From Mess To Success

Judith Campbell
Published on: March 2012
Success means different things to different people. Most people might think of a successful person as someone who has a brilliant career and makes a lot of money. I have not reached the top in my career, nor have I made millions. People might even think of me as a failure, given my academic promise, but they have absolutely no idea who I am. Or more importantly, who I was.

My childhood was very happy, but my teenage/young adult years were miserable. There were problems at home. My father was an alcoholic. I suffered panic attacks. At 14, I was prescribed a tonic for my nerves. I would spend long evenings crisscrossing the city on buses. "Don't you have a home to go to?" the conductors would ask. I did, but I didn't want to go there. When I wasn't on the buses, I would be at my friends' houses, only leaving when I sensed I had outstayed my welcome. I never spoke to my friends about my problems. Instead, I suffered in silence.

I woke up every morning with a knot in my stomach. I developed a fear of closed doors - I never knew what I might find behind them. At school I was very clever, but "difficult". My teachers called me "sullen and withdrawn".

I engaged in attention-seeking behavior. I was a mass of insecurities. I lied constantly to hide unpleasant truths. The confident, independent child I had been turned into a teen with shattered self-esteem. My only ambition for the adult me was to have a life that I could enjoy.
from mess to success,brilliant career
There is a photo somewhere of the school hockey team. Everyone is neat and smiling - apart from me. I am 15.

I sit in the front row, feet turned in, socks pulled up over my knees, face resolutely turned from the camera. It is my distress laid bare in picture form.

I wonder now how I coped, although I'm not sure what "coping" means, exactly. All I know is that I got up every morning and got myself through the day. For some people, that alone counts as a success.

Things got worse. My father was on the front page of the newspaper - in the worst possible way. I developed a phobia about being looked at, because I WAS looked at and pointed at in the street. I started to blush furiously, so ashamed was I of being my father's daughter.

I went to university and then took a job abroad, expecting the physical distance between me and my hometown to help erase the past. But I was too young still to understand that you carry whoever you are with you wherever you go. There is no escape from YOU. Stuck in a victim mentality, I revisited the past constantly, dragging up old hurts and injustices, using my experiences as an excuse to myself for not having a more brilliant job, for not being a better person.

It has taken me years to reach the point I am at now. Through reading, I learned that I did not have to be someone who went through life on automatic pilot, reacting to external circumstances.

When I understood that I had all the resources within me to create my own life, it was a revelation.
Immediately, I started the process of replacing my old mental blueprint of bitterness, anger and unhappiness with a more positive, life-affirming one.

The person I am now has made peace with the past. It's over and done with. My parents have died. I never stopped loving them, nor they me. The life I have now is the one my younger self always dreamed of - one that I enjoy. If that's not success, I don't know what is.
I have never had the courage to write my story before, so if I'm sharing it with you now, it's because I feel that it's finally time to let it go; to say, "this is who I am - for better or worse", and also because I want you to know and take hope from the fact that I managed to turn the person I was - a total mess - into a success. It's been the most incredible journey.
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