Serendipitous Sundays #2: Stagnant, For All Intents And Purposes.

The last 18 months will be remembered for the obvious reasons, however key trends have emerged that at least deserve a footnote in the history books. From a personal perspective, the key trend is not upward or downward, nor horizontal, but rather eerily still. The resolute perception and at times strongly held belief, though often not reality, that progress has halted in its entirety and key areas of life have become stagnant.

Too much time.

Back in February and March of 2020 as the pandemic took hold across the globe, life changed for each and every one of us. In a work setting – entire industries ground to a halt and millions around the world lost their jobs.

For those who remained in employment, new working arrangements were required. Many were required to work from home, whilst others were placed on schemes such as the “furlough” scheme in the UK. Those in key front line roles were to adopt new ways of working to maximise safety whilst ensure critical services were maintained.

But whatever the work situation you found yourself in, the one thing we all had far more of was time… even for those who were required to work longer hours than ever before.

That seems counterintuitive, but unpack it slightly. Once work has finished, even if its later than usual think about these 2 questions;

  • What did you do?
  • Where did you go?

Unless the rules were not adhered to, the answer will be pretty straightforward for most. For me;

  • What did I do? Moved from one room of the house to the other to watch TV and have food before bed.
  • Where did I go? Nowhere.

Now what about free time and weekends;

  • What did you do? Went for a walk or baked banana bread with varying degrees of success
  • Where did you go? Remained within a 3 mile radius of home.

Of course the number of hours in any given day or week remained constant. However with no plans, no social life and no events, the number of truly free hours – hours with no plans, increased significantly. We found ourselves with more free time, whatever our work situation.

The question was, what the hell do we do with it?

Self reflection.

For me, as was the case for many others, I chose to use this time to analyse every element of my life. The starting point of the analysis was a feeling of unhappiness, and so the results were unsurprisingly negative.

I was wasting my time doing things that I didn’t want to do. Getting drunk each weekend, watching a lot of TV / Netflix, ordering takeaways and occasionally going for a walk in the local area. I live with my partner, I was seeing people on video calls each week, and yet I felt so lonely and unfulfilled.

From the outside my life would appear brilliant – a great job with a salary to match, engaged to be married, new house, new car. So what right did I have to feel lonely and unfulfilled? Numbing myself of these feelings seemed easier than accepting and addressing them.

For all intents and purposes, my life was stagnant. I felt as though everything was passing me by as I remained rooted to the spot, out of control and unable to drag myself forwards.

Life’s trajectory.

This all stems from the pressure that we all feel to continually make progress. Through this lens life is continuous motion – either forwards, or laterally initially with the goal of advancing in the near future.

The easiest way to satisfy this urge is through work. We strive for a career in a certain industry and we base our success on that of our peers, either at work or in our social lives. We see promotion and salary increases as progress, without giving much consideration to the destination. We spend far more time making sure we are seen to be moving that the destination almost becomes irrelevant.

And then it hits. The feeling of being stagnant.

Normally this is the time we become restless and strive for the next step just to keep moving. We seek to advance our careers and progress up the chain. In essence, to do what it takes to maintain the trajectory we have set for our life.

Keep busy, work hard, move forward.

But this time it was different. The thought of progression in my career wasn’t providing any sense of satisfaction. It dawned on me that I have spent so much time focussing on progression in my career that I haven’t taken the time to think about where I want to go and what I want to achieve.

Too much time?

If you have shared that feeling of being lonely and unfulfilled, and despite all the success you may have had in life there is still that unavoidable feeling of emptiness, a sense that you are yet to find your purpose, then it may be an indicator that you too have been focussed on the journey and neglecting the destination.

What better time than now to make a change! We all have more time on our hands to define our passions and dreams. We all have the ability to chase those dreams.

The direction of travel isn’t important. Life isn’t a graph, and you are not a business with “growth potential”. It’s about your destination – and as long as you are on your path that’s all that matters.

My journey began at the start of this year. Now in to month 8, I have identified my passions and defined my dreams. You guys are all sharing the journey towards that with me! It’s not easy, but I can promise you it is rewarding.

Remember to stop and appreciate the progress of the journey to date, and review the next leg of the journey ahead. You don’t need to be continually moving to be successful.

Have a good ‘un guys.

Clean Slate… Right?

Once you make a conscious decision to change, you often get a powerful gust of wind in your sails. The excitement of what is to come bubbles inside you, and you are more motivated than you have been in months, maybe even years. It’s a new dawn, you are starting over. But as those winds of change settle down to a gentle breeze, it’s easy to feel like you are losing yourself – the person people see you as, maybe even the person you see yourself as.

Photo by Sensei Minimal
Photo by Sensei Minimal

Change is never easy – if it was, the human race wouldn’t struggle so much with the concept. We often see our life choices as the things that define us, that make us who we are. Making changes to these things can often be short lived as after the honeymoon period we lose momentum and motivation.

This is where I have found myself the past couple of days. I know I want to make the changes and I know its the right thing to do, but as I sit in front of this blank page I am feeling a little lost. A world full of colour and excitement feels pretty grey and drab today. In this moment, it feels far easier to go back than to sit and stare in to the abyss.

So it got me thinking, when we strip back large parts of our lives and make changes, what are we left with?

The answer for me, is essence.

…the essence of anything is the thing that stays true about them in any situation. And the essence of a penguin is similar to the essence of me… penguins need each other. They look out for the good of the colony. And once a penguin decides to do something there’s no changing her mind. Because the essence of a penguin comes down to this: penguins live in abnormally harsh conditions and they never leave. They’re one of the few species that stays, struggles and perseveres.

Sam Gardner, Atypical

Essence is another slightly clichéd term, like purpose. But then, its clichéd because we don’t understand it, or embrace it. It’s easier to laugh at than it is to consider and appreciate it.

So here goes… My Name is Sam, and I am a penguin.

Ok, so I don’t identify as a penguin. I haven’t lost the plot just yet… but in all seriousness I do feel an affinity with the above quote from my namesake, Sam in the Netflix show Atypical (which, if you haven’t already, is well worth a watch). I need to be around other people, I look out for the good of my people, and once I decide to do something – like this – there is no changing my mind.

Yes, I am starting to struggle, so it’s time to dig in and persevere.

It’s ok to struggle.

Just as life in general, the process of change can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride at times. The highs are great and things seem easy, and the lows are shit and things seem altogether pointless.

So you’re not feeling it today? That’s ok.

You feel like giving up might be easier? That’s ok too.

Take a day off. Watch your favourite TV programme, or put on your favourite film. Order some food & eat your favourite meal. Play on your favourite game. Write an entry in your journal – or start one. Talk to someone if you need to – and if you don’t have anyone to talk to, talk to me!

Having off days is perfectly normal. Don’t lose hope. You got this!

Why I Quit Drinking.

It is prime time summer, the pubs and bars are finally opening up properly again in post lockdown UK, the weather has been unusually warm, and the Euros are in full swing. Football may well be coming home, after 55 years away… so why on earth would I choose now to quite drinking? Why quit drinking at all?


A lot of these kinds of post can get very preachy and self righteous, so I will preface this post with a quick point of clarification – I am not writing this to try and make other people stop drinking. Neither will I be suggesting that people who do not drink are in some way enlightened or more intelligent than those who do, that simply isn’t true.

Why Quit Drinking?

In the UK, as I am sure in other nations, we seem to have this belief that there is an intrinsic link between fun, happiness and alcohol.

So over the last 18 months, I have completed 2 charity challenges to raise money for mental health charity, Andy’s Man Club and The Trussell Trust supporting a nationwide network of foodbanks across the UK. On both occasions, part of the charity challenge has been no drinking of any alcohol – for a combined total of 190 days. And I haven’t felt as good in years! Having an elongated period with no alcohol was amazing;

getting better quality of sleep – rising earlier, more refreshed

eating far healthier – lack of cravings for junk food / take out

increased energy – no energy dips later in the day

productivity through the roof – clarity of thought and output significantly increased

Yet on both occasions, following the end of the charity challenges, I slipped back in to old habits and found myself drinking on the weekends (or when the football is on). In more recent times, with lockdown restrictions lifting, I have been hosting BBQ’s for birthday parties, friend meet ups and so on… and who grills without a beer in their hand?!

In the past, I have genuinely enjoyed drinking, but having seen the positive impact it has on me when I stop, I no longer get any pleasure from it. If it’s not bringing any happiness, and it is having a net negative impact on my life, the only sensible option in my opinion is to get rid!

The Recovery Period

One of the key characteristics of my drinking habits in the last few years has been to not drink through the week, but then drink with the intention of getting drunk most weekends. It’s a habit a lot of people have, and one I am sure many of you can relate to. I was always the annoying one – never suffering from hangovers, and always fresh and spritely the next day. However what my friends couldn’t see, and what I didn’t want to admit was that whilst the after effects of the alcohol hadn’t left my clutching the toilet or unable to function, it would often have a huge impact on my mental health.

Alcohol is a depressant, and when its exiting your body and your brain is more conscious of its surroundings, it can wreak havoc. For me, that could manifest itself in a few ways, but often would lead to 2 or 3 days of feeling incredibly low. Beating myself up for wasting my weekend being drunk rather than doing something productive, feeling like I was was wasting my life. By day 4 I would be starting to level out, understand it was the after effects of the beer talking and looking back at the last weekend with rose tinted specs. By day 5 it was Friday and time to go again. And so the cycle continues…

Some people reading this may think that drinking to get a bit merry with your friends every weekend is absolutely fine & it may bring you ultimate happiness. I respect that. It’s just that for me personally, I no longer gain that happiness from it – it doesn’t give me purpose or fulfilment.

Why Quit Now Though?

Why not? If something like this isn’t bringing you happiness, it should be removed from your life as soon as possible. Yes, I am sure I will feel slightly gutted I am not drinking with my friends should football come home, as England win Euro 2020(1) – but I will feel a damn sight better the next day when I can remember each and every moment of the game.

As I embark on this journey, I need to clear the decks of distractions, remove anything that will hinder my progress. It’s time to focus on the goal.

Yes, you will still see the occasional post from me on my travels with a glass of wine with a meal or trying a local speciality drink – but the casual consumption is no more.

So here’s to weekends full of activities and memories, to watching the football with a can of Coke Zero, and to grilling with no beer!

I’m very serious about no alcohol, no drugs. Life is too beautiful.

– Jim Carrey

I have reached my limit. I have had some fun times, and some not so fun times along the way with it, but now its time to go our separate ways.

It’s not you, Beer… it’s me. I’ve changed.

Photo by Paul Skorupskas

And So The Journey Begins

 The last 18 months have been really difficult for millions of us all around the world. Life seemed good… until a global pandemic brought the world to a grinding halt. Life hasn’t been the same for anyone since February 2020.

Having fallen in to a dangerous cycle of working harder than ever, alongside consuming more of everything, I found myself in a downward spiral. I wasn’t sure where the spiral would end, but I seemed to be hurtling towards the final destination.

Whilst this spiral was exacerbated by the ongoing situation, it felt all too familiar. Somewhere I had been several times over recent years – a place always lurking in the shadows of my life. I had, like many others, avoided answering the difficult questions, content to drift through life, scared of what I would find if I strayed from the path well trodden.

It was time to shine a light on the shadows.

As the light crept in, the shadows melted away and left me with my greatest fear. My inability to answer one of life’s oldest questions. Instead of confronting it, I have continually pushed to the back of my mind. The catalyst for this had been the sudden passing of my Grandma in 2015. Intertwined with the deep sense of pain and loss was the reminder of my mortality. Despite working through my grief, there is one part I have been unable to reconcile. One itch I have failed to scratch. Answering one question…

What is my purpose?

Its so easy to ask, and yet so hard to answer. I have spent the last 5 years avoiding this question, for fear of not having an answer. Would that mean my life was pointless?

I threw myself in to my work, and reaped the benefits for my efforts. I spent the weekends with a packed social life, from meals out with friends to partying. But now I was forced to stop and spend time on my own with my own thoughts.

“Is this it? Is this my life?”

I have been incredibly successful in my career at a young age. It’s a line of work I have a talent for, but it certainly stops a long way short of being my purpose. My social life became non-existent, but even at its height – it was an enjoyable distraction. Was this combination my purpose in life; work long hours, and then party the weekends away, rinse and repeat?


With the answer resoundingly clear, it’s time to make some changes, and focus on my passions.

And so the journey begins.


Travel, Food & Nature.

Over the coming weeks and months I will be sharing written posts here, photos on my Instagram page and videos on my new YouTube channel later in the year. The focus will be on travel, food & nature. My content will focus on mental health, and the ups and downs throughout this journey of discovery.

We all believe on some level that our life need purpose. Whether that is following artistic talent, being a parent, playing your favourite sport, following your favourite team(s), or partying the long in to the night with your friends.

For it to be our purpose, it has to be our passion.

I’m Sam, and this is my Pursuit Of Purpose.