You are NOT alone (and neither am I)

Blogging can be a lonely road.

I don’t *see* the faces on the other side of this screen.   I huddle in coffee shop corners, typing my thoughts, fears and dreams into this laptop… and I release them into cyberspace.

Sometimes (often) – it feels as though I’m just talking… or rather, writing… to myself.

And that’s fine, of course.  I find that talking to myself… and writing to myself… is tremendously therapeutic and I do it often.

But still, there is always that very human part of me that longs to be *seen*… *heard*… and *got*.  There’s always that part of me that yearns for a tribe – people who not only *get* the journey – but folk who are grappling with the same questions I’m grappling with… and chewing on the same kinds of thoughts and ideas… and those who understand my back-story (because they’ve been through something similar).

There was a time when I thought I was alone in my experiences of being weird… and of not-fitting-in… and of utterly hating (and feeling damaged by) my school experience.

There was a time (in the not too-distant past) when I thought to myself:  

“Who are you kidding, Hat?  Most people WANT normal.  Most people LIKE the status-quo.  Most people are not freakish rat-popping, tune-humming, messy-art-journal-making, semi-nomadic, coffee-quaffing, lunatic-creative creatures with strange personalities who snatch their children out of normal-school and take them for picnics in graveyards or whisk them off around the world on a whim!”

And it’s true.

Not everyone is Hat-like.

BUT… after writing this post and this post… and the MASSIVE feedback (that I have never before experienced on this blog)… I have quickly realised that I am NOT alone.

And there ARE people on the other side of this laptop screen…. lots of people, in fact.

And there are many, many (heartbreakingly many) people… who *get* what it feels like to not-fit-in.  Who understand the tremendous pressure to conform-to-the-norm.  And who resonate and relate with my stories of withering in school… because they withered too!

In the past couple of days, I have connected with… and heard the stories of countless people.

Most of the comments (many of which have arrived in my e-mail inbox) seem to be divided into two threads:

  1. Adults who – like me – feel as though they are *still* recovering from the message (perpetuated by a toxic society, the schooling system, the media, etc)… that we are just – not ENOUGH – exactly as we are.  That we need to *fix* ourselves… and change… and be something else or somebody else entirely (if we ever hope to fit in or to be found ‘acceptable’).
  2. Parents (of children who are similar to “Young Hat”).  Parents who recognise the beautiful uniqueness of their child who just doesn’t *fit*… and who are either in a place of questioning (i.e.: “We know something has to change, but we’re not sure where to start”) – or – parents who have already taken steps to ensure that their child is raised in an environment that is most fitting for the unique little being that they *are* (i.e.: homeschooling, unschooling, alternative schools like Sudbury, art schools, dance schools, etc…)

Truth be told, I have been on an emotional roller coaster over the past couple of days.

Because I resonate so deeply with these stories, I have teared up (more than once) whilst reading the comments and e-mails.  And – just so you know – I’m not much of a crier.

But – my heart has also soared too!  This morning, I received an e-mail from somebody who told me that she was “a Gillian” and she’s now, at the age of 37, going back to school to get a degree in dance.

My heart soared at that news.  In fact – I suspect I may have slurped up some (happy) tears that plopped into my morning cup of coffee.

My heart also soars because she has a 10 year old boy… who thrives in school (and who LOVES his maths and his science) – and yet, when the boy read my story of Hat… and when he got to the part where Hat says:  “Perhaps they are right”…  he shouts out “Nooooooo!!!”

Because even at his age… he can recognise that there are others who are *different*… and that it’s OKAY… and that it’s wonderful (because diversity and uniqueness are wonderful) – and it upsets this boy to imagine that somebody feels they need to squash their uniqueness down in order to fit into some pre-defined Box.

We need more kids like that in the world.  Heck – we need more adults like that in the world!

I think we should chuck all ridiculous One-Size-Fits-All expectations that we have of others (and of ourselves) on to the trash heap.  I think that shit should be hoofed out our lives and our hearts like the toxic mulch that it is!

And I think we should do our best to encourage and allow ourselves and others to just *BE* who we truly are (with all our warts, weakness, weirdness and – of course – wonderfulness).  

Because we need everyone – functioning at their best… in their happiest and most content state… to be able to change this world and make it a better place for all.

Thank-you for showing me that I’m not alone.

And remember:  neither are you!


PS:  I have created a little mailing list for everyone who is interested in the progress of my illustrated book, “How Heather got her Hat’ness Back”.  I’ll be posting an occasional mail with progress photos, stories and what-not.  If you’d like to be added to that list – just click here.   If you’re one of those who commented on my post about my big, crazy dream… I’ve already added you to the mailing list!  🙂  You can also follow my journey on instagram.

My big, crazy dream…

I have this big, crazy dream.

I’ve had it for a while.

Due to my experiences… as a creative creature who lost sight of herself (for many years) – and then – found herself again… I have wanted – for a long time – to use my specific talents and gifts – in helping and encouraging others (whether kids, teens or adults) to EMBRACE their beautiful uniqueness and to love and accept themselves (exactly as they are right now).

And so… I wrote a poem.  And (kinda like Dr. Seuss likes to do)… I illustrated it too.

Here’s a titbit (PS: read the words on each page out loud for the best effect):











“You need to stop day-dreaming!  Work hard at school!

You must pass your tests and obey all the rules!

Study your maths and your accountancy

You’ll need them one day in a job – wait and see!”

“Stop playing those games!  Stop fooling around!

Stop laughing so loudly.  You need to calm down!”

“Your art’s just a hobby, your jokes are not funny

You need to pass science if you want to earn money!”

“You need to be cultured, refined and mature

and dutiful, dainty, discreet and demure.

You’ll get a good job and you’ll marry one day,

life will work out – IF you do what we say”…

And Hat started thinking:

hat pic

“I’m sucking at schoolwork.  I’m just getting fatter.

I’m good at the stuff that does not seem to matter.

Perhaps if I *fix* myself – all will be well,

’cause people want “normal” from what I can tell.

If I tone myself down and re-program my mind,

then I’ll be like the others… and all will be fine”

And thus, on that day, Hat resolved to reform

she would be like the rest and conform to the norm.

She tossed out her weird stuff and went on a diet,

she banished her dreams and became rather quiet.

She even threw out her collection of hats.

She stopped writing poems…

and she stopped popping rats.

Out went her artwork and prized peacock feather…

then “Hat” was abandoned…

she called herself… Heather.


Okay – so, there you go.

That was about 1 third of the book I’ve made.  Update:  it’s finished!!! 🙂

My Big Dream is two-fold.  Firstly – I’d like to see this poetry-picture-book published – and distributed far and wide… with the hope (and the big-fat-dream) that it will help somebody to think twice before attempting to mould themselves (or their kids) according to other people’s expectations and ideals.

The second part of my Big-Fat-Dream… (and probably the part that most excites me, because I’ve been dreaming about this for bloody ages)… is to create a unique little short-film… of this poem.

So – there you go.

I’m putting that little dream “out there”.

Do I attempt to crowd-fund this thing?  Update:  That’s exactly what I did!  Thank-you, backers!! 🙂

Do I put a “donate” button on my website?  (uh… no)

Do I brown-nose friends-in-high-places… (not that I have many of those).

Or… is this just another one of those well-meaning little projects that gets tucked away in the cupboard and kept as a cute little heirloom for my future grandkids…. (?)

I dunno.

Any thoughts???

Drop me an e-mail:

Hat x


UPDATE:  11th November 2015

The book is finished!  80 full-colour pages of illustrated poem about finding misplaced MUCH’ness and having the courage to be *SEEN* for who we truly ARE!

You can buy a copy from Amazon here, if you want.  🙂

LOADS and LOADS of love, gratitude and hugs to all the amazing people… blog-readers… crowd-funding backers… who made my dream come true!

Now on to Book #2 (the “lite”, kid’s version…)

And… the film!  (Squeeeeee!)

Finding Me: A photo story

I was going through some of my photos today…  and I came across a special photo that brought a smile to my face.

The photo was of me… at my tramp-themed birthday party.  I’m grinning manically in front of my tramp cake (that my aunt baked for me)… wearing my tattered, dirty tramp clothes… a pair of old knickers on my head… surrounded by my friends and family.

And I thought…  “That’s a ME photo.  That’s Me’ish“.

Here it is:

tramp party

I have quite a few Me’ish photos in my collection.

There’s this one (below)… doing what I have always loved… making art…

Scan 5

… and there’s this one (below)… swimming in a rock pool… somewhere in the Drakensberg mountain range (I have always loved exploring new places… and secret waterfalls and rock pools… and, of course, swimming….)


And then… there’s this photo (below)… taken a couple of years later when I was 17 or 18… before I embarked upon my Great Betrayal (of self) and tried to morph myself in to somebody I’m not (mostly because I felt that the Real Me was too weird… and not normal-enough… and I felt I needed to *fit in* in order to be happy).

creative hat

I often look back at this photo of me… with a bit of a wry smile.

It was taken in my aunt’s art studio.  She was paying me to pose for her art students.  The clothes that I’m wearing are… well… pretty much what I used to wear back then.  I would shop at flea markets, second-hand stores and the Oriental Plaza.  I had amassed a wide range of colourful outfits with accessories… scarves… hats of all shapes and sizes… and, even a peacock feather that I’d regularly stick in my hair.

My nickname – Hat – came during this season of my life… because I’d always be wearing hats (or scarves… or peacock feathers).

That photo offered one of the last glimpses of the Real Hat… before I got married at the age of 19… and lost myself for a LONG, long time.

And – indeed – this is what happens when you try to change and edit yourself in order to please others… you slowly whittle yourself away until one day, you ask yourself:  “Where did I go?  What happened?”.  

There’s a great quote by Raymond Hull that says:  “He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away”.

And I whittled myself away.

For years!

Of course… in my photo archives, I have many photos (sadly)… of the Not-Me.  Many, many photos of the sad… people-pleasing… self-shaming… trying-desperately-to-fit-in… version of me.  Here’s some NOT-Me photos:

hampton court1992

It began with this (photo above).  I was 19 and very newly married.  This was my first kitchen.  I had decided that it was time to “grow up” and to stop-being-so-weird.  My arty scarves, dresses, hats and accessories had all been turfed in favour of a husband-approved wardrobe (including short skirts, tight tops – and even suspender belts).

I don’t blame my ex for this.  I blame myself for for being so nauseatingly spineless that I willingly abandoned my authenticity and uniqueness in exchange for… what I hoped would be… my husband and my in-laws’ acceptance of me.  I deeply wanted to be accepted… and I wanted to fit-in… and I wanted people to like me.  And – if it meant that I needed to kill off every ounce of creative Hat’niss… then so be it!

(That damned people-pleasing disease… ugh! … I’m still fighting it!….)

Here’s another NOT-Me photo:

not me

This photo (above) was taken a couple of month’s after I’d been married.

We were visiting the Knysna Heads, and I remember feeling so miserable on that holiday.  Marriage was not the happily-ever-after-cure-all that I had imagined it to be.  I was starting to take solace in food… and starting to wear long dresses in dark prints to cover what (I believed) were “fat” legs.

And here’s another Not-Me photo:

marketing shop days

This photo (above) was taken after about 2 or 3 years of being married.  Creative Hat had diminished herself so drastically – there was barely nothing left.  This was a company photograph – taken when I worked for the Marketing Shop as Junior Graphic Designer (this was the last corporate job I had before I started my own business).  I had put on weight (mostly due to self-medicating with food) – and so, I no longer wore the short dresses or tight tops.  Instead, my wardrobe had become… “sensible”.  A sensible wardrobe – suitable for the office.  Jackets, pencil skirts… and everything in neutral colours.  Even my earrings were downgraded to either studs or hoops (in gold or silver).

And that smile?  That’s Heather’s very best fake, everything-is-okay smile.


Here’s another NOT-Me photo:

sad heather5

This one (above) was taken a number of years later.  I was divorced from the first husband (and filled with shame, because of that)… and trying my best to be a Good Christian… and – again – to fit-in… and be acceptable… and be liked.

When this photo was taken, my wardrobe consisted mostly of black, body-hiding outfits.  I was terribly ashamed of my body and did everything in my power to disguise it.  I call this phase my “Hiding Phase”.  Look at me, sitting in that corner…  shrinking self-consciously back in to my seat with my arms trying to cover my tummy fat.  That’s not Heather!  That’s not me!  Who is that sad, embarrassed person?

This is a bittersweet post that I write to you today.

The great news – actually – it’s fabulous news, come to think of it…  is that I’m well on my way to reclaiming my Hat’niss and allowing myself just to *BE* the person that I was designed to be…  EVEN IF… it’s a bit unorthodox…  EVEN IF… it’s a bit odd…  EVEN IF… my relatives don’t approve…. EVEN IF I don’t *fit in* with The Norm.

And I am so much happier as a result (and that’s also why I’ve been writing and illustrating the little book about “How Heather Got Her Hat’niss Back”).


The bitter part… of this post… is the fact that it took me SO MANY YEARS… to figure out that it’s *OKAY* to just be ME.  Why did it take me so LONG???

If you – the person reading this post – have been squashing your authentic YOU’ness down… in order to meet the expectations of others… in order to please others… I really urge you:  Don’t do it!  It will suck the life out of you!  Be yourself!  Just BE!  Don’t dilute yourself in order to “fit-in”… people-pleasing is poison!  Take it from somebody who knows!

In the words of the Mad Hatter who remarked to Alice:  “You used to be much more muchier.  You’ve lost your muchness!” – I eventually got to the point where I said to myself:  “You’ve lost your muchness, Heather.  You’ve lost your Hat’niss.  And it’s time to get it back!”.

And I’ve been working at reclaiming that Hat’niss… and that muchness… ever since.

Chat later… X

One of my favourite ways of just… being *ME'ish*… @ The Mad Hatster's Coffee Cabaret (photo taken by Lauren Kim).

One of my favourite ways of just… being *ME’ish*… @ The Mad Hatster’s Coffee Cabaret (photo taken by Lauren Kim).

How to live authentically without hurting anyone’s feelings

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question… and, in a nutshell:

It can’t be done.

It’s absolutely impossible to please everyone all the time.  People are going to have differing opinions.  People will disagree with your choices.  Some people may even voice their disapproval and tell you (in no uncertain terms) that your way is “wrong”… and their way is “right”.

This is true of almost everything.  People will tell you that your views on God are wrong.  That the way you raise your children is wrong.  That your ideas on politics are wrong.  That the choices you’ve made and the way you live your life is wrong.

That’s just how many people are.  They have very strong beliefs and opinions on what’s right and what’s wrong – and many of them will want you to comply with those beliefs.

It is what it is.

You WILL offend someone.

And especially if you are living a very honest and very authentic life… and even more especially… if your life is a bit different… a bit out of the ordinary… and even more so if you’re a rule-breaker (like me).

If you live differently, you will get criticised for it.

Not by everyone (thankfully!)… but certainly by some.

The part I’ve been trying to figure out is this:

  1. How to deal with the criticism (and not let someone else’s negativity latch itself on to me).
  2. How to live authentically in spite of the criticism and to not allow it to morph me into a polite, simpering, one-dimensional doormat… who deliberately pushes down her own voice and ideas so as not to offend anyone else.  This. is. not. easy. for. me.

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