I entered the world again today.
But I entered it as a new person. The old Louisa, was a people pleaser and a chameleon. She could slip in and out of roles connecting with people from all different walks of life. She mirrored people’s accents when they talked. She ate blue steak when her companion ate blue steak, drank red wine or white wine depending on what was the majority favourite, and finished quarts of coffee because her boyfriend didn’t drink tea even though coffee wasn’t actually her preferred option (actually that last one is still true).
Some chameleons have no real identity. They’re negative where others are positive. A space filler, rather than a space taker.
‘I can make you a tea’ my boyfriend said. ‘If that’s what you’d prefer.’
‘No I want a coffee.’ I said
‘But why, when you prefer tea?’ he asked bewildered.
‘It doesn’t taste as nice when I’m not with people who drink tea’. I said
And that was the truth. It tasted lonely. Whereas sharing a coffee with him tasted terrific, and overcame the fact that I didn’t actually like the taste of coffee.
But for the last 12 months I have been writing. Writing out my shame. Writing out my secrets. Writing out my colourful chameleon layers. Until now, all that’s left, is me.
I have lost my ability to blend in. I’ve lost my layers. And besides, that’s not what I want anymore. Because it’s taken me 37 years to find me, and I don’t want to lose me again. What that means, concretely, is that I now stick out. A radically honest woman. Wholly and completely me.
The Radically Honest Job Interview
I walked into the boardroom; there were three women, and one man. And me (the new sticky out me).
‘So how did you come to move to Sweden?’ asked one woman.
‘Well I was married to a French man and lived in France, we fell in love with a Swedish couple and swapped partners. Now I have two children with the Swedish man and live in Sweden.’
A hush descended on the room. Then another woman said
‘It makes our stories sound so boring.’
I said, ‘Believe me there are times when I would have given my right arm for boring.’
Then everyone laughed. The interview was off to a good start.
As we circled around the room introducing ourselves, we laughed a lot more. And the one man leaned back in silence, observing, with his hands clasped behind his head.
‘You’re obviously in charge here’ I thought.
Leaning back in chair, arms clasped behind the head, elbows out – signals intent to intimidate or a state of relaxation. It’s also used as a “know-it-all” gesture and a territorial sign – “I own this chair/area.”
Male Body Language
He looked almost regal, relaxed and dominant. Seconds later he said
‘Hi, I’m Magnus. Managing Director and Founder.’
‘I could tell’ I replied. ‘You’re sitting in a position of power like this.’ I demonstrated and he looked shocked. And then I said ‘But it’s a positive thing. You exude confidence.’
After a few minutes of discussion he said,
‘You’re honest. I like that. It’s a culture I want to promote here.’
Of course my strategy such as it was albeit completely unplanned, could have completely backfired. He could have thought
‘What a pain in the arse. She’ll be causing conflict right, left and center.’
Many might have been knocked sideways by my utter lack of propriety. Especially those who weren’t confident enough in themselves to take the truth. But he liked it. Which is good because I don’t want to be anyone other than myself. And I certainly don’t want to work with people who can’t take the real me.
The Big Career Switch, check.
Before I left on maternity one short year ago, I was a financial modeller and an analyst. But I wasn’t born to be one (is anyone?). Whilst I love excel and excel modelling with a passion, it’s not who I am anymore. And whilst I maybe an analyst, I’m not an accountant (I really tried to force myself through the exams, but ended up drowning my panic in alcohol).
I’m a lover of people. I truly love them. Even those who have been part of my darkest days. Actually those ones especially. Love is my talent. That and communication. Writing is my superpower.
It’s taken courage to keep writing honestly in the face of criticism (although I must admit, it was easier because I was far away from people I knew). My (old) friends think I’m crazy. Self destructive. Wallowing in self pity. Which is really weird, because I’m shinier and happier than I have ever been in my life.
And now I have a job which just dropped in my lap from the universe. It’s as if they wrote the spec for me (which actually they did because the job scope was dependent on the person who joined). In my new job, I get to write, blog and film the stories behind the big brands. I’m a Concept Creator and a Writer – officially. Although how they put it was –
“We don’t really know what you’re going to do, but we’d like you to come and work with us anyway.”
So how did I do it? Well I started writing…and didn’t stop; I wrote unpaid for a long while – around 2 years. In public and in private. I started blogs in newspapers. Huffington Post. Technorati. Telegraph. Digital Journal. And more…
And then in January, I decided I was a writer. It took 5 months to manifest into reality.