by Mel @troubleon8wheels
I hope no-one reads this, but if you do, I hope you find it useful. [Adapted from Steven Bartlett]
Pledge to Myself
In January 2022, I did what a lot of people probably did. I didn't make any New Year's resolutions (haven't done for years, why wait until New Year?), but I did decide to dedicate more time to myself. This year, I pledged, would be the year I no longer push myself to the edge of burnout and then need to have solitude in order to recover.
Oh wait, hit rewind. In case we've not met before, I'm Mel, and I have a lot to say. Why only use one word when ten will do? I also get wild ideas late at night, love to roller skate and feel grateful every day for my little shop.
January, February, March
I started well. I was recovering from a back injury from 6 months earlier, so started with daily pilates. I found some amazing channels on YouTube that helped to keep me motivated, as not being able to move in the way that I could previously, due to hugely decreased muscle activity during lockdown was intensely frustrating. And I am absolutely one of the people who is excellent at showing compassion to others, but not showing that same compassion to myself. Here was my opportunity to learn to be kinder to myself.
Slowly, slowly, my back pain decreased and I felt stronger and more capable.
I also read a few books and continued listening to some of my favourite educators' podcasts.
Brené Brown breaks down her research in a very interesting and understandable way, through conversation and interviews with people sharing their stories. I also read James Clarke's Atomic Habits about making micro changes to your environment which add up to larger changes within your environment. I am still reading Nova Reid's book The Good Ally, and watchingAfrica Brooke's masterclass about Self Censorship in the age of Cancel Culture.
I started to take time for myself each day, and approach the day in a calmer way, with a routine in the morning - pilates, breakfast, no phone, reading for ten minutes with a scented candle (so I can blow it out and make a wish) and pulling a tarot card for the day. Finally, feeling peaceful, I would be able to start work, clear and more productive because I had taken some time for myself. I also collected photos, drew pictures and did my best to manifest the different things I wanted. Inner peace, a roller rink in Leeds (!), some home improvements, maybe a little foray into public speaking and a lot more plants feature on my drawing.
Early into January, I had an opportunity to record a podcast. I was shocked at how quickly the manifestation had worked, but hey-ho I thought, I'm ready to take the opportunity. I wasn't feeling particularly brave, but if I believe in showing up in the world and making a difference in some small way, then I DO need to be brave to put myself out there. The podcast host put me at ease and we had a conversation that felt uncomfortable at times. I've been through a number of life experiences that have clearly shaped how I respond and show up. We mostly don't talk about the uncomfortable things in our lives on a recording with a stranger, but actually we grow more in the difficult times. The host thanked me for my honesty and time, and let me know when the episode was due to be released. It was duly released a couple of weeks later, but to my surprise, it was then unpublished that same day. I had clearly unintentionally caused some harm when sharing my story. I have learned that impact matters over intention, so I considered how I could have approached things differently.
I heard this on Instagram around that time:
"Hurt people hurt people. Healed people heal people."
It resonated so much. I didn't want to be hurt anymore, or cause hurt and distress. I am in charge of my own healing. It was time for professional help, as I'd done as much self-help as I could manage, so I went to a trauma therapist who came highly recommended. Going to therapy is hard! You have to engage with parts of yourself you'd rather avoid, but if I'm going to change, then I have to do something different. I was lucky that I chose the right therapist. There are many different therapy types out there, and my therapist asked the hard questions that I wasn't asking myself.
I had to pull back from social media and emails in order to prioritise having enough energy to teach classes. I hope participants at skate classes would have never realised I was struggling, and shop customers too, but outside work, I was doing very little. Suffering is not comparative and I don't not want anyone, ever, to think "Ahh poor Mel" because it's really not like that. I'm very happy day to day. Even in the middle of a thousands-of-pounds-of-sudden-car-breakdown-bill and I-miss-my-awesome-kiddo-and-don't-see-him-enough shit storm that happened during April and then turned into a good-grief-what-am-I-doing-with-my-life-my-parents-were-right-I-should've-stuck-with-primary-teaching May meltdown, I know there are choices. During this time was also a background narrative of oh-crap-I-agreed-to-coordinate-SkateLoveBCN-workshops-again-and-thought-I-knew-what-I-was-doing-but-the-remit-has-changed-again-dammit! Thankfully, experience has taught me that these life hiccups are all fairly short lived, and that I can control my reaction to things. Breathe, stay calm, find the solution, ask for help. Everything got sorted, we moved on.
Thank you to the friends who supported me, listened and helped. I have learned that I have a trauma wound around asking for help. (As in, I don't like to ask for help). Being independent and struggling on is a choice, and I'm working on recognising when I actually should ask for help - sooner! Looking back through my phone, I don't have photos of everyone - sorry beauts! Also I am not a fan of filters or re-taking photos to get 'the perfect shot'. Real life is as you show up to it.
March, April, May
These personal struggles were happening at the same time as continuing to teach classes and run sessions, ensure our customers receive the best service from our shop, look at how to open a roller rink in Leeds (one day I will do this!) and make commitments to the positive mental health of my employees by signing the Charter for Employers Positive about Mental Health. I do need to remind myself that I am IN CHARGE of what I do. And maybe going slower is okay.
In the midst of all of this, I had an opportunity to record another podcast, a second chance to share my story. This time, I intended to apply the lessons learned from the first podcast. The lovely Jess Salamanca, a female founder of multiple businesses, got in touch to say she had been following my journey and would love to interview me. It came at a time when I was struggling to believe in myself, so it was a welcome surprise. I'm aware of Jess' businesses, but we have never met in person, as she is London-based. Her interview style was relaxed and I was surprised by how much she knew about RGG and me!
The episode has just been released, and this episode follows some amazingly inspirational women. I would highly recommend Victoria Jenkins' episode about her brand Unhidden, Priya Downes' episode about Nudea and I'm just listening to Stef Sword-Williams' F*ck Being Humble. Listening to other female founder's stories, it's interesting that lots of us are easily swept up with 'I'm being driven by my business', rather than 'I am driving my business' and feel overwhelmed.
If you'd like to listen to the story of how I opened the shop back in October 2020, you can listen here.
To create the support network that I think we all need, I'm building RGG to be a female-centred organisation. I'm quietly proud of this. Those who were assigned male at birth are absolutely welcome to be part of RGG - the 'girl' in RGG actually works quite well to quietly challenge folks who are assigned male at birth and may feel uncomfortable in female-led spaces. I want to uphold the space as being safe and welcoming to everyone, and appreciate folks that understand and respect this, regardless of gender. In fact, I hope we have also managed to create a space where everyone feels they can leave their ego at the door, stop performing and truly just be free and authentically themselves. It takes a lot of courage to show up as yourself.
I'm just in the process of training some enthusiastic assistant coaches, to augment our existing coach team, so that participants get the best out of us every time. Every single person who is a part of RGG is such an upstanding member of the skate community in Leeds. We are so incredibly lucky to have these people want to represent us. Thank you to the Marshall Team who support roller discos, our Instructor Crew and the amazing Shop Gang. Our organisation is at around 40 people now!
There are now enough people who have an idea of what's happening in my brain. I'm excited to have an actual 4 day break in Paris at the start of July!
I'm happy to say that I'm still learning and unlearning. I'm still having therapy to process trauma, and I've learned to be more intentional with my use of social media. I want social media to be the inspirational tool that we can use to connect, rather than a tool we use to measure up against. We know it will always be impossible to measure against the standards of things we see. It's not that people are deliberately being misleading on the 'gram, but there is always a lot more to their story than followers may be aware of. I now do not look at social media late at night, as I know I am susceptible to comparing myself to unrealistic standards at this time.
I have a wonderful team helping to push RGG forward and we are now networking with other organisations who have reached out to us. I am grateful everyday for the opportunities that working for myself have created. I'm also grateful for the opportunities to learn more about myself and be more self aware.
So, you may think you know me from the funny Reels videos that we do, but actually, I am fairly introverted and need to spend quite a bit of time on my own. I love meeting new people, but it takes a lot of courage to say talk to someone if it's outside of our spaces. I'm learning to uphold my own boundaries - it's the key to peace.
In reading back through this blog post, I realise that I may have come across as whiny or sound like I am making excuses. Folks are welcome to unfollow at any time. If my journey or story do not resonate with you, I urge you to find someone who does have values that are more aligned with your own.
To go full circle back to the title, I aim to use every experience as a learning one. I reflect on challenges and I am grateful I had the opportunity to grow. It makes me stronger and more self-reliant. Business and personal growth have definitely gone hand in hand for me.
For now, I will continue to take deep breaths and live unapologetically and authentically as myself. I have inner peace and joy, and that's enough.
"Healed people, heal people."
Now I just have to press 'publish'. If you're reading this, I did it. If I can be brave, you can too.