From PhD to Living The Dream


On a delightful summer evening, I was in the Central Library of Birmingham. My finger tips excitedly danced on the edges of a fine, shiny book as I was prepared to slide it out of the sandwich of other books that it nestled in. Suddenly, I caught a man from the corner of my eye rising from his seat to reach the window.

That’s when I crossed paths with this man. I helped him close the blinds and log on his computer. He knew well how to do it, but the technicalities of the library was much confusing for a newcomer. He was from out of town, however familiar that he was with the city of Birmingham.

I would have minded my own business after helping him, but something about this man motivated me to speak to him. He carried a gentleness in his demeanour, encapsulating the room that we sat in.

We immersed in a conversation about his trip to Birmingham. I was inspired to know more about his story, as willingly as he was to share it. He didn’t intend on conveying words of wisdom, but a soothing tone left much wisdom for me to share with you. What makes him who he is? What brings him here?

I didn’t mean to be nosy, but he didn’t mind.

This man’s story is like the transition between dawn and dusk that wraps the day in it’s warm blanket. I hope you’ll enjoy his narrative and find a valuable gem to take away.

What is the biggest thing that impacted you in the past year?

I couldn’t tell you because it’s too short of a time to describe what has impacted me for a long time.

He hesitated.

I conveyed a smile to him and proceeded to ask him another question.

“What had impacted you for a long time?”

This man lowered his gaze and smiled, almost as if he was reluctant to say anything. However, there also was a willingness in him to share something of himself to me, and his hesitance may have been due to recollecting images of his past.

And this is what he said to me…

“I was a lecturer at the University of Lancashire for 17 years and I enjoyed my work so much. It gave me a reason to exist and a passion for every new day. I was particularly fond of interacting with the adults who were my students. I liked that it was all about giving people a second chance.

But then my life had suddenly changed.

I found out I had cancer and I was going through treatments for 5 years. I had an early retirement from my job at around age 54 and my body became weaker. I couldn’t exercise as much as I used to and what I loved was mountain climbing, running and cycling.

My life was turned completely upside down. I had my willpower but I was losing my strength, little by little, day by day, a moment at a time.

When I was treated, I was advised against exercising too hard. For the rebel that I am, I didn’t listen. I still exercised no matter what the doctor advised me, and I did mostly swimming. It was hard because of the techniques you had to employ in swimming. But the more I did, even though it took me a long time, the better I became. Insomuch as even though I wasn’t as active and energetic as I was before, this ability to do it again was enough to pursue my dreams at last.

I can never be that same man I used to be – the young, energetic, healthy and physically determined man. But with a small amount of progress after 5 years of trying and failing due to my weakened body, it gave me more (than) hope and willpower to push on and do what I wanted.

Ironically, when I was healthy, I felt like I was in a deep sleep. It was all about not knowing that what you are doing is what you want to do. But now, after my body reached a low ebb, I have a little bit of my strength restored to me, and this drives me towards living up to my true potential.

I feel like I was sleeping my whole life and I just had a wake-up call”

What is your dream?

“I started my business in solar technology, and it was very hard starting a business because I had to learn everything by myself from writing the business plan to learning internet marketing and sales and a lot of other things. The temptation to give up was always there but I never gave up, I’m not like that. I don’t give in easily. I want to do it. It’s been 5 years and I’m still in the same place financially, but I won’t give up. The point of it all is in trying and taking each experience as it comes and be better equipped next time. It’s hard for others to understand how easy this is, but I know because I faced how hard it was when I was forced to be patient during my treatment for cancer. Each moment and experience truly does matter.”

Do you work on your business full time?

“To help me stay motivated, I study languages and international studies, a personal passion of mine that allows me to tap into the world, where I can be part of a different environment. It opens up opportunities which help further developmy business.”

What advice would you give to others?

My advice is to not let anyone tell you who you are and what you’re capable of. Find out about yourself through others, but don’t define yourself through others. You already know something deep down, so take the time to not be pressurized and instead, optimize your decisions to your long-term advantage. Don’t rush into any decision, whether it’s marriage, or an ambition, whatsoever. Know that as much as it’ll be there now, it will be just as much there years or even decades later. It’s always waiting for you.

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