For once, I am going to get personal in a post and spill my life story a bit. But there is a reason for it…
Last week my old university rang me and asked if I wanted to do some teaching – something I’d wanted to do for ages. It was like Christmas had come early! Of course, I had to fill out a (retrospective) application form and it was at this point that I had the chance to look back over the last 25 years of my life going from all my school exams, through my earliest jobs in insurance until reaching my Master’s degree a year ago. It made me realise just how far I’d come and how many demons I’d had to beat to get where I am today.
Then, just the other day I went to a meeting for a new ghostwriting project I have coming up. The room was filled with some wonderful people – all very successful in their own way, and yet all very philanthropic and spiritual too. I suddenly found myself thinking “how in heaven’s name did I manage to get to this?”
I was brought up to believe that my destiny was something like working in a supermarket or being a waitress (not that there’s anything wrong with those jobs if that’s what you want to do in life), despite, at age 10, having a reading age that was right off the chart. I grew up without much self-belief or direction in life and so when I left school, I didn’t go to university (as I so easily could have done) but instead went straight into a dead end job. I will say here that this had a great deal to do with not wanting to leave my boyfriend of the time (who I later married) because I thought no-one else would want me.
My marriage wasn’t much better. We met far too young (I was 14 at the time and he 16) and so we quickly grew apart. It didn’t help either that I had developed serious (but undiagnosed) depression and mood swings, so I must have been hell to live with. The final nail in the coffin that drove me to my knees was having a difficult (and almost fatal) childbirth after which I was very ill for about 6 months. I loved my baby daughter very much but because of the physical debility – not to mention the post traumatic stress I now had – I found it hard to look after her. Nevertheless, I somehow got through.
Two years after that I was still struggling with serious mood swings and loss of all self-confidence. I was too terrified to drive a car, to work, even to walk down the road. I thought everyone hated me and was talking about me. My marriage became a nightmare, so did my life – and then everything fell apart.
I was lucky enough that my father had enough money to help me buy a small bungalow close by. It was here that my daughter would come and live with me for a week before going to stay with her dad the following one. It was not how I wanted it, but I just didn’t have the strength to fight him for full custody. Luckily though, it was my daughter who kept me going – who made me go and seek help for what I now realised was a depression – and who gave me the kick start I needed to get back on that ladder and start climbing upwards again.
That was in 1998 – barely 10 years ago – when I was at rock bottom. Gradually I pulled myself up, rung by rung. I started work at dad’s company on the shop floor stuffing envelopes before gradually working my way up to becoming a director. I picked up some ghostwriting contracts and actually started writing instead of just talking about it. I became more confident about driving…
Basically everything was going well – then my dad became ill with an extremely aggressive cancer and died within three months of the diagnosis. The three months was a living nightmare as dad was unable to swallow and therefore had to be fed through a tube in hospital. Very soon he couldn’t walk either and I had to think about taking over his side of the business (a side I didn’t know much about). It was at that time I re-discovered my strength – especially as I had to be strong for both mum and my daughter. Again, somehow we got through it.
Despite there being problems within the business (such as dodgy business partners and being excluded from major decisions), my strength and belief in myself started to grow. I began going to the gym (weight-training!) and also started karate lessons to give me physical confidence. I had some books commissioned from a big book packager in London. And now I didn’t care about driving anywhere!
Within a year mum and I sold the business (actually we practically gave it away) because the stress of trying to do anything with it was bringing us down again. With the money I went to university and got a degree in creative writing and English literature – something that I’d always wanted to do. It was the best thing – absolutely the best thing I could have done! I loved every minute of it and graduated with a first class honours. And then I did the Masters as well!
Since the Masters I have started this blog, forum etc and met loads of fantastic people. And of course, kept writing. In fact, I would say that my writing has become all the deeper for having had all those experiences in my life.
So – what is this post all about? A sob story (actually I haven’t told all or else you might have been tempted to jump out of the nearest window ‘Airplane’ style!)? Do I expect some congratulations for what I’ve achieved? Or some sympathy?
Absolutely no way!
I just want to show that no matter what position you are in, you can still push through and find your dreams. It doesn’t matter about your age, your sex, your class, your ethnicity, your disability – there are always ways (even if you need help to find them) to get back on your feet and find your strength, face your fears, be what you want to be and shine!
One of the guys who was at the meeting I mentioned earlier has also been through the mill and come out the other side. Geoff Thompson used to be a bouncer on the doors of Coventry despite being initially afraid of any conflict. Now he’s a top martial artist, BAFTA award winner, writer and motivational teacher. All through facing his fears and vanquishing his demons. He and his books have been a complete inspiration to me (and many thousands of others) – how I wish I’d had them 10 years ago. Anyway, it is now a great privilege to count him as a friend. I should also add that he has inadvertently provided the inspiration for this post as he has written two books based around the adage that ‘ Everything that happens to me is good‘.
To that end I’d like to really give a big shout out to his site which has links to his really interesting and inspirational podcasts and blog, as well as his forum space for writers, thinkers and dreamers to chill out – called the Bohemian Cafe.
I now know how I got where I am today – and I’m damn proud! I’ve even had a phoenix tattooed on my leg to remind me that hope can still be found, even in the ashes of despair. And if it’s one thing that I now truly believe it’s that EVERYONE has worth. Everyone has a place and a purpose in this life.
And that’s the reason for this post – so I can say to you all: It’s your time to shine!