Category Archives: Identity

A Labour of Love

Over Christmas, I spent a fair amount of time with my son at the Olympic Park in Stratford. One day, while my son was sleeping, I came across an unassuming little shed, sat just outside of the Orbit. It was cold and I was curious, so I popped in to see what it was all about. There, I was lucky to catch artist Caroline Jupp, who was in residence from 16 October 2014 to 17 January 2015, working on Labour of Love, a project celebrating the lives of East Londoners and visitors to the park. There were a few ‘CVs’ dotted around the shed, detailing people’s work  past, present and their hopes for the future. One in particular that caught my eye was someone who had a supporting role in the circus in the 60s!

Caroline asked if I would like to take part. At first I felt I didn’t have much of a story but as we got to chatting, I realised I did. When we talked about future aspirations, I realised that I have started to achieve some of my lifelong dreams recently and that in itself was something of a story. So, we sat down and talked about my work history, influences and plans for the future. Once I stopped paying attention to the fact I was being recorded, it was just like chatting to an old friend. Afterwards, Caroline thanked me, said she’d send across the finished piece of work and I promptly forgot about it.

So, when my ‘CV’ popped into my inbox it was a nice surprise! Want to see?

CV

Black text = Past
Red text = Present
Green text = Future

It’s not quite in the right order but I didn’t talk about them in order and sometimes I had more than one of these jobs at the same time!

Caroline has also captured more detail, which she has separated into four sections (a page each): Early Rhymes, Redundancy to Start Up, The Business and Writing and Values.

I was struck by how much we’d covered in a short space of time and, seeing my journey mapped out in this way, how it was further evidence that I’m on the right path with what I’m doing now.

Here are some snapshots of some of my journey:

Early Rhymes

I don’t remember not writing. There were periods when I would spend half the day just speaking in rhyme, which must have been really annoying for my mum! I do write non-rhyming poems now, but generally they do rhyme.

Certainly, I get lots of creativity from her [My Mum] and she fostered that. My sister is a singer/songwriter and my brother is creative too – he’s really funny but always rejects the idea he could be a comedian (it’s not just us who thinks that!). Mum had a fantastic imagination. As far as I know she believed in fairies all her life. She had a lot of pictures of fairies in her house. One night when I was little, I dreamt that fairies had taken me away and then brought me back home and when I woke up there were rose petals in my bed. I mean, my mum must have heard me talking in my sleep and put them there. But I believed for years that the fairies had taken me away for the night.

Redundancy to Start Up

…So then I was a writer and personal coach anyway, but it was more like a hobby. I said to myself, ‘I will be self-employed one day, just need to save some money and just need to do X, Y and Z.’

I needed that push I guess. When I’d decided I just contacted everyone I knew and said, ‘I’m going to do this, really this time!’ That was in August. My sister says it’s the happiest she’s ever seen me. I liked the job I had, but I love what I am doing now.

The Business

There was one line in this section that really struck me because even though I say it all the time, reading it back was a very powerful reminder that this really is heartwork:

Even if I won the lottery, I would still do all this.

If you would like to see Caroline’s response to the project (during which she gathered more than 100 CVs!), you’ll need to wait until 1 March when she will be releasing a limited edition Labour of Love booklet. All the CVs are anonymous, which I feel makes it all the more fascinating! I’ve no idea whether mine will be included but if you want to look for it,  it’s number 125. I share so much here you probably know half of the journey anyway! If you’d like to read more (of the more interesting journeys), Caroline is still sharing snippets of some of stories she has transcribed over on her blog.

Edited 23 Jan 2015 to correct the details of the booklet, which will not contain all of the CVs gathered as previously stated!

 

What are your values?

Back in April, I wrote ‘My Strap Line,’ a blog post about branding inspired byAnn Hawkins. At the time, I had a few ‘straplines,’ and wanted to get this down to one, something simple and easy to remember, that would summarise who I am. I threw a few ideas around, and came up with ‘It’s about People. It’s about Poetry.’ You may have noticed that this has now evolved to become ‘Writing. People. Poetry’ – It’s short, it’s simple, and it sums who I am and what I do.

All good brands don’t just have straplines, they also have values. These could also be called the company’s personality traits; it’s who they are in their dealings with us, the customer.  Some of these we just know without being told. Let’s take Innocent drinks, for example. Innocent’s brand values, as described on their website, are:

Be natural
Be entrepreneurial
Be responsible
Be commercial
Be generous

These values come across in everything Innocent does, from sourcing natural sustainable ingredients for their products to their commitment to sharing their profits.

So, thinking of myself as a ‘brand’ then, what would my values be? Probably something like:

Honest (kind of a given, that one)
Creative
Warm
Open
Fun

I hope that these come across in my words and actions.

What are your core values?

What’s in a name?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. What is in a name, for me? Having recently got married, I have started to change my surname on some personal documents and have been considering what this means for me. I have found that, while it does give me more of a sense of my husband and I as a family, it doesn’t feel like that much of a stretch. It’s just new name, not a whole new identity, and we were pretty much in that emotional space anyway before we got married. My first name, on the other hand, is a whole different story.

Up until I was eight years old, I was known by my middle name. Why this came to be the case is not important here. The point is, when I reached eight, I decided, for various reasons, to reclaim my identity as my own, by insisting on being called by my first name. I figured I had a strong argument, after all, this was the name on my birth certificate and therefore my legal name. My strategy was pretty basic – for a few months, I refused to respond to anyone unless addressed by my ‘proper’ name, and eventually, almost everyone began to know me as Rachael.

Having fought so hard to claim this identity as my own, years later, when I started performing poetry at open mic nights, I decided not to use it. At gigs I would always introduce myself as ‘Honest,’ a stage name suggested by a friend on hearing some of my poems. I never revealed my actual name unless asked outright. One day I was introduced by someone who knew me well as Rachael, instead of ‘Honest,’ and I froze. It was fine to be honest and open with my words as ‘Honest,’ but as Rachael, it felt different. Somehow, I had separated the part of me that performed, that put my emotions out there in front of an audience, from the rest of me. I did pull myself together in the end, but afterwards I made a point of asking to be introduced as ‘Honest’ in future.

That was five years ago, and of course I have changed since then. Those separate ‘parts’ of me no longer need to act in isolation but I have continued go by the name ‘Honest,’ as, over time, this name has also become part of my identity.

So, if we go back to the original question:

‘What’s in a name?’

My answer would be: ‘That depends…’

However, if we change the question to:

‘What’s in your name?

Then the answer, quite simply, is ‘Me.’

How would you answer the same question?

My Strap Line

I have just been over at Ann Hawkins’ blog, reading her latest post, ‘What’s Your Strap Line,’ with interest.  Ann points out that most famous brands have their own strapline (see Ann’s blog for a list of examples, including her own).

Ann invites readers to respond with their own strap lines; I liked Ian Aspin‘s ‘Think better. Feel better. Take an Aspin,’ and wanted to respond with my own.  Then I thought ‘Hold on, what is my strap line?’  I think I have tried a few on over the years, and I’m not sure I’ve found one that fits.

A little while ago, I wrote a blog post, ‘Just Be,’ about just being content with being me, to find fulfillment.  So now, the question is, ‘Who am I?’  Well, I am many things, but if I had to sum it up on just one strap line, what would that be?

Strap lines you might associate with me now include:

‘I write because that’s what I do, I write because that’s who I am.’  (Twitter)

‘I write as a tribute to those who inspire me, not those who know or have known fame, just… those who walk beside me.’ (Website)

But today, I thought I’d try something new, and came up with:

‘It’s about People. It’s about Poetry.’

So, dear readers, what do you think?  If you were to create a strap line for ‘brand’ Honest, what would it be?  One of the above?  Or something else entirely?  Please post any suggestions below and I’ll be sure to consider them!

If you would like to comment about what your own strap line might be, please post your comment over at Ann Hawkins’ blog, and then post the link here.