When I was about 14, I felt incredibly confused. I often sat in a heap on a chair, feeling despondent. I disliked school and remember feeling a deep emptiness about life. What exactly was the point of my existence? I had a longing to experience something deeper.
I remember my pragmatic mother becoming exasperated by my need for answers and her advice was: “Just get a job you don’t hate too much and marry someone you don’t mind. Don’t overthink it, Nicky – just get on with life.”
This would usually make me feel much worse. I would judge myself for wallowing, but deep in my heart I knew that this advice must be wrong. I had watched my parents become exhausted doing jobs that they devoted themselves to and yet didn’t seem to give them any satisfaction.
My mother spent most of her spare time doing amateur dramatics to avoid the awkwardness of being at home with my father, who was often so stressed out that he would spend most evenings boiling with anger in front of the TV.
Both my folks passed away very young. They were dutiful, honest people but their approach to life was guided by society’s rules rather than any search for meaning. I knew they had avoided asking the bigger questions.
My search for answers started as a child and has never stopped. I yearned for a life with a deeper sense of satisfaction and have often felt that this desire has caused me to feel ‘different’ to those around me.
However, last Thursday night, I celebrated an event that made me realise I’d finally found the deeper purpose I’d been searching for.
It was the launch of a community – Trailblazer Tribe – that I’d dreamt of building up for many years.
I hosted it with one of my best friends, Bev, and we invited three artists from our community to share stories about their work and lives.
Lisa, a heartfelt photographer, talked about how the difficult times in her life had helped her bring more authenticity into her photographs. Her raw emotions had given her permission to be more real in her expression.
Pearl, a fantasy artist, described her experiences of feeling incredibly shy and isolated as a teenager. Unable to fit in, she was inspired by role models such as Queen Elizabeth I and developed characters to inspire her journey that she began to paint.
Finally, Rebecca, a positive psychologist, came on stage with a straw bag filled with pearls, hairpieces and colourful clothes. She told us about her journey of trying to figure out how to share her love of finding meaning and joy in what she wore. How she had become an academic for years but struggled to find a place to share her message. She described how meaning had come when she joined our Facebook group and felt bold enough to launch a community to help people wear clothes that gave them a feeling of wellbeing, rather than follow fashion’s rules.As I listened to their stories, I realised they were women just like me. They had yearned for a life that had meaning and depth and wanted to express their work in a way that added beauty to the world.
As the evening progressed, I spotted a group of musicians I’d coached at various times in the past few years. They were all geeking out about music, talking about the pentatonic scale. They shared a passion for making music and creating projects they cared about.
I also saw a young actor talking to an artist who had just helped launch a magazine called Goldie, which celebrates getting older in style, about her aspiration to help northerners achieve their creative dreams.
I realised that my community is made up of idealists – creatives who are kind, ambitious and passionate. They want to change and add meaning to a world that can be feel so corporate and hollow.
This crowd reflected back to me that they are my tribe – creative people who aren’t satisfied with getting a job or settling. They are people who have carved out a life for themselves based on their need to do something that satisfies a deeper need.
I love what creative people can bring to the world. We can make a difference through our stories, our songs, our ability to think differently and add meaning.
I am still finding my way in building up a community. I am learning how to host events and hire people to do social media – and throughout this learning I know that I am being guided by the belief that through creative community we can all become a little bit better at what we do and take bolder steps with our lives and careers.
I want to thank you for your creativity and encourage you to keep going with your projects and be guided by your desire for a deeper meaning in life.
And whenever you lose faith, it is sometimes that younger part of you that wasn’t understood by the people around you at the time.
A question you can ask is: “What would I say to my 14-year-old self?”
I would say to mine: “Trust in your longing. Follow that heart of yours and learn to listen to what it wants.”
If you’re not in my community, then I’d love you to join. It’s full of great people doing interesting things. Here is the link: Join Trailblazer Tribe.
And – if you are interested in learning about how to tell stories to market your work, then Bev and I will be launching our new 10-week online programme Storytelling for Self-Promotion at the end of May. The early bird price will end on 10th May. The full lowdown is here.
If you have any questions, do send me a message.