For years I lived in the shadows. I didn’t even speak until I was three (and some people might tell you I’ve been making up for lost time ever since). But, you see, I knew everything had to be just right, so if I thought I couldn’t do it just right, I didn’t do it.
So when I decided it was time to talk, it wasn’t a babyish ‘Mama’ or ‘Dada’ that came out of my mouth… it was a complete sentence. And that set the tone for the years to come.
If you can’t do it right, don’t do it. Because, if you don’t do it, you can’t stuff it up.
But here’s the thing, as much as that means that everything that I did do was nigh-on perfect, I missed out on trying a ton of stuff. And that wasn’t what I was made for. It just took me a while to realise that, is all.
After all, I had my family: a husband, two amazing kids, who I was lucky enough to be able to stay at home for when they were young, a lovely house, nice things. I mean, what more should I want, right? Well, I didn’t know what more I wanted, but I knew I wanted more. I wanted to be something that I wasn’t. But it was easier – less painful, if you like, to put that want to one side and convince myself that everything was just as it should be.
Only it wasn’t just as it should be. And, as it turned out, trying to pretend that otherwise was no less painful, or any easier than calling it out. But I only found that out when the wheels came off my ‘perfect life’.
My high-flying husband (Andy) went from the fix-everything, deal-with-anything, strong-as-a-rock and every bit as resilient to a wreck literally overnight. Suddenly, my go-to solution, the person who I could hide behind was cut down and looking to me to be the strong one. But that wasn’t me. I wasn’t the strong one. I wasn’t the fixer or solver.
Only, a funny thing happens when your back’s against the wall: you find out who you really are. Because you have to to survive.
So there I was, a toddler and a newborn in tow, in the middle of a house-move, trying to juggle a home, a family, and a very sick husband with two choices: keep hiding in the shadows, or step into the light.
I don’t know if I made a conscious choice, or if it was purely a survival response, but I ended up standing in the light all the same. And that light illuminated the parts of me that the shadows had hidden. I found strength I never knew I had, passions I had long since forgotten, and a confidence that I had never before experienced.
In the months and years that followed, the foundation I built in the middle of that storm became the platform from which I went on the adventure into my real life – an adventure I am living every day.
And, as that adventure has unfolded, I have learned a lot about the real me – the me I was created to be.
Passionate about people. About justice. About equality. About seeing the downtrodden and beaten raised up. About calling out the brokenness of the system. About seeing the oppressed set free.
I can withstand more than I ever knew. I can persevere for longer than I knew was possible. I can go further than ever I realised. I have reserves that are seemingly without end.
For years I battled with insecurities, and some still haunt me. But as this adventure has unfolded, as I have brushed against the broken and the bruised, been lifted up by the courageous and the brave, I have learned that I am worthy. I belong here. I am no imposter, or gate-crasher, I am invited, and welcomed, because of who I am, not what I do.
I am no longer simply a follower, I am a leader. I am the one who puts the match to the fuse. I am the one who takes the first step into the unknown lands. Far from running from what I cannot see, I am drawn towards it.
And that realisation created a longing in my soul. A longing to see an entire generation share that same realisation – to know that they are already who they are supposed to be. To find the passion. To unlock their strength. To know they are worthy. To step into the adventure of their real life and discover their ‘me’.