It's been a while. Sorry. Getting my head sorted takes time you know and these last couple of months have seen me face the end of an era and start a completely new one. It's not been easy by any means, and I would fight anyone to the death who said it was. Following your dreams and then realising that maybe they weren't your dreams after all is tough.....
I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved in my life so far. I am 42 and I am very happily married, have two gorgeous kids (every parent says that don't they, but they are, honest), I live in a truly stunning part of the country and I have achieved a great deal in my career in Textile Design.
I have spoken about this before, about how I have followed a path that I believed would gain me the respect, finally, of my peers. However, this has meant I have had to make a lot of sacrifices along the way. I don't do regret, at all, but if I could go back and tell my 18 year old self a few things I bloody well would.
I remember being in 6th Form and a group of lads decided one day (well most days to be honest) to make it 'take the piss out of Eli day'. They had no idea I suffered from anxiety and low self esteem but the things they said and did that particular day have stayed with me all my life. They sparked in me a fight, a fight to prove the little shits wrong. To prove them that despite their cruelty I would have a successful career and become highly respected. And I did. But, maybe in the end they have won because what I forgot to do, in all that anger and desire to prove them wrong was make informed and measured decisions.
We all love it when someone says to us 'wow, that's amazing, you are so good at this'. One day people started to say that to me about my designing, and it felt great. I really enjoyed designing, colour, texture and adored fashion and textiles. I used to watch The Clothes Show with my Mum and we would drool over the stunning creations coming off the catwalks each season. So, I decided that was what I would do. And I did. Just I ended up in interior textiles rather than fashion, our catwalks were international trade shows but just as exciting.
However it was almost as if I was living a double life. I worked summers for PGL Adventure and there I was able to just be me. No-one randomly took the piss out of me, made me feel like a worthless piece of shit as they had done in 6th Form. I was able to be me, warts and all and it worked, I was happy, content and free of anxiety. It was bliss. But, I had a point to prove, I had parents to make proud, I had school 'friends' to prove wrong, I had the world to show that I could be something. And most importantly I had something to prove to myself.....
I remember another day, vividly. I had just started at The Royal College of Art (told you I had been on a mission to prove those lads wrong, yep, little old me got in to the best art college in the world nonetheless). Anyway, my boyfriend was working for the YHA and we had been asked to go up to the Lake District for the weekend and be filmed having dinner with Anthea Turner for the TV Programme Wish You Were Here. Oh yes, we have all the luck! We had a great weekend, the weather was stunning, the Lake District was, as always beautiful and I spent the weekend in my outdoor kit and was SO happy. We got back to London and I popped in to see my housemate Anna who had been poorly and I remember thinking as I leant over to give her a hug that I should just turn around and go straight back to the Lakes, get back in to the outdoor clothes and leave it all behind. It just felt right. No pretence, just me. That moment, that thought has been burnt into my mind ever since.
There are many days like that when I would step away from the Textile Design persona in to my Outdoor persona and start to breathe, really breathe but I didn't listen. Being up in the hills walking and thinking to myself 'I could spend every day up here doing this', and then coming down and shutting those feelings away.
But, like I said, I loved what I did. I loved designing, I loved the industry, I loved design, teaching and leading a Degree Programme. You see for all the days that I can remember thinking 'I love this' about being Outdoors there are the same number, if not more days when I felt so giddy inside about the job I was doing. None more so than my role of Textile Design Course Leader. Wow. Now that was my dream job. I remember being at University and looking at my Course Leader thinking 'that's what I want to do'. And I bloody well did it. It was a huge rollercoaster ride, and I love rollercoasters. The students, the staff, the trips, the projects with international design houses, selling students work in New York, design shows in London, trips to Europe. It was amazing. Which has made it all the harder to leave.
I don't do regrets, I believe everything we do is for a reason good or bad. I believe I should have had the career I had, if I started to think otherwise then that would only end in more confusion. I loved what I did, passionately and I am immensely proud of what I achieved. And now its time for something new, its time for me to listen to that voice inside and don the outdoor kit and be the other me.
I haven't worn make up or straightened my hair in over 6 months. Instead of wearing the latest collection from Cos or Other Stories as per my Textile Design Persona I wear outdoor gear and gym clothing. I never would have thought I would step out the house in a pair of Sweaty Betty print leggings but I do, and boy it feels great.
There is a film I love called Sliding Doors. It shows how there are many moments in your life where you get to make a choice that will determine the rest of your life. I think I can pretty much remember all mine. There aren't many and I do sometimes wonder where I would be had I made the other choice. But at the end of the day, I didn't make that choice. I made the right choice at the right time. I am pretty confident that I would have reached this point in my life whatever path I had taken. I would have still had a breakdown and needed to remodel my life. I just feel so incredibly lucky that I have had the experiences I have had, that I have the family and friends I have and that I now have the chance to try something new. It is terrifying and exciting in equal measure. But bring it on. Life is for living.
And those lads from the 6th Form? I sure as hell ended up earning a stack load more than the £15k per annum that they took the piss out of me for believing. I proved them wrong but the crazy thing is, they won't remember what they said and did to me, they won't care in any way shape or form what I have, or have not achieved because you know what? I am just not that important. I thought I was back then, teenagers do don't they? But I wasn't. I was an easy target for them and they were the weak ones. Not me.
Of course I am important, in my own small way in this big world. As I go through the process of understanding my bonkers brain I am starting to unpick and analyse the parts of my life that have made me who I am. Its just so important to remember when you are talking to others that you don't know what is going on in their lives at that moment which may be making them behave in the way they are. Always give the benefit of the doubt and treat people with empathy and compassion.
Be Kind or Be Quiet.