In 2011, I was a 33-year-old practising litigation lawyer in the United Kingdom. I had it all, apparently. That’s what society told me. The power job with all the “trappings” that went with it. The beautiful home and sports car on the drive. A wardrobe of designer clothes and a disposable income that would turn some a pale shade of green.
I presented myself to the world as if I was living the dream.
It was all a lie. A lie that was destroying me from the inside out.
The reality was very different. I was a workaholic who continually played burnout like it was a game. I had been for years. I lived on the edge as far as my health and well-being were concerned.
One day, enough was finally enough. On the return journey home from work, exhausted and at the end of my tether, I knocked a cyclist off a bicycle.
That’s right. I knocked a man off his bike.
I know. It’s shocking. I still cringe at the thought of it.
I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I was in a severe state of burnout and I had no idea how to stop. No energy to change. Just before the accident, I remember thinking, if one more thing happens, that’s it. I’m done.
That day, sat there in my car with a cyclist on my bonnet, staring right back at me through the windshield, cuss words flying from his mouth, I had the biggest wake-up call of my life.
That’s when I knew I had to stop. You could say that I had asked for a sign and got one. A sign that would change my life forever. So, I stopped.
The day that I finally admitted I wasn’t okay was the day that I took back control of my life.
Once I acknowledged to myself that I couldn’t carry on, that my life was in ruin, there was only one thing left to do. Go after a life that I wanted to live. To stop surviving and create a life I loved.
Overnight, I walked away from my 15-year career as a lawyer and all the security that came with it. I left behind my homeland of England to begin again in Andalucia, Southern Spain.
Ruin. I let ruin be the making of me. Once I hit rock bottom, the only way was up. Starting from zero, I had nothing to lose.
The root cause of my workaholism? I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse who hid in her work to escape such a painful reality.
And so for the following eight years, I experienced the life of a wanderer, a posh vagabond, you might say, as I lived throughout Andalucia from autumn to spring, and travelled far and wide during the summer months. I walked the Camino de Santiago Frances and spent three months travelling throughout Morocco, the land of tagines and teapots. All the while, I lived and learnt, crashed and burnt, as I figured out what an authentic life was to me. This was a time of great healing, as I worked through my childhood wounds and issues.
By the end of the eight years of living life as an adventure, there was one thing I knew for sure. I wanted to be a writer and share my tales of adventure. I wanted a soapbox to use my voice for causes that mattered the most to me. How did I know this was what I truly wanted? Because I was happy to do it for the love, my friend. It was all I really wanted to do.
One day, ruin came a calling once again. Except, this time, it felt like death. A relationship that began in the autumn of 2017 soon turned sour, as the person who I thought was the love of my life turned into a narcissistic control freak. After months of daily abuse at his hands, the physical death of my darling dog had me hit rock bottom all over again.
What did I do? Ruin. I let ruin be the making of me all over again. In June 2018, I set off to Porto to walk the Portuguese Camino de Santiago. Upon reaching Santiago de Compostela, I changed my life in a heartbeat, as I made the decision to stay in Portugal and begin my own business as a Camino de Santiago guide.
Ruin. I let ruin be the making of me, as I began again in Porto. My leap into the unknown wasn’t as easy this time. I struggled to find a place to live and hit the darkest hours of my life. Depression became my constant companion, as I struggled to cope with the after-efects of the trauma of my childhood and abuse at the hands of my partner. Somedays, I couldn’t see a way through.
Which was why I was grateful for the reminder that Porto was once home to another English woman. A writer called J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. A woman who had hit rock bottom herself and whose following words inspired me through my darkest hours.
“I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
Ruin. I let ruin be the making of me, as I finally found a place to call home, and began rebuilding my life. Starting from zero, I had nothing to lose.
The wrecking ball of life wasn’t finished with me though, as I would find out in early 2020. I’d moved onto the Portuguese Camino de Santiago to prepare for the upcoming Camino season when ruin came a calling once again. This time, we were all in the same boat. The wrecking ball of life paid humanity a visit in the guise of the coronavirus, a pandemic that rocked our world to the core. Like many who work in the travel industry, my business crashed and burnt, and my financial security disappeared overnight.
What did I do? Ruin. I let ruin be the making of me, as I changed course and set out to realise my ultimate dream. To put pen to paper and become a writer, as I set up my soapbox and wrote three books over the next four months. Life gave me the opportunity to do what I truly loved, even in the face of such adversity.
Ruin. I let ruin be the making of me, as I hit rock bottom, again and again, only to rebuild and start a new.
This is why my advice to you is this. If you face ruin, hit rock bottom, and face your greatest fear, the only way is up, my friend. Let ruin be the making of you, start again and begin a new.
(c) Samantha Wilson 2020. All Rights Reserved.