A blog about how small coincidences and frivolous choices can lead to life-changing events. A few missteps but no regrets.
The term ‘Sliding Doors Moment’ entered the vernacular after the film Sliding Doors became a success in 1998. Similar to the butterfly effect, it means tiny, seemingly inconsequential moments, that can alter the trajectory of future events’. Like Princess Diana’s decision to take a last-minute trip to Paris.
The film Sliding Doors starred Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah. In one storyline, Gwynnie catches her train (hence the sliding doors). In another, she narrowly misses it. We watch how the two different scenarios change the course of events for the central characters.
It’s set in London, the main character was a PR consultant (as I was at the time) and many of the scenes were filmed where I used to work in Bloomsbury.
That’s where the similarities end.
Right place, right time
Mum used to say I always land on my feet. That’s because my early life was peppered with bizarre coincidences which led to great opportunities. I didn’t make big decisions in those days, things just seemed to happen to me.
Here are a few examples:
My first job
After sixth form college, I deferred my university place to take a year off to work and travel. I had no plan for finding employment. Previous work experience included wrapping chocolates in my mum’s chocolate shop, and pulling pints in a pub.
On the last day of term, I took my academic books back to the college library, where I bumped into my politics tutor. We chatted about my nebulous plans for the year. He explained he was leaving his job to start up a completely new college and asked if I’d like to join him as his PA/college administrator. I didn’t even go home to think about it, I just said yes on the spot.
That was my first salaried job, and it was pretty well paid considering my lack of ability to navigate a computer. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to travel.
And therein lies another story.
My first expedition
My college friend and I had a firm plan to take the year off and travel together. We would spend six months working and then take the well-beaten path of back-packing around Asia and Australia.
Unfortunately, my friend’s parents put paid to that plan, forcing her to go to University that year, leaving me up the creek without a paddle.
While idly flicking through the Evening Standard one day, an advert caught my eye for a guided overland expedition across Africa, starting in London. Sounded exotic.
Fast forward to May 1991 and I’m sitting on a Bedford army truck with 21 strangers, setting off on a four-month journey from Balham, into the unknown.
That particular sliding door moment was my friend’s, rather than mine, but I’m still feeling the ripples now. Many of my fellow expeditioners are my great friends nearly 30 years later.
Now I’m a grown-up
Later in life, I had to start making decisions for myself, often falling on my arse rather than landing on my feet.
Here’s a fine example of one of my less successful decisions:
Less than two years into my early PR career, I was offered a job by our agency’s largest client – Adobe. Adobe is the company that makes Photoshop and the software that turns documents into PDFs. At the time they were the fourth largest software company in the world, and they wanted me to join their in-house PR team.
I said no because it would have involved a long commute. I had no ties then, didn’t own my own house, could have moved to be near Adobe’s head office easily, but I turned it down.
To quote Julia Roberts: “Big mistake. Big. Huge”.
Instead, I accepted another agency job, with the world’s biggest bitch and spent the next eight months afraid to express my opinion and suffering from IBS.
To end on a happier note, that terrible decision led to a better one: to take the next PR agency job I was offered (read about the hilarious interview here), leading to a long and happy marriage to Mr Maven and our two wonderful boys.
We can all look back and wonder how our lives could have been altered by making different choices. But I don’t believe in regret. Every decision leads us to where we are now. If you’re not happy with your current situation, you need to take another path. Just making one small change can have a huge impact over time.
How different would your life have been if you’d got on that train? I’d love to hear about your big sliding doors moments. Please leave me a comment below.
Much love, Vx[Disclosure: nothing to disclose.]