My Mother-in-law has this thing with age numbers, that if you are not happy with the age you are becoming, add the single digits together instead, to return to your younger self.
I don’t remember much about being 11, just that it was quite an odd time. I think I’d just moved to ‘middle’ school as they called it then - the in-between education before high-school at 13. It was the pre-teenage years so before my awful, self-conscious years of spotty skin, but also before I’d developed any kind of style.
My hair was mainly in centre-parting plaits, accentuating my wide forehead and earning me the delightful nickname of ‘slap-head’. It regularly enticed my peers to do just that, what fun they had at my expense. This was one of the first stages of trying to become invisible at that time, to avoid the ‘slapping’ attention.
Add to that, when I wasn’t in school uniform, I was mainly in jeans with holes at the knees, cheap bobbly jumpers, unbranded trainers, and often a red cap that I loved. I was still in the process of trying to evolve from my tom-boy childhood, into something more acceptable.
I was not one of the cool-kids at school, but thankfully my best friend was and so I morphed silently into the cool-kids group by definition, phew. This was also the year before my parents split up, and so I think I picked up on the tension at home, I was adrift in so many ways and yet desperately trying to fit in.
Both my parents also worked until quite late, so I’d walk home from school and be on my own for quite a few hours (remember that? no helicopter parenting back then, you were left to your own devices!)
I was an only child, and so had no siblings to chat things through with or gain valuable advice. Instead, I would talk to my other 'friends'; my crazy springer spaniel, Jenny, and the vast array of animals that lived in the garage and huts in our garden – we had an actual pet-shop at the time and bred our own animals for the shop.
Looking back, I must have been viewed as a pretty weird kid by my school friends, but those early days of what would now probably be called ‘bullying’, a slightly strange home-life and looking after myself from a young age, were my first initial lessons of survival and resilience.
This was needed in bucket loads from age 12 when my parents divorced and the shit really did start to hit the fan, but I’m proud of that kid that got through those difficult early years, whilst sill figuring out her place in the World, passed her exams, went on to Uni and still did ok in life, despite the storm raging around her.
Fast forward to age 47 and what can I say other than my resilience reserves and a strong survival instinct have been called upon more times than I could ever have imagined and in ways I would never predicted, but also in a weird way, I wouldn’t change it, (well apart from last year’s events, that was a little extreme!).
I like my weird and wonderful life, it has created many stories, I could write a book on animal rescue adventures alone. It could never be called dull, it’s a life that has been fully lived and felt the full force of dramatic events, with all the messiness and beauty that brings, not least gifting me with my finest creations, my two children.
This colourful, crazy, challenging life has led me to the path that I’m on now; to build a dream based on passion and purpose, helping people to discover a fuller, more enriched life, untapping their own curiosity and creativity. And one thing is for sure, I never take life and everything I have for granted, I feel incredibly lucky.
So, this 47th birthday today, that I share with poet Robert Burns (I always took that as a good sign) will be slightly odd being in lockdown, but it will be a huge improvement on last years, which was spent in hospital with sepsis due to the Chemo treatment I was having.
Today, I’m celebrating getting through the toughness of last year, and all the new opportunities and experiences I know 2021 will bring. I’m more that quirky, hopeful, 11-year-old girl now than I’ve ever been, and I like it.