[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:

  1. Pay attention at school, get good grades
  2. Get onto a top degree program at a leading university
  3. Complete various internships whilst at university in order to cement career direction and strengthen CV
  4. Secure comfortable, well-paid job
  5. 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.

offshore survival training
Offshore survival training involved being dropped upside-down into a pool in a fake helicopter and having to break out and swim free unassisted

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.

valhall oil rig norway
An offshore installation in the Norwegian North Sea

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…