We all have the power to change our story
Here’s mine and here is how I changed it. I have a few stories obviously, there is the one about the broken family; the one about the broken heart… many many stories. But this is the story of the girl who wanted to be a hairdresser, then a journalist, then work in advertising and eventually landed upon the idea of doing PR.
I was twenty years old when I moved to London, a graduate of communications studies who had landed her first job at a London PR agency. The agency did tech PR and I was employee number four in 1999, the height of the tech boom. Since that first role and that £13,000 salary I have come a long way. I’ve worked in agencies of all shapes and sizes and run campaigns ranging in budget from a couple of thousand to several million. I’ve had teams of 13 and teams of just me, and I’ve had highs and I have had lows.
My career in PR is nearly two decades old but somewhere along the line I fell out of love with it, or perhaps realised that I’d actually never been in love with it at all.
Since I had my eldest daughter and escaped agency life I have been hustling as a freelancer, firstly because it gave me the flexibility I knew I wanted with a young family and secondly, because like many families these days, one income was simply never enough - especially not with debt to repay and a lifestyle to maintain. But as the years have gone by (I am on year six working for myself) the benefits of flexibility and the steady (and sometimes not so steady) income simply haven’t been enough.
And then, I reached my low. There are many people that inspire me on social media - I could name probably 100 just off the top of my head. So many women out there doing outstanding things - whether than is running a charity in their spare time; campaigning for flexible working; ending maternity discrimination; fundraising for charities that have raw and painful meaning to them or simply sharing how hard mum-life can be. And this week I found myself, not reaching out to some of them to share my purpose in life - the thing that lights me up, provides my own inspiration and makes my heart feel full - but to try and get them to help me market an electrical appliance.
I didn’t have one unpleasant exchange, there are many mums out there, doing what they need to do and there is an understanding that sometimes we have to sell our souls a little. It’s harsh but true. But one particular exchange provided a lightbulb moment for which I will forever be grateful. In explaining her need to be authentic, she reminded me of my ache to always do that too. In explaining her need to feel love for the things she talks about, she reminded me how good it feels to do that too. It was a tiny shift, like one millimetre to the left but that millimetre was as big a nudge as I needed. I was ready.
And in that moment I decided my story was going to change.
I am so very grateful for everything my PR career brought me - the postage stamp of a flat I own in London; friends and memories (some good, some bad); relationships (some good, some bad) and for planting one seed inside of me, which is my love for helping people grow into the people they really want to be. Through working in PR, and having bosses recognise my gift for development, I was able to easily work out what came next.
This journey really started several years ago when I decided I wanted to become a coach. It gained strength when I signed up to qualify; more strength when during that training I realised I was good at it; and more strength when clients benefitted from my coaching. This year I begin a journey towards certification, getting letters behind my name that demonstrate the time and effort I’ve already dedicated to honing these skills - and providing the credibility I want in order to spread my message even further.
But the moment my story really changed was one evening, sat on a stool in my kitchen, ignoring my daughter while she showed me her art, while I typed away on a little screen about the latest smart home device, not enjoying a single thing about it and acutely aware of all it was costing me - and realised that this couldn’t not go on. Straddling two completely incompatible careers, never feeling like there is enough time in the day to do anything well, or right, or with heart or purpose. I’d known for a long time that something had to give and I realised control was what I had to let go of. The need to control the outcome. I’d know for a long time that the little bit of PR I was hanging onto would go but I thought it would be at the right time. It turns out it needed to go when I let it.
I don’t know how the story goes from here and I guess no one taking a leap really does. But what I do know is that in that moment I decided to change it, the relief I felt was the greatest gift I’ve given myself in years. Life is short, make sure you’re living the story you want to be living. And if you’re not, start changing it.
Image by Annie Spratt