My youngest little boy is nine-months-old now. He is still my baby, oh but my goodness he is, but he is also bittersweetly long out of that curled-up newborn phase. As he embraces the world on unsteady legs, dazzling strangers everywhere with milky smiles, fluffy blonde hair and sweet gazes from his chocolatey eyes, so too do I feel ready to re-embrace my direction. I have come far with Our Story Time, but I also feel like I'm at a crossroads with which direction I'm going to take next, how to move my journey along. I feel a real need to focus myself not just with Our Story Time, but inside of me. So lately I've been asking myself: what do I care about the most? What do I love the most?
I'll start this by saying - I'm not talking about caring and loving my family, my husband and children. They are fiercely a part of me and I don't even need to question that. No; what I am talking about is asking myself what I care about the most for me. I'm asking myself what my purpose is separate from motherhood. It may sound selfish to do this, but I don't think it is - it's so important to take time out and figure out your very own essence which is independent of the people you love so dearly. Motherhood doesn't define me alone, I know I won't be alone in feeling this. But I also know firsthand that it's easy to lose sight of you, the real you, the heart and soul of you, while you're raising little people whose needs are still so dependent on you.
While all of this has been in my head, I came across the Japanese notion of Ikagai, a concept of how you live, through Beth Kirby. She writes that Ikagai is translated as: "a reason for being. When doing what you love and what you’re good at meet what the world needs and what they’re willing to pay you for, you’ve found your one thing." When I read this, it felt like the sun turned a little brighter towards me in the sky. It made total sense that this is what I have needed to find.
Before Our Story Time, I'd been lost in a tiny crowd of even tinier newborns. I've been tired for what feels like centuries. But I feel like finding my "reason for being", my Ikagai, might just help me find some clarity for myself. My coach Kayte urges me to think about me "why" all the time - it determines everything I do for Our Story Time - but it's just as important to apply that same introspection, that same deep-digging to ourselves, I think, in a completely personal way.
Once I made it my mission to find this purpose, find my one thing, I gave myself permission to no longer be scared of what people think, and to do the things I wanted to do. Be who I want to be. Once I forced myself to sit still, think deep and big, I found my thing. It didn't take that long, to be honest, because it's been my thing all along. I just ran away from it for a little while.
Before I tell you what my one thing is, my version of Ikagai, I want to tell you how I got there. It's all very well talking about all this, but it's quite different figuring it out. There's no one single recipe, of course. Mostly, it's instinct, going to the place that makes your heart feel full and light and skippy all at the same time. This is how I got there - and just maybe it might help you too.
HOW I FOUND MY ONE THING AND HOW YOU CAN begin TO FIND YOUR'S TOO
You need time but not too much time And you need to make sure you commit that time to thinking about you, just you, and all the pieces that add up to making you. Time alone to confront your thoughts and feelings and plans. Time alone to just be in the present, think about your past and future. I spent a furtive while scribbling down in notepads, joining my thoughts together, letting myself make plans. I don't really have that much time for this sort of contemplation, what with my hands full with my little boys. But honestly? I think I'm better for it. It makes me far more productive and more decisive because I don't have the luxury of time, open-ended. It's easy to use time, or not having enough of it, as an excuse for not making decisions either way. But when little people are tugging at your legs, it's actually easier to make big decisions because you don't really have the choice to sit with your thoughts any longer. So just jump into them.
Talk to people you trust, let them in With my children almost always around, my time for thinking is almost always grabbed and snatched (honestly, my most meaningful thoughts come to me in the shower when the kids are all in bed) and I could never quite fully commit to following through (which is why I always write everything down). But talking to my husband really helped because I could say aloud the ideas in my head and once I said them, I realised they were really good. Talking to my coach Kayte is just the same - she sees my worth objectively without any of my self-doubt. You need to find the people that will cheer you on.
Hold a mirror up to yourself Confront yourself full on, truthfully and intentionally, and allow yourself to focus on all the things you're good at for a change, instead of being self-deprecating or critical. We all have talents, we all too often pretend like we don't. Let's not do that anymore.
Try new things to test the waters If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that I did my first big pop-up on the weekend. I had a lot of fun, I met some great inspiring people and it was a fantastic learning experience, but honestly, I'm not sure how often I want to do these kind of "salesy" events myself. I still have two pop-ups lined up but I think my creativity and productivity is better served for Our Story Time (and for me) in other ways, so I'll be asking a kind friend to help me manage my stalls while I do what I'm best at with Our Story Time. Having tried the pop-up, I now know that and it's helped me anchor a few loose thoughts. At the same time, I've also allowed myself to pursue a little passion which I'd always downplayed - my love for yoga (more on this to come!). Now that I've stopped belittling how much it means to me, I can fully embrace it and bring it into the bigger picture of what my one thing is and where I'm headed with it. So again, I've tried looking at the things that are important to me with a new perspective and a kinder attitude and it's opening up all sorts of possibilities that would otherwise have remained hidden. I guess I'm telling you all this because it goes to show you really do never know until you try.
Free yourself of the person you think you're supposed to be in order to find your true self And then, put your true self first. We all fall into roles, preconceptions of the people we think we have to be because other people, society or culture expect it of us. Mother, daughter, sister. So much is expected of us but the truth is there are no rules. You can still be a good mother and aim high for your own personal fulfilment. You can still be a good daughter and not call your mother every day. You can be who ever you want to be in all of your relationships. Let go of preconceptions and you'll free yourself from the limitations that you and others have placed on you. And then you'll be so much more open to receiving inspiration and all the new ideas that you need in order to find what you love the most.
Be kind to yourself Don't dwell on the episodes or decisions that you made that you classify as mistakes. They're not mistakes. All of it is part of you. Everything led you to this place that you're in right now. Every choice you've made, big or small, good or bad, has led you to this moment of searching for your one thing.
Be open to change Go with the flow. Accept that life has changed and will keep changing, and when it does, so too will you. My "one thing" this year may exist in a different form next year. And equally, if it changes, then so be it too. And your one thing can be made up of many smaller things that just come together to fill you as a whole. Just follow where each thought and each step takes you and don't beat yourself up if things don't work out along the way.
So - now we've got all that out of the way: are you curious to know what my one thing is?
I didn't have to search too far, because my "thing" has always been a part of me, always been in me, but I ran away from it last year (read this post to understand what I'm talking about). I've always been a writer, ever since I was a girl, and I found a way to turn that into a living, writing for newspapers. But that wasn't the kind of writing I really wanted to be doing. Then along came my book deal, and with that, the faint beginnings of my second book too. I struggled last year to find the space I needed for it, so I banished my writing into a hidden file on my desktop. But I'm in a place where I am so ready to let it come back to me and I've missed it so much. I can't quite let go of the lure of words, the craft of piecing a beautiful sentence together. So I know my one thing is that I can write, and when I'm not overtired writing a blog post, I can write poetically. Movingly.
As a journalist, I wrote a lot of deeply tragic pieces about devastating events in other people's lives, like this for instance. I felt able to take their sadness and turn it into words that would maybe just add a little bit of understanding and compassion and empathy into the world. People often ask what my book is about (it's a collection of literary short stories) and I tell them it's about loneliness, grief, solitude but also family and quiet everyday moments. And I have lost count of the number of people who wrote to me or spoke to me to tell me how the very first short story brought them to tears or made the hairs on the back of their necks stand up. So you see, that's my one thing. That's it right there. Nothing makes me feel more blessed than knowing that I can touch people through words. Make them feel.
Our Story Time was born through a need to escape into an imaginative, sun-filled world out of a dark place. I found creativity again, and I'd love nothing more than to help other people find it too. I feel this spirit of gentle guidance is captured in my yoga practice too, and I'm so excited to have found a way to bring this into my writing purpose. So I suppose I've got myself three things - writing and yoga and the art of styling or curating, which I'm already doing right here in the shop - and they're all starting to come together for me now.
So let's see where this goes. I'm finding my way. I'm opening myself up and inviting you to follow my journey but also to do the same too. I suppose, in a way, there's no such thing as just one reason for being. My guess is one door will always lead to another. But let's start here and simply find out where it takes us, shall we?