Earlier this week on Twitter, we were discussing where inspiration for our careers comes from.
My theory is that if you ask someone who loves their job what age they were when they first felt inspired you will often hear they were between 11-14. I am certain that as we approach adulthood, on the brink of our teens, we instinctively look for inspiration, whether it be from our parents, their friends, our teachers, TV, in films or otherwise - as we know we will soon have to “step up” and make our own way in the world. Viv’s post of Denzel Washington’s “dream big fail big” got me thinking …he told an audience of graduates “you only live once so do what you feel passionate about” He also added - “hard work works”.
His powerful speech triggered fond memories of my father. He espoused the same lessons and values. He had three girls and I rather suspect he would have loved a son. Perhaps I became his surrogate - for I was considered the “tom boy” of the family. loved nothing better than roaming the woods, making shelters and became a Queen’s Guide at just 14 the youngest in my County to do so. My father taught me to seek adventure and to “live life large and to dream big”. He said if I was willing to work nothing could stop me.
My father had always been self employed - taking on numerous jobs to provide for his family. He was a long distance lorry driver, london licensed taxi driver, a locksmith and then in his latter years, a hypnotherapist! As a young girl I was a willing pupil, He taught me about competition and not being afraid to fail so long as I gave my “all”. I had always loved swimming and around age 7 I started to compete in competitions or “galas”. He was a long distance lorry driver then and even though his schedule saw him working long hours and on the road for much of the time he would ensure he was back to take me training - up at 5am to take me for an hour before school and sometimes also an hour afterwards too.
It was our time - I still recollect his passionate speeches; he and I huddled on a wet tiled floor beneath a stairwell away from the pool, he would tell me - “you can do this Kate, you can win this if you go out there and you leap off those blocks and you give it your all.” He said “ you'll stand tall when you know you gave it your everything and I will be there with you every stroke” . And he was. When my dad was spectating it was his voice above all else in the crowd I would hear in the water - even in the melee with the splashing and crashing around me as I raced with everything I had - I could hear him roar “go Kate go” and it spurred me on. I wanted to make him proud, but I wanted to prove myself too; to see how fast I could go - how hard I could push myself. We travelled the country and later I became a national champion in a relay team as the youngest team member.
My dad passed away nearly three years ago now after a shock diagnosis of stage 4 terminal cancer. I was blessed to have had time with him before he died to reminisce about the adventures we had been on together and the values he had instilled in me. In the hospice in the weeks before he passed he turned to me and told me how proud he was of me. He had taught his daughters they could achieve anything in life by working hard enough “hard work works”. How lucky I was to be able to show my dad that it was his example I had indeed followed.
P.s. On that topic of “tom boys” it made me smile, given how much more aware we are of gender specific language today I asked my daughter if she knew what a “tom boy” was. She shook her head and it made me smile. It’s only when my mum, her grandmother, is around that I am reminded that things were labelled “girl things “ or boy things as that is of course her generation’s language. I am all for celebrating the difference between the sexes as I do really think we should - yet it is nice to know that girls can be as gutsy and adventurous as boys and not have to be given a label for it now.