Since 2008 I have been the managing editor of Wired magazine, a job I fell into almost by accident. I had clocked up 20 years as a freelance journalist and decided to take a sabbatical year to travel, pause and think about what to do next. I was pretty sure I was going to leave the media world, but first I needed to make some space.
To give the year some purpose I made a rule that I could go anywhere I liked, except that I couldn't use a plane. At first, I didn't travel at all, enjoying London, and especially Hampstead Heath, as is it moved from winter to spring. But in March I took the train down to San Sebastian in northeast Spain and travelled along the coast to Lisbon, and this was where the thinking started to happen.
I have always loved travelling on my own but I have also often found it intensely, almost unbearably, melancholic. I had taken with me Anthony Storr's book 'Solitude', which turned out to be a perfect companion for a solo, and sometimes aimless, traveller. On long walks through the snow-covered Picos de Europa I discovered a calmer state of mind and the difference between being alone and being on your own. In Santiago de Compostela I met a friend and we walked the moss-coloured streets in the rain. And for the summer I enrolled at a Rabbinical college in Jerusalem, travelling there through Europe, Turkey, Syria and Jordan and, then, in the autumn, back by cargo ship across the Mediterranean.
It was when I got back to London from that trip, exhausted and broke but also feeling clean and excited, that I first started thinking about what to do next with my work life. I was still subscribed to an old journalists' mailing list and there I saw the Wired job advertised.
At face value it had little to offer. It was a journalism job and I wanted to move on from journalism. It was full-time and I wanted to work part time. It was a company job and I enjoyed being freelance.
And yet, somehow it kept on calling. In a rather serendipitous way it combined different strains of my work and non-work life so far: journalism, psychology, counselling, human resources, teaching, business – things I had dipped in and out of since leaving school but never really brought together in a single role. I felt, immodestly, that the job had been made for me. And, in fact, so it proved: for almost three years I have enjoyed the company of sociable and creative colleagues; I have been involved in the launch of really excellent print magazine and iPad edition; and I have grown immeasurably as a manager and as a man.
Now, though, it's now time to leave. There's no crisis. I haven't made a big mistake. And I still look forward (almost) every day to going into work. But I also enjoy self-employment and I can feel its call. It could be something to do with the fact that insecurity can make your life simpler. It could be that I will certainly have much more time in my week. Or it could be that, comfortable and happy as I am at Wired, every so often I need to head out into the Great Unknown.
I will be teaching at the School of Life and I hope to be writing more here. But at this stage the only certainty about the future I am about to step into is that it is not certain, and that excites me. Watch this space.
We're delighted to welcome David Baker on board to The School of Life faculty. Catch him teaching our ‘How To Find A Job You Love’ class on Tuesday 6 September, and How To Balance Work With Life on Thursday 20 October. He will also be a regular contributor to this blog, so keep reading…..