by Alison Bale
Once upon a time there lived a little girl who did not like being told what to do. And did not feel she fitted in.
To find where she does fit in has taken many years, four career changes, and one change of continent.
How long does it take before you begin to feel like you belong in your own skin? Mid fifties for me. But I get ahead of myself, so let’s fast backwards 25 years.
To a world I barely recognize as I write.
I used to be the woman on the 6am train, putting on her make up on her way to a consulting job in London. I started in publishing, morphed into communication consulting, and now had a job in the city, with a red sports car and a house in the home counties.
But I wasn’t happy. The crux was that the team I’d joined was based 30 minutes from my house. Then we were moved, and the commute became two hours each way. And I wasn’t enjoying the job. What to do?
I only appreciated with hindsight that moving me to London was the best thing the company could have done. It made me so uncomfortable, it forced me to consider what I did want, and make changes.
Specifically, it gave me the impetus to accept I might have to retrain, and I gave myself a deadline – decide what I wanted to do and get it done by the time I was 40. And as if by magic, I chanced across an article about chiropractic for horses.
When I applied, it was as though everything I’d done in my life, from aged 7 onwards (when I started horse riding), had been about being on the road to being here. The poet David Whyte writes that when we look back on our journey, it’s as though the only way we could have traveled was the way we had come. It certainly felt like that.
But retraining as an adult is a huge leap. I had to go freelance from my job – giving up the regular salary when I was the name on the mortgage and was about to get married (I don’t do things by halves). The funny thing is, I discovered that when you commit to a ‘leap of faith’, the universe moves to support you. I’d been asked to have lunch with a former colleague, who’d gone into PR. I still remember sitting opposite her as she said she had a magazine contract to fulfil and asked if I knew any good editors. ‘I’m going freelance tomorrow – will I do?’
Working for myself suited me and somehow the work kept flowing. And the changes in me had a ripple out effect for my husband, who decided he would train in therapy, too. And found a job he loved and has stuck with longer than any other job he’s had. Another lesson, the things you do can have beneficial consequences for others.
But I digress, four years study and I was a human chiropractor, so onwards to the animal course. Well yes, except I didn’t enjoy the animal work when I finally got to it. Strange that the thing that got me onto the path was not what I wanted when I got there. But that was OK, because I love the human work.
That should have been enough big change, eh? But no. Have you ever had a sense that you must do something, and that however risky, if you do not act, you’ll regret it the rest of your life?
In a nutshell, that’s how I came to move to India. I arrived intending to stay three years then go home. That was in 2006! The roller coaster of the last 15 years has seen lots of travel, and lots of work offering chiropractic care to a population with almost no access to it (eight chiropractors for a population of 1.4 billion.
It has been a much more challenging experience than I could have envisaged. India is a very different culture to the one I grew up in – much more chaotic – and I have changed as a result. I used to be an arch planner – less so now.
I’ve gone through peri-menopause and into menopause in India, and with it has come quite a radical change of thinking. For a while I fell out of love with chiropractic. Combination of joint pain, hot flashes, poor sleep, brain fog – none of which help you show up as your best for other people who are in pain.
But there was also a sense that I wanted to do more – specifically move away from a passive intervention towards one that gave people more control over their own minds and bodies. So, in my latest incarnation, I’m teaching mindfulness. And looking to return to the UK.
There’s a lot of talk today about ‘knowing your why’. Mine is ‘leave this world a better place than I found it’. Once you know your ‘why’, I think you can get through anything to deliver it. But I also think how you deliver it can change over time.
I’m ready for my next adventure, my next challenge. I love learning and growing, and am excited to see where the next version of me goes from her.
I’ll close by returning to the poet David Whyte, who says that
"The person who sets out on a journey, the person seeking, is not the person who arrives "
That’s very much true of me.
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