Were You Ever Cancelled

I’m 24 hours older than the Cape Town Cycle Tour

I learned this today. Ha, what a fun fact. I have great respect for mass sporting events, and niche sporting events, and even more so for the classics that have withstood the test of time. When I commented on a post by Tim Brink of Ride Magazine today, that I was 24 hours older than the Cycle Tour, some fun chirps resulted.

“But, have you ever been cancelled?”
“Were you ever shortened, though?”

All in jest, but it got me thinking. I live life in a fairly heavy zone. I feel in deep layers and I carry some proper scars; a solid few of which are undeniably self-inflicted. I’m 39 years old, and I’ve been a mother for more than 20 years of my time here on earth. I’ve birthed 3 children, married twice, moved home countless times. I’ve barely travelled beyond provincial borders, other than the esoteric, life-changing soul journeys with like-minded humans. I’ve worked some thankless jobs, started my own business, gained and lost clients along the way. I’ve gained and lost friends, too. And lovers. I’ve tackled mean races; succeeded in some and failed in others. There is a thorny bush near the Otter Trail that is probably still home to a pair of trail shoes, my trail shoes…I threw them in there. And I hate littering…

I’m ok with almost all the lessons learned along the way.
But was I ever cancelled? Or shortened?

The thing with life, is that we are going to give or gain in every situation. In every relationship. In every position that we fill. We’ll take some risks, punch above our weight and land flat on our faces at times. Sometimes we will win, sometimes we’ll get shortened, or cancelled.

I was in my twenties and working at a large media house in Cape Town. I had a portfolio of predominantly fashion and beauty clients, and a title of “senior account executive” which could be loosely translated to “must bring in maximum revenue or won’t make commission”. We had a powerful, well-established publication in the mix, targeted at black South African Women. The editor was an icon within this target audience and something about my presentations during a roadshow impressed her. She requested, in an email to our business manager, that I be allowed to “teach” my Johannesburg contemporaries how to present this particular market in order to maximise advertising investment in the publication.

That should have been a major take-off for my career. Instead, the business manager was offended by the editor’s request, and viewed it as a criticism of the team’s overall calibre. She shot the editor down in an email that indicated that I was great at presentations, but poor at closing the deal. I learned her true opinion of me because an email thread was sent out, with 22 people in CC, and it arrived in my inbox in error. My name was trashed. The work I had done to arrive at a desk in a leading media house was for nothing. A minor internal political crisis unfolded, and I stormed out of the building, blood red and in a full blown rage. I was 47% ahead of target that month, but no one gave a damn. I left for good 6 months later, taking one of the skincare brands on my client list as a freelance PR account, with an effective 75% reduction in monthly salary. I bought a home computer, made some business cards, and labelled myself a PR specialist. At the time I had two kids, a husband with his own business, and a bond on a home that kept me awake every single night.

Someone chose to cancel me, and although the fall out was painful and embarrassing, it was one of the biggest favours anyone ever did for me. Take your corporate world, and relevant games, and stick it. I was never suited to it. I never will be.

Three months later I had a second client on my books, was creeping closer to the kind of income I needed, and was pregnant with my third child. Surprise! I worked hard, I took 10 days maternity leave when Emma arrived, I employed the most incredible nanny, and I carried on. Clients and media contacts got used to little Em, Gertie and I arriving as a package deal for meetings. I was breastfeeding, so we travelled as a team.

Fast forward some years, through my introduction to running, our divorce and the various unsettling house moves. Also, life lessons and the unshakable truth that throwing a coffee cup across a room will bring neither joy nor resolution, and the thrower will need to clean up her own mess. Tantrums are for toddlers.

I come to the “shortened” part. I’m in the deep trenches of the most powerful lesson I’ve learned to date, and shit I’ve learned a few. My little Em… my trail fairy, free spirt, super smart and beautiful child is dealing with a massive life blow. Those close to us will notice her facial tics and the ebb and flow of a disorder or response that we are busy tackling as best we can. We deal, so we’re dealing. We don’t want to talk about it; I don’t want to talk about it. Not yet.

As for life in general, we aren’t here long. This is not forever. The swirling realities around me keep punching the same lines; This. Is. It. It really is our singular and final dance. No bullshit curtain calls, no “we want more”. No one is going to call you back. We only have this one act, and we cannot continue to hang on to a puff of candyfloss on a merry-go-round.

Need to walk away? Do it. Need help, or to hire someone to back you? Do it. Need to change your path, sell your home, leave your partner, change direction or shed your masks? Go. Don’t share waffle about how we have options and can change; bloody do it. Roll up your sleeves, dirty your hands, get stuck in. It will hurt, yes.

One dance. Can you hear the beat?

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