Huge thanks to journalist Tom Owen for his funny, sad and thought provoking guest blog. Just what we're after for the FRAHM Pub.
He approached us, as he loves the concept of The Pub. Being long term fans of his work and hilarious (rather cycling specific) twitter feed, we're really flattered. He asked what we'd like him to write about?...Whatever floats your boat, whatever matters to you. Bingo. Thank you for honesty Tom. Fantastic.
Tom is a journalist, copywriter and the founder of Fausto, a creative agency for cycling brands.
There’s being alone and then there’s being lonely.
I’d say I’m good at being alone. I seek out solitude, get uncomfortable and irritable in groups of people for long periods of time. I’m pretty well-suited to the isolated life of the self-employed.
You know how in detective shows the serial killer is always described by the neighbour as ‘a bit of a loner’, someone who ‘kept himself to himself’? Well, that would definitely work as a description for me. How many serial killers are made so by failed attempts at entrepreneurship, I wonder?
I really hope I’m not a serial killer.
In my first year of university I remember being quietly baffled by my new contemporaries. Every day at 6pm they’d go corridor to corridor, knocking on doors, trying to establish a fighting force to tackle the approximately 10-metre walk across the road to the building with the halls canteen in it. Walking there alone and sitting down and eating alone was – apparently – inconceivable.
I always thought, sure, having company is nice, but should it really stand between you and a really nice beef stew?
Those days are a decade hence, but I still apply that same criteria to most decisions. Do I really want company more than I want to do The Thing? In the arm-wrestle between my selfish impatience to go, see, do right now and the allure of having somebody else to share the going, seeing, doing, it’s the former that always wins.
Since I saw this on Instagram I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind.
As the founder of a small company, I spend my days alone. My team are 100% remote, I meet some of them in person once a month. Others twice a year. One I have never met. Chatting round the water cooler I am not.
Most self-employed people will testify to the bleed between ‘work’ and ‘life’, the impossibility of truly dividing the two when you do both in the same room at randomly decided hours of the day.
I am single, so there’s nobody coming home at 5pm with whom I’m spending the evening. To be honest, most days I tend to just walk across the room from my desk and flop down on the sofa when the day’s work is done.
It sounds quite sad when you write it down, but I’ve always experienced it as an unfettered level of freedom.
My dream retirement, the vision I’m secretly doing all this for, is a chunk of land in the northern Spanish countryside with a house on it and not much else. I think, more than anything, I want to be left alone. For me, aloneness is both the symptom of entrepreneurship, and the eventual cure or end goal.
So being on my own isn’t a problem, but how do you know if you’re lonely? The great evil of mental illness is that it very often obscures our ability to self-diagnose. I’ve been depressed, not known, then realised ‘oh shit yeah that’s why I’ve been feeling like this way’ and felt a palpable, near-instant clearing of the clouds. Perhaps loneliness is the same? You can’t see it while you’re in it.
Occasionally, I do get a pang. A real heart-hurting moment when I wonder, ‘Could I be sharing this with someone? Would I get more out of doing this with other, real, physical people by my side?’
And then there’s the constant nagging questions that go with being a sole founder, “Am I doing this right?” “Could I be making more money by doing something different?” “Am I going to go to prison because I lost that expense report from two years ago?”
I definitely feel like it’d be good to have someone to bounce these questions off. Or to at least share a cell with when it all goes tits up.
I’m not sure I’ve given you many answers and I’m certain I’ve provided no solutions, but maybe this could be the start of a discussion? This is a pub after all.
Do you get lonely? Does working with other people help? Do you work on your own and, like me, feel a disconcerting level of satisfaction with, what is on the face of it, your ‘lonely’ life? Do you think I’m going to turn into a serial killer?