I recently returned to the sunrise point where I celebrated my 30th birthday three years ago. The view hasn’t changed; but I’m standing here as a different person.
I had a lot on my plate then. So much so that I wanted to spend my birthday alone. Because I didn’t have the strength to hold up a smile and hide the fact I was struggling. Struggling to accept that where I found myself was far from where I thought I would be at 30.
After the diagnosis I had received a few months prior, 30 felt like rock bottom. But now as I reflect, I can say that that rock bottom is fertile ground. It was there that I planted seeds of self-acceptance and forgiveness. And made a vow to just do my best to continue. To, despite the uncertainty, “live the questions” in the words of Rainer Maria Rilke:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
I made a commitment to run my own race and dance to the beat of my own drum — focusing on self-care and understanding my individual needs, strengths, and limitations. And now, three years later, it feels like those seeds have finally grown into something of reasonable size and substance…
After a decade single, I have a partner. My book has been professionally printed, sold online and even stocked on shelves at my local store. I’ve started to explore a completely new career path through studying counselling — which feels closer to the work I’m “here to do”. And the big one — I’ve been on live TV, the radio, in the newspaper and recognised in Parliament for my efforts with Boy Under the Bridge.
This particular experience has cemented a feeling I always hand a hint of as a child — that all I want to be is myself. To be seen, accepted, and understand where I fit. Sadly, as I headed into my 20s and the “real world”, I took onboard messages of who I should be and what I should have. This resulted in the crumbling of my self-esteem and triggered wave after wave of depression (while I also struggled with undiagnosed ADHD).
My three minutes of fame, although short, has taught me lessons I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Such as the importance of creativity and having one’s own identity, purpose and projects. When we create and express, it’s not only a gift to others; but to ourselves.
Art is healing — inside and out. It creates a sense of community and connection. It’s unfortunate this gets brushed aside by capitalist pressures to commodify, create income streams and compare what we do to someone who does it better. Well, now, I can flip my finger and say otherwise. Following my bliss hasn’t made me any serious cash (although I have set up a buy me a coffee account — a big step in valuing my own contribution) but it’s changed the direction of my life and done more for my mental health than any of the six medications I’ve tried since my diagnosis.
I’ve experienced a shift on a deep level. Which is why I’m standing here as such a different person – despite only three years passing. I’m feeling more comfortable in my skin and about my situation than I ever have. Sure, there’s still far to go — but I feel like I’ve got it in me. I’m now steering the ship rather than being thrown around like over the last 10 years.
I’ve always believed a bit part of being strong is being honest. So I also want to make it clear that I didn’t see any of this coming. I just planted the seeds and nurtured them. Which, I believe is ‘faith’ at its fundamental level — to act despite the evidence being unseen. So if you’re at ‘rock bottom’, please have faith in yourself.
And in life. I’ve also learned how suddenly things can change. It only took a single tweet to a journalist to instigate a newspaper article being written about me which resulted in a flow of opportunities which are still going… At any moment we could be brushing shoulders with a completely different life. And all we need to do is introduce ourselves.
And that’s 33.
This year is definitely going down as a standout. And I can confidently say this despite having another 33 – 40 left. It’s been my first experience with a global pandemic — as for many. Throwing everything up in the air. But amongst the chaos, it’s revealed something in me — something enduring, purposeful and beautiful. Something I feel like I’ve been looking for my entire life. Something I’m so happy to say I’ve now found.