I do love a good present. And last week I received a gorgeous one, in the form of the very beautiful header artwork proudly displayed at the top of this page. A very dear and talented friend, Jo, created it for me as a gift. If you're ever in need of inspiration, or just enjoy looking at beautiful things, check out http://www.atelierjoanafaria.com.
Jo is one of those fantastic bright sparkly people who make the world fabulous. You'd love her. Tumbling curls, huge smile, big impulsive Brazilian gestures. I met her on my very first day in Adland. Fresh from the tube (actually, can anyone ever be fresh from the tube?), nervously looking around at my fellow graduate trainees, it was a relief to see her friendly face. We became great friends as we navigated the new landscape together. A few years later, Jo changed from being an account man (liaising between clients, creatives and production) to being a creative herself. Writing and art-directing her own work. I really admired her bravery and determination to make something out of her creative instincts. So often we stay on a path because it's one we know and are comfortable with, rather than because it's one in which we can truly flourish.
As I reflected earlier on Jo's change of path, I remembered the feeling I had at 19, when after nearly 10 years of planning to be a lawyer, I decided to change my own. It was the summer after end of first year exams, and I was sitting in my car. It struck me that if I was going to be a good lawyer, not just a competent one, I was going to have to work twice as hard as my peers. Some might have seen this as the ultimate challenge. I saw it as a total nightmare. Why commit myself to a career of constantly playing catch up? So I sat in my car and thought about what I was actually good at. What sort of industry might I thrive in? And gradually, it came to me. Somewhere I could be involved in making things. Negotiate with people, persuade them, be involved in creating something tangible. Something I could show my family. It was actually quite liberating. A brief but glamorous summer placement at Saatchi's and I was hooked. Advertising was the place for me.
Somewhat ridiculously, I didn't really see motherhood as another change in path. I simply saw it as a sort of extension of the happy journey (ack, the X Factor has ruined that word for me) I was on with Mr W, and even though I knew it would involve a career change, it didn't seem that big a deal. For a few years I was too busy slashing through the undergrowth to notice, but suddenly I can look around and see the beauty that's around me. From being someone whose heel height (and, let's face it, laziness) dictated taking cabs for most journeys, I now squelch through muddy bogs in wellies. After years of takeaway eating and cocktail drinking, I now possess a slow cooker. I'll admit something here: I love my slow cooker so much I have actually given it a name. Sven. I figure Sven is the kind of capable, trusty second-in-command a girl can leave at home in charge of a bolognese while she gets on with the important business of puddle-splashing and bear-hunting.
Even if I couldn't see the changes immediately, my friends certainly did. Apparently I look much brighter and shinier these days than I did before. It's a shame that when you become a stay at home Mum, people tilt their heads sideways and ask if you're really satisfied, if it can possibly be enough for you. In my case, it has turned out to be the most wonderful path of all. It's given me the freedom to try things I'd never have made time for before (singing, writing, depicting assorted superheroes through the medium of cake), and most importantly, has given me the opportunity to watch my little people set off on their own paths.
So here's to those who seek their own paths. Here's to gorgeous Jo. Cheers.