Sole to Soul

I was out collecting chestnuts yesterday, as part of my fun role in seeking to market hubby’s carpet business, and had that incredibly evocative feel of walking through crackling, Autumnal leaves as I gathered my loot.


Last night, I went from thinking about the feel of textures underfoot ~ shells, warm sand, dewy grass,  ~ to a different kind of soul.

It was the image of a roadside billboard that was on the road just as one swung across the bridge in Waterford towards Dublin and it was there for years and years as I made that journey regularly.


This would get me every single time and have me thinking until I reached Kilkenny, an hour’s drive back then!

It springs into my mind on a regular basis still but there is one turning point in my young life when it really hit me.

I had just finished College and went to sit the Civil Service Exams in search of a permanent pensionable post. There were hundreds of other people there all beavering away answering the exam questions.

Instead of focussing on answering the questions, I started to analyse them and after about twenty minutes quietly packed my bag and left the exam hall.

It felt all wrong. It just wasn’t me. I felt that while I might well get a job that it wouldn’t be one in which I could realise my dreams or express myself in the way that I wanted.

To this day, I wonder about that decision. I could certainly be doing with the pension but I feel that I was right to be true to myself and embark on what turned out to be a very precarious career.

Even though the sign is long gone from that place just beyond Sallypark, it resides in my consciousness and comes to the fore when I least expect.

I must confess that I knowingly sold my soul once and I found it excruciatingly difficult and ended up spending years trying to redeem it!

Do you have these sorts of soul qualms or do you share the happier ones of massaging your soles on the soft carpets of life?

Carpets of Life Photo: Sinead Boyle
Carpets of Life
Photo: Sinead Boyle



Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

19 thoughts on “Sole to Soul”

      1. I may write a post about one of them but I will leave you to spot it :-). In the meantime we are back on the canals for a couple of weeks where Internet connectivity is intermittent at best. I may be quiet for some time.

  1. I did something quite similar Jean – I was going to study Business at uni, but it was never something I wanted to do, just something I thought I should do to get a good job. In the end I decided not to do it but to do something I thought I’d enjoy – that turned out to be Women’s Studies. I loved it – it was no good for anything career wise, so I ended up doing a library qualification afterwards – but I never would have been happy studying business. Chestnuts? Carpet?

    1. Yes, I can see a major difference between Business Studies and Women’s Studies. It reminds me of my First Year in College doing Economic and Social Studies. A lot of the ‘businessy’ people arrived in suits while the sociology types came in ‘rags.’ I guess we haven’t changed too much since that time!

      Library qualifications must have been interesting ~ at least allowing one to smell, feel, hold, read … books.

      As for carpets and chestnuts ~ I adopt a seasonal approach to the marketing of the carpets so how could we go through October without a photo or two of Autumny carpets and evocative chestnuts. The colour of chestnuts reminds me so much of sideboards and old wardrobes!

  2. Ah – I’m an art student turned computer programmer (would have been soul-less but I got such good travel benefits I couldn’t let it go). You have a good argument for ‘following your bliss’.

  3. I think we have all tried to sell our souls from time to time – I know I have during the course of a bobbing and weaving life – until I woke up one day to discover that actually it was unsaleable, that we were indivisable and at that point I realised that being me was all I need to be. That the soul will do whatever it needs no matter what I do during my brief sojourn upon this planet. Love your blogs Jean.

    1. Hi Stan, thanks for your kind words.
      What an interesting perspective on soul-selling! I think I’d go for ‘Not for Sale’ rather than ‘unsaleable,’ but then that’s just me. You’ve clearly all this through a different lens?

  4. I love the way you make nature connect with carpets–or perhaps it is make carpets connect with nature. I can see the synergy between that lovely carpet and the colors and textures of chestnuts and crackling fall leaves.

    I think at times–if we are honest, and if we are seeking–we all wonder what if, and most definitely, it would have turned out differently. Perhaps not better or worse, just differently. I think that is why I tend to believe that it turns out the way it turns out, and that we interpret that in so many ways. Were there stupid decisions I made? Of course, and they have consequences. But I think having learned from those, I am more compassionate with decisions others might make, knowing that redemption can occur at any point. My history is part of who I am, and helped shape who I am. While it might have been less painful to have made other choices, I appreciate what the experiences taught me, and where I am and where I will go. I’ve had so many incredible opportunities and experiences that I would never have dreamt I might, and they were the result of having to choose turn left, turn right, go straight, make a u-turn.

    You pose interesting questions.

    1. Hi Suz, I love the way you talk of ‘just differently.’ That sums up so much.
      Taking active decisions is very much implied in what you say. It can be all too easy to let decisions sort of make themselves, or worse let other people make them for one.

      At least, if you make a decision you’ve taken responsibility. The ‘dither’ can be one of the most awful approaches to decisions that need to be made.

  5. This post truly resonates with me, Jean. I think most of us have sold our soul at one time or another during our time on earth. I believe it’s how we learn and grow. I sometimes feel I “wasted” 30 years working in an office. However, if I’m truthful, when I look back I can see there were times when I really bloomed and each one of those has made me move forward.

    I still have questions, I’m still searching for soul-soothing ways to live my life and earn my living. Sheesh… you’d think that now that I’ve reach the ripe “old” age of 50 I’d know what I want to be when I grow up???

    1. Interesting perspective, Dale. That issue of knowing what you will do when you grow up always fascinates me as people and circumstances change so much over lifetimes. Do we grow up or ride waves, storms, create meaning, hope
      …. ??

      1. I like the question marks… it means, for me, that all options are open! Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m not “stuck” in something I chose… then again, if I had chosen it because I loved it, that would be another story all together!

  6. Your post reminds me of Winston Churchill’s bravado. When sitting an exam he simply unfastened the side clip on his fountain pen, and let a blob of ink fall on the page. He answered no questions, but was given a pass for his sheer audacity.

    I’m not fully hooked into the idea that we can all achieve our dreams, as it implies there will be a result without any effort on our part. However knowing your abilities, and playing to them rather than just following the crowd is a good thing.

    My defining moment years ago was quitting a job when my loyalty was questioned. The company had asked me to be loyal, but issued a verbal warning when a customer complained – claiiming I’d been in their premises swearing.

    My boss had never heard me swear, so stood in my defence. I could work for a company that wouldn’t show loyalty to an employee doing hsi job, and quit whilst I had a family and no job lined up.

    That is something I’ll never regret.

    1. Snowgood, many thanks for writing. I could only smile at your reference to Winston Churchill. Wonder if a blob would have got me anywhere!
      Oh, I agree that few can realise their dreams but I think it’s essential not to embark on a course of action career wise that feels like a square peg/round hole situation.
      Your experience sounds like it was difficult but I’m glad you have no regrets. Regrets are horrors!

  7. That was awesome Jean, being true to yourself at that exam. It must have taken a lot of courage at that age. Didn’t it used to be an ambition for many Irish girls to get into the Civil Service?
    I made a life-altering decision in another context some years ago. It left me way poorer but happier and content with how I acted.
    I still remember when, when I was young, I turned my back on my football team when they were doing badly. I renounced them. I rejoined the fold soon afterwards but still feel uneasy at my lapse of faith 🙂

    1. Roy, good to hear from you. I think the Civil Service was a bit passed its appealing days in the mid 1970s but there were no jobs in the sociology field during that recessionary period, just like now. It didn’t feel courageous as I knew it was not my cup of tea and still had aspirations to be a full-time tennis player.
      Looking back, I wonder if I could have made an impact on the Irish health services, had I persevered with the CS. I know that the research I did do had a positive impact and that’s very satisfying but the frustration still lingers that research died with this latest recession but the CS motors on.
      I can imagine your uneasiness re the football team. Not was to leave but I suspect harder to go back.

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