny story there’. Alongside the physical pathfinding and fun of growing up in the 80s was some darkness; starting university on antidepressants, doing too much, struggling to cope with the effects of his Mum’s poor health. ‘Stories make you who you are. We share them and shine a light on the outside world. We’re defined by them, the shadows and shade as well as the light.’  Just then, the shop’s awning comes down and shades over our table, giving me another corny pun to use.

Today Ian is rooted in his stories, enjoying life with his wife and two sons in our beautiful hometown Leigh-on-Sea, where he helped launch community newspaper Trawler. ‘A sense of place is really important in my life, to find me.’ That’s why he chose Barlow and Fields to meet in, a coffee shop ‘a bit like Cheers’, instead of the 20 other cafés he walked past to get here. Without trying, he proves it is the coffee shop where everyone knows your name. He says hello to Kevin, recommends an iPlayer show to the owner and instantly reacts when a child falls off the bench, eager to help.

Ian with his inter-railing scrapbook
Ian with his inter-railing scrapbook

There’s two ideas our chat left me with to be rooted in myself. Ian keeps a ‘Good Times’ list in his notebook, and reads it out: the feeling he gets after going for a run, listening to Morrissey, going to the beach, making his wife laugh. The Good Times list reminds him that success isn’t financial or about status but living the life you want to live. ‘One year I came home from my accountants, it had been a disappointing year commercially. But then my wife reminded me, ‘you said it was one of the best years of your life!’ I‘ve come to learn that sometimes it’s about celebrating those little things in life that give you so much pleasure.’

And in his Do Lecture, Ian suggested ‘ask your eight year old you for advice.’ I’m currently looking for a new job, but I’m not sure the eight year old me who wanted to be a vet and run a sweet shop on Sundays would be much help for career advice. ‘That’s just a number,’ Ian reassures me. ‘Ask your eight year old self. Ask your eighteen year old self,’ as he proved with his scrapbook. Very often our passions and desires are there in our childhood ready to uncover and reinstall. For Ian, that was moving away from media management back to being creative every working day. It’s refreshing to realise it doesn’t always have to be our older, presumed wiser-selves wistfully talking to our past. Younger-selves are great at advice too.

As we leave and I take a photo, Ian’s innate creative eye is wide open. ‘Where do you want me, by the blue door? Good job it’s a day I’m feeling happy!’ And I remember it’s World Smile Day which, like the blister in Munich, is one story we’ll have to share another day.

You can read Ian’s blog posts on his website and Medium and follow him on Twitter @IanSanders.

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#TacheTalk: Twelve Months On (Part 3)

Last Movember, I started #TacheTalk, a blog speaking to different men about their lives, health and happiness. Here’s the third of part of my catch-up with the original thirty guys, finding out what’s changed and challenged them over the last year.

Will

Will

This year my brother has listened to me worry too much about my work and love life while always buying the drinks. You might have read about his springtime wedding to Mark in The Times of London. Next year, they’re getting a puppy.

 

robin

Robin

A few months ago, Robin’s travels took him to America. He found more geocaches in just two days than he had in five years of geocaching put together. Robin’s also tried speed dating a few times, which has helped reduce his shyness.

‘I have this passionate drive to do the right thing. I’m not sure where it comes from or why it’s so strong at the moment. There’s only so many trips you can go on your own before it starts not being fun, so a partner in crime is my biggest wish for the next year.’

 

Dave

Dave

Right now, Dave is on a long holiday in Asia. He ditched the commute from Hampshire and moved back to London where he continues to work for Christian Aid. ‘My job is challenging me but it’s very rewarding. I’m surrounded by inspiring colleagues.’

 

James

James

James is registering CATS (Cancer Awareness in Teenagers and Young People Society), the student group he founded as a charity and taking a year off from his medicine education to do an MA assessing its impact. He’s also working on a new project to create a holistic and relational care centre for the vulnerable groups such as the long term unemployed or homeless in Stoke-on-Trent. He hopes the centre will unite different services available and stop users ‘falling through the gaps’.

‘It’s difficult to get new projects off the ground. You feel like you’re constantly hitting brick walls to battle apathy, get people motivated and build a team around you. It helps that I have a clear sense of calling, to do what I’m passionate about and see the need for. I’ve had a very fortunate middle class upbringing and really good education. We are all called to bring something back, not just live, pay taxes and die.’

‘I’m massively inspired by hearing people’s stories and seeing how the give up their time, money and energy for causes they believe. They are making a difference.’

 

Ed

Ed

Ed’s moved house and, to use his words, ‘started dating someone long-term’. ‘I’ve fixed a long term plan in my head and thinking about that is challenging. Climbing, writing more, reading, walking and being forced to talk through my emotions by a significant other has all helped.’

‘I love reading Neil Gaiman, PG Wodehouse and philosophers from 1500 years ago. They faced the same issues and worries as the rest of us. Professional writers find writing and life as hard as I do, which is a relief and inspiration all in one.’

 

Nathan

Nathan

‘Not much has changed. Life is more or less the same, but it feels a little more stable and manageable, which is really nice.’

‘My job has been quite challenging and can often take over, but it’s good to get into the habit of prioritizing what’s really important in life, like my wife, friends and family, relaxing and enjoying myself, spending time on things I’m passionate about. It’s been good learning to spend my time well.’

 

Chris

Chris

One door opened when Chris bought a flat with his girlfriend and another shut when his Leigh-on-Sea barbershop closed. He now works as a mobile hairdresser. ‘It’s been challenging to just pay the bills, and change my working pattern from days to evenings. I’m working all the time, so in the next year I want to improve my social life and find investment for a new barbershop.’ Chris remains part of Guerrilla Barbering, a grassroots industry group helping the homeless.

 

Luke

Luke

Luke is studying Mental Health Nursing at university. ‘I’ve always been quite an introverted person with a nervous edge behind me. I have quite a lot of anxiety and at the start of this year it manifested itself in me having some OCD-like symptoms. It made me doubt if I should do this mental health course and I nearly didn’t progress at one point.’

‘My family came through and were really supportive which I didn’t expect to happen. My university was also incredibly supportive. I’ve had counselling sessions, feel much better now and been able to progress on to year two. Talking to my family and friends about it really did help. Everyone is supportive.’

‘Your mental health is important and bottling things up isn’t helpful. You just create tension in yourself. We need a culture where people are open to talk about their feelings and how they feel. People can be hurting who are close to you and you may not know.’

Last month I grew a moustache and ran my first ever 10k race to raise money for Movember so they can keep research and conservations on men’s health going. You can find out how I did and sponsor me on my MoSpace. Or you can text ‘JKMO90 £5’ to 70070. Thank you.

Travels of Adam

Travels of Adam: ‘When I go somewhere new, I get that good feeling’

It starts like the motivational blockbuster film we’ve all dreamt of living, at least once. After a weekend in Iceland, Adam Groffman packed in his job and packed his rucksack for a round-the-world trip. @TravelsOfAdam was born and seven years on has now grown into 30k followers and a Top 10 travel blog.

Travels of Adam

Although Adam didn’t start travelling until two college semesters abroad, the curiosity and excitement of it was always there in his Dallas childhood. ‘My Dad worked for an airline and was an amateur photographer. There was always his photos from Afghanistan or the Taj Mahal around the kitchen. He taught me about the power of travel. You learn a new culture, a new environment. You learn something about yourself and teach someone about yourself.’

So it’s easy to see why, after a weekend in Iceland, Adam felt his ‘dream job’ as a graphic designer in the quaint city of Boston was no longer his dream. ‘I went back to work on Tuesday and thought why aren’t I travelling? I love travelling! I asked if I could transfer to an international office and spent nine months going through the process, but this was 2009 and the recession meant didn’t happen.’

‘I couldn’t wait any longer so I made the plan to quit and travel on my own. I couldn’t rely on anyone else so I had to do it myself.’ With some good savings, a Lonely Planet gap year book and plans ‘that of course I didn’t use any of’, Adam turned away from the American dream of work, family and retirement. ‘I liked having the stable job and the retirement savings so it required a bit of change in my mind-set. It was scary at first but I intentionally eased myself into it, starting in Spain where I’d been before’.

‘I was alone but that’s the thing about travel. You force yourself into these situations and you have to solve it. Then you come away with these great stories and experiences.’ Anyone who gives just a casual glance to his Twitter feed enjoys those experiences by proxy. Last week his adventures included a drag brunch and marching bagpipers in Virginia.

It’s through this social media sharing that Adam’s built his ‘queer hipster’ brand to become a freelance blogger and keep funding his trips. ‘I started the blog almost out of guilt, to show I was doing something while I was away and avoid a gap in my CV.’ 18 months after leaving Boston, he ran out of money in Vietnam and went to end his trip backpacking in Europe. He soon realised Berlin should become his base. ‘I’d met these cool people there. And thought maybe I can stay here. I had an internship job offer, a long term apartment and friends. Berlin has this vibe and this energy, it made me feel like something was possible. Things just fell into place.’

Of course that doesn’t make the freelancing life is perfect. Adam is refreshingly sincere and vulnerable when he tweets about his lonely days, frustrations at chasing up invoices and lessons learnt from Grindr. He’s still stumbling around social media like the rest of us. ‘Twitter has been one of my favourite things ever. The blog has the aspect of meeting and talking with other people who love travelling. But now it’s also become my job and there’s a pressure to make a living with it, sometimes I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. Sometimes it feels like work.’

But he isn’t about to lose the joy of escaping anytime soon. ‘When I go somewhere new, I get that good feeling, being able to experience a new place, people and culture. To really discover it you have to disconnect and embrace the newness.’

Travels of Adam

As our chat comes to an end, I realise Adam’s smile and coyness is infectious even on a Skype call from his Berlin apartment, and dream up everything I’d show him around London when he visits again next year. ‘I love London because it’s such a big city, there’s so many things going on it’s impossible to see everything. England is a really diverse place and I haven’t seen a lot. ‘

For now, he’s spending the winter exploring more of America, which started with a trip back home for Thanksgiving. ‘Giving myself a chance to disconnect is helpful. Sometimes it’s a matter of taking a step back, and evaluating where I am and I feel special again.’

‘I feel really silly that this is my life! I’m glad I’m still alive and it works.’

You can follow Adam on his blog and Twitter