Good Things Happen in Bookshops

A Memory That Gave Me Insight to How I Got to Where I Am in My Worklife and Inspiration in Knowing I’m at the Right Place

Photo by Jareed Craig on Unsplash

We didn’t have a bookshop in the village I grew up in, but we did have a revolving bookstand in one of our local stores. It was an everything kind of store — from groceries to hardware, from toys to clothing. My childhood memories are of it being a treasure trove — you really could find anything there. My earliest memory, at seven years old, was of it being a magical place of discovery.

The most magical discovery for me was the revolving bookstand, nestled between pots of paint and freshly laid duck eggs.

It was there I discovered Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Secret Seven and Malory Towers book series. I’d while away the time waiting for my mum to do her shopping, avidly reading the back covers, deciding which would be my next purchase — for when I’d saved enough money to buy it.

I don’t remember how much each book cost, but I do remember it took me weeks to save for the next one. That wait somehow made each book even more valuable. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I had enough money to buy my next book; running down the hill to the store; re-reading the back covers of all the books to make sure the book I’d already painstakingly decided on was really the best choice; running up the hill back home; disappearing into my bedroom with excited anticipation of the new adventure I was about to be taken on, the magical world I was about to be transported to.

I sometimes hear people asking the question: “How did who you were as a seven-year-old shape what you did with your life?” I could never answer that question. As a seven-year-old, I was just a regular child, doing what regular children do. Life was good, and I was happy. But there was nothing about anything I did at seven years old that shaped what I did with my life, so I always thought that question wasn’t relevant to me.

I fell into my job in High Street Banking a few years after leaving school. Then in my 30’s when I moved to London, I fell into a job in Investment Banking. I always enjoyed my work, but it was just that — work. It afforded me a good lifestyle and allowed me to embrace my love of travel. But I wasn’t passionate about it, nor did it give me a sense of purpose. But I was OK with that, and I didn’t feel I was missing out on anything. I worked with good people in good environments. Life was good, and I was happy.

It wasn’t until my 40’s that I discovered my WorkLife purpose and passion.

Because of an economic downturn, my banking role was made redundant. While I was figuring out what I was going to do next, what the next chapter of my WorkLife was going to be, my friend Pauline asked me to deliver the job search element of a programme she was running to help people launch their WorkLife in Logistics.

These people had also been impacted by the economic downturn. They, too, had lost their jobs. They were also figuring out what the next chapter of their WorkLife was going to be and were having to reinvent themselves to get back into the workplace.

Having developed a two-day programme which focussed on the elements of the job search programme, when I turned up to deliver it, I discovered before we could get to that, I needed somehow to help restore people’s confidence and self-esteem which had been crushed when through no fault of their own their jobs and livelihoods had been taken from them.

I asked them about things they’d achieved in their WorkLives that they felt good about. As each person began talking and their story unfolded, we all sat back in awe as we listened to one amazing story after another.

I’d never run a workshop training programme before, and yet I somehow knew that the key to help people regain their confidence and self-esteem was to ask them to talk about their achievements — in essence, to tell their WorkLife stories.

I remember writing up their stories as I journeyed home. I had experienced a magical moment. I had been transported on their journey through their amazing WorkLife stories — I didn’t know what this meant at the time. I just knew I needed to capture it — so I wrote down their stories.

What I did know, though, through the journeys they had taken me on, was the answer to the question I was trying to figure out — what do I want the next chapter of my WorkLife to be. The stories I’d heard and the experience of the workshop allowed me to know I wanted to be a WorkLife Learning Practitioner. I wanted to help people manage, develop and transition their WorkLife.

This led me to university as a mature student to undertake a degree in Career Coaching and Management, which led me to join a Career Consultancy Agency as a Career Coach and Trainer. This led to launching my own business as a freelance WorkLife Learning Practitioner, creating learning programmes and resources to help people manage, develop and transition their WorkLives in good, challenging and bad times. This led me to become a Writer, telling people’s powerful stories about their WorkLife challenges, failures and successes.

I’d been a collector of stories ever since that workshop. My profession allows me to immerse myself in the world of people’s learning. I get to participate in their WorkLife journeys. Journeys from places of exploration and discovery. I continue to learn through the WorkLife stories of the amazing people I work with, from when I draw inspiration daily.

But as I sit here and write this story, I realise it goes back even further than that. It actually goes back to my seven-year-old self. Back to those magical moments of discovery that had begun on a revolving bookstand nestled in the treasure trove of my local store. Those magical moments of discovery that were the beginning of the many adventures I’ve been taken on through the magic of books and the power of storytelling.

Because a prerequisite of being a writer is being an avid reader, and that’s something that began at the age of seven.

So, now when I think of the question: “How did who you were as a seven-year-old shape what you did with your life?” I think it is relevant to me.

It was relevant as a banker because my work enabled me to embrace my love of travel and adventure — a love that comes from the books I’d read.

It is relevant to me as a WorkLife Learning Practitioner because I’ve always loved learning — a love that comes from the books I’d read.

And it is relevant to me as a writer because I love telling stories — a love that comes from the books I’d read.

I leave you with three questions to ponder upon:

1. How did who you were as a seven-year-old shape what you did with your life?”

2. What is something you’ve achieved in your WorkLife that you feel good about?

3. Do you have a memory of something good happening in a bookshop?

And also a mission, should you choose to accept it … Or an assignment actually!

Take one, two or all three of the questions and write down your answer. Write down that part of your story.

Why? Because there’s magic in writing, there’s magic in telling your story.

It helps to bring up answers to something you may or may not know you were seeking answers on — as it did for me, in making sense of how who I was as a seven-year-old shaped what I did with my life.

It helps to regain confidence and self-esteem at times in your WorkLife when you’re crushed through no fault of your own.

It helps you to be a storyteller — when I began writing this story, all I had was a headline I liked: Good Things Happen In Bookshops. (I’m a collector of headlines, it comes from being a collector of stories, I think). I didn’t know where it was going to take me. I just knew I really liked it. I knew it would somehow allow me to tell my story. I didn’t know what story it was going to be. I didn’t know where it was going to take me as the writer or you as the reader of the story. All I knew was that it was a headline that would allow me to explore and discover what I needed along the way.

I’m giving you a headline suggestion, but you may actually prefer to choose a headline of your own. The great thing about headlines that you like is that they allow you to tell your story or a part of your story, and that’s really important.

It’s important because, throughout your WorkLife, you’ll be expected to tell your story or a part of your story: In day-to-day conversations, at interviews, in giving presentations or talks, in networking situations, in social settings; and so on, and so on. Taking a headline and developing it into a story that tells who you are and what you’re about is a good skill to develop to enable you to have the perfect story to tell for whatever situation required.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of School Of WorkLife Books & Your WorkLife Your Way: Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.

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