The 18th of May marks the anniversary of two major changes in our lives.
The first was 14 years ago when, aged 31, I signed off the dole for the final time and became self-employed. Up until this point I had spent almost my entire life in education, unemployment or government training schemes.
I set up Ayres Fine Art with the idea of selling limited edition prints of my father’s artwork. I had no track record, no money, no business experience and it took me 4 different banks before I found one prepared to give me a £5,000 overdraft facility in order to launch the business. But my business plan looked good. I read over it again not too long ago, and it’s almost difficult to believe it didn’t work - I should have been a millionaire within 3 years.
What I utterly failed to take into consideration, however, was my personality. The whole plan was not built around my strengths, but many of my weaknesses. Of course I didn’t realise I had several of those weaknesses until it was too late, so it was something of a voyage of discovery as the business fell apart.
Learning as much as I could from the ordeal, I built my second business on the rubble of the first and E-Scope Web Design was much more successful.
But ultimately it was my personality again, which got in the way of taking it to its full potential. And when I finally understood that I just hated wearing the mask of being a businessman, we set about changing our lives and I sold the business.
So 7 years ago today we moved to Castle Douglas in SW Scotland, leaving the world of suits, firm handshakes while exchanging business cards, and business breakfast meetings, far behind. Instead we embraced a life of creativity.
My original desire to be a writer fell apart with the onset of the CFS, although I can now see it was a stupid idea anyway. Not because I can’t write, but because it once again utterly failed to take into consideration key personality traits – specifically that I’m very much a people person and derive most enjoyment interacting with others, while writing is an incredibly solitary activity.
And now I’m a portrait photographer – a creative profession where empowering people and making them feel good about themselves is an integral part of what I do.
Both events – becoming self employed, and moving to this corner of Scotland - were key points in the culmination of efforts put in over the previous year to retake control of our lives when we had felt trapped in situations we’d been desperately unhappy with.
Although there is no party or popping of champagne on this day, I always do take the time on May 18th to remind myself we do have the ability to make changes. We don’t have to believe the voices (from others or from within) that tell us there is no escape and we have to put up with miserable lives.