A few days ago, on July 26th 2022 I received a memory from Facebook. It was from six years ago and dated July 26 2016. The post reads like this: “Getting ready to launch Carlin Creative. Launch day, all things going well on Wednesday next week! V exciting.”
The accompanying images include my shiny new Carlin Creative logo, some creative photography including table settings and some small events and pictures of just some nice stuff.
I reshared the memory again on social media with this observation.
“This just came up on Facebook memories. I didn’t start Carlin Creative because I was a natural entrepreneur or wanted to run my own business. I created it as a cover story for a devastated career and as a distraction from illness and deep trauma.
“I look at these pictures now and see how far I had veered away from my core skills in communications, media relations, marketing and crisis and reputation management. I must have found some healing in creativity though because it’s a very different business today.
“It is one that has taken me back to what I do best and also gives me great freedom and for that I am very grateful. This has reminded me how far I have come and has given me renewed energy and purpose. Excited to see what’s coming next.”
To give some context and for anyone reading this who might not know me, these are the ‘better days ahead’, my doctor had told me about when I faced a 15-year work-related harassment case that would take from me, my job, livelihood, health, reputation and almost my home.
I’m still prevented from speaking about it because I had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement that stops me talking about some pretty horrific circumstances that caused profound personal harm. I mention it now, not because I am still looking in the rear-view mirror but because what happened to me was so seismic it can’t just disappear.
Some people say, you need to just forget about it. Leave it in the past. Never think or speak about it again. I don’t dwell on it often but it’s not quite as easy as that. Fifteen years (it started in 2005 and ended in February 2021) was the equivalent to me of a life sentence. It’s part of my story now and although diminished will realistically never go away.
But here’s the thing and the reason why I’m bringing it up again. I’ve come to learn there are gifts to be found (some wrapped in sandpaper) in every situation no matter how difficult things appear to be. I never thought I would hear myself saying this, but I’m glad what happened to me happened.
Not for the pain or suffering it inflicted but for what was waiting on the other side. I didn’t know then what I know now, that six years later, Carlin Creative wouldn’t just be a cover story to hide a hand grenade thrown at an otherwise successful career or that it would become a thriving business.
One that, enabled and enhanced by the availability of broadband allows me to work on-the-go and on-demand and from where and whenever I want to. I am my own boss, the master of my fate, the captain of my soul and it’s for good reason, I’ve called this blog A Room with A View.
Just right now, I’m writing this from the Wild Atlantic Way looking out over Castlegregory lake and the golf course. Behind it, the tombola of the Maharees Peninsula on Dingle’s North Shore. It’s one of the longest beaches in Ireland and sweeps right round to the Conor Pass, Brandon Mountain, Brandon Point and Norah Murhpy’s Bar on the pier.
In a family photo album from a previous life, there is a picture of me as a ten-year-old child. I am leaning up against the old pier wall, in shorts and T-shirt, tanned, happy and sipping Cidona through a straw. My hair cut is exactly the same.
We’ve been coming to this beautiful place for over 45-years and I absolutely love it. Not just because it is a micro-paradise in its own right with some of the most stunning scenery and beaches on earth but because to me it represents freedom.
I was the daughter of secondary and further education teachers growing up mid-Troubles in NI. Strong emphasis was placed on education, working hard, getting on in life and building successful careers. That is until the unspeakable happened.
Because they were teachers, we had eight weeks off spending most of it on Sandy Bay Two caravan park on the Maharees Peninsula.
I was a water baby, in and out of the ocean, fearless of deep water and huge waves. Running up sandhills, then sliding back down them, gathering drift wood for campfires. Beach parties when we got older. Hotel California. A Horse with No Name. Friendships that have lasted a life time and still being part of a fantastic local community.
My youngest brother, who loves this place just as much as I do, bought a beautiful second home here near Stradbally. He handed me the keys just before Christmas and because he and his wife live in Boston, Massachusetts, they asked me to ‘do it up.’
Since January, it has been a labour of love alongside building my business which I relaunched just after my case settled in February 2021. I’m including some pics of the Kerry house because I can see some of the same creativity in it, that belong to the trauma laced images I posted on Facebook back in 2016.
I know I can’t dance, or sing, or draw or paint. My mathematical capability is truly woeful but I do have an ability to take a press release, a campaign, a present, a table setting, a room, a home, an event and transform it from something standard into something remarkable.
A friend asked me to do her daughter’s wedding recently. It’s the first I’ve ever done. The theme was black and Gothic and it became a tasteful celebration of everything tattoos. There was joy to be had in seeing the bride and groom’s faces and hearing their friends tell them, ‘The decoration was just them.’
I love this process. There is nothing I enjoy more than using my creative capability to write a press release and come up with storylines and images which significantly improve its chances of getting coverage. The same for campaigns.
Last November, I ran two big ones. The first was the Linen Hall Library’s extraORDINARY Women campaign which celebrated local women’s achievements against the backdrop of the Troubles over 50-years and a second for emerging pancreatic cancer charity NIPANC for World Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.
I don’t think I’ve ever worked as hard but I enjoyed every minute of running events, dealing again in media relations, coming up with a photographic idea to use iconic clocks of NI like the Albert Clock, the Belfast Telegraph Clock, the Hughes Bakery Clock to underpin the message that #TimeMatters when it comes to understanding the symptoms of this deadly disease and the urgent need for diagnosis, referral and treatment.
Both campaigns generated huge coverage and that was the point I realised I was back doing what I loved, working with NI’s media, telling stories and getting some great results for my clients. I consider their brand and reputation to be just as important as my own and get such a huge kick out of seeing their success.
I did find healing in creativity, even though when I first set up Carlin Creative, it wasn’t commercially viable. Because of trauma, I really had veered so far away from my core skills at the time and the thought of rebuilding my career felt like trying to summit Mount Everest.
The recently reshared Facebook memory post has helped me see that life is not about what you are given, it is about what you make of it, it’s about what you overcome, the relationships you develop and what you achieve that makes it beautiful. It’s also about good people putting their trust in you and taking risks.
Gratitude doesn’t quite cover how I feel about the current clients I have, the amazing friends and family that helped me, the kindness of strangers who supported me when they didn’t know me or have to, for my own ability to protect my core self-esteem when the going got really tough and for the courage and resilience to take the first steps to recovery.
But most of all for my Room with a View and the freedom that lies beyond it.