Life had thrown me a curveball when I became disabled. Hell, I was not expecting that! My friends were all partying and moving on with their lives. My confidence shot. Self-esteem at an all-time low. The inevitable despondency followed and settled in – I become a resident passenger on the pity bus. The pity bus was safe, warm, comfortable, just wallowing - no expectations required.
Soon, I realised that there were two roads I could take. I could remain on the pity bus, or I could ring the bell and get off. Stepping on the bus was daunting. I had no idea what lay ahead, or what I was going to do. Slowly, I started to build my life and career, occasionally, I would hop back on the pity bus, but the journeys always became increasingly shorter.
In May 2019, I received an excellent opportunity to spend a week away from the phone, social media, emails, and the daily noise of life to take time to recharge and develop myself.
I attended the HOTHOUSE Women Cultural Creative Leadership retreat. A five-day guided journey to become a more authentic, courageous, and effective leader and change-agent.
The immersive experience of learning, sharing, self-discovery, and utilising nature as a transformational tool took place in the awe-inspiring calming, and relaxing environment of the Eden Project, Cornwall.
Guided by a team of national and international facilitators, I enjoyed the nature trails, evening meals in the Mediterranean bio-dome, and the privilege of spending the night in the tropical bio-dome to re-evaluate, refocus and plan how I wanted to be an effective change-maker.
A day trip to Hemmick beach resonated with me and became the catalyst for the ASPIRE personal development programme. In a rugged cliff, a beautiful bunch of wildflowers grew abundantly in a crevice in the rock face. The contrast of the delicate pink flowers, exposed to the rain, sun, and saltwater, was growing and thriving against the hard-grey rock. The flowers were flourishing, the pink blossoms dancing in the early May sunshine.
These flowers were like a metaphor – they reminded me of how my life had changed. When you are in what can seem like a foreboding and hostile environment, you can still survive, and more importantly, thrive. From the retreat, I took away several learning lessons.
We can give in to the noise around us, the negative audiotape playing in our head continually becoming louder.
As women, we have a reluctance to recognise and celebrate our successes.
As black women, we are either rushing through life, looking for the next job or opportunity to support ourselves and our families. We do not allow ourselves or have the time and space to enjoy the successes we have achieved. Or we dismiss them or minimise them to accommodate other inadequacies, be it a partner, friend, family member. Above all, we do not let our true selves shine or dance in the May sunshine like the pink flowers.
Before the retreat, I was often asked how I had managed to accomplish the achievements and make the impact I have. My answer had always been the same. I just do it. Now, I realise that, over the years, I have acquired an invaluable toolkit of knowledge, processes, and strategies.
I now want to share this knowledge and empower women to realise what is possible to achieve and start to live life on their terms.