everything i wish i knew about…success

if you ask Siri what success means you get this response “success means the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”

i guess the thing, the biggest thing, i wish i knew about success is that it looks different to different people. i know that probably seems obvious to some but it’s taken me a minute to really let that sink in and i still have to remind myself of that regularly.

when you’re young and at school success and progress looks pretty much the same to everyone. it’s being smart enough to pass exams, cool enough to be in the ‘popular’ crowd (or at least cool enough to not get bullied), it’s having ‘cool’ labels in your clothes.

once you leave school the road to success looks different to everyone. it can be really hard not to compare yourself to everyone. you’ll get to 30 and wonder what you have achieved. it will seem like everyone else has all, or some, of the markers of a traditionally successful life. some will have kids, others will be married, own homes, have their dream job, found their forever person.

when you’re surrounded by these people it can be easy to feel like a failure. it can be easy to forget that success is different to everyone. if there is one thing i hope you remember it is that success really does look different to different people depending on their priorities. when you’re surrounded by people like this and fed this narrative of success by the media (especially the social kind) it is only natural to compare yourself and achievements. it is only natural to question your success and what it looks like.

success is personal, it can only line up with your own goals and aims. these will change over time. truly, being honest, your success is always under construction because of this. it can be hard but you need to get to a place where you can accept the pace of your own journey. it might take you ten more years to buy your own house or have a baby – that won’t dull your sense of accomplishment when you do it, when it finally happens. that’s if that is what success looks like to you, of course.

success is not a straight line or linear. there will be set-backs, road blocks and challenges. there will lessons of their own and, hopefully, you’ll consider the fact you’ve made it over these a success in itself.

you just need to stay focused and keep going. you will get there. i promise. it doesn’t come without effort and commitment but you can get there. think how different your life can look in 5 years. how your life feels to you is more important than how it looks to others.

once you’re happy with how it feels in your gut (or where you’re headed) then you’re finally on the path to success.

xoxo M

letters to younger me: everything i wish i knew about… grief

when you think about grief you think about death. well it’s where your mind goes generally. but there are so many more forms of grief that you will experience over the course of a lifetime. they won’t all hit the same, or take the same about of time to recover from, but they are all grief, they all hurt and will leave you feeling crippled.

the best piece of advice, well not advice but the biggest lesson learnt is probably that no one will tell you there is a limit they put on how long you can grieve. after a period of time be it a week, month, or year/s , all of a sudden everyone decides you should be ‘over it’ or ‘move on’.

the thing is, with any type of loss, you never really ‘get over it’. you simply learn to move forward, because you have to.

you learn, you will learn, to put your hurt and pain in a box, in the corner of your mind and heart. you’ll pull on it sometimes when you want to, or need to, remember what it is to feel on that level or that you deserve to be hurt again.

something to remember is this: we might lose people but we will never lose what they gave us. the memories. the love. the laughter. the lessons. this goes for every type of grief – including death and break-ups. the guy who told you you deserve the world – that he wanted to give it to you but couldn’t – he reminded you of what you deserve and that there are good guys out there. i know you still miss him – maybe you always will – but he reminded you of your worth. that can’t be a bad thing.

the thing with loss and grief is that it’s never going to be okay. it’s never going to be okay. it’s always going to hurt. your heart will always be broken but it just gets less debilitating. the cracks will heal but you’ll always feel the break. you’ll just learn to live with it. you learn to get out of bed, you can eat again but it’s always going to hurt.

somedays the heaviness will be unbearable. other days, you’ll remember little things about them that make you smile. like whenever you see a rainbow, you’ll think about grandad. it will be bittersweet; the happy memory of them tinged with sadness.

in the early days you’ll see them everywhere, hear them in every song on the radio. over time this will get easier but you’ll never be fully prepared for those moments where the grief hits you out of nowhere. when you think you see them in line at the supermarket just to realise that it is impossible or improbable. when the radio starts playing a song that reminds you of them the most, or that has a lot of memories attached to it. you’ll feel like the grief has hit you fresh all over again. the ground will feel like it’s opening up. it’s not. you’ll be okay. you made it through the first hour, first day and week. you’ll make it through this. if you need to run out the supermarket, that’s okay. if you need to excuse yourself and go to the toilet to cry, that’s okay too. crying yourself to sleep again is okay.

we all deal with grief in different ways; we all process it differently. we all have different timelines. when it really seems too tough just tell yourself ‘if you can get through the next 10 seconds, you can get through anything’. be kind to yourself through it. try not to isolate yourself too much; being around people can help. i say ‘can’ because some people are not going to be productive whilst you grieve and heal, whilst you get to a point where you can function day-to-day.

grief teaches you a lot about people. about yourself and those around you. your strength will surprise you. remember, as mr sheeran sings, ‘a heart that’s broke is a heart that’s been loved’ – and that ain’t a bad thing at all.

xoxo M

a letter to younger me – everything i wish i knew about…

life.

life is a funny thing, isn’t it. it’s frustrating, yet exhilarating. it’s simple, yet complex. it can’t really be planned but somehow also requires a plan. in a word: it’s complicated.

there are a million different cliches when it comes to talking about life. too many to write here. everyone has their own that, at some point, they repeat to their friends, family (and social media followers). one thing that we can say is true is “the only certainty in life is death”. everything in between when we are born and when we die… none of it is certain. (i feel this is taking a slightly depressive turn but bear with me, i’ll pick it back up).

life is brilliant in so many ways, there will be days where you feel light as a feather. there will be moments when you’ll sit with your best friend, watching your nephews play and think ‘life is great, how did i get so lucky?”. you’ll see friends marry the loves of their lives. you’ll have moments in your career, something you have always put 110% into (yes, you’re work pissed, the sooner you embrace that, the better), that you can’t quite believe happen – turnarounds in stores -that everyone had written off – and teams that you influenced and led. moments when you finally make a breakthrough with a child when teaching them and think YES they got it, finally and know that it was your teaching skills that got them there. there will be moments when you’re in love, or heading that way, where you feel so happy your heart could burst. a word of warning though – don’t be too smug. you know what comes next.

heartbreak. disappointment. confusion. you can’t always get what you want, you can plan for everything but then life will throw you a curveball, call your bluff and kick you in the gut. leaving you writhing around on the floor trying to catch your breath. it ain’t always gonna be pretty.

the disappointments will leave you aching for a time before, a time before life made you sore. before you had your heart broken by men who you thought could be the love of your life (spoiler alert: they’re not). before you were let down by friends. before you lost those you love. you’ll ache for a time before the disappointments. a time when life felt simple.

‘everything happens for a reason’ that’s a firm favourite. you’ll hear that a lot when you’re feeling shit, or trying to justify a disappointment. the worst thing, or maybe it’s the best, is that it does seem to be true. hindsight is 20:20 vision. it doesn’t help the stuff hurt any less in the moment but it is good to know and can be helpful to keep in mind whilst you heal.

no one makes it through life unscathed; without scars and heartbreak. all the paths in life you take in life, you gotta make sure some of them are dirt (whether you know it at the time or not). it’s where you figure out who you are and what you want from this life. it’s the curveballs that make life interesting and show us what we are made of. if we’re lucky, there’s a blessing waiting for us at the end of that dirt road.

the one other thing that i know to be true, that i have learnt about life is that, in three little words, it goes on. regardless of the hurt and heartache. life. goes. on. you will survive. you will get through 100% of your worst days. if you can find one small glimmer of hope on those bad days, you will survive.

it won’t always be easy, it will be hard. really fucking hard but, you’ll do it. best of all, best of ALL – it will be worth it. the good days will remind you why you fight. why you’re pleased to be alive and why you’re glad you continued and why you’re glad that life does, in fact, go on.

life is lived and created in the messy parts, it doesn’t always make sense but maybe there is something oddly beautiful about the confusion. maybe if you lean into it, it won’t seem so scary. or maybe i’m talking out my arse, who knows?

maybe one day it won’t all seem confusing, maybe one day it will all make sense. maybe one day, one day, we’ll understand the point of it all. until then, buckle up buttercup because life isn’t going to wait for you. try to enjoy the ride and bring tissues – you’re going to cry a lot!

xoxo M

An Open Letter to my Nephews

Dear Mason- James and Oscar,

Firstly, thank you for being you. When you were both born I cried, tears of happiness and of disbelief. Disbelief that these tiny little bubbas, all 7lb 12oz (M-J) and all 8lb 8oz (Oscar), were finally here. After what seemed like months for me – I can only imagine what it felt like for your mum and dad – you were finally here. Ask me now, and I would bet my left leg that I can remember exactly where I was when I got the message to say you had arrived, I can remember where I was when I received the first picture of you. I can tell you now that you instantly became my wallpaper and screensaver on my iPhone, iPad and MacBook. There was not one person that wasn’t thrilled by your arrival. I can promise you that. Even though I don’t know what age you’ll read this letter I can tell you both now that you have brought so much joy to everyone that has come in to contact with you in your lives. At the age of 26 I can confidently say you are the two best things in my life. Nothing else, no one else, comes close.

Secondly, the reason I am writing this letter to you now (Oscar you are 3y 9m and Mason-James you are 3 ½ days old) is because I want to tell what I have learnt about being young, whilst I’m still going through it. So I’m not telling you (or lecturing, you as you may see it – that’s if you take after me of course) when I’m twice the age I am now (gulp) and you think that I have no clue what I’m harping on about because, after all, there is no way Auntie KayKay was ever young is there!?!?!

So, what do I want you to know?

Please remember that you are loved. No matter what else you believe to be true nothing is truer than this. Yes, mum and dad might be super uncool because when you were 15 they wouldn’t let you stay out all night, or let your girlfriend/boyfriend stay over, they might not know what the number one song is in the chart, but they love you. They are your parents and they deserve to be treated with respect. So hold your tongue. They might not let you get away with everything you’d like to but that in itself is showing you they love you. They are teaching you boundaries and respect for both yourself and others. Remember that showing their love doesn’t always come in massive gestures. When mum asks you if you ate today, or dad tells you to take a jacket out because it’s cold – that is them showing they love you. If they didn’t love you they wouldn’t care if you starved or froze to death. You want to know if someone really loves you look at the little things, not the grand gestures. Also remember that your mum and dad are doing the best they can, with what they have. You might not get what you want but I can tell you now both your mums and dads would go without to make damn sure you’ve got what you need. Do not take them for granted.

To teenage you, get over yourself. Contrary to what you believe, the world does not revolve around you. You are the centre of someone’s world, but not of everyone’s world. You need to remember this. If you forget I am quite happy to bring you down a peg or two.

Some people just won’t like you. AND THAT’S OK. There will be more people who like you than don’t (unless you’re a real asshole, but as you’re my nephews, this will be physically impossible).

The people you go to school with are rarely your forever. As they are all you’ve known, you will think they are. In the majority of cases, for most people, they aren’t. ALL of my best friends I met either through university or work. Unless you are one of the rare ones, you will have this weird period of your life when you are 16/17/18. You won’t know what it is that feels off, but something will. At this point in my career I have employed a LOT of young people who are at ‘school leaver’ age and every year I see them go through it. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you are going through a lot right now. The security blanket of school is about to be taken from around you (no matter how much you may or may not hate it, you will miss the security, the routine). The people you have seen near enough everyday for most of the last – at least – 5 years will suddenly not be there everyday. You will think that it is the worst thing in the world. I promise you, it’s not. Trust the uncertainty. This is just the beginning. Life is about to become SO much more than you thought it could be.

The world is so much bigger than this town. Please travel. If you can only promise me one thing, promise me this. It doesn’t have to be for 10 years with a backpack. It can be weekend getaways; it can be a 2-week holiday each year. Just please get out there, travel. Experience the world and all it has to offer. You will become a better person for it. There is only so much you can learn about other cities and cultures from a textbook. The best way to learn something is to experience it yourself. Oscar, one of the things I loved about your mum when we first met, and even now, is her love of an adventure. You’ve got a great role model.

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A list of just some of the places I have visited in my 26 years. Travel is possible on any budget.

Don’t be afraid to fall in love. The first time you get your heart-broken is not going to be fun; in fact it will completely suck balls, but YOU WILL GET THROUGH IT. Every romantic novel and Hollywood movie tells us that you should take a chance on love because, if you can’t take a chance on love, what can you take a chance on? If people keep saying it, they must be right. Also, please don’t be that asshole who leads girls on to make himself feel better. If you don’t like someone, be blunt (NOT MEAN).  In the long run it’ll be better for everyone involved.

The number on the scale is just that – a number. It doesn’t define who you are. Having said that, food is not the answer. It will not make you feel better about yourself. Eat healthily and exercise regularly. Mason-James, I am praying that you take after your dad here. Your mum’s logic on eating her greens is not quite sound. “Cows eat grass, I eat lots of beef, and therefore I eat greens” Eat a little bit of everything. Enjoy your food, you will discover that food is one of the only 2 things in the world (in my opinion) that has the power to bring people from all around the world, together. The second is music.

Everyone is right: money can’t buy you happiness. Money can provide security, but once you have security, more money cannot buy you more happiness. If you show me someone who thinks money can buy happiness, I will show you someone who has never had a lot of money. The reason is the happiness that material things bring you is temporary. Experiences and memories will give you the happiness you crave. The happiness money can’t. My happiest times are attached to people, not things.

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Oscar, this is an old photo of your mum and I at my 25th birthday. I doubt I will remember what she bought me, I remember her being there.


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Mason – James, this one is of your mum and I a few months before she found out she was pregnant with you. It was taken at Cousin Katie’s wedding.

Find your passion. Find what makes you happy and spend your time on that. Be great at it. You have gifts and skills in you that have not been seen before, and that won’t be seen again. Someone once said, “Find a job you love and you’ll never work again”. I believe that to be true. If you do what you love and love what you do, you will work hard and you will enjoy it!

Lastly, because I am aware this is going on a bit. Know that life is full of struggle. Bad things will happen. To both you and those you love. These things that happen very often cannot be changed. Do not blame yourself. Keep fighting. There is an old Japanese proverb

“Fall seven times, stand up eight ”

Keep this attitude in life. Many people suffer great tragedies and live full and happy lives. Remember the people you love, cherish them and mourn them. Accept that terrible things happen, and try to live as if each day is your last with those you love. There is nothing else you can do.

Before I sign off, just one last thing, always remember no matter where life has taken me, no matter what country I am in:

I love you.

Xoxo

Auntie KayKay

Oh, and look at these…

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Mason, this is our first photo together. Taken the day after you were born at East Surrey Hospital.


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Oscar bear, this was our first photo together, taken in your first ever home in Sanderstead. I remember just staring at you for ages. And yes, I had ginger hair – it was by choice!