Learning From History

If we’re being honest, my writing here is sporadic at best; at its worst, it’s non-existent. Let’s try to think positively (though that’s hardly my strong suit anymore). In the more recent past, on the odd occasion I have posted, I’ve not posted about my faith. That’s right, I’m about to get real honest with you – and I’m giving you the chance to close your tab now and pretend you didn’t see this.

Still with me? Cool. Since my accident at work over 3 years ago, I’ve been having a bit of a crisis of identity. I lost who I was when that lorry (truck – turns out lorry is a very British thing) reversed into that loading bay on that fateful day.

You see I used to have a plan. I left uni with a 2.1 in my sound engineering degree, knowing I never wanted to work in that industry. I wanted to work in radio – and my plan was to do a masters to get there. So I stayed at uni and got a respectable Merit in Multiplatform Radio. Except not a single one of my modules was in radio. Turns out, after all those years pining for a radio studio, I wasn’t good at it. In fact, my grades were so bad, that the one radio module I took ended up being discounted from my grade as it was the worst I’d done. But whilst writing my dissertation on contempt of court for journalists, I’d taken up a part time job at my local cinema.

To anyone else – that was just a job to earn some pocket money whilst I finished off my second degree. But to me – it was the job I’d wanted since I was a little girl. I remember walking into Cineworld in Bedford and being in awe of the magic of cinema. The people who sat behind the tills, they had the power to let me see these amazing films or turn me away (which they did. A few times…) The smell of popcorn, the soft drinks, the sweets – it was all a smorgasbord of the food that was forbidden at home. It was indulgent, breathtaking and perfect. At home, I had plastered my walls with ticket stubs, film reviews I’d cut out, film posters I’d bought on eBay using my mum’s debit card (I got into so much trouble one summer with that eBay account that she knew nothing about) – my dream was to work at the cinema (I know – the irony is not lost on me that my school’s motto was Alta Petens [Aim high]).

So when I got the job I felt like I’d hit the jackpot. I loved the job, the team and, of course, the perks. I soon realised I liked the job even more than I thought I would, and I had a dream. To become a manager at a neighbouring branch (mainly because the management team within my own team didn’t feel like it would change and allow for space to let me in – and I liked the idea of getting experience in different sites). But that dream was dashed when I was injured at work.

My dream job came up whilst I was on sick leave, and though I applied for it – I was beaten to the role by a better applicant. Shortly after, I realised I wasn’t ever going to be able to return to that job, and I left the company – a management role came up at the site I’d been at. To say I was devastated is an understatement. I literally had the rug pulled out from my hopes and dreams, and they shattered on the floor.

That split second changed everything. Which is incredible when you really think about it. Up until that point, my life was on a certain trajectory, and in less than a second, it changed completely. My life as I’d known it was gone.

That thought still kind of rattles me, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t really remember who I was anymore before the accident. Maybe that’s partly to do with all the medication I take now, maybe it’s because it’s painful to think about how much I’ve lost – maybe it’s a combination of the two, and some other feelings mixed in to make it a truly nasty cocktail – not the sort you order at Happy Hour.

I had to leave the city I’d been living in, as I couldn’t afford the rent anymore. I left the church I’d been a member of. Though since the accident I’d been having so many panic attacks, and bouts of depression that it was difficult to even leave the flat most days, so to make it to church was a task within itself.

I’ve written before about my journey in faith from there to Hillsong, so I’m going to jump ahead in the story, and you can read some of my older blogs to plug the gaps. I moved to Surry in pursuit of Hillsong Guildford. I thought it was where I was supposed to be, and I started considering apply to Hillsong College in Sydney. Again, I thought this was the right place for me (and I’ve blogged about it before) but I had a massive panic attack whilst volunteering at Hillsong Conference… and no one cared. So I stopped going to church. And I heard nothing from anyone there. I realised that I’d been attending that church for over a year and no one noticed that I’d disappeared. I questioned whether I wanted to move halfway across the world to go to college with a church that didn’t care about me. And the answer was no.

I tried other churches and I found the exact same thing over and over again. People would sound interested – even meet up a few times – but ultimately say they’ll let me know when they’re free, or promise to text me some details, and it would never happen. I’ve become so disillusioned by people, that church seems like an incredibly unfriendly place to be.

In August, I endulged in a staycation. My original plan had been to spend a couple of nights in London, then travel up to Southport for a few nights, then head to the Lake District to camp for a couple of nights before returning to Guildford. The reality of the torrential rainfall meant I decided to cancel my camping plans. My back is bad at the best of times, damp and cold just make it so much worse, and I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to cope with camping anyway thanks to my back. So instead I readjusted, and spent a couple of nights in London, then spent a few nights in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and then headed up to Southport for a night before heading back to Guildford.

I love history, Shakespeare and Van Gogh – and my trip included all of those. In London I went to the EY Exhibition of Van Gogh and Britain in the Tate and I saw ‘As You Like It’ at the Globe. I also visited a writing exhibit at the British Library. I visited all the Shakespeare birthplace trust properties in Stratford-Upon-Avon (five in total – it was an absolute bargain at £22 entry for all properties!), Shakespeare’s school, his grave, and I saw ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ by the RSC.

I learned a lot about Tudor culture and ‘day in the life’ type details. The properties were a little bit lost on me. Don’t get me wrong, they were absolutely stunning – with timber frames, beams, and thatched rooves. I spent the majority of my childhood – particularly the later years – in a Tudor period cottage. Although it wasn’t thatched, it was timber framed, with low ceilings, and beams – and wattle and daub, which was falling on you. There were holes, and single glazed windows. Uneven floors, random steps here and there, no storage space. We lived closely with spiders and field mice. You can see how you quickly lose the romantic notions of living in houses like Shakespeare did, when you have to live in one yourself. They have character… but they sure aren’t easy to live in.

Nonetheless, I learnt a lot, and enjoyed seeing staff in the various locations in Stratford-Upon-Avon in character (including clothes and language).

From the Van Gogh exhibit, the writing exhibit through Stratford-Upon-Avon – I noticed a theme of Christian religion arising. I’ve been ignoring Jesus for a little while now, because I lumped him in with the actions of people within the various churches I’ve been to in the past few years, and I don’t understand why he didn’t protect me from the accident. I believe everything happens for a reason. So why did I get hit? It’s the question that plagues me.

Whilst sitting in the classroom which 400 odd years ago William Shakespeare once sat, one of the staff there explained to us that we were really lucky that Shakespeare was so unlucky for so long. You see – he went to school for a total of 7 years. From the age of 7-14. Now it would be great if I could remember the exact details, but I didn’t. However 14 wasn’t the usual age to finish school. He dropped out early. History records don’t tell us why, but it’s assumed his father couldn’t pay, as there are records to show that his father was in financial difficulty around that time. Without finishing school, he couldn’t go to university and have a profession – so he couldn’t be a lawyer or a doctor. He also married Anne Hathaway at the age of 18 (she was 26). Again, this was abnormal. William married very young. And once you were married, you couldn’t become an apprentice. So he couldn’t become a labourer – like his father (he was a glovemaker). He was stuck. He’d seen travelling actors come into Stratford-Upon-Avon and loved the plays, and decided to become an actor. And from acting, he started writing plays (always giving himself the biggest part) – then he took a step back from acting and was only a playwright. He soon had enough income to become a part owner of the Globe Theatre, where he made most of his money.

Now – if I place myself in Shakespeare’s shoes. I could look at leaving school early and wonder why it happened to me. I can’t be a doctor, or a lawyer, or any respectable profession. But there’s still an opportunity to be an apprentice, so not all is lost. But then I get my older girlfriend pregnant. But we won’t be in trouble if we get married before she starts showing… though I won’t be able to take up an apprenticeship. Why is life turning out this way?

At that point, he could have given up and not wanted to keep pushing forwards. Thankfully he did, and he’s now a household name all around the world. Apparently right now (regardless of when you read this) Hamlet is being performed somewhere in the world. How crazy is that?!

So on my darkest days, I’ve got to remember to learn from history and be patient. Things do happen for a reason – and sometimes those things aren’t great, but they’re making a path for better things to come. Everything ends well – if it’s not good, it’s not over. I mean, that’s a whole hell of a lot easier said than done. But I can try to remember that.

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