Adam Stoner

I got to feed giraffes

As I rushed out the front door of […] 37 Fitzroy Street in London and stepped into a beautiful June day in 2007, the only thing I was certain of was that I had to get away before anyone realised what I was doing. I left with only a briefcase containing my passport, a few papers, a thumb drive, and two cell phones. Had I attempted to take more, or had I tried to bring my wife and children with me, I knew it would make my escape impossible. I figured I would get them out once I was in a safe place.

I headed toward the nearby Warren Street Tube station, glancing over my shoulder to see if I had been followed. I knew if I ran, it might attract attention, so I resisted the urge until I rounded the first corner and ducked into a doorway to catch my breath. Although I had not physically exerted myself, my heart was racing as if I had just completed a hundred-meter sprint. I waited thirty seconds, saw no one, and stepped back onto the street, now walking faster, still acutely aware of my surroundings. I tried to maintain the appearance of a regular Londoner hurrying to the Tube, rather than a fugitive. I knew all the tricks they employed to track down someone like me—after all, I had done the tracking-down myself. I needed to get out of sight, remove the batteries from my phones, use only cash, and stay on the move.

The relief began to flood my body as I descended the long escalator. I stopped at the bottom and surveyed the few people behind me. Still no familiar faces.

I stood on the platform, back against the tiled wall, and waited for the train to pull in. When it did, I stayed put until all the other passengers had boarded, jumping on at the last minute while glancing down the platform to see if there were any other last-minute riders. There were none. As I sat down and the train pulled out of the station, I breathed long and hard and tried to calm myself. I had a couple of hundred dollars, but nowhere to stay, no clothes other than what I was wearing, no car or job, and no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to go. I knew only that I had to escape the madness my life had descended into. I hoped I could gather my thoughts and figure out a plan. I had no choice: my only other option was to return to the organisation and lamely turn myself in. That was unthinkable.

Those, the opening few words of A Billion Years: My Escape from a Life in the Highest Ranks of Scientology by Mike Rinder. I’ve been reading it this month. Mike’s story is fascinating, charting his devotion to and escape from what has been variously described as a cult, a business, and a religious movement. A Billion Years also highlights the stories we tell ourselves about the way the world works.

I could have made this month’s recap about all manner of things – Westminster politics in particular. But I’ve kind of adopted a new modus operandi, if you like – I’m focusing on what I can control. I’m not wasting my time and energy getting angry, outraged, or even amused by what’s happening in with political leaders or foreign wars.

If it’s up to me, it gets 100%; if it’s not up to me, it gets 0%.

So, with that said, I’ve been out and about for the Activity Quest podcast visiting a brand new hieroglyphics exhibition the British Museum, checking out an adventure playground at Stonor Park, and I even went out on a safari too and got to feed some giraffes…

Take a listen:

On Apple Podcasts, we’ve just turned on Plus, so you can subscribe for ad-free listening and bonus episodes. That’s what I’ve been busy building out at work. Next month, I’m off to some Christmas lights displays for the show.

And that’s when you’ll next hear from me – November 30th 2022.

31 Oct 2022

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