It’s day nine of the 30-day blogging challenge, and to stretch myself yet more I’m ramping it up by adding in the ‘authentic visibility challenge’ being run by the fabulous Veronica Pullen. Here’s why.
It’s all very well me writing these blogs and you clicking on ‘like’ and ‘share’, and I know that to one extent or another the posts I’m sharing provide some value for you. But how well do we really know each other? And why should you believe anything I have to say?
Last week the focus was very much business. This week my posts have an auto-biographical element, to share with you how I got to where I am now, laying my soul and heart on the table for all to see. Because I want you to understand WHY you mean so much to me, and why I have made it my life’s mission to create excellence in the workplace, regardless of what that workplace looks like.
As ever, your comments are appreciated, and maybe as you’re reading you’ll see some similarities between what you are going through now, or what you may have experienced in the past.
Scared? I’m petrified !! And Mum, if you're reading this, you did a great job because everything turned out just fine !
I was about three when the photograph above was taken, and I think I had just managed to climb up onto the piano stool for the first time to investigate the piano.
My childhood didn’t hold many highlights for me, mainly because school took up such a lot of time, and was no more than a necessary poison that had to be taken.
But music was my first true love. I loved to sing and I loved to dance, because those activities allowed me to be me. No stupid school books, no stupid homework, no stupid teachers who didn’t get that I didn’t need stupid algebra or stupid physics or even stupid geography, just a world that was mine.
My love affair started to go a little bit pear-shaped at the age of 8 or 9 however when it was decided that I should learn to play the violin. After all, as my Granny said, “every child should be able to play a musical instrument”, which was sort of ironic coming from her.
When is a privilege not a privilege?
Born into poverty in a tiny village in Austria she had been sent out to work at the age of 13 to a town about 60 kilometres from her home.
Most of her earnings were sent back to her parents to feed the rest of the family – she was the eldest of seven children – but she was allowed to keep a little money back, and she saved hard to buy herself a second hand bicycle so that she could get home.
When she arrived back in her village after several months of working, she proudly showed off her hard-earned reward. My Great-Grandmother was furious that Granny had bought a bicycle, because they had just had to sell the pig to pay for violin lessons for her little brother. Yes, I was confused as to why Granny thought that me learning to play the violin was a good idea.
However, I was taken to a music shop to be ‘fitted’ for shoulder and chin rests. I remember carrying my very modern, rectangular violin case, complete with very expensive violin home, feeling quite privileged because I'd had some money spent on me, but at the same time apprehensive about my future as a violinist.
My first violin teacher, Mrs Rabley, came to my school for our lessons. She was lovely, but our time together wasn’t happy, and although I denied any connection at the time, I started to get stomach ache on a fairly regular basis. My Mum would come and collect me and after an afternoon at home I’d be ready for school again the next day. At some point I gave up my lessons with Mrs Rabley.
Next was Mrs Mace who played with such passion and fervour that I convinced myself that I would never be able to play the violin well, let alone do that vibrato thing when you wiggle your fingers on the violin string to make it sound less screechy. I was right.
But my agony still wasn’t over.
All this time I had been playing the piano, I composed music, I wrote songs, and I loved spending time in the creative space that was mine. I would even get up extra early to play the piano before having to go to school. And so it was that it was suggested that I might like to audition for the Southampton Youth Orchestra as their pianist.
Being able to play the piano wasn't enough though, and to justify my spot with the orchestra I needed to be able to play another instrument. Nope, there was no way I was going to play the violin, and instead I embarked on learning how to play the drums and other percussion (there’s quite a knack to playing the triangle and maracas!).
For my audition I played a beautiful piano piece by Ravel, and presented a fabulous rendition of the ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ on the glockenspiel. I was in!
Those Saturday mornings were fabulous. Our conductor knew how to push us just enough so that by the time our annual concert in the Southampton Guildhall came around, we performed so well that the applause from the audience was as loud as if we had been the London Philharmonic. I loved that orchestra.
Until the day that I wasn't needed for the piano or percussion, and I was asked if I would please play the violin. Soon thereafter I left the orchestra.
Now how is all this relevant to what I do today?
Those early days of screeching misery with my two violin teachers were a result of someone else – mostly my dear Granny - wanting me to have something that they considered to be a privilege. Children aren’t supposed to say ‘no’, and the only way that I could avoid playing the violin was to make myself ill.
But it wasn’t a conscious decision to have stomach ache at the same time as my violin lessons, it was a physical reaction to something that I just did not want to do.
If you are doing something that you don’t enjoy it will eventually have consequences. You may tell yourself that you should be grateful for what others are doing to help you, you may tell yourself that you should be grateful that your parents paid for your university education, you may even tell yourself that you have to stay where you are because you couldn’t possibly earn money doing what you love.
It’s good to be grateful for the help of others, just so long as you are getting what you need, and not what 'they' think you need. It doesn’t matter whether you are a cleaner at the railway station, or the manager of a hotel, or the CEO of a multi-national company, the only person who should ever be in control of your career (and indeed your life) is YOU.
Don’t make yourself ill trying to live up to the expectations of others just because you think you should. You are unique and have something special to offer. Maybe YOU are a brilliant violinist – and if you are, don’t hide your talent, just get out there and play.
In the words of another man who followed his heart, Oscar Wilde, “Be Yourself; Everyone else is already taken”.
Tomorrow I’ll share my life learning with you starting from being an Au-Pair girl in Vienna. Until then …
My goal is to create excellence in the workplace, and that means helping you to explore your potential and to create a reality that you want. If you would like to receive updates and additional inspiration, simply sign up to my mailing list here: Feelgood Coaching and Consulting Mailing List.