There are times when I feel incredibly proud of what I’ve achieved. At the age of forty, I set out to reinvent myself as an author and columnist, having spent the past twenty years of my working life in a variety of unfulfilling and, occasionally, mind-numbing roles (including one brief, bizarre stint as a weight loss counsellor which I still yearn to forget).
When I take a step back and consider where I’m at – I write for several publications, have published two books, and appear regularly on TV as a commentator – I can barely recognise my old self. And yet it is exactly this kind of introspection I try to avoid. Because I feel a little like Dumbo the elephant, flying with his magic feather. I know that the only thing keeping me up is faith, and if I think too much about it, the faith may disappear and I will plummet to the ground. So I just keep on flying, without looking down.
I have always loved to write, and it was always my strongest skill. I studied English and Linguistics at uni after I left school, but panicked after the second year, and transferred to a more vocational course. I believed I could never have made a living through words, and so completed a degree in Social Work to get myself a decent job.
Well, I hated practicing as a social worker, and I wasn’t very good at it. I worked for a couple of years in the hospital system, and then left for various jobs in Human Resources, recruitment, admin, and as the aforementioned Jenny Craig counsellor. I was sometimes bored, sometimes not, but didn’t really see an alternative.
Then, after my first child was born fifteen years ago, I went back to uni and finished my Arts degree. After my second child was born I sent off the odd article here and there, but continued to work part time in recruitment until my third child was born, back in 2007.
It was only after she started crèche, and I was well into my 41st year, that I began to write in earnest. I began tweeting, and then blogging, and then writing for women’s websites unpaid for over two years. I wrote my first book, and then I wrote another, and began getting paid writing work as a columnist for online and print publications. My social media reach grew, my speaking engagements multiplied, and I began being asked to appear on TV to talk about current affairs.
It seems organic when I describe it, but it was bloody hard work. I was glued to the computer for years, and put in thousands of unpaid hours on my blog, on other people’s websites, and on television appearances before I actually began earning an income. Though I did well from my books, I only began making decent money from my freelance writing and TV work in the last eighteen months, and even now, it is a week to week exercise.
But I appreciate my good fortune, and feel grateful for the assistance that I’ve had. I am aware of the role that luck has played in my career – I began blogging at the right time in Australia, when there were fewer voices and it was easier for the cream to rise to the top. I was supported by many fabulous women in the industry, who were nurturing of other people’s talents in a way that women in the corporate world were most definitely not.
And I am constantly aware of that magic feather. Life has no guarantees, and in order for any of us to soar, we need a big dose of faith. Just remember that when you take your own leap off the edge, and to never stop and look down.