The best laid plans and all that.Â
Earlier today, I was given a date for Medical Retirement from the Metropolitan Police. My last day as a serving officer will be Wednesday 28th February 2018.Â
That wasnâ€™t how it was supposed to be.Â
I joined the Met in September 1992 â€“ a clueless 22 year old embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Over the years, I fell hopelessly in love with the Job. And with the men and women who do it. Like most of my generation, I fully intended to see out each one of my 30 years. Perhaps longer. I even had a half-baked idea that I might try to make it to Chief Constable one day.
Then life happened.Â
In April 2013, at the age of 43, I broke. I was off work for more than 7 months â€“ a once capable man reduced entirely to rubble. Almost five years later, Iâ€™m a whole lot better than I was, but I realise that Iâ€™ve done myself some permanent damage along the way. Iâ€™m no longer strong enough to deal with the exhaustion and the strain. I can no longer manage the inevitable stress. And I appear to be completely unable to cope with trauma of any kind – certainly not the kind of trauma encountered endlessly on the policing frontline.Â
Thatâ€™s the painful privilege of this job â€“ to venture repeatedly into the hurting places; to be there when lives are saved; to be there when they hang in the balance; to be there in the scattered mess of blood and bandages; to be there when lives are lost; to be there when news is broken; to be there when the shattered faces of loved ones crumple in grief. To be there on the inside of the fluttering blue and white tape.
Not now though. Iâ€™m no longer able to stand in those places. And Iâ€™m in awe of those who are. Time and again, I find myselfÂ stirred by the breathtaking courage and compassion of my colleagues. They have always been â€“ and they remain â€“ the everyday heroes and heroines who police our streets. I will miss them more than I can say.
I will miss it all.
But there have been endless silver linings.
The extraordinary love of my wife; the unexpected hours and days spent with our three beautiful girls; the faithfulness of friends and the kindness of strangers; time and space to think and breathe and to learn how to rest in a world that is moving far too fast; the discovery of writing and of the healing to be found in telling stories; the opportunity to stand up and speak up for the things that have to matter more; the discovery of a thing called grace.Â
Life might, of necessity be slower these days â€“ but it is also somehow deeper, richer and kinder.Â
Whatever happens now, I will always love this extraordinary job. I will always love the extraordinary people who do it. I willÂ always celebrate their humanityÂ and heroism. AndÂ I will always feel pride of the finest kind.
Because I was a boy in blue.