I held the phone to my ear whilst Sarah tried to help me regulate my breathing. I was sobbing in gasps, utterly overwhelmed at the task ahead of me that day.
I was packing my things to leave Italy, for good.
The boxes were there for me and thankfully I didn't have too many belongings in that apartment, everything else was already in storage, as my arrangement was very much on a trial basis.
The trial had failed, suddenly and unexpectedly for everyone and now, I had 8 days to pack my things, say my goodbyes and leave.
I sobbed the whole week. I simply didn't want to leave. Everything I saw, said or heard that week reduced me to a puddle.
I had no idea where I was going to go, no idea what I was going to do.
I had a place to stay for 3 weeks and my plan ended there.
I was homeless, broken hearted and without any means of stable income.
The universe had spoken and my chapter as an expat had come to a heart crunching end and my reality was now very, VERY real.
Cut to 3 months later
I signed contracts for a new apartment and not one, but two new jobs, both of which I am utterly thrilled about.
How did I get from there to here?
Disclaimer: This 3 month transformation comes at the end of a 2-year journey for me for already knowing and tuning in to my passions and values and having already prototyped many different possibilities for my life and business.
Do I think everyone can change their lives in 3 months? Of course not.
Do I think that there is something to learn for others? Definitely.
Is my journey finished? No, but I've created some very solid foundations on which to continue
My blog is very polarising and some may say that telling my story, warts and all, makes me seem less professional. But, as a coach, it's important to share the journey of walking the walk. None of us are perfect and all of us, including coaches, will experience tough times.
I share my journey with vulnerability to empower others, that if I can do it you can too.
I share my process, thoughts and resources to help others who may have found themselves in a similar situation.
How to rebuild a life from scratch in 3 months.
1. Feel all the feels
At the beginning I was just absolutely gutted and I spent some choice moments letting my feelings be felt. I watched my 'breakup' movie, I journalled, and I reached out to my counselor for support. I leaned in to talk to friends who could handle what I was going through (not everyone can and it's not an indication of their friendship with you, it's just that everyone does not have the experience with big emotions and change and everybody has their own stuff going on and can't always take on other people's). I was utterly inundated with calls and messages from friends all over the world. I really do have amazingly supportive friends.
I shied away from toxic positivity, which can be a default response sometimes, but I just wasn't ready to hear it. I was only ready to be sad.
I also told my friends that sometimes, I might say no to social events, because I just couldn't face being social and meeting new people. Everyone understood.
The question I asked myself was 'What do I need to do vs feel the need to do?'
2. Nurse your inner child
My gut told me to stay in and around London, as my native Scotland was even more grim in terms of weather and activities in the winter and so I tuned in to feeding my inner child with all the activities which brings her joy - painting, creativity, improv, cartoons, comedy, sunshine and cats.
The question I asked myself was 'What brings me joy?'
3. Visualise and Reflect
I had been wanting to do a vision board since I met Lara Doherty in my coaching business programme 9 months previously and she very kindly offered to help me create one.
This was a very important part of my healing because my vision board gave me real clarity about what my real goal was for 2023…. Happiness.
I enjoyed the process massively and Lara, graciously and patiently, walked me through the process, even when I was reduced to sobs.
I wanted to keep the best parts of my Italy adventure and take them with me, but not be weighed down by them.
I wanted to read more, join communities, sing, eat breakfast out at the weekends, see mountains, be with nature and be surrounded by colour.
My vision board is now the backdrop of my laptop, phone and my board sits in my suitcase, moving from place to place.
It asks you about who you want to be and what you want to have by the end of the year, which set me off in the right frame of mind, slowly and clearly.
I also regularly journaled, and just putting my thoughts to paper stopped them from swirling around in my mind.
I asked myself;
"What have I learned about myself?"
"Who do I want to be by the end of this year?"
"What worked for me in the past in previous life changes to get me stable?"
I literally changed my mind every week about what I was going to do. And at that moment, I have to acknowledge my privilege. My friends and coaches gave me the space and patience to let me work through my feelings and plans and support me when I realised that it wasn't going to work. If I hadn't stayed with friends then my decision process would likely have not been for the best and accelerated.
To get me through the period, I constantly asked myself
"What would I regret not doing?"
"What is working, and what is not?"
"What am I excited about that I want to keep?"
I spent so much time talking about my thoughts in this period and this was essential because my biggest decision occurred in this way; one which meant that I would have to look for full time employment. I hadn't made the connection in my head, but once I said it out loud, I couldn't run away from it…. I needed some form of stability.
And although one of my values is freedom and I wanted to continue to work full time on SharpMinds in a location I loved, I had to do myself a favour and find an anchor, SOMEWHERE. And with a job, everything else could fall into place.
5. Prioritise your mental health
This was key. Because when you lose your life as you knew it, it could be far too easy to spiral and make a poor decision out of sheer panic.
I was open and vulnerable with some choice people and I knew at this point I had to try something new.
I have done talking therapy on and off over the years and I wanted to lean in to the universe, so to say and try what others around me were raving about. These treatments came to me through various friends and I leaned into it all.
RTT (Rapid Transformation Therapy/Hypnotherapy)
Therapy is very personal and I actually got a lot out of EFT (for immediate anxiety relief) and RTT (to help connect some dots I hadn't noticed before).
I continue to do talking therapy but super charge it with other new techniques to 'prototype' what works and what doesn't. (Breathing does NOT work for me, for example)
Note: Coaching and counseling are very different. I am a trained and qualified coach but often use counseling myself. Coaching should not be used to dive into the past. I write with vulnerability to normalise looking after your mental health and its importance.
6. Notice the change
About 2 months in, I went to a storytelling night (Natural Born Storytellers) and laughed with a small roomful of people as they shared tales around the same theme 'Wild Night'.
'I've got a story that could fit with that', I said, but then instantly got a bit sheepish and mumbled that they should put me down as a 'maybe'.
Cut to an hour later and I was on stage, recounting a story of the time I ended up stranded in deepest darkest South East London after the police had raided a festival I was attending. The crowd laughed, I laughed and I felt the warm buzz of performing, something I hadn't felt for a few years.
The same week, I found my energy shift completely whilst singing Bohemian Rhapsody at the top of my lungs with several hundred other people at an event called Massaoke. I felt completely free, overjoyed and felt the power of everyone in the room having the most amazing time.
The same weekend, at a life drawing session, I picked up a pile of coloured pastels and got to work.
I could see colours again, after weeks of black, white and grey. And I felt it also, with a smile.
7. Don't just follow the money
I didn't just apply for jobs that followed my previous career in engineering; I applied for those that I felt I could provide an impact and use more of my new skills. I applied in the engineering, design, innovation, start-ups, accelerators, DEI, government funding, training, coaching and digital spaces.
I threw the net vast and wide, and in the process learned more about different worlds that I hadn't before. I had several interviews for jobs in exciting places. I knew I could do them, but after the past couple of years, I was looking for more. The job that I found, although was on a lower pay grade to the others, but allowed me to combine so many of my skills AND continue my journey with SharpMinds, which I absolutely didn't want to let go of.
Other positions I may return to in the future, but I asked myself, "What would I regret not trying?"
I've chased the money in the past and I know that it did not serve my happiness… why would I chase it now?
8. Follow and balance your values
I found myself in a one-bedroom apartment in Croydon. It was bright and the living room was surprisingly big and airy.
'Here', I thought. 'I could have my own space here'. I gave them my details to be added to the list for applicants to rent. I left and took the 15 minute walk back to the station.
Something wasn't right, my stomach churned a little and I found myself falling into a spiral of overthinking.
'But I want to have my own space and my freedom', I argued with my subconscious. This is one of my values.
'But so is connection.', she replied.
I've lived alone for 6 years. It has been nice to be independent, but it was also riddled with silence and space which I felt deeply, especially during Covid.
I found myself in a conundrum; did I need to honour my value of freedom or connection?
I visualised the reality of my future. I would be based out in zone 5 in London, at least an hour from everywhere. I didn't know anyone nearby. I would be alone.
I saw another apartment where my roommate would be at home the vast majority of the time. It was a beautiful space with a giant coworking space in the lower level of the building. It was plush and gorgeous and very close to the station.
'I would have connection here' I thought…. But maybe too much of it?
My stomach churned again. The answer was not here either.
I have found a space in which my values can be balanced. Sharing a space with someone who works a lot in the office AND is away some weekends. It's well connected to transport and quick access to friends.
It's a lovely bit of both.
I asked myself 'How can I honor freedom AND connection?'
9. Follow your gut
I chose my apartment and my jobs using my gut feeling. I had seen about 8 different apartments and interviewed for 4 different jobs and I knew, deep down, which one 'felt' right.
Other people were interested for me to join their company or their home, but I wanted to ensure that I was able to be myself, use my best skills and imagine the future.
Sure, I don't have a crystal ball and nobody knows how this will all play out but I visualized a couple of scenarios in the future where I thought…. 'Can I have company at home AND have space?', 'Would I have the brain space to keep SharpMinds alive AND work full time?'
I imagined my future with and without my freedom or my cause and I knew I had to ensure I gave myself space to keep them.
When I signed the contracts, I felt a buzz of excitement. I could hear it in my voice (as could many of my friends that I spoke to in that period) and I shared my news with a smile.
10. Let your friends and family scoop you up
I want to call out my amazing friends that opened up their home to me. I felt free to enjoy their company but also retreat to my own space whenever I needed that reflection time.
I was hugged, comforted and felt utterly humbled and loved by such simplicity of their actions because I know not everyone would be able, nor willing to do this for someone in a time of crisis.
I am truly blessed to have people like this in my life. The biggest love to Niall, Sophie, Lauren, Phil, Tim & Karen. And also Kohi, Juno & Rufus for their endless supply of fluffy cuddles…. Which were almost all consenting.
At one point I had 3 sets of keys in my hand at once and was completely humbled by it that I took a photo to remember the moment in which I felt so supported.
By training to be a coach, I have met some wonderfully empathic and caring people who were all at the end of the phone for me, whenever I needed them. Sarah, Lara, Annabella, Maya, Bart, Lucy, Natasha, Lorraine…. They gave me their time and space to vent, to cry, to ponder and to plan.
And to my wonderfully caring sister Audrey, who gave me protection when I felt most vulnerable and my cousin Stuart for sharing beers and chats.
The question I asked myself was 'Who do I feel comfortable with?'
You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most. Choose wisely.
After my last big life announcement blog, some of my connections were confused. Sorry for that.
At time of writing, I am based in London for the foreseeable future and am working full time in social impact projects but also working on SharpMinds and its cause.
I know that I still have a lot of growing, healing and learning to do, but I feel confident that I have given myself a foundation, that honours who I am, on which to build.
I feel like I was stripped back to my core being and thankfully I had the space, the people and the skills to not only build the jigsaw but also decide on its design. I could only do that by being vulnerable with others and being self-aware on what lights me up, drives me forward and my why.
If you want more clarity to help you rebuild your life, get in touch today for a free 30minute chemistry call and find out more about how I could support you.