A guest blog by @AlyHazelwood
If money was no object, what would you do with your one short life? This question has been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years now. I feel that 2013 is the year to finally address it with focus, clarity and vigour.
I’ve had several job changes throughout my career history. I started out in I.T sales, moved to I.T Recruitment, then Financial Services, eventually ending up running the European operation of an American soft drinks company. In between these soul-numbing, desk-bound jobs, I spent several years travelling around the world, having the kind of life-affirming, deeply connective, free experiences that are the ones you really remember with fondness in your twilight years.
Finally, at the age of 29 and with the encouragement of my wonderful female boss, I decided it was time to think about my future. I knew that it couldn’t possibly play out behind a desk; it just wasn’t ‘me’. Having been passionately interested in all things artistic and mercurial, I longed for a creative outlet. I researched careers in TV, Journalism and the Music Industry and, with a mortgage to pay, found myself daunted by the prospect of embarking on a lengthy study schedule, or a low paid internship the likes of which are so common in the competitive creative industries.
I settled on a course in Make Up Artistry, figuring that it was a career I could slowly build around 2 part-time jobs that kept the roof over my head. Since childhood I’d shown flair for painting, colour and composition, and as a rather lonely only-child, I learned to love the state of immersion and flow that accompanied my artistic endeavours. So I quit my job, and went back to school just as I turned 30.
A combination of good luck, natural ability, being in the right place at the right time, and application of the business skills I’d gained during my years in a corporate environment, resulted in my career as a make up artist taking off with rocket speed. Not for me the usual route of years of unpaid assisting. Instead upon graduation, I was catapulted into working with huge international music acts at MTV and within a year was signed to a top London agency, having left behind the part-time jobs and bar work.
It was an interesting time in my life; I relished the freedom of being my own boss, the international travel, celebrity clients, great money, and the creative outlet I’d been longing for. I felt blessed and thankful. But I also felt the familiar sadness that comes from not quite fitting in. I quickly discovered that the fashion industry wasn’t ‘me’ either. And I couldn’t shake off the disquiet I felt about contributing to the global media’s warped portrayal of female ‘perfection’.
10 years on and the tide is turning once again. At times, I feel I’ve lived a hundred lives already. However, the last 2 years have seen a concentrated period of change and self-inquiry borne out of years of suffering, insecurity, depression and dysfunctional relationships.
The final proverbial straw was the end of a relationship that meant the world to me. It wasn’t a good relationship, but I loved him deeply nonetheless. After it’s inevitable, scorching breakdown, and the subsequent destruction of every mechanism I had formed to cope with life thus far, I awoke one cold morning when there were no more tears left to cry to the realisation that something had to change. I had been broken open and I had to stay open.
For me, this has taken the form of meditation, yoga, mindfulness training, volunteering and spiritual enquiry. Everything I learn brings me to a state of realisation that I know nothing and this requires me to be profoundly gentle with myself. I have been helped (and sometimes gently nudged) along this road-of-no-return by incredible, light-filled people such as Jamie Catto, Simon Paul Sutton, Neil Hill, Elizabeth Garvey and of course, our very own Lesism.
Sometimes I buck and writhe against the challenges that come with increased awareness, and have been known to whine “can’t I just go back to sleep?’ But in reality, I could never - would never - choose to do or experience things differently, for I may never have arrived at this calmer, happier place. Depression and his thuggish friend self-loathing no longer take up residence in the shuttered rooms of my consciousness. Instead, they pass through quietly as I tip my hat in acknowledgment.
Perhaps it’s simply one of the inevitable symptoms of getting older, but I have found myself repeatedly questioning ‘What use can I be to our beleaguered little planet?’ rather than “Why don’t I fit in?” Furthermore, upon the recent sorrowful, but not unexpected discovery that I’m unable to conceive, ‘What will be my legacy?’
“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Here Teddy Roosevelt made a most salient point. Of course, being a make up artist is fun, it often doesn’t feel like work at all, and can at times be creatively rewarding, but is this really the most passionate, world-changing work I am capable of? And I don’t mean world changing in an egoic, look-at-me-aren’t-I-great sort of way, nor in a Nobel Peace Prize winning way. I mean, what can I do, however large or small, to make a positive, lasting difference to people’s lives? What can I give of myself?
It’s a tough question. It gives rise to feelings of doubt about my ability to affect any kind of positive change in the world; after all, who do I think I am? Gandhi? It also triggers me into deeply held feelings of fear, fear of loss, of money, status, my home, and at its core, loss of the self. This last one is a tricky customer. With awareness I can shine the light of truth onto this preposterous notion, for there is no ‘self’ to ‘lose’, just a constructed and conditioned set of ideas I have about my ‘self’. However this devious character often operates under the radar of awareness, subtly spreading its icy tentacles of egoic fear up my spine until I feel paralysed, immobile…
Despite the annoying, insistent voice of my demon inner critic, this month I’m embarking on the first of a series of courses in Non-Violent Communication, a process created by the inspirational Marshall B Rosenberg to bring about harmony, empathy and connection between humans. There is not a single person in the world that does not have a relationship of some kind to another person, and I’d bet my money on the fact that at times, we all suffer imbalance, disturbance and disconnection from the souls we nudge up against.
I passionately believe in the benefits that Non Violent Communication can have on the individual, i.e. me, and that subsequently, bringing it to a wider audience can be a vehicle for long-lasting, positive change in the world. So I’m making baby steps towards being the change I want to see in the world. I also passionately believe in petitioning the universe for the things I want, and what I want right now is an opportunity to change the conditions of my life and career so that I can be of service. Perhaps someone reading this article will be the most qualified person imaginable to help bring about this change. If that’s you, please holler. I come armed with bags of enthusiasm, drive and pluck.
I have no idea what lies ahead for me, or whether I’ll make a ‘success’ for want of a better word, of this new phase of my life. But I can’t spend a lifetime wondering ‘what if?’. Would you join me on a path of self-actualisation if you could? If not, what would you do, if money were no object?
If you are interested in the work of Marshal B Rosenberg you can watch one of his talks on YouTube here.
And further useful links for those wishing to change their lives: www.liveyourlegend.net