I feel it coming back… my spark, my fire, my light, my lust for life.
I can feel it start to glow inside me again and I’m gradually, tentatively, allowing it to flow out of me and into the world.
And boy, it’s a good feeling!
Let me go back a few steps… what was it, what happened that caused my flame to go out?
The Moment My World Crumbled To Ash
I remember precisely the moment it went out.
Tuesday, April 10 2018, somewhere around 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I was at my best friend Anya’s house, with her mum and her brother.
The phone rang. It was Dave, who was by Anya’s bedside at the hospital.
Dave had spoken with the neurosurgeon and now had to share the news we had all been dreading. More of the blood vessels in Anya’s brain had started to collapse, and the doctors now knew that at least 75% of her brain had been irreparably damaged.
It was still a waiting game, but the waiting now was for a very different outcome.
Anya had suffered an aneurysm – a bleed on the brain – which caused her to collapse at Charing Cross Rail Station in London 6 days earlier. We had been waiting for the swelling to go down so they could operate – an operation from which there was a high chance she may have recovered.
But now we were waiting for the damage to spread to the brain stem, at which point she would officially be declared dead.
I remember when the phone call ended, we all looked at each other, somewhat stunned.
I walked outside and stood looking at the beautiful cottage garden that Anya had created and that we both loved so much.
Feeling myself go weak at the knees, I put my hands over my eyes and sobbed. That was it. The moment my light went out.
My World Spun On Its Axis
Two days later, she died.
It was the end of an era… the end of a 10-year friendship, a friendship which I cherished and appreciated every day of it.
I had often told Anya how much I loved her and appreciated her and was grateful to have her in my life. But it wasn’t until she was gone that the full truth was revealed to me – of just how much a fundamental part of me she had become.
She literally left a gaping hole in my life, a void I thought I would never fill.
And so I went through the motions, as you do, of arranging the funeral and helping her Dutch family navigate the bureaucratic processes of dealing with a deceased’s estate.
Two months later I was due to go back to work. But I had to delay my joining date by a week so I could attend the funeral of another very dear friend, Linden, who had succumbed to cancer a month after Anya died.
That’s right – I had lost two friends within one month.
My Dream Job
I was a cruise ship photographer, paid to travel the world on luxury cruise ships for six months at a time taking photographs of guests on their holidays.
It was a dream job! And I loved it!
Many folks thought I’d lost the plot when I went to sea in the first place. Leaving behind a successful corporate career – and taking a massive pay cut – was perceived as a massive risk (risk of what, exactly?).
Imagine their surprise when I came back from my first six-month contract at sea 10 kg lighter, tanned, grinning from ear to ear, bouncing off the walls with happiness and with an inner glow fit to blind anyone! I couldn’t wait for the six weeks to go by before I could go back to sea again!
Anya had loved coming on cruises with me… in fact, we had returned from a transatlantic cruise, sailing from the Caribbean back to the UK, just two weeks before Anya – aged only 53 – had suddenly and unexpectedly collapsed.
I remember vividly the two of us standing side-by-side on her cabin balcony looking out over the Atlantic Ocean on that cruise, sunlight glancing off the top of tiny waves, a warm breeze washing over us and me saying to her:
“You know what? I’m not ready to go home! I know I’ve been at sea nearly seven months this time, but I could go on at least another few more. Why would I want to be in rainy, cold England, twiddling my thumbs, when I could be out here, doing this??!”
I thought going back to my dream job in the cruising world would help me come to terms with both Anya’s & Linden’s deaths, and that I would be able to ‘move on’ with my life, by doing something I loved.
But now I was back at sea, I realised something inside me had changed.
The job no longer fulfilled me.
I was frustrated, I felt trapped and a long way from home, from my friends and family who had been a great support to me in the weeks following Anya’s death.
I struggled to make friends, I didn’t enjoy the social life any more.
I didn’t settle. I didn’t want to be there. For the first time in 3 years at sea, I longed to be home.
Which was a strange notion, as I didn’t have a home any more! I had packed up my flat and rented it out when I started the job. But in between contracts at sea, Anya’s house had become my home.
That Dream Was Over… Time For A New One
And so, two months into my six-month contract I handed my notice in and made the decision to come back for good at the end of the six months.
I had no plan, no job to go to, and didn’t really have a home either. But Anya’s brother, who was now living in Anya’s house in the UK while he sorted out her affairs, very generously offered to let me move in while I sorted myself out.
So I left my life at sea in December 2018 and spent Christmas at home with my family and New Year with Anya’s family.
In January 2019, we scattered her ashes and said our final farewells.
And then, that chapter closed, it was time to start looking ahead and thinking about my future.
Homeless & Unemployed… But With A Plan
I said I had no plan when I quit my job. That’s not entirely true… I had a vision, I just didn’t know how I was going to fulfil it.
That vision was to take what I had learned during my 3 years at sea and to become self-employed, making a living for myself doing what I love – photography.
After experiencing the lifestyle of a crew member – working seven days a week for six months straight without a day off (but that didn’t matter when what I was doing didn’t feel like work) – I knew there was no way I could go back to an office job or a Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 existence.
I anticipated that photography would be the vehicle that allowed me to achieve my vision, my dream of being my own boss.
And so that’s where I started…
I Thought I Wanted To Become A Freelance Photographer…
And I tried… I spent months researching, talking to other professional photographers, joining online photography business communities, attending online webinars about how to start a photography business, brushing up my Photoshop skills, creating a new Instagram account, creating a logo and a website for my photography business…
But … I just wasn’t feeling it.
I couldn’t work out what type of photography I wanted to do, or what kind of photographer I wanted to be.
Whatever I thought of, whatever I came up with, it just didn’t quite sit right.
Photography is my passion, it’s my hobby, it’s what I enjoy doing, it’s what I often can’t help doing! But the added pressure of making a living out of it just took all of the fun out of it.
I had a queue of friends wanting to book me to take photos of them and their families… but I just couldn’t do it. I had no idea how to price my services, and I just hated the thought of having to have the ‘money’ conversation with them. What if they didn’t like the photos? What if I didn’t live up to their expectations?
The reason I wanted to be my own boss was so I could choose my own hours. But the thought of having to make bookings months in advance for photographic sessions – at any and all times of the day – would tie me down and limit my freedom and flexibility. And weddings? You can’t cancel a wedding booking because something better came up…!
Although I was travel-fatigued after spending three years as a professional tourist, the wanderer in me couldn’t bear the thought of being tied down to a single geographical location. Especially when my current living arrangements were a temporary stop-gap. And that’s what I felt I would need to do in order to build up a business – make contacts, get to know people and build up a local network.
But aside from all these excuses, deep down in my gut, something was off.
Something was stopping me from going down this path, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
If Not Freelance Photography, Then What???
Fast forward to May 2019, and I was struggling.
I had been home now for six months and if the photography thing wasn’t going to work, I didn’t have a plan B.
At this point, I couldn’t visualise my future… to be fair, I couldn’t see much beyond the end of the week!
The clock was ticking. I started worrying more and more about money… I was living as frugally as I could and yet I was watching my savings gradually dripping away.
I refused to make plans, commitments, arrangements with friends or family because I didn’t want to be distracted from spending time trying to ‘figure this out’.
I started worrying about what people were thinking… I felt sure they must be thinking that I was “dossing about”, “being lazy”, “losing the plot”, “wasting away my life”.
In the past, people close to me had been inspired by my leaps into the unknown. I now felt their eyes gazing at me, wondering what my next crazy move would be.
I started shying away even more from seeing friends, neighbours, anyone… anyone who might ask me:
“So, how’s it going? Do you have a plan yet? Any idea what you’re going to do with the rest of your life?”
The Promise I Had Made To Myself
I had made myself a promise. When I quit my cruise ship job, I had said to myself:
“The time is now Caroline. This is your chance. This is you giving yourself (read: forcing myself to take) the time – however long that may be – and the space to figure out who you are, and prioritise what’s important for you. For you to tackle head-on the barriers that, until now, have stopped you achieving what you want in life, and becoming the person you know you are meant to be.”
I am fed up of bouncing up against the same walls time and time again. The walls that stopped me from starting my own business, and which have kept me single and overweight for most of my adult life.
Those barriers (which exist in my head) have prevented me from having the one thing in life I have ever wanted: a family. A husband and two children… that has been the dream since I was a little girl.
And with the biological clock ticking and the big 4-0 looming at the end of this year, time literally was running out…
One Little Advert Changed Everything
And so it was that I found myself watching self-help videos and TED talks on YouTube on all manner of personal development topics, such as:
- How to handle grief
- How five simple words can get you what you want
- Rethinking failure
- The power of sitting with yourself
- Why you don’t get what you want; it’s not what you expect
- Feeling lost? How to find yourself again
- etc. etc.
I was doing the washing up when a guy called Dan started talking from my computer. It was an advert. With my hands full of soapy dishes, I couldn’t skip the ad, so I carried on washing up while waiting for the ad to finish.
But then my ears pricked up when Dan started speaking about how creating an online business had allowed him to quit his high-paid corporate job in software sales and live the laptop lifestyle he has always dreamed of… and how he could teach me to do the same.
Online business… replacing a 6-figure corporate salary… travel… work from anywhere… hang on a minute! That sounds right up my street!
He offered to send me a series of videos which explained the business model he uses and the training program he had subscribed to. These videos, he promised, would explain how anyone – with the right mindset, and who was willing to put in the work – could model his success.
Yeah yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Sucker!! Just another one of those get rich quick schemes that are all over the internet these days. Another guy full of empty promises, trying to steal your money, and give you nothing of value in return.
After all, it’s not that easy… if it was, everyone would be doing it, right?
Well, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain – and I was curious – so I clicked on the link to his website and put aside my natural cynicism for a few moments while I listened to what he had to say… and lo and behold, it resonated with me (he’s very good at what he does!).
He spoke of a training program that would teach me the skills I need to create and build an online digital marketing business and generate a passive income from it – earning money while I sleep.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
I watched his videos and I could see the potential. But I still wasn’t quite convinced it was real.
So I thought about it (as I do), watched more sales videos, did some research… and then decided to heck with it! It was worth a shot.
After all, what did I have to lose apart from a bit of time and $29.95 (and a 30-day money-back guarantee if I didn’t like it)?
And, well, I had to try something.
So I signed up with the company that provides the training and embarked on their training program.
A New Path To Chase The Dream
And that brings us to now… June 2019 and here we are, five weeks into the program, and I feel energised again!
It feels right for me.
I won’t lie, it has been a roller coaster of a personal journey filled with massive highs and some massive lows, but I am making profound progress.
Not towards building an online business (that bit hasn’t started yet), but towards identifying the walls that have held me back from achieving what I really want out of life, and learning different ways to dismantle them.
And because of the promise I made to myself when I left my cruise ship job, I owe it to myself to follow this through, wherever it may lead.
And dammit, no matter how hard it gets I will not quit!
A wise man recently said to me:
“Everything you want in life is on the other side of a challenge.”
Those walls are my challenges. It’s time to channel my inner bulldozer and pulverise those walls to dust!
So What’s Special About This Program?
This particular program – which, it turns out, teaches you far more than just digital marketing – is different from anything I have come across before.
Start With Why
The program starts off with a strong focus on personal development and self-awareness, to help you identify your WHY – why do you want to do this? Why do you want this lifestyle? How will it make you feel?
They do this deliberately so that, when the going gets tough, you won’t fall off the wagon because you know where you’re aiming for and WHY you want to get there.
And then they drown you in a toolbox full of mindset tools and techniques and help you build a solid mindset. So that you will be able to weather the inevitable storms that are part and parcel of being an entrepreneur and working for yourself.
I don’t know any other training program that goes to this level to help you build the right mental framework before they start teaching you the “real” stuff!
An Incredible Support Network
The second thing I love about this particular company, and which has been a significant factor in reinforcing my belief that this is the path I need to be walking right now, is that I am not doing it alone.
When you sign up, you automatically become a part of their online community… a community of people from across the world, from all backgrounds and walks of life – some who have been through the training and are successfully living their dream lives, and some that are going through the program like I am – all helping and supporting each other along the way.
In addition, there are a variety of mentorship programs on offer – because the company knows that accountability is a big factor in helping people succeed in such a transformational journey.
And oh my word, the energy I get just from joining online webinars with these people! While I am uncovering and firing up that inner bulldozer, they are the ones filling it with fuel, and with their support & guidance & inspiration, I have started hammering away at those inner walls!
And then I was lucky enough to meet up with a bunch of these beautiful people in London – including Dan, whose advert got me into this in the first place!
I knew then, this was real. Because I actually met real-life, ordinary, people who have achieved success by following this program.
And that just rocketed my belief and my momentum to the next level…
The Phoenix Rises From The Ashes
I now not only have a reason to get up in the mornings, but I also have a new morning routine which involves drinking a pint of water, meditating for at least 15 minutes and listening to insightful and educational podcasts while I eat breakfast and plan out my day.
Wait, what?!? Meditating?
Yes! It’s great! Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!
I’ve also gone days without eating chocolate (voluntarily I might add!) – which if you know me is unheard of – and I make sure I walk at least 2,000 steps a day (it’s all about the micro-goals and consistent action) to get some exercise and work towards my weight goal.
“When The Student Is Ready, The Teacher Will Appear”
I recently came across this saying, and I believe that’s what happened to me.
I had to go through the journey of experimenting with different avenues of photography to realise that wasn’t my path before the first step towards my real path was revealed to me… but only when I was ready to receive it.
Ok, it’s early days yet, but I truly believe great things will come from this next phase of my journey.
Because it’s not about the online business or learning about digital marketing, it’s the journey of self-discovery that motivates me.
I don’t know exactly where it’s going, but that’s ok because I have faith – in the journey and, more importantly, in myself. For as long as I can see just one or two steps ahead, that’s all I need.
And hell, I’m going to damn well enjoy the journey; roadblocks, traffic jams, diversions, walls ‘n all!
Relight My Fire
And to circle back to the beginning, I think you can probably sense that the fire inside me is building again (hallelujah!).
For the first time in the fourteen months since Anya died, I can visualise my future. And I like the look of it!
And I know Anya is travelling with me – her strength, her love of life, her eternal quest for fun and her ‘be rich now’ mentality are alive and living on in me.
Through sharing this story, I hope that I can shine that light on you too, to inspire you to follow your heart and go chase those dreams! And do it now! Before it’s too late! Because none of us knows what’s around the corner…
If you’re interested in finding out more about the training program I mention, click this button…