Friday, 25 January 2013

If Money Was No Object...

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:

Twitter: @AlyHazlewood


  1. Good luck to you on your quest. I am encouraged to know I am not the only one seeking clarity on what I want to do with my life.

  2. Hello Les. BeforeI say anything I would like you to truly embrace, that if you did absolutely nothing else this website/facebook, complete with all you so generously share would be enough..... I doubt you will ever know into how many folks your words have seeded. I for one can relate to so much you write. I too did a lot of NVC course work a few years back and it helped me to undo such deep 'learnt' communication patterns and I so so hope that today I am able to communicate in a confident, loving way to everyone. Keep doing what you 'do' Les because it DOES GO further and deeper than you will ever know and it is the change you/I/we want to see in the world...... with Love

  3. "So I’m making baby steps towards being the change I want to see in the world."

    That's the best way to do it. Start small, and over time things will fall into place.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Best of luck to you in your journey!

  4. Thank you, I appreciate your blessings :)

  5. What a wonderful post!!
    You have a lot of greatness in you, that's for sure!
    I'm certain you will find your mission sooner than you may think!
    <3 <3

  6. By writing this you are already affecting and changing the world around you. The realisation that you can change things, of setting out to do so but realising there path may not always be a forward facing one is a great step.

    I realised this at 28 and set about trying to get us out of a situation I realised was not living but survival. We had been reacting to all the problems dropped in our laps but not stopping to look around at the landscape and where that reaction was going to take us.

    I could just keep writing and writing here :) If I had all the money in the world... I think that is something that I need to write a blog post on myself :)

    Thankyou for sharing and share your creativity with the world - this is how the world changes for the better - the flow of ideas :)

    All the best

    Sarah / Saffy

  7. After coming to relatively the same place, by a different path, I now have this up on my wall:

    Remember, the people who make a difference in life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money or the most awards. They are the ones that care.

  8. I am over 50, I lost my 30 yr old son 3 years ago. unless you spend your days missing a part of you, what part I am not sure I can make clear sometimes it feels my heart is gone and other times my mind.
    I look back & am ashamed to remember really laughing, forget wasted money trying to make life "better" what is a pretty garden? new shoes,even new curtains.
    I have come to hate my house even, everywhere I look reminds me of my little boy, his paper route on weekend mornings, his baby sitter or his 2 best friends homes.
    I see the things that used to just pass by without much though, but now any memories of his life brings me back to his death bed. leaving him behind in that hospital, kissing his lips as they turned grey.
    Now life has shown me what used to have meaning changes not with what you have accomplished, but what is missing.

  9. Hello Aly,

    I have gone through similiar experiences including not being able to conceive so I share your heartbreak, then something miraculous happened and I was able to adopt my two nephews...I believe it was because I was on my right path. I am now in the process of rexamining that path and embarking on another journey. Thank you for sharing your wonderful insights and I wish you much success on your journeys - as a fellow traveller.

  10. Nice to find this blog post via Twitter. Thought-provoking and encouraging. I'm not sure money is the root of ALL evil, but it certainly can hinder many from looking outside the 'material world,' and looking inside, instead. When I meditate and practice yoga, our teacher encourages us to put a white shining bubble of love around ourselves, then around someone we love, and then, then, around someone we have difficulty with. And you know what? It opens up something, truly, and that 'difficult' person becomes someone good in our life. This is what I strive for.

  11. If money were no object, I would set about freedom for one and all, the world over. We all matter. Image is not everything, the truth trumps the imaginary, doesn't it? Real, live people matter, not the labels we give them.

    Regrets are a major tether preventing our freedom. Can you let "it" go? No matter what has transpired to this point, isn't the question: "What now?" It isn't even a choice really. There is a what now before you presently. Love and compassion may be the best approach now, don't you think?