Running away or running towards? Why it’s important we know the difference

Charlotte Sheridan
4 min readSep 8, 2020

I was much further out than you thought. And not waving but drowning.” Stevie Smith

From a distance it’s hard to know why someone is running. Are they fleeing from or racing to? To the casual observer they look the same. It can be equally baffling to the runner.

Some of my Spoon by Spoon interviewees are running to. But many are running from. It takes distance and time to figure out which.

Tracey wasn’t happy at work but didn’t know what to do next. “I ended up temping. The best way to make money temping is to work in financial services. So I fell into that.” Tracey ran away from uncertainty straight into the arms of money. “I got lost for a long time in the wrong place.”

Jack stumbled out of one role and fell headlong into another. “I was in a pretty bloody awful state so I quit my job without any real thought of what was coming next. I just needed to leave. It was something to tide me over whilst I collected myself together and got back on track.” He’s there four years later. “It’s still the job I grabbed at. So it was never going to be ideal.”

Steph hoped work might be more bearable one step up the ladder. So she interviewed for a senior role that she didn’t even want. “When I was told I didn’t get it I was absolutely devastated. It wasn’t something I was desperate to do — it just upset me so much because I didn’t want to do my job. I guess it gave me the idea of hope, or an escape. A way out.”

Louisa wanted to get away from her job in fashion. She wanted something more meaningful in the public sector. But she set off at such speed she didn’t check it would be better. “It’s not the right way to go about it, picking a completely different career and just jumping into it without even trying it. It was a huge change.” Louisa leapt out of the frying pan straight into the fire. “So I’m now miserable again, just in a different job. I’ve learned a lesson there.”

Sometimes we’re not even escaping something else. We’re just trying to escape ourselves. Reggae singer Bob Marley and philosopher Alain de Botton are not obvious bedfellows. But they both agree on one thing. You can run but you can’t…

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Charlotte Sheridan

Psychologist, coach, writer, photographer… juggling them all but often dropping balls.