One Story I’ve Never Told Before Now
Today I’m going to tell you a story about how the tragedies in your life can be the making of you. And why everyone needs to know their ‘why’.
In 2010, I had an amazing life.
I’d finally landed my dream job as deputy features editor on one of the UK’s top women’s glossies. I basically got to meet and interview celebrities every day. What 27 year old wouldn’t kill to do that?!
I also lived in a trendy London suburb in the most gorgeous garden flat. I shouldn’t have been able to afford it but the owner was a reader so bingo! It was mine!
Oh, and I’d also met a boy. We were in big sloshy love and I was pretty sure he was going to propose any minute now…
If you’re not feeling too nauseous, I’m about to get to the point now I promise.
The moment where everything changes.
It was one evening in April. I had travelled home to see my mum and dad for dinner, and after we’d finished, we all sat in the window seat in my dad’s study.
And they told me that he was dying.
My lovely dad had terminal cancer. They thought weeks, maybe months was all.
From that moment on, all I wanted to do was sit in that room for however long my dad had left, and cry big ugly tears in to his chest.
But of course, that wasn’t allowed.
For a start I had a job, and a soon-to-be fiancé.
And my parents, who are a little bit crazy (and incredibly wise), had already decided we’d waste as little time on tears as we could, and instead be as happy as we possibly could be.
From then on, I’d go home and find they’d spent the whole day doing things like only conversing in song (For eg. to the tune of verse 2 of Bohemian Rhapsody) “Why don’t you ever put the lid back on the bread bin?”
Because singing made them feel happy.
My dad declared every day a Champagne day. And for the next few weekends we made excellent progress through his very substantial (and very fine) wine selection.
We used the best china.
And more than once, all 9 of us squeezed in to his bedroom to eat our pudding when he was too poorly to join us for Sunday lunch (mum drew the line at taking up roast beef and gravy).
I even came home one day to find him lying on his bed with Walkman headphones wrapped around his tummy, and when I asked what on earth he was doing he said, “Mozart is very good for shrinking tumours.”
Yes. Even in a crisis, my family are as mad as a box of frogs.
But for those 12 months that my dad outlived his diagnosis, I had some of the sweetest moments of my life.
And I also had a conversation that would change the whole trajectory of it.
You see, at the beginning of 2010, I did have an amazing life. But only on paper.
Because the reality was, my dream job was not what I wanted to do after all. Working my way up the magazine ranks was no longer right for me.
This was partly because at the time I was suffering from chronic health problems which made working a demanding job a trial of endurance.
I felt so poorly that the only way I made it through the day was with a packet of painkillers and a hot water bottle that i carried at all times (even on the tube).
I spent the evenings in my beautiful garden flat with my lovely fiancé, not smiling at how smug and happy we were, but crying about how miserable and confused I felt.
My dad’s cancer, was just the icing on top of a very crappy cake.
But 6 months after his diagnosis, my dad told me something that made me stop and take control of my own happiness.
It was autumn now, and I was back in his room surrounded by his beloved books. He was recovering from major surgery, but despite a 12-inch wound down his middle, he still agreed to let me sit on his lap for a cuddle (I know. Such a baby).
My dad said to me, “If you could do anything. If money wasn’t an issue. If what people thought didn’t matter. What would you do tomorrow?”
I thought about it for a while, and said, “I’d leave my job, go freelance so that I could fit my work around my life and my health, and in my spare time I’d write my own stories.”
My dad was silent for a while.
“Then that’s what you should do,” he said.
“But I can’t,” I said, and began to reel off all the reasons why.
He listened. And then he said something that I’d seen typed out and cellotaped to his computer monitor. A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”
“And I truly believe it,” he said.
My dad didn’t live long enough to walk me down the aisle the following summer (this photo is of my gorgeous big brother giving me away ten weeks after our Dad died).
But he did live long enough to see me resign my job, start my new career as a freelance writer, and in the first two weeks land an enormous copywriting contract which earned more in a year on part-time hours, than my full-time job in magazines.
And my dad was so proud.
It’s been a meandering path from there to here.
But because my dad gave me the courage to be brave,
to be a little reckless,
and to be who I really wanted to be,
these last 7 years really have been amazing (although it’s far less glamorous, on paper).
My why, is simple:
My dad and all the things he believed I could do.
What better legacy could a parent leave?
The reason I’m telling you this, is partly because it’s a story I finally felt I could share one hot, sleepless Sunday night. I suffer with bad SNI (Sunday Night Insomnia) ?.
But also, because I want you to ask yourself, what is your why?
Write it down. And when you’re ready, share it with your audience.
Because that is what makes a story worth reading.
And that’s what makes a story uniquely yours.