If you read this post, you’ll already know that “Mlima mrefu sana” is the official motto of Oakleaf Adventure; because it hearkens back to the Kilimanjaro trip where it all began. But ever since I started the blog the idea of “making the most of days not spent behind desks” has become almost a mission statement.
Last Friday, at five o’clock, I left my desk for the last time.
I spent the last few years sitting at a desk, working in a call centre. While I’ll always be grateful for a steady job almost straight out of college; nearly four years sitting down, with a huge commute, for a job I didn’t love was too much.
It had started to affect my health, both physically and mentally. I had no social life, I had stopped all of my creative projects, I had almost no free time to myself, and my lack of free time meant that I wasn’t able to make the commitment I wanted to to my Army Reserve unit. I wasn’t active, and I wasn’t happy.
Thankfully, that all changed. A friend of mine and my sister-in-law gave me a heads-up about a staff wanted sign, I dropped in a CV, got called for an interview, and was offered a job. Now, I work for Great Outdoors!
When I walked into the canteen on my first day, one half of the room was talking about an ultra marathon that one of the lads (Philly) had completed over the weekend in Connemara (the 63km Connemarathon); the other half were talking about cameras and video production. I definitely felt like I was in the right place. Other than that, my thoughts were as follows: First, the place is much bigger than I thought, Gráinne (who works there) referred to it as being “quite Tardis-like”. Second, when I first walked into the store room I almost laughed thinking about how jealous some of the Outdoor Club would be if they saw.
It was an Aladdin’s Cave of outdoor equipment from surfing to climbing and everything in between. A few hours later I found myself making a mental note not to start making a shopping list. If I could afford it I’d probably end up buying everything in the shop.
To be completely honest, on my first day I wondered if I was a little in over my head. There’s a huge number of products spread over three floors and it can be a little overwhelming. A week ago, if someone wanted to buy a pair of shoes, the only questions I’d have thought would be “What size and what colour?”, now if someone says “Hello, I’m looking for a pair of shoes” nine times out of then the first question will be along the lines of “Ah, the Camino is it?”. (Except on Thursday, when a ton of people were in the store to register for the Quest Adventure Race in Glendalough; the number one question that day was “Are you doing the race?”)
On the second day, I was already talking with some level of confidence about the differences between certain brands and models, and from my own experience explaining to customers the difference between “just shoes” and specialised sports equipment and how once you make that short mental leap you soon realise that aesthetics comes in a distant second to not shattering your ankles. (I bought my own hiking boots based on budget, how they looked, and weight; in more or less that order. Then, in my desperation to get both oxygen and water, I rolled both my ankles while running down through a boulder field on Kilimanjaro.)
By now, I felt a little more settled in. I’d calmed down a little. Sure, I’m into the outdoors and I’d like to get out into the world some more, but at the end of the day it’s just going to work and it’s just a shop. This was evidenced by the fact that I didn’t feel the need to buy all the things as Gráinne talked me through the different kind of climbing protection and harnesses when we had half a minute to spare. The place is basically an adventure school.
That said, at the actual end of the day, I was asked if I wanted to stick around for the Columbia training session that night. It didn’t directly relate to my department, but I figured the more information I could soak up the better. So just after six the rep from Colombia Sportswear showed up to talk us through this season’s gear and wearable technologies the company had developed. I was back to reminding myself not to make a shopping list that closely resembled the entire stock of the shop.
By the end of my first week I’d come to realise something. You know that Sunday night fear? For a certain age group of Irish readers it’s best explained by the following: It’s Sunday night. You’re calm, relaxed, you’ve enjoyed your weekend. Then you hear this music and suddenly realise you haven’t your homework done for Monday morning. Everybody hates that feeling. I once read one of those e-cards that said “Monday’s no worse than any other day of the week. You just hate your job.” Well, I don’t anymore. I’m happier, and less stressed. I’m surrounded by a staff that share my interests, and I’m selling products I believe in.
Now if only I could afford to buy all of them…