My Journey Into The University of Life

IMG_2942 - cropped - THTT signedHaving delivered my son, the youngest of my two children, to a prestigious international university at the weekend, I find myself ready to share the thoughts that are streaming through my mind right now … keeping the feelings of emotional adjustment at bay, while I picture our son adjusting to his new life in a new place, and we adjust at home to not having him around.

It is a strange head and heart space to be in, not for the first time another massive readjustment, a new place within a strange place, on a journey that has held many unexpected bits along its path.

Here is a little more of my own story …
It is a snippet about my starting out in the Big Wide World, showing up at the gate to the “University of Life”.

~ : ~

Did you know?
I did not go to university.

Furthermore, I do not have any certificates from any institutions other than a matriculation certificate from high school, and there are no letters after my name.

I have no profession, no specific thing that I can tell anyone that I ‘am’, no one easy answer to provide when faced with a form to fill in about what I ‘do’.  And yet, I do and have experience in a lot.

I have been educated to beyond tertiary level, by the “University of Life” … for those who do not know what this is, the best and shortest way I can describe it is: It is the long way round to blasting through glass ceilings, reaching full potential, and having ‘degree status’ clout. However, in matters of life, meaning, authenticity, sustainability and leadership in a range of ways, it is the path that I have travelled, is most definitely not a short cut nor easy way, and it means that whatever I say, I mean and have quite possibly seen, felt, tasted or survived.

It would be wonderful if there were a degree for this journey into and through the “University of Life”, a piece of paper to frame, a garment and a mortar board, but there is not. There is little recognition in tangible form for the courses that I have been on. As a result of the journey, and despite it, when you meet me, what you see is what you get. My communication is undiluted; I do not suffer fools lightly (nor does the book of Proverbs in the Holy Bible), and I have found that life is far too short to beat around the bush. It would be good to add a degree to this level of experience and integrity, but as yet I have not.

Why did I not go to university? 
Plainly put, I might have gone to university (indeed would have loved to attend the beautiful establishment on the slopes of Table Mountain, where I lived), had circumstances that I was living within been very different.

Having left home pretty much, at the raw age of eighteen, it was simply too hard to take on university by myself – the funding and the focus required were a crippling prospect – as well as manage my life entirely by myself. That said, I tried to get to university or teacher’s training college, I even made an appointment and met with my senior school headmistress – who said in no uncertain terms that she believed in me, even offered to help me to find a bursary – but it all felt too hard to pursue at the time. I found that, as I needed to support myself, still contributing in certain ways to life at home, already by then well-schooled in the rigours and realities of some very obscure scenes of life, I could not afford the time nor the cost nor the luxury of a university life.  How I would have loved to join all my friends who were able to do just that! But it was not the path that life had set me on.

Looking back (and at the time) I know I would have grabbed life on campus with both hands and squeezed every bit of juice out of a university experience when I left senior school – it was how I lived my life, anyway – but instead my mother directed me to undertake a Secretarial Course.  I was told that I would be supported partially to do that, but not to attend university. The lion share of everything that I needed I would have to find myself … not least, it turned out, the guidance to do what I was gifted for.  What a waste of twelve years of striving to be the one who would (and had so often done so or come close to) be winning the prize. There had been many Speech Days, when I was younger, where I had walked proudly up onto the stage to receive a book prize or some other form of recognition … and no one was ever there to support me. I gave up on that lark halfway through high school, when my home life became a series of rapidly changing and dramatic stage sets. It was hard to keep track in the pace of life itself, anyway … I do recall that our headmistress gawped when I told her that one day, during the public reading of our results at the start or end of a school term, in front of my entire year.

Therefore, despite my reluctance at going to do something that held no interest to me at all, the path that I had been told was my most realistic option was the one that I took. The little that I learnt at Secretarial College ended up being one way I kept myself from starving during many desperate times over the coming years. It was never my choice of career path … but it helped when I could find nothing else to turn my hand to fast.

Did I not receive a Certificate upon completion of the Secretarial Course?
No, I did not.
Why not?
Because I did not complete the course.

Four months into my six-month secretarial course in the city of Cape Town, after and whilst enduring endless banging away on manual typewriters (ouch) in an effort to reach perfection and to get my perfect banging of keys up to reasonable speed, with countless sheets of paper and carbon flying in all directions, battling to get my head and hands to process the simplicity of shorthand, staring square-eyed at the columns of bookkeeping figures … and on and on … I could not take any more. I was feeling utterly demoralised.  So, being used to ‘making a plan’ and finding ways to keep going within storms of life, I went straight to the nearest newspaper seller, bought myself a newspaper, and opened up the Classifieds pages to scour the list of Job Ads. I had to find a better way to do life than doing what I was most definitely not suited to, and I hoped that this would somehow lead me through an open door  … instantly I saw various advertisements that I somewhat courageously, very determinedly, rather cheekily, circled and then set my sights on applying for.

The first job I applied for … “Girl Friday for City Insurance Brokers” … led to an immediate interview … and the immediate offer of said job.  However, there was only one problem: the directors of the firm who were offering me the job, at what for me at the time was a huge salary – R300 (South African Rands in 1981) per month – required that I be at least able to operate an electric typewriter. Snag: I could barely manage to keep all the sheets of paper in the manual typewriters at the secretarial college down the road, let alone type one sentence without needing to erase and repair errors (times multiple pages) … and so they, being optimistic men of ‘making a plan’ too, decided to deliver to my little flat, with their company Driver, one of their new electronic typewriters, with the implicit instruction that I PRACTISE.  I was to show up for work three weeks’ hence, armed with the electric typewriter that they owned … and in receipt of the necessary skills required to operate it.  They were, clearly, believing in me to produce a miracle

I showed up for work … on time and on the due date … with the typewriter … whom I might have named by then … only just able to drive it.

My role as “Girl Friday” was a broad one, and it went from challenge to challenge, from strength to strength over a period of two years.  When I became bored, the Directors and senior staff found new challenges for me … while they expected me to answer their incoming switchboard telephone calls with aplomb, and not trip myself in the process of dealing with miles of yellow tape attached to the office telex machine … a vital piece of kit in the inter-office and inter-national communication system of the time.  Oh my word, it was all slog … but I loved it, because I was being mentored and taught and appreciated and given bonuses and helped to stretch and stretch and stretch … all in lieu of my much-coveted university place.  The Directors and senior staff had taught me all that they could, from keys to claims and back again, and wanted me to pursue a career in their field.  It just seemed grey to me, and so I declined their offers to support my studying to undertake the Insurance Industry Exams. C’est la vie.

When I could stretch no longer within the framework of the office and the company, when I decided that I could not face a lifetime in the insurance industry, when I was done with doing all the things that were possible for me to learn in that one office, when they had moved premises from the “Golden Acre” (and I had helped them to do so) to the outer suburbs of Cape Town … and all of life seemed to scream to a boring halt for me … I resigned. Job done. Great friends made. Wonderful experiences, including a yacht launching that I had organised to great success … but it was time to move one.

I am now in my fifties. Much has passed under the bridge since then.

I have much more story to tell, but that’s enough for now.

The “University of Life” is the hardest one on the planet to get into and to do well within … it requires a huge amount of tenacity and guts … and listening … and learning … and independent battle strategy … and following leads … and bumping yourself, getting bruised, picking yourself back up … but it often produces Eagles and Leaders and I have only to look at my children to know that I have defied a whole lot of what Life tried to use to trip me up. It has been an exhausting ride, but I am thoroughly proud of it and abundantly blessed as a result of never, ever, ever having given up.

So, without a degree and without a professional accolade to slip off my tongue, or any other seriously impressive title to blind you with, please know that what I write and what I do and what I speak is me being completely and utterly real, desiring to share what I have and to make the world a better place than the one that I found.  I speak from experience, and all of it hard won.  Often a lone voice, I have lost and found my voice … stronger and more vibrant than ever before … because I have the scars to prove that life is a powerful force and love will carry us through everything, if we just hold on.

Be brave. Be strong. Keep believing. Fall down. Get back up.
Cry. Shout. Scream at the wind. But don’t ever stay down on the ground …
Wait for the next current of life to come along … and then rise up!
It might take time to heal from the wounds, but just remember:
Eagles don’t have time to hang out with those who wish to remain forever on the ground.

If you’re on your path to graduation, go for it!
You’ve got a headstart.

With love and motivation,

Holly x

PS. My typing speed is phenomenal now … and I still have no desire to be anyone’s PA … shall leave that role to those who can do it with aplomb. Oh, I did it, by the way … I worked as a PA in London, in a prestigious establishment there, and I have the experience to prove it … Just no Certificate, I’m afraid. There is, of course, other working experience to add to the bow too, but those stories are for another day.

PPS. I am still learning, changing, rebuilding … and it is now time for me to graduate to the next level too …

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“the gazebo is scheduled for conservation work soon. Please respect the fragility of its interior”*

rings true!

*(a sign seen in a beautiful garden in the Cotswolds recently, it is what gave me the inspiration to write this piece)

~ : ~

Link to WordPress “The Daily Prompt”
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/sympathy/

Courage To Be Real

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I recently received a message from someone I have never met, whom I learnt has had a very challenging life and has a very sad childhood story. The message was so heartfelt and so grateful  … it moved me beyond tears … this post is a result of receiving that message.

Apparently my ‘being real’ has been a blessing and has provided strength to this person, who has been following my writing (unbeknownst to me) for some time …

Why am I sharing this snippet into the ether?

Because I have a very important message for anyone who thinks that their life is meaningless, less than, unappreciated, unapplauded, unrewarded or is simply battling through the little and large waves:

You do matter. Being real IS allowed. You ARE precious. You DO deserve to be on this earth. You ARE worthy of love. It does NOT matter what you look like to others. It is NOT money or possessions that give people value. It is NOT anyone else’s place to make you feel bad about yourself. You DO have a role to play in the universe. You ARE allowed to be honest, frank, authentic, and even ‘cut and dried’. You MAY become a brighter, lighter, saltier, more fabulous and utterly authentic version of yourself. There is NOTHING that is impossible with God on your side, so do NOT allow ANYONE to rob you of your dreams, your true nature, your ambitions, your hopes, your desires. It IS OK to fall down and it is even ok to make a complete and utter fool of yourself … as long as you learn from the experience, keep learning, and allow yourself the freedom to laugh at life and to laugh at your own jokes! Laugh at yourself, laugh and laugh and laugh … And HUG yourself a lot, because there are times when no one else is there to hug you. So, always find ways to encourage YOURSELF. You are fully entitled to joy and peace and love and prosperity and abundance in every way that you wish and that would make your heart sing. You DO matter, and every single aspect of life belongs to you just as much as you belong to Life itself.

There is only one caveat to all of this, and it is:

Remember that it is in giving of ourselves that we give the most … money can never quite cut it in the same way … and if we wish to see our own lives blessed, we always receive a greater return for our investment when we help to raise others up first.

Be brave enough to be your AUTHENTIC self, and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks about you. It is NOT our business to try to dictate all outcomes or another’s thoughts, but it IS our business to BE REAL … and is the only SUSTAINABLE, healthy way.

If you will dare to step out of the box, you never know whose life you might save!

Be brave enough to LOVE, to be who you are, for real. You’ll shine, you’ll prosper, you’ll make a difference, no matter what.


With courage and love,

Holly x

 

 

On Being Moulded For Leadership

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On Being Moulded For Leadership

Have you ever heard it said that people who are positive and always moving forward are a little like ping pong balls, or life buoys? No matter how hard life tries to keep them down, it is impossible to force a plastic ball filled with air to remain underwater – no sooner do you press it down, than it pops right back up to the surface. I heard this description in a church talk about being authentic the other day, and it resonated with me greatly. Such a simple illustration of a basic life truth.

In my experience, and over decades of observing many friends and others who have had to tackle some tough life lessons, those who are destined for leadership and positive mentorship of others, are frequently the ones who have had the biggest trials. Despite all that they have been dealt or had to face, they have persevered and kept on going, regardless of the weight of the challenge.

Sometimes life swings a really hard bat, and in these times even the toughest and strongest willed among us are sideswiped by the trials they face. It is not uncommon to hear of people who, to the public eye, appear to have everything going for them, yet have faced, or are facing, battles and hardships unimagined by most.

I had a thought some time ago, which I noted down at the time and saw again today, prompting the writing of this post …

 

It is often the best ‘Teachers’, ‘Healers’ and ‘Leaders’ who have had to break first;

Having been shaped and chamfered,

they become more capable of aptly, ably and knowingly leading the way.

 

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, from all walks of life, from a range of backgrounds and experiences, and their spheres of influence vary tremendously. However, one common element in all leadership is that those who have walked the path that they speak of or expect of others, are usually the ones who gain the most respect.  Leadership can be taught in various fields and forms, experts coming out of the woodwork all around us, but those who command the greatest following and see the most enduring, sustainable results are those who truly have walked, do walk, their ‘talk’.  The most profound lessons are those that are learnt by experience, not those learnt from books or by rote.

Thus, it is always a good idea to try to remember that, when life is creasing, squeezing, squashing, pressing, pruning, and chamfering us … we might just be being moulded for leadership.  The more the chamfering, very often the more and more profound, widespread and sustainable the influence later.

There is always something positive to be found in the chamfering moments of life … leadership par excellence so often being the gold at the end of the rainbow, the treasure after and in between the storms.

So, hold on.

You may well be in for the ride of your life or going through something excrutiating right now. Trust that you are being made into an eagle who, like the proverbial ping pong ball, will always find a way to rise up.

Keep your hope alive, rest and breathe …

Yours may well be the hand, the example and the guiding light that someone else gains strength from one day, and you may well be destined for something truly great.

And remember:

Great people are like ping pong balls … no matter how deep the water and how frequent the dunking, you cannot keep them down.

 

 

 

 

Holly x

 

Note:
chamfer:  verb – to put an edge, angle or groove in.

 

 

 

~ : ~

Shine Anyway

Beeswax, light & holly sprigs

 

Shine Anyway

The devil will hold on for dear life, but when he loses his grip, he loses his grip. Cheesed off to the enth degree, mightily ****** off, yes, but when he loses his grip that’s that.

Do not be afraid of anything. Have faith and keep facing forward, with determination and a sword of Truth. Stay in the light. Be brave. Be prepared to stand alone, but stand anyway. Be prepared to be mocked, set aside, left out, but smile anyway. Be prepared to be ripped off, bruised, lied about and lied to, but set your sights on higher things anyway.

“Never, ever give up.”

The Light always wins, anyway.

There will be “beauty for ashes” …

After all, this is how diamonds are made and how gold is refined.

So stand.

Hope.
Rest in God.
Persevere.
Trust and do good.

And shine anyway.

❤️

 

With love,
Holly x

 

Beeswax, light & holly sprigs

Beeswax, light and holly sprigs for inspiration.

 

When People Talk About Others

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When people talk about others, remember that they are just as capable of talking about you. Be careful.

When you notice that people have slipped into the shadows, know that they have not collected their facts. Be careful.

When groups fall off the ledge of your life, know that they have been spreading rumour and gossip. Be mindful.

When people turn their back on you or walk away, instead of towards you with love, let them go. Carefully. Remember: they were never meant to be there for ever anyway, and their thoughts are none of your business.

Go mindfully through life.
Don’t gossip.
Gossip and slander hurts.
And it bites back
Always.
That’s just how the Universe works.

Appreciate those who love you, regardless, unconditionally.
They are the treasure.
Focus on them.
Practise love anyway.
It always wins.
That’s just how the Universe works.

~ Holly ~

 

Life Is Not Fair

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Life is not fair.

When you are ostracised, judged, criticised, scorned, avoided, circumvented, ignored, mocked, derided, gossiped about, spurned, shunned, snubbed, rebuffed, or even politely side-stepped, despite being honourable, loyal, honest, non-judgemental, clean-living, empathetic, kind, generous, tireless in doing the right thing … it hurts. It hurts more than it hurts those who do none of these, or only some. Why? Because your heart is open and, when your heart is fully open, you open yourself to being vulnerable to both joy and pain. Open is open, there are no half-measures with truth and honesty. What to do about it? Nothing. Only stand. Keep standing. Keep doing what is right. And in the place of standing, love and hug and walk only in the light … Leave all the others to their own devices … and rest in the knowledge that by doing only that which will stand up to scrutiny in a fair court in any land, your rewards will be eternal (as will theirs) and you can always live with yourself.

 

 

 

In truth,

Holly x

 

Friday Thought ~ Break The Chains

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Keep calm and breathe …

 

 

 

Friday Thought

Gratitude, helping others, appreciating the abundance of the planet and doing what you can to tread lightly, sharing out of what you have, opening your mind to the possibilities of making a difference right where you are, trusting in divine providence, minding your own business, refusing to gossip, attending to your own responsibilities, always speaking the truth, being honest in all your dealings, bringing things out from the darkness and into the light, facing difficulties, taking care of your own attitudes, looking after your body, practising compassion, doing the correct things that you expect others to do … all of these and more, help to free the mind from mental chains … and all of these produce good brain health.

Good mind health = good brain health = good body health = good life = peace (regardless of your outward circumstances).

 

‪#‎BreakTheChains

 

Live Free!

 

 

With love,

Holly x

A Little Note On Strength

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People often mistake strength for courage, loyalty and perseverance.

How often have we called someone ‘strong’, without ever knowing how many tears they’ve shed, how often they have had to grit their teeth and smile and take another little step despite the waves, how much they are hurting behind their determination to keep their heads up in the storms, how tired they are from enduring through their trials? Perhaps the ‘strong’ person is the one who needs the hug the most? Perhaps the ‘strong’ person is the one who deserves the most respect … not for being ‘strong’, but for being brave enough to surrender to what experiences life presents along their path to gaining deep and inner strength? Perhaps we learn more from those who endure than from those who take the soft route? Perhaps we focus too much on their being ‘strong’ and not enough on helping the ‘strong’ one up?

Next time you come across a ‘strong’ person … ask yourself: How and where did they travel in order to gain that strength? Could I have done what they did? And then ask yourself: What can I do to help them with their load … after all, have they not inspired me to persevere with my own?

Strength is courage in the face of almighty fear. Strength is not handed to us on a plate. It is best not to take ‘strength’ for granted. Real strength requires surrender, and is a ‘skill’ hard earned.

 

 

Holly x

 

 

 

 

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