2022 is a year to rebuild.
This is a deep dive and personal account of the cost and reward, of having to rebuild.
I apologise in advance if this seems ‘too heavy’, but I believe that the challenging moments of our lives - whether COVID or the tale I’m about to tell - can’t be resolved in ‘5 easy steps’.
Let us instead make time and space for deeper reflection to gather genuine insight.
The theme of rebuilding came to me over the course of the weekend, particularly relevant for most of us given the last few years of flux and that a horizon of change is most likely to be the norm.
It reminded of several critical moments of my life where I’ve had my needs, soul and personality stripped bare, only to have to piece together a fresh path and start again.
The first time was when I was 21, living, teaching and training at my Masters Kung Fu school in the centre of Newcastle.
As far as I was concerned I was set for life… training nine times a week, swimming in the afternoons and chilling in the evenings, I’d found my niche, my passion, my home and built friends, family and a community that respected me.
I was the prince of a kingdom and quite frankly, bulletproof.
One day, my Master, the man who trained and trusted me, shot and murdered his fiancé, before driving across town and committing suicide in a back alley.
The total architecture of my life dissolved.
The confusion, the guilt, the betrayal and the shame that it had nothing at all to do with me as they each left children behind in the wake of this tragedy.
The school collapsed and for the first time in my life, I had to start over with nothing, no-one and no direction.
I still carry grains of this trauma, including the loss of my sense of identity; to this day, no-one knew who I was, what I had done, where I had come from or what I had achieved.
The second rebuild involves a girl and a puppy.
Five years into my first longterm relationship and the girl I was living with is working long days/nights on film sets.
While not uncommon for her to stay overnight at a friends place to be on-call the next morning, it was uncommon for her to take our puppy and disappear entirely for weeks without paying rent.
After six weeks with no explanation (and diminishing finances) I made the choice to break-up, dissolve our company, give her notice and move out.
In the space of a weekend, I gave up my partner, my puppy, my company, my home and sold my motorbike to resolve the debts… it would make a classic country music ballad.
Interestingly, the second rebuild was no easier than the first.
I was older, dubiously wiser, and felt humiliated and ashamed that I was in the same position I was at 21, once again starting over as no-one with nothing.
Fast forward to today and we find every industry experiencing a similar constant stream of friction and unease.
What was relied on before, is now dysfunctional and our future seems disparate.
There is a cold consensus that each of us, in one way or another, are equally naked, alone and having to re-evaluate.
Time is ripe for a rebuild.
If there is a moral thread here, it is that sometimes the world shifts beyond our control…
Sometimes we are forced into difficult, painful choices…
Whatever the challenges, personal or professional, you have the resilience, intelligence and humanity to endure.
It is not pleasant.
It is not clean.
I do not have ‘5 easy steps to rebuild a new life’.
All I have is reassurance that change is possible - often necessary - and during these transitions we oft retain what is most valuable to us and shed that which no longer serves.
You may be surprised which is which.
My life now is a thousand miles from what I ever envisioned and equally as rewarding.
Had you told me in Newcastle what journey I would choose, I would have laughed at you and resisted every step of the way.
While not the sum total of my life, these two pivotal moments define much of who I am now.
In part, they gave me the resilience and sense of self to share this with you in the hopes that you, whoever you are, may recognise yourself, your own strength and your own potential, in preparation for challenges ongoing and still yet to come.