The accumulation of knowledge or skill that results from direct participation in events or activities
The content of direct observation or participation in an event
An event as apprehended
Go or live through
Undergo an emotional sensation
Have first-hand knowledge of states, situations, emotions, or sensations
No matter what your education, one always finds it remarkably difficult to get a job without having the necessary experience. In other words, you may know how to do the job in theory, but we want to see evidence you can do it in the real world. We want to know you have lived the job, gone through the good days and the bad, and still managed to get the work done. Of course, experience is not just about work. I see life as a collection of experiences, neither good nor bad – not judged, just lived.
I have tried to experience as much as I could in life. You may consider some things I have experienced good, others bad, but they have been experienced, and now they are in the past. The only thing I can say is that I have learned from this experience. I don’t say I’ve learned from my mistakes, I prefer to call them my choices.
Long ago I decided to stop beating myself up about choices that didn’t work out the way I planned. They were my choices. They were right at the time, otherwise I would not have made them. Whether I judge them to be errors in the future is just hindsight. It doesn’t change the event.
Job application for life: My experience
Let me take you back to my youth. Here I am about fourteen years old: I am on the bus on the way to school. I have just been notified by letter that my dad has decided he can’t live with my mum anymore (and that means me also). I know plenty of people’s parents have split up, but just reflect, if you can, on a young boy in puberty whose father, that he loves and respects, has just abandoned him. Why has he left? What did I do wrong? Why would he leave me if he loved me?
It is an experience I would not wish anyone to go through. The constant sobbing from my mother, sitting in darkness, drinking sherry and listening to mournful music. “Surely no man is worth that?” I thought. “Why would you put yourself through so much torture for so many years after he left?” Obviously because she was in love.
I don’t know how the whole trauma ended up hurting me emotionally and psychologically. I still had a comfortable life, and we weren’t short of money, although something was always missing. I even missed being shouted at, and although my father was never around to play with during my childhood (working to further his career), he was still there.
Now he had written to say he was off. He couldn’t live here any more. He wouldn’t be back.
I’m sure many people will have had similar experiences.
I can’t really remember that time too well. Maybe I have blanked it out, maybe it was just a long time ago (24 years ago), so I won’t say it turned me into an emotional wreck; I am not sure how it affected me. I lived through it, and although it probably ended up affecting my school work, I could never be sure if the reason I failed to live up to expectations was due to emotional trauma, or just because I was a daydreamer and lazy!
I left school at the age of eighteen without completing my “A” levels. I was sent out to work, but I didn’t really want to work. I couldn’t be bothered! I had discovered alcohol, cigarettes, and girls. The problem was that I didn’t have any money, so I went through my mum’s drawers looking for loose change. I got an overdraft on my bank account and took out a loan (none of which I had the means to pay back). I don’t know how it happened or what I was thinking. I even altered cheques that my dad gave me to make it more. I was just crashing through life without any thought or awareness.
I took a job that my mum had arranged for me, but it didn’t pay much. My new friends were older than me and had more money to go out with. I had to beg, borrow, and steal to keep up with them. I didn’t realise it at the time, but all this was, was peer pressure. If I could have learned to say “No I’m not going out tonight,” or “I have no money,” I wouldn’t have got myself into these situations. The benefit of hindsight rather than foresight!
These older boys appealed to my ego. They were cool. They had cars, their own flats, fashionable clothes, plenty of girlfriends, and they wanted me to be their friend. Wow. To be accepted into a cool group! It was more than any young man could ask for. The only thing I needed was a car, and money – my parents provided both.
I left my job after about six months in search of new riches. I took a job as a self-employed telesales representative selling advertising space. By this time, I was in debt, and my parents had sold my car (while I was away on a holiday I couldn’t afford).
I convinced my dad to rent me a car for the job. I picked up parking tickets galore, I made no money, and I got more and more into debt as I tried to earn enough to go out and be cool with the lads.
I left job after job, after arguing with the bosses, always thinking I was right and they were wrong. Getting fired again and again.
I was basically an angry young man between eighteen and twenty one. I got drunk all the time, had casual sex with as many girls as was physically possible, and worked very little. I got involved in several public fracases with the police, and ended in jail for the night; appearing several times at the local magistrate’s court.
But I was brought up well. I went to private school, spoke with a nice accent, and was genuinely kind to people, so no one could really understand what was going on. Maybe it was trauma and rage, maybe just my age.
I wanted to become a musician, although the only instruments I played with any competency were the recorder and the flute, which are not well known in pop music! I made a friend at a sales job, who was a budding musician – although he was 44 – and I decided that if he could do it, so could I. I purchased electronic equipment, and off I went.
I had no idea of how to construct a song, although I did record several dire dance tracks. I blamed the sound engineer for their quality, although in reality, they were dire because I couldn’t play any of the instruments I owned, and although I had a “good ear” for music, had actually omitted to write the songs before going into record them!
The climax of this sorry state of affairs happened on christmas day in 1989 where, fuelled with alcohol, and without a penny to go out in the evening, I snapped.
I smashed my guitar up and set fire to my parents’ bed, my bed, and my dad’s chair. Looking back, I cannot see what the significance of the three items were, but I immediately went next door to our neighbour’s house to get them to call the fire brigade.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t counted on the police being called, and was duly arrested for arson, which I strenuously denied (even though the evidence was overwhelming).
I wasn’t charged as no one was in the house, and they left it up to the parents to decide whether to prosecute or not. Fortunately, they didn’t.
I was sent to see a psychiatrist, who promptly told my parents I was an alcoholic, and as far as I can remember, that was the end of the therapy.
My parents didn’t know what to do with me, but eventually I was sent to Newcastle (five hours away from my parents) to retake my exams. I was in a shared house, my parents had bought me a new car, and I got an allowance every week. I found a girlfriend. I went out partying. It was great fun! I can’t remember the college much, only that I failed my exams because I wasn’t concentrating or interested in the work.
My father despaired and tried to help me get a job, but I wasn’t interested. Eventually I was sent to help on a project that was based in paris with one of the companies he ran. That was a real turning point for me. In many ways.
I started to enjoy work. I got to travel. People were interested in me. I had a nice apartment that I paid for myself. I was eventually starting to learn to be more responsible. I was getting on fine; I had the chance to stay and work permanently and make a life for myself there, and had even made plans to move to a bigger apartment. I took out a loan to pay for new furniture; but shortly before moving, I went on a business trip to stockholm, in sweden. That business trip signalled the end of my life in paris, and the start of a very different life.
I had noticed over the previous months that I was beginning to become nervous about flying. I started feeling panicky as soon as the engines started, I worried that the flaps were in the wrong place to take off, that the engine was making the wrong kind of sound, or that the airline I was flying didn’t have a good safety record; that, actually, I was about two minutes away from death. The year was 1993.
Although I was fairly lonely living in a country with no close friends, and living amongst a culture that didn’t pop down to the pub on a Friday night, I was quite content. I went out shopping every saturday and treated myself to something new. I was still trying to make it in the music business, even though all of my tracks were unfinished, or unstarted, due to not being able to play the guitar or piano, so I just messed around with the drum machine. Nevertheless, it made me superficially happy at least.
I was given a return ticket back to the uk once a month where I still had a girlfriend, and used it as a good opportunity to get drunk with the lads. I had told my girlfriend it wasn’t going to work, and we should split up, but she was insistent on staying together whilst I was abroad. I remained faithful the entire time I was away, although this was to change later.
My life changed the day I caught the plane to stockholm.
As usual, I had felt a bit uneasy on the flight, but by the time I arrived at the hotel in sweden I was feeling very strange. I went to bed early, but as soon as I got into bed, my head felt like it was going to explode, spinning out of control, I felt sick, I went to the bathroom to throw up, I felt like the world was closing in on me. I went to the window to get some air, but it wouldn’t open. What was happening to me? I had never felt like this in my life. I was definitely going crazy. I can’t remember how long it lasted, but it felt like an eternity.
I woke the next morning feeling like I was on a different planet. I couldn’t eat at breakfast. I was picked up and taken to the office where I sat staring at the wall for several hours. I then told them I was feeling ill and needed to go home – not to paris, to london, where my family home was. I desperately wanted to go home, to run away from whatever was happening to me, and although I was scared about going on a plane, the risk was worth it. I had to get away.
And so started a cycle of events that would lead to me running away whenever I started to feel anxious or panicked.
I didn’t know why I was running; I just knew that if I got home to my family house everything would be ok.
Several days after the panic attack, I returned to paris. It was tuesday. I told them, that unfortunately, I had to leave, and I would be leaving the next day.
No one could understand it. Here was this amiable, confident young man who was good at his job, liked living in one of the world’s best cities, about to accept a permanent job, and move to a bigger apartment, telling them he would be leaving the next day. To them, and to me, it seemed crazy, but it was something I had to do.
I packed my car and drove back to england, taking what I could with me. The next day I got an appointment to see the doctor, who promptly told me to “pull yourself together.” Great advice! But unfortunately, this left me struggling to stop having panic attacks all the time, and too afraid to ask anyone for any help due to embarrassment, including my parents, and my girlfriend.
I plummeted into despair, although I covered it well.
I went out drinking more and more to stop the anxiety and the thoughts, under the pretext of having fun. I couldn’t sleep without the tv on. I became involved with lots of people on one night stands, and I tried drugs (speed) for the first time. I was a mess, but I was keeping it all together under my “happy go lucky” positive persona. I was so upbeat and happy all the time; how could anyone understand that underneath I was desperately afraid (but not unhappy).
This cycle of panic (overcome with alcohol) lasted until 1997, when I finally split up with my long suffering girlfriend.
I was still in and out of jobs, although, through a good deal of bullshitting, had managed to work my way up fairly quickly. I was arrogant, and was convinced I could do a job better than anyone else. Still the panic attacks came.
In 1998 the panic attacks seemed to subside. I had a new girlfriend who brought a lot of stability into my life. She wanted to be a home maker and have children, and although I wasn’t interested in that kind of life, she was nice to be around. Bubbly and cheerful.
We got a dog together, a house by the sea and a horse. I was by now earning huge money as an contractor in information technology, and life seemed rosy. For the first time in my life things started to come together – until she got pregnant. I thought she had done it deliberately and was very angry. I told her it was me or the baby, and being the type of girl to put me first over a living being inside her, she decided to have an abortion. I didn’t really think how this was affecting her, I was only thinking about my own selfish needs.
Soon after the abortion, I decided to give it all up. I was wasting every penny I earned on holidays and fun.
I had a speedboat and I bought a Jeep 4×4; I went out partying to posh london clubs with my – also extremely well paid – colleagues. I was living the real high life now!
Except, it suddenly dawned on me one day that this was about the most amount of money I was going to get paid. I certainly wasn’t worth what they were paying me. I hadn’t saved a penny. I didn’t own any property, so where else could I go? I gave up work and went travelling to australia.
Again, no one could understand why I was leaving when surely I was at the highest point in my career. But they didn’t get it. I was 29, at the highest point in my career, and the only way for me as I saw it, was down.
I had never stuck at anything my whole life. My life was a series of starts and stops. Comings and goings. I didn’t want a boring permanent job, I liked the excitement of travelling and change. It fitted in with my personality.
Always flitting between jobs, relationships, towns, countries. Always on the move.
My girlfriend and I didn’t stay together long once we went travelling. I couldn’t stand her, and dumped her at the soonest possible moment; in a campsite miles from anywhere! I just packed up my rucksack, told her I was leaving, and that was the last I ever saw of her. Within an hour of leaving her, the people I was travelling with picked up another hitch-hiker whom I ended up having a month long relationship with. We travelled back to the hostel my previous girlfriend and I had been working, where I had spent the time getting drunk, having sex with other guests, partying, and going for swims in the pool at 5.00 am (before driving their courtesy bus at 6.00 am), and everyone was indeed surprised as it was only a month since I had left with someone else!
Not surprised at all, was a girl who worked in reception. She had become friendly with my ex during our stay there, taking an instant dislike to me, having advised my ex to leave me as soon as possible. We were married three years later.
I don’t know how it happened, but we found a lot in common with each other, and just decided to go travelling on a bus into the sunset. It was two days before our first kiss. From that day onward things started to go right, although I was still drinking a lot, and socialising with the wrong types of people. But I guess you hang around with people who like doing similar things.
This girl was different to all the others I had known. She started opening my eyes to several things I was unaware of. She taught me you don’t need to get drunk to have a good time, and cigarette butts take one hundred years to break down (as I casually flicked the butt onto a sydney street);
I started to become more aware of myself and my environment. I opened up to her, told her about my problems and she listened patiently. It was true love. I loved her with every part of my being. I couldn’t bear to be without her. I missed her when she wasn’t there.
We spent the next five years travelling, living, eating, studying, sleeping, working, and making love, learned to be chefs, and studied to become traditional thai massage therapists. We were together almost 24/7, 365. No one could work out how we managed to do it, but we did.
I had some therapy to deal with the anxiety, and for a while it got better.
But as time went on, I began to get the feelings of needing to run away again. I didn’t want to, but I just couldn’t stop myself. Just like years earlier, I got on a plane several times from australia back to my family home in england.
I started going out to the pub nearly every day again. People offered me party drugs which I, being drunk, casually accepted. It made me feel a lot worse the next morning, and I always regretted it, but suddenly I was back fifteen years ago, except now I had developed a heightened awareness of my actions; and although didn’t stop myself from doing it, always regretted it.
I wanted to be a better person, but kept being dragged (willingly) into something I didn’t want. It all came to an end last year when I left australia, and my wife. She just couldn’t live with me any more (unsurprisingly).
For the last year and a half I have been finishing this book, developing more awareness, and being more thoughtful. Since returning to europe, I have worked as a chef in ireland and had a short relationship in the czech republic whilst writing my book there. I have decided to develop my own personal skills before entering into any more relationships! I write this book on an island in scotland. At a tibetan buddhist retreat in fact. This is my experience so far…
I could go on and on, or into much more detail than I have here, but you get the picture. Some of you may have been shocked by what you read here. Some of you may be thinking:
“How can such a deeply flawed individual give me advice on living my life? He should sort out his own life first!”
But all I have done is bared my experience to you. If it was good or bad is merely subjective. Just because I have done things that may be illegal, doesn’t mean they were bad. It is only experience. It was my life as I lived it.
I have told you as much as I can, without deceit, in order to let you the reader become involved in my life, which is my experience. Without judgement. It just is. That is how I have interacted with the world for the last 38 years.
There has been fear, hate, selfishness, anxiety, greed, lies, cheating, intoxication, anger, and waste; but also a lot of love, fun and joy, in case you think my life has been one of misery! These have just been the most significant events of the last twenty one years. I have not been miserable in my life. I have embraced each day with enthusiasm and a smile.
So what can we learn from experience? What is it that makes experience so important? For me, it is, learning from each action we perform, and using that knowledge to improve our awareness of ourselves in action. I spent many years in the dark, unaware of the effect my actions were having: first on my family, and loved ones, and second, on the wider community who have had to work with me, and deal with me. I just carried on regardless, even when people were shocked by my actions or tried to help me.
It is only now I have almost complete awareness of myself in action that I can start to comprehend the pain I put everyone through, and although self-criticism is not helpful in the long run, the awareness that you have had a negative effect on yourself and others is.
So let’s not worry about going into the past and seeing where we could have improved, that is a waste of time, time which is ticking away, even as we speak. You and I have just lived. The way we chose to.
I could have got help years earlier, but I didn’t. I was too busy to worry about that. If I was to look back on the times I felt at my lowest, I would say “I wish I had got help way back,” but what good would it do me?
I don’t know what kind of experience you have had. You may have led a blameless life, sacrificing yourself before others, or you may have been a paedophile, a murderer, a tyrant, or a bully. You may have been jealous, greedy, or selfish, but all that is in the past. As you read this, the last word you read is in the past.
We may think we have learned from our actions in the past, and we know that if you get drunk, you will feel terrible the next day, or if I rob a bank, I am likely to get caught; but how many people repeat these actions?
Maybe, like most people, you never learn, because experience doesn’t teach you awareness. Awareness teaches you awareness, and awareness is the one thing that will help us progress in our lives. Most people who have experienced drugs do not become aware that destroying your mind with chemicals is a bad thing; in fact they will probably keep doing it because it feels good. Most people who lose money on a horse will not realise the futility of gambling, and will put money on another horse to win their money back. Please go into this with me here. This is most important.
Just because you have experienced something doesn’t mean you will become aware of what you are doing, unless it has a negative effect. And even then, most people repeat the same mistakes over and over, chiding themselves “Why do I keep making the same mistakes over and over!”
Surely they have the experience. Surely they would learn?
We would all agree that experience is essential to performing repetitive tasks like driving, operating machinery, or working in the same job. You have a limited set of instructions, and by repeating them, you hone your skills. That is why experience is necessary for jobs. They want you to have honed your skills before they start paying you a wage! Otherwise experience is worthless.
It can only be of value if you gain instant awareness from your action.
“I have hit my child for crying. I am now aware that hitting my child causes suffering and lacks compassion. I will never be violent again.”
Unfortunately the chances of that happening are slim, although you never know.
So, before we leave this topic, let us make an agreement, you and I, to draw a line under experience, to note what we have done in up to this moment, and to never judge ourselves for what we have done in the past, nor let others judge us. Let us agree to develop awareness of ourselves, to notice how we interact with society, and start afresh this second with compassion for all other beings on this planet. Forget what experience has taught you.
Experience is memory, and memory is conditioning.
Whether you have had bad experiences of people from different nationalities, religions, or certain personalities, approach all with a new found openness. It isn’t hard. Just let go of experience. Let go of what you think you know.
Don’t judge based on past experience. You are just remembering a pattern.
Real life isn’t a stored pattern. It’s new and vibrant every time you look at it. Give it a chance before you destroy all your new experiences with “experience.”