[Chapter 1] Planning for the Unplannable
When it comes to most things in general, I have always thought of myself as a planner. I like to have a clear view of where I am going and the journey that I need to take to get there. This had largely been reflected in my life up until around one year ago. I naively thought that life and the way that I wanted to live it could be modelled very simply:
- Pay attention at school, get good grades
- Get onto a top degree program at a leading university
- Complete various internships whilst at university in order to cement career direction and strengthen CV
- Secure comfortable, well-paid job
- Buy house, raise a family, live happily ever after
Now, I’d executed this plan pretty well up to about just-after-Step-4. I graduated a few years back with a degree in Aerospace & Aerothermal Engineering from a leading British university, did various internships in consulting and engineering to work out which path my life should take, and then secured a good job at an oil & gas firm. And then everything disastrously fell apart…
I ended up working as a Flow Assurance Engineer specialising in multiphase fluid mechanics (i.e., my job was to understand how oil, gas, water & sand behaved when flowing through pipes so that they wouldn’t get blocked and that we could keep producing oil – I was essentially a glorified plumber).
On paper, the job ticked all the boxes that I thought it needed to. I was generously rewarded for the work I was doing (good salary, catered lunches, travel opportunities, pension) and the work-life balance was great – I was contracted to work 9 days a fortnight with every other Friday off as holiday (in addition to the already quite generous 25 days paid leave + 8 bank holidays). I got to experience unique opportunities such as working offshore in the Norwegian and Scottish sectors of the North Sea, and I received some of the best training in the industry. The people I worked with were awesome (some being the leaders in their fields), and I made some very good friends.
I got as much responsibility early on as I could hope to as a fresh graduate in a blue-chip company – at one point, I was the technical lead resolving a situation that, if left unattended, could have disrupted gas supplies to the UK and cost several oil & gas companies tens of millions of pounds.
However, as time passed in the job, the honeymoon period quickly ground to a halt and I rapidly lost all of my drive. Suddenly, the prospect of my meticulously planned-out life looked drastically less appealing. However, as I was switching jobs a few months later as part of the company graduate scheme, I decided to wait things out and see what the next role entailed…