Last Wednesday evening I went on stage and spoke in front of a sold out audience at the Eventim (formerly Hammersmith) Apollo in London. That is a sentence I never thought I would say! Let me set start this blog by explaining some background info so you can truly appreciate how surprising it is for little old me to have done this.
I'll start by going back to the 80s/90s. I remember being a shy child. I didn't strive to be centre of attention but this battled against a need to feel appreciated and wanting people to notice when I did a good job. I recall hiding behind my mum's long skirt and not particularly wanting to speak to people I didn't know in social situations.
I have been like this for most of my life - not behind my mum's skirts anymore (thank goodness!) but by letting other people take centre stage, only speaking when spoken to and sitting back and letting things happen. With hindsight this has resulted in other people getting credit for work I have done, left me feeling like there is more to life and me being passed over for opportunities that I was the ideal candidate for. I don't say this with bitterness, it is just how things have gone, but I admit there is an element of regret that I haven't at least put some more effort in to making things I want to happen, actually happen. Nobody else can do this for me.
Over the years I have put myself in more and more situations where I need to be more confident. My police career helped me find my voice. Everyday I was in situations where I had to take charge and tell people what to do. It was very hard for me to do that at first but I soon became used to it and I learnt how to communicate successfully with a huge range of people in very difficult circumstances. This new found confidence helped me do my job. But I was still hiding behind my warrant card. I wasn't doing these things for me. I was doing them as they needed doing. Whether that was to be strong for victim of a terrible crime, wrestle a violent offender to the ground or give evidence in Court, I was doing it because it was my job. When it came to doing things I wanted to do for me, to make me happier and feel like I was getting something out of life, I still didn't have a voice.
I have previously written on my website about how I then moved into HR and had a successful career as an HR Manager. Once again my confidence at work grew. I was really good at my job! I even received the external recognition I had been looking for since childhood. But I still didn't feel like I was very good at being me. I didn't really know what I wanted, other than I wanted to be me, I wanted to be real, and I wanted to be fulfilled.
Around April this year I made a conscious decision to start doing more things that scare me. As someone who is naturally quite shy and introverted I knew that this wouldn't be easy, but I suspected that I would get something out of it that was worth the initial fear. I would ignore that inner voice that told me to make excuses not to meet up with friends or cancel plans at short notice. I would say yes to more things. I would volunteer myself. I would not regret giving things a go. It did not matter what the result was. What was most important was giving it a try.
Number 1 on the list was to quit my job and set up my coaching business. As soon I said the words out loud to my employer I knew that I had done the right thing. It didn't matter whether it worked out financially or not. It was time to take the risk and do something for me. I would see where it led. It was scary but nothing had ever felt so right before.
I have found a huge benefit of coaching other people is how much I coach myself during the process. My true confidence, the real me has grown exponentially this year. I am so inspired by my clients and what they achieve that it is impossible for me to just sit back and let things happen anymore.
In July I met the band Walk of the Earth at Wembley Arena. I paid for this (and it was worth every penny!) so it seems odd to say that this was something that I wouldn't have done a year ago. But it's true. I wouldn't have been able to say hello let alone have any coherent conversation with them! In the spirit of doing things that scare me I bought the ticket, met some lovely new people in the queue (a year before I probably wouldn't have spoken to them), cheekily asked for an upgraded seat from the arena staff, went to the intimate performance and met the band. It was an incredible night and I loved every single moment. And by being confident but friendly I did get much better seats from the arena staff! Previously I would never had dared asked for an upgrade- this was my first experience where I realised if you ask for something, you may, if you're lucky, get it! I should explain how difficult and different it was for me to ask for something like that. My heart was racing, I felt very hot and bothered but my inner voice just kept reminding me 'what is the worst that can happen? They say no. So what?!' If I hadn't being given better seats, I would not have regretted asking.
Over the summer there have been other incidents of me doing things that scare me, including travelling and staying in hotels alone, making YouTube videos and insta stories, booking a ticket to go see my favourite podcast on my own, zip lining and climbing (I'm scared of heights). I have no regrets, I feel happier and more content. I have the confidence to give things a go.
All this led up to what happened on Wednesday evening.
I have been a fan of all things true crime since I was obsessed with Jack the Ripper and Sweeney Todd at far too young an age. Hence my degree in Forensic Science (obtained before it was cool) and a 9 year stint in the police. I also enjoy comedy. When the podcast My Favorite Murder came out in 2016 as a true crime comedy podcast it was like it had been made for me. When I listened to it, the hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, spoke so openly about mental health, therapy and things that have happened or are happening in their lives, I also found them very inspiring women in their own right. When they came to London last year to perform a live show I considered getting a ticket but as I didn't have a friend or family member that would want to go with me I decided not to go. I regret that I wasn't brave enough to go on my own. When they announced another London show this year, there was no stopping me! Not only was I going to go on my own, I was going to get a VIP ticket and meet Karen and Georgia in person!
Before I knew it it was Wednesday evening and I had taken a bus and a tube to get the Eventim Apollo. The queue was round the block but moved quickly. Once inside I spoke to few friendly fans who let me know where to go for the VIP tote bag and lanyard. I went to the bar, got some drinks and went and found my seat on the third row. I was lucky enough to be seated next to someone else who had gone on their own and we were soon chatting away like life long friends. At the end of every live show, Karen and Georgia ask a member of the audience to tell a hometown story on stage. My new friend and I discussed whether we had any suitable accounts of true crime that we had a connection to. As all her stories were from her native Australia she didn't have anything suitable for a UK show. I told her mine (which I won't retell here - I'm aware many people aren't interested in true crime) and she said it would be a good one to tell on stage. I hadn't genuinely considered volunteering myself to go on stage - I hate being centre of attention! My worst lesson at school was drama - I remember crying in the toilets before one particularly arduous lesson! So the thought of me putting my hand up and volunteering to tell my story in front of a sell out crowd in London seemed very against type!
Then Karen and Georgia came on stage and recounted their Greater London based true crime tales. During Karen's section I had this niggling feeling that when they asked for a volunteer to tell their hometown I should put my hand up. There was no way they would pick me from the thousands of people here. Soon it was Georgia's section so I knew we were halfway through the show. I thought to myself, I'll do it. I'll put my hand up when they ask for volunteers.
Then came the words I had been waiting for 'Do we have time for a hometown?' Karen explained that the hometown would have to be UK based and told by a Brit, but it did not need to be from London. That was it. My story was from Cambridge. It was like my right arm had a mind of its own, it shot up before I could really think about it.
It was Georgia's turn to to pick from the audience. The house lights came up so she could see the every face in the crowd. She looked right at me, pointed and told me to go at meet her husband at the side of the stalls who would show me the way to the stage. Without thinking I jumped up, strode over to her husband, Vince, who checked I was ok (I was fine), asked how I was feeling (great!) and pointed me in the direction of the stage.
Click through for pics of me on stage!
Georgia immediately hugged me and asked me my name, Karen hugged me and handed me my microphone. My first thought was 'wow, this mic is heavier than I expected'. Then I stood between my two idols and told my story. I engaged with the audience. I made them laugh. I made them gasp and I made them cheer! It felt incredible! I didn't feel nervous at all. It was the best feeling in the world! I just kept reminding myself that I needed a beginning, a middle, an end and to tie it back to a personal connection. After about 5 minutes I was done. I hugged Karen and Georgia again, waved to the audience and walked off stage to an ovation. I was high-fived by the theatre staff and accosted by numerous fans on the back to my seat who told me what a good job I did. My new friend was so exited for me and had very kindly taken loads of photos with my phone which I left with her! I was approached by people on the front row who told me that they knew the victim of my story. My heart sunk for a second as I thought I may not have done her the justice she deserved but they were nothing but positive and grateful for the way in which I told the story.
It was then time for the meet and greet and whilst waiting in line (we Brits do love a queue!) more and more people kept congratulating me and saying what a great job I had done. I was amazed! I hadn't even considered what the feedback would be. I just wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone.
When I went into my private meeting with Karen and Georgia (with Vince taking pictures) they both immediately recognised me and couldn't thank me enough for getting on stage and telling my hometown. I told them about how introverted I am, I don't like being centre of attention and how I made a conscious decision to push myself to do things that scare me. Karen's response 'I have news for you, I think you have a new calling!' floored me. Was I really that natural at it? She also apologised that the houselights were left up as I could see the whole audience - they usually turn them down again once people get on stage to prevent sheer panic and stage fright - weirdly I quite liked being able to see everyone and feel connected to them.
Since performing 'Live at the Apollo' (yes, that will be in my obituary) I have received so many positive messages on Twitter and Instagram from people that were in the audience on Wednesday. I have had people say that they thought I was a professional speaker and that they would book me to speak at events!
I have never had any interest in public speaking before but have been looking at local public speaker associations and Toastmasters to see what I can get involved with. I never expected me getting out of my comfort zone to have such a profound effect on my future. If it had gone terribly I wouldn't regret putting my hand up. Because I would have given it a go and there would still have been an enjoyable element to it. The only things I regret are when I don't try, when I take the easy way out and maintain the status quo. With 2020 fast approaching, what do you want to do that's scary?
Big thank yous to my new Aussie friend (Lauren), Karen, Georgia, Vince and my own right arm for acting without thinking!
Be you. Be true. Be happy.
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