This week I celebrated my 41st Birthday. If I am incredibly fortunate, I have reached the midway milestone of my life.
It seems a good time to reflect. To consider the things I’m proud of, the things that I wish I could change and the things I still hope to achieve.
It has taken me almost 40 years to find my mojo. To reach a place where I am in the driving seat. What a shame it takes so long. If only I knew then, in my early 20s, what I know now, how different my life would be.
I’m sure our failures and experiences shape us, even teach us, but even so, I wish wisdom was not associated so closely with maturity. Our time on this planet is so brief that it infuriates me how late we finally find our stride.
A friend asked me this week if I would like to return to my teens and start again. The answer was easy. Absolutely not.
I was an awful teenager. A hell-raiser.
On reflection, I now sympathise with the younger me. I masked many insecurities with an attitude. My steely exterior took form too early. A protective measure. I was independent before I sought it. Cruel when threatened. Unruly when unsure. Lost.
As it was, growing up on a council estate prepared me well for my adult life. The grappling bun fight of ‘dog-eat-dog’ survival between latch-key kids and warring frenemies taught me resilience and resolve. I mastered the art of negotiation and conflict resolution in the playground and discovered creativity in boredom on the streets.
Little adult intervention meant that scrapes and quarrels were sorted out between us. We wore the wounds of our losses. Revelled in our wins. Grasped the gift of the gab. Blagged it. Owned it.
Skills that stay with you.
Every family had their own issues. Money was scarce. Freedom was unregulated. Ambition was suppressed. People worked hard. Holidays were non-existent. Disputes, divorce, abuse and broken families were so common, they failed to rouse gossip.
Furthering yourself was a step above your station. The best we could hope for was a stable job and a loving family. University was an exotic word for the wealthy, certainly never discussed in our home.
By the time I reached 20, I was four years into numerous mind-numbing jobs, from a ball-bearing maker to a fish bait packer. I had a similar number of boyfriends, mostly of equal quality. Life was rather shallow in its depth.
I was told numerous time by educators and superiors that I would never amount to anything in life. Though I look back on those words with a critical adult view, I am grateful that my inner child never believed them. Despite everything, I always knew deep down, I was made for better things. I had a blind faith in my ability to change my fortune. I knew, that it was a matter of choice. When the time came, I would, I could, choose change.
I was motivated by the ‘know your place’ mentality. Even so young, I rebelled against being placed in a box. Stubborn pig-headedness to prove people wrong was in my genes.
If a minuscule smidgen of opportunity existed. I would find it. I would exploit it.
I purchased my first flat at 21 after landing a job at a local radio station. I told my then-boss I could sell ice to the Eskimos. It was a lie of course. But it led me to friends I still treasure to this day. It was an important turning point in my life. With care and support, they focused the mirror inward and helped me to peel away years of defensiveness, protective barb wire and learnt behaviours.
By the time I met Chris at 24, I was ready for love. He found and nurtured the very best version of me. We had a wild and wonderful courtship. Although short lived, he replenished all that was missing in my life. His unequivocal love slayed forever the angry beast within.
When he was sent away so cruelly and immorally in a surreal twist of fate, I was exposed to every form of emotion. Incredulity. Disgust. Loneliness. Grief. Despair. Hopelessness. Frustration. Sadness. Heartache.
My fight was in vein. It was, and still is a loss that I cannot accept. 16 years on, my body still recoils from the memory of those emotions. The wounds have never healed.
That experience, those awful shared sufferings, formed an armoured bond between us that has stood the test of time and survived many a turbulent storm.
I remember, when I was expecting our daughter, Lola, I worried endlessly that I could not love another human being as much as Chris, but then, the love of a mother is like no other. She had me from the first second. Our daughter represented our devotion. There was never any doubt.
Lola brought peace to our life. A quiet ambience. A softness. A fragrance of contentment. A happiness to our home. A deep sense of togetherness.
It was very different for our son Jonah, who was born during difficult times almost 4 years later. Our circumstances and careers had changed. We had sold our home to invest in a business, which soon became a constant target of anti-social behaviour. Just 9 days after giving birth to our son at home, I was taken seriously ill and hospitalised. Shortly after we lost our home, our business and our security. Our material wealth, our years of savings, our children’s inheritance was gone. Our resilience was tested again.
You might think that a small baby would suffer under such circumstances, but not our son. He was born with a steeliness, a sense of purpose and inner confidence beyond that of anyone we have ever met. In him, all of our strengths have combined and multiplied, to create a truly unique and incredible young man. Every day we marvel at his positive attitude and zest for life. He brought much light to our life during some of our darkest days.
After rebuilding our careers and home once more, we were blessed with a few quiet years in which to enjoy our children and each other. We moved to Cornwall, enjoyed caravan holidays and worked hard to provide a stable life for our family.
So, when Chris’s past raised its ugly head again and threw our life into turmoil, shattering our stability and happiness overnight, I was both mortified and exhausted. I simply didn’t have the energy to fight and rebuild again. We were both beaten.
This time it was very different. Simply picking up the pieces was no longer an option.
Something had to change.
I can honestly say I have never dug deeper in my life. I delved back to my roots and somewhere within, found that inner child’s spirit and stamina.
Deciding to leave was the best decision we ever made. When we purchased ‘Colin’ the motorhome, we gained freedom and time. Two commodities much desired. Over two years, we visited 15 countries and with every mile ventured, we healed and flourished.
Our troubles and travels, our highs and lows, have gifted us an unexpected prize – a brutal and brilliant opportunity to scrutinise our behaviours, values, ethics, decisions and actions. The depth and magnitude of our personal growth and development over the past two years, specifically, has been astounding. It has been an incredible journey of peaks and valleys which tested our little family to a fine tipping point. From a 4-bed cottage in the Cornish countryside, we subsisted in a 23ft Motorhome. From a jungle house in the tropics, we plummeted to a 20-year old static caravan. It should have broken us. But it didn’t. It made us.
We thrived, at times. We crashed, on occasions. But we survived. We turned inwards and we found energy and strength in each other.
So, today, as I sit typing at a homemade table in our old antiquated caravan reflecting on my 41 years of life, I can staunchly say, without doubt, or reservation, that I am most proud of our little family and the strength of our togetherness. We have made it, united, strong and for now, very, very happy.
Times like this reinforce your appreciation for family. I have grown up with absent or intermittent family connections so I know what hurt that can bring. As a result, Chris and I compensate with a strong, loving family unit. Regardless of what happens, or what life throws at us, we possess the basic tools, admiration and respect for each other, to muster on. That makes me dead proud.
In terms of achievements, I am also immensely proud of our career accomplishments. Despite bearing a huge cross against his name, Chris was able to rise from an anonymous number to a CEO of a regional charity. Whilst it ended wretchedly, he was an outstanding leader and many vulnerable people benefitted from his work.
My own work as a Domestic Homicide Chair, Trainer & Consultant inspired changes to policy and practice, making public and voluntary services safer and more accountable. Although it is hard to quantify a positive, I hope that my 12 years of work in this specialist field saved just a few victims from a fatal end.
Putting an explicit unambiguous full-stop after our careers has been far more challenging than envisaged. Drawing a line under years of training, studying, knowledge and experience was bitter sweet. We lost our identities and sense of self, to some extent. You become what you do in this world. Your name is linked to a position or reputation. It’s how you are introduced. When that changes or ends, you feel stripped to the bare bone. Exposed. Vulnerable. Forced to start again and analyse who you really are and what you really want. It’s a deeply unpleasant experience.
After much anguish, we have finally accepted that this is the natural process of shedding an old life and starting a new one. It took us far too much time to come to terms with the concept of letting go. Strangely we fought it. Felt bereft and hard-done-by. But in letting go, completely and unreservedly, you make way for promise and opportunities. It’s not possible to have a foot in each camp. Sideways is pointless. Sideways extends the anguish. You either go forward and trust the process or step back wholeheartedly and make do. Put up and shut up.
So, we are irreversibly, irrevocably, definitively moving forward. Head First. Full Pelt. No stopping.
The line has been drawn. We have leapt across. No looking back. No regrets. Just FORWARD!
Today is the start of the rest of our lives…
So, without further ado, it is with great pleasure and immense pride that we introduce the latest addition to our quirky little family – a new skipper – our long-awaited family business; MOHOBO.
MOHOBO – meaning a modern-day hobo who chooses to remain homeless and travel – signifies change. Courage. Determination. Togetherness. Resilience. Dogged Perseverance. Gumption.
A year in the making, MOHOBO combines our love of travel, freedom and motorhoming with my delight for creativity and art. We have stockpiled our passions to create an online business offering bespoke designer gifts for the motorhome, campervan, caravan and camping community.
We’ve always told our children to do only what you love and become an expert in it. Money will always follow. Yet we did not follow our own advice. Although, both Chris and I had promising careers, they were merely jobs. Not dreams.
MOHOBO is our example to our children, that it is never too late to pursue what you love. We are far from experts (yet), but we humbly hope that our efforts will be rewarded with a modest living. An income that will enable us to keep doing more of what we love. When it’s a passion, it’s not work.
We are surrounded by boxes. Our caravan is fit to burst. To make room to sleep, we hoard stock in the boot of our car. As a story of small beginnings, it doesn’t get much better than this.
In pursuit of this opportunity, we have sacrificed everything. Every single penny has been invested. I could not have squeezed our suppliers more. I could not have negotiated harder. I could not have pulled in more favours. This is it. With the means we have available to us at this precise moment, this is the best we have to offer.
Of course, we have huge ambitions, a tonne of ideas and the energy and enthusiasm to make MOHOBO fly, but first, we need the encouragement and backing of our friends and supporters. We need help to share our message. To help launch our new venture.
If you have followed our story from the beginning, you will appreciate the journey it has taken to arrive at this point. It really does feel amazing to finally say, ‘We’re in a good place’.
MOHOBO has given us a focus during the murkiest of days when we despaired at our circumstances. It stopped us throwing in the towel. It gave us hope. It brought us home.
We seek the greatest of favours of which we have no right to ask, but we would be eternally grateful if you could visit www.mohobo.co.uk by typing it into your internet search bar. This will help Google to identify us sooner and increase our chances of being discovered by consumers.
If you feel inclined, please feel free to sing, shout and share its praises.
We have lost many friends and family members along this journey. Some are not here to share our achievements (though would be immensely proud I’m sure). Others are absent through choice.
We are great believers that those who are meant to be in your life, stay in your life – so, we sincerely mean it, when we say a heartfelt thank you in advance for sticking with us, riding along, tolerating our constant contradictions, ebbs and flows, as we lost and found our way.
We wish you all true happiness and good health,
The Cotter’s xxx