I remember the call, "Roger I think it’s time you made your way to the hospital, I don’t think it will be long". My stepfather was fighting for his life. He had been battling for many years with his health but something had changed in his last two weeks, it was as if he knew time was running out. His last moments were a battle to hold on to life. Unfortunately, I didn’t get there in time, his battle was over as I entered the hospital. As I sat next to him and said my goodbyes, something clicked, as if he had left me a message, as we walked out of that hospital that day, with his few items in a plastic bag, I knew life had changed, something had shifted.
In the years leading up to this moment, I had really been struggling with life. In truth, my own struggle probably started in childhood as they so often do. At seven my parents divorced and I moved away with my mum and her new partner to set up a new life. Amongst the upset, there was a sense of excitement of going somewhere new, it was also where I learned that I could pretend to be somebody else other than who I really was, a pattern that followed me for many years.
My stepfather was underneath it all a very kind man, but of course, as is inevitable with life at times, he had faced his fair share of heartache and trauma in the years before he entered our life. At times we could clash, his temper would flare seemingly at the time for no reason but looking back it was this unhealed hurt simply bubbling over.
My school life was a constant search for belonging. I remember one day making the class laugh by doing something daft and there another persona was born, but really deep down it wasn’t me.
I left home at 16, running again to another life and for the following 10 years I just kept running, life after life, never settling, never really experiencing life from behind my many masks.
In my late twenties, I had what could only be described as quarter-life crises, I hit a wall and couldn’t run anymore, completely exhausted and totally wiped out, I knew it was time to stop running, to remove the masks, to find out who I really was underneath.
Odd when I think back to that time now, I look back at that really hard time with fondness, for it was that crisis that set me on a new journey through life, one marked by authenticity, kindness, meaning, and purpose.
Two amazing and inspirational men entered my life shortly after my crisis. The first was my now partner, he gave me the courage to be my true authentic self, to slowly and gently remove all the masks I had been living behind.
The second is my now very best friend, a wonderful, kind yet strong man. He showed me that men can have a strong back yet a soft heart, something that I live my life by to this day.
These wonderful and inspirational men, set me off on a decade of discovery, one that has led me to be doing this work today, to support other's to be their true authentic selves, to find their calling, meaning, and purpose in life, to live with a strong back and soft heart and to rest easy in a sense of belonging.
In a way, there is also another man that inspired this journey which brings this back to where it started. As my stepfather faded out of this world, his legacy is this work I do today, a reminder of this fleeting life we have, this one time offer of life we have in our hands, how can we celebrate it, honour it, be there for it and belong with it.
I am on a mission, one that will last a lifetime …………