I have been so lucky to connect with new, inspiring people since starting this blog; particularly this past week when my ‘story’ was mentioned in Free Range Humans. The responses I have received from others have inspired me to keep writing, inspired me to keep smiling and yet these people are the ones thanking ME for inspiring them?! I don’t think they even realise the impact they have on me, that actually they are the inspiring ones for having the courage to reach out and touch me with their kind words and heart.
Let’s be honest, we all have a story in life. We all have painful moments, tales of loss and sorrow. But we also all have the capacity to grow from our losses, to share love and laughter beyond and even during those times. We inspire people more often than we realise every single day just by having the courage to be kind to others, to love people and to share our stories.
A few people have asked me to share my story from Free Range Humans, as it was distributed on email only to subscribers of the Friday Love Letter. So here is the Friday Love Letter from Marianne at Free Range Humans, for those of you that would like to know a little more about me. Have a wonderful weekend all keep sharing the love!
FRIDAY LOVE LETTER
“Today, I am sitting here after my first day of work on a shark ecotourism boat in South Africa. I have dreamed of pursuing this passion as my ‘work’ for 12 years. Thanks to the inspiration and confidence I gained from your book, I packed my bags two weeks ago, left the UK and here I am! I couldn’t be happier to finally have the courage to follow my dreams. My work is no longer work… it is fun and I get paid to do this!?!”
This little nugget got a great response on the Facebook page and plenty of people found it inspiring…
But that’s not why I’m sharing it here.
You see, the thing about stories like this is that while they are uplifting, it is sometimes easy to assume that the person behind it was superhuman: maybe they had oodles of confidence and more than likely an easy ride in life. Right?
What we don’t see in these mini happy stories are the full person behind them: all the ups and downs and messiness of life that they had to deal with up to that point. When you only see the shiny outside, that can seem a million miles away from your warts and all reality.
Yet one thing I’ve learned over years of doing this is that these sexy success stories are rarely as linear and neat as we imagine, and one of the things I’m privileged to do is connect with the human face behind them. Today, you get a chance to do that too.
Today we’re going to do things differently. The person behind the mini story above is named Kat and she has kindly agreed to share her fuller story with you, warts and all. If you get one thing from this, I hope it is that things are rarely as smooth for others than they seem on the outside.
So if you’re up for a read grab a cup of tea (or beverage of your choice) and settle in as Kat tells you the rest of her story in her own words.
The story behind the story
Ever since I was a little girl I have wanted to work with wildlife, and I spent my days reading every wildlife and science magazine I could get my hands on. I painted ‘Save our Seals’ posters – which looked more like sausages than seals! I wrote to the queen, the prime minister and talked to anyone that would listen about how important our marine environments are.
And then one day I grew up and tossed my dreams aside.
I finished university with my Masters in Environmental Biology and a passion for sharks but I didn’t pursue it as a career. I didn’t think I was good enough. Surely I should do the sensible thing and get a 9-5 office job and settle down.
So that’s what I did. I got a sensible job as far away from the ocean as possible, and for the past 7 years I have worked as an environment officer: a job which involved regulating waste sites, farms, sewage works and was essentially an enforcement role – meaning I spent a fair amount of time auditing sites and putting together evidence for court. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fascinating job and I have happy memories of the people I worked with but it never made my soul and heart sing.
I always felt there was more and that I had stuffed myself and my wings into a box that I felt just wasn’t right for me. I didn’t know how to set myself free as I didn’t have much faith in my abilities or much self confidence.
In this time I also met and moved in with the man I loved. We lived happily enough for 7 years until left me a few weeks before our wedding for another woman.
It was Christmas 2008 and totally out of the blue. I am pleased to say they are happily married now and I can call him my friend. Nonetheless it broke my heart and left me low trying to manage our home, our two dogs and my career. I was suffering from a serious back injury at the time and couldn’t even carry a bag of groceries unassisted. It was a dark time for me.
Six weeks later my beautiful Mum was diagnosed with cancer.
My partially broken world fell apart and it is no exaggeration to say the next year was a desperate struggle to try and be strong for my family and put on a brave face for mum whilst also dealing with my own separation.
I came home from work every night and the only comfort I found was with my two beautiful dogs. They got me through with their waggy tails and I loved them with all my heart. The three of us were a team and we may have been broken but would not be beaten. We stumbled on through many teary nights and the nightmare that is cancer treatments and eight months later my Mum was declared cancer free. I felt as if life was finally giving us a break!
Mum convinced me to try Internet dating that Christmas. I met a wonderful man that December and, despite my history with my ex-fiance, he moved in with me a few months later and onwards life went. I finally felt like life was on the up and the hard times were behind us. We celebrated and partied that New Year into 2010 like never before and I remember dancing round the kitchen with my Dad celebrating Mum’s recovery and my new found love.
But two months after our New Year, we were devastated to hear Mum’s cancer had returned a year to the day she was diagnosed. She fought hard and never once complained. She passed away that summer. She was my best friend, the light of so many peoples’ lives and I have never forgotten her courage and ability to keep smiling, no matter what her illness and treatment did to her. She was a true inspiration.
We pulled together as a family, I pulled my partner and my dogs close and we stumbled through the year dealing with our grief. I was thrilled when my partner proposed to me that Christmas Eve, our first after Mum had passed away. I just couldn’t believe my luck and he made our Christmas so special.
Shortly after that time my fiancé was offered a job in the Channel Islands. How exciting life was becoming! It finally meant I could leave my worries behind and start a new career. I began to dream again of sharks and marine based work. I could feel my heart coming alive as I packed up my house, said goodbye to my colleagues and friends that I had cherished for many years. This was the start of my new life and while I was scared to leave my life behind there was everything to look forward to.
A new beginning.
I arrived at the Channel Islands three months after my fiancé; due to work commitments. Something didn’t seem right but the dogs and I did our best to settle in to our new home. After only eight weeks on the island and busy making our final wedding arrangements, I came home from my new work as an administration assistant (not quite my dream but a wage nonetheless and I was grateful for that). My fiancé announced he had changed his mind and decided to leave me.
It was three months before our wedding. I was left with no option but to leave the island with my dogs, leave my job and head back to the UK without a home, fiancé or career. I was absolutely devastated and can’t describe the humiliation I felt at being left twice. I took all of the blame on my shoulders.
I arrived back in the UK and my Dad let the dogs and I share his home whilst I signed on at the Job Centre and tried to find work. I was broken, I had lost everything.
That was 1 year and 3 months ago today.
There is more to that story in the past year and yes I managed to eventually find work again as an Environment Officer in a new town but that’s another story. I guess I am just trying to show that you can go through the darkest times and survive or even come out winning in the end. My story isn’t unusual and I am not superhuman. I am just a regular person in her thirties that has had some heartache and tried to get through it and fight for something more.
And now here I am. I am that little girl again making Save our Seals posters, except this time I fought hard for my dreams and am actually working with my beloved sharks and sharing my passion with the world.
I am so happy and am typing this whilst sitting on the patio of my little rented cottage in South Africa. I finally figured that if I could survive the past few years and still have a smile on my face then I could find the courage to chase my dreams and set myself free.
Tomorrow I will be going out again on the boat and showing our people the beauty of sharks and our oceans. I will not give up, I will flap my wings like crazy on a daily basis to bring the creativity out in me whilst I smile at the ocean around me and say ‘I did this’.
I may be going alone and I may be scared but my goodness I am flapping my wings with a smile on my face.
I hope that my story can inspire someone else to believe in themselves like you have inspired me.