This may be the hardest blog I’ve ever written – because it’s about me, and that makes me feel a little bit cringy. The Brits are not, as a rule, good at self-promotion, or indeed talking about themselves in a positive way, and from that respect I’m very British!
So, taking Joyce as my inspiration, I’m currently 46 (check the date when you read this) and I was brought up in a jolly nice part of Essex. No, that is not a contradiction in terms. One of 2 daughters, my sister and I went to what was then the best state school in the borough and we both did very well at GCSE, thank you very much. At A level I stumbled and did re-sits on two of them, but did not manage to improve. This was the best bit of bad luck of my life – I had not yet learned that the harshest examiner is yourself, and if you expect to succeed and work and live accordingly, you will succeed, but if you have little faith in yourself, however hard you work there is a good chance you will ambush yourself sooner or later. That is why, even though I am the Study Skills specialist, and Joyce is the mentor, so much of what we both do is about building confidence as a foundation to skills.
Why was it a lucky bit of bad luck? Well the A level results I had took me to Liverpool Hope, just shedding its LIHE name, where I ‘clicked’ and with the support of wonderful academics and pastoral staff, I blossomed (4 spring to mind – Helen King, Jeff Brache, Doreen Heraty and Peter Taylor, but I could easily name more). I left Liverpool Hope with a 2:1, lifelong friends and a great sense of duty, but still lacking personal confidence. I worked on a hospital switchboard for nearly a year, then entered the Civil Service, having the goal of keeping my head down, not being bored and retiring at 60. Small goals.
It wasn’t long before I realised that not being bored is not enough, you must be fulfilled and content. It took me a long time to work out how that could happen, and along the way I worked in 2 different specialist roles, acted as a team leader, and persuaded the Civil Service to pay for my Master’s Degree at the University of York. From there I became a more senior team leader for a local authority, and sadly, my lack of self esteem meant I allowed myself to be bullied by a woman who finally had a class action taken out against her. I thought I was the only one, poor at my job and worthy of nothing better. In fact, looking back on it now, I see now that she was intimidated by my intelligence and potential capacity. I feel sorry for her now, thinking about how the only way she could get people to do what she needed was through fear, rather than having the skills to gain their respect and affection. However, it is easy to use position against people, and we must all be careful not to get complacent about how we treat others.
From there, in feeling like I was running away, I moved back to Kent, where I was born and it turned out I was running to my true self, which I found via a strange conversation with a 13/14 year old about how a boiler might work. That boy was the eldest grandson of my now wife, Joyce. It is through her faith in me that we have formed CoomberSewell Enterprises, through her inability to tolerate procrastination that I have nearly completed my PhD, that I have learned that actually, I am quite intelligent and can use that intellect to help others, to earn a living at what moves, touches and inspires me, and most importantly, to have fun! Through this confidence, I try things I would have been too scared to do when I was in my 20s. I have ridden horses, quad bikes, segways (don’t talk to Joyce about segways). We travel the world together (bar pandemics), she groans at my awful, obscure puns and I laugh at my own enjoyment of big words.
My true self is curious, funny, a little bit arrogant, and keen to explore more of this moving, touching, inspiring world we live in. Come explore with me?