Word of warning: this article contains some deep thoughts, if you aren’t that deep it’s probably best to stop reading
At the grand old age of thirty eight, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I am (see, deep thoughts, right there). I knew very early on that I wasn’t like my family, which isn’t a bad thing now but was hard growing up. Nowadays, I often find myself feeling like I’m on the outside of society looking in. I’m opinionated, but happy to discuss my opinions and be challenged on them. I enjoy having meaningful conversations and provoking debate, always have. I’m authentic which I’ve sadly come to see is a rarity. The things that float most people’s boats just don’t do it for me. I can’t stand small talk and I cringe at so many things everyone else finds funny.
I refuse to pretend that I’m fine when I’m clearly not.
How did this version of me come to be? Grab yourself a cuppa, and take a read. You never know, you might learn something about how you came to be too. This article is longer than my usual 500-1000 words, and should take around ten minutes to read.
The early days
When I was working in my first city job, my old boss used to say I had true tenacity. This was almost twenty years ago, long before tenacity became an over-used buzz word and promptly went out of fashion. I’ve been wondering what it was that made me so tenacious, and have concluded it was down to being so hungry to succeed. Not in ball breaking, career ladder climbing way either. I was simply desperate to keep the best job I’d ever had and knew I would have at that point. It was vital for me, because I didn’t have parents funding my existence.
Up until then I’d only made a small handful of proper friends. Two lovely ladies I lived with in my first house share, and my BFF that I met when I was eight years old.
I don’t think it’s an over exaggeration to say that the job, and people I met in the three years I worked there, shaped my entire life. Some of my very best friends, including my gorgeous girls who I went to Ibiza with last year, came from that era. I didn’t realise it then but it was a gloriously simple time. My biggest problem was usually wondering how I’d keep my eyes open on a few hours sleep and a brutal hangover. Or face palming myself for ending up in bed with the friend-with-benefits. Again.
During this time I lived in a party house with a fabulous bunch of mostly antipodean travellers
It was one of those huge old houses in deep dark East London, that hadn’t been chopped up into flats. At one point there were sixteen of us in five bedrooms, and we brought new meaning to the word fun. We went clubbing most weekends, played silly drinking games until the sun came up and went back down, and were well known for throwing the best parties. One of my close friends describes me during those days as being carefree, and I really was.
Until I wasn’t anymore.
A silly decision that I made when blind drunk led to a fall out with a bunch of housemates. It was the catalyst for my first mental breakdown, and the thing that finally propelled me to sit in front of a counsellor. It was amazing. She was amazing. In fact for me, it was life changing, because she opened my eyes to how toxic my family relationships had become. It was the beginning of the end for my mother and I.
While all this was going on I shared a house with a platonic male friend
He helped me through the darkness of 2002 and back on to my feet emotionally. He become more like family to me than all my blood relatives put together. He properly understood who I was, and we had a similar outlook on life. Although it’s hard to remain super close to a person who lives on the other side of the world, he’ll always have a special place in my heart.
As will so many others. The now faraway friends, who went home eventually. The not so faraway ones, who have lived turbulent lives. I am convinced that our paths will once again cross when the time is right. Thank goodness for Facebook to keep in touch.
There were only a few men who left a lasting impression
Not because I’m a man hater, but because they weren’t very memorable. There was my first ever boyfriend who I met a few months after leaving home. He broke my heart so I slept with his best mate. Oh dear. Then there was my second boyfriend, whose love for the booze over-shadowed everything else he did. Then there was the gay one, and understandably after that, I was very cautious with my heart. I knew it was too fragile, and too precious to dish out quite as willy nilly as I had been doing.
Going back to my deep thoughts, I knew from a very young age that most of my family had squandered their youth on having kids when they were teenagers and shacking up with the wrong men. Horrible men who battered them, physically, mentally or both. Rather than even dip my toe into that kind of water, I steered clear of the ocean altogether. I dedicated my time to enjoying myself rather than looking for Mr. Right.
But a girl’s gotta eat, hasn’t she? So, there was the aforementioned friend-with-benefits, who I worked at the same company with. He and I were never a couple, but had a semi-relationship that lasted more than two years. We were both more than aware that it would never be serious, and that suited us just fine.
Then there was the one before the one, who certainly helped shape me. He was living in a house share with a dear friend of mine, and we clicked immediately. He was on a gap year, and ridiculously intelligent, both academically and emotionally. He made me realise that I wasn’t unlovable or as fucked up as I’d managed to convince myself I was. He enabled me the confidence I was lacking to meet my husband, and for that I’ll always be grateful to him.
The trip to Asia in 2004 was the stuff of big screen blockbusters
Very early one late January morning, armed with a backpack of clothes and bottle of Thai whiskey, I found myself boarding a bus that would travel from the Khao San Road to Siem Reap. I was nervous, and still drunk from a very debauched night in Bangkok with friends from home who were on their way to the southern islands. I didn’t know what to expect, and all those years ago Cambodia wasn’t nearly as touristy or safe to travel to as it is now.
I totally lucked out though, because on that bus were some bloody awesome people. We didn’t just hit it off for the duration of the road trip, we ended up staying at the same guest house and sharing rooms with each other once we reached our destination. It was a non-stop party, and such incredible amounts of enjoyment were being had that I very nearly left the country without visiting the infamous temples of Angkor.
From Siem Reap we headed to Phnom Penh, where we met a true diamond of a lady. She had been living by the coast in Sihanoukville for a few months, working in a beach bar, and she introduced us to her crew when we headed down south the following week.
Ahhh the glorious memories that were made partying at Eden, which sadly doesn’t exist anymore, but that’s a whole other story. When my Cambodian visa was almost up, I planned to head out of the country via boat, back into Thailand, then go to Laos.
Laos had been on my bucket list since first visiting Thailand two years previous (I went back three times in two years). I felt ready to conquer the next part of my trip – if slightly terrified to be going it alone again. It wasn’t meant to be though, because on my supposed last night in Sihanoukville I met my husband.
A fairytale start
We had the most amazing start to a relationship imaginable. We talked for hours daily, swapping every single detail of our life stories. We excitedly discussed plans for the future the way that only the young and truly carefree can. We partied, and travelled, and filled our minds with exciting adventures and interesting memories. We left each other after six weeks, and were back together a fortnight later. (You can read more about that here if you like). We had a glorious seven months on the road, before heading home, and lasted five month before going back to Cambodia.
We set up a music shop and vodka bar, and lived there for a year. It was during this time that I cut ties with my mother and family. I was in a shocking place mentally, and being in such a lawless environment, having access to anything I wanted, was not a good thing for me. I returned to the UK with a wrecked head weighing seven stone, my relationship in pieces.
It was in this state that I started working for my best mate’s now ex-husband, which screwed me up even more. I don’t think I was capable of having deep thoughts at that point, I was merely surviving from one bender to the next. I left his company and started working for a man who can only be described as a money-obsessed megalomaniac. He was a truly awful person, but life lessons come in all shapes and sizes, and I can see now that I learnt a lot from him.
Whilst on a work jolly in Reykjavik in late November, I truly broke. Smashed into teeny tiny pieces I properly hit rock bottom, and realised that I needed to sort my shit out. Deep thoughts do not come close to describing where my head was at, but in a good way for the first time in too long. I was buzzing with ideas about which direction I wanted my life to start heading in.
For the full details of how I got myself from mental breakdown to firing on all cylinders, you’ll have to read my book, Become the Best You.
I stopped working for the male devil-wears-prada, and set up a little food business. Unfortunately it coincided with the worst economic crisis of our lifetime, and led to bankruptcy. Again I learnt some incredibly valuable lessons and would not change that part of my history for anything. Mine and Hubby’s engagement in early 2008 signified the beginning of a new chapter.
The wife and mama years
After being told I was infertile following a PCOS diagnosis, you can imagine our surprise at seeing two lines on a stick four months before the wedding! Getting married with a five month bump obviously wasn’t what we’d planned, but we were both more than ready to embrace our new circumstances.
Then it was birth plans and NCT classes and Bugaboos. It was feeding every two hours and becoming best friends with coffee. It was worries about eczema and allergies and autism. More than anything else though, it was my heart being filled with endless amounts of unconditional love.
Eight and half years into motherhood, with three home educated children, life can be tough. The last few years have been a huge battle, but recent changes are paying off. Giving up the booze is working wonders for my mental health and I’m much calmer and less in crisis mode. Don’t get me wrong, collectively we’re still having plenty of moments, but there have also been lots of ups on this roller coaster of ours. And that has to be worth celebrating.
It’s been good to reflect on all the wonderful people who have helped make me who I am. I’ve not named names, but anyone mentioned here will know who they are.
I’ve also filmed a little vlog to show my appreciation to all the people who helped get me through this year!
Happy holidays everyone, here’s looking at an awesome 2018