“I remembered who I was, and the game changed.”
As I sit here in the early hours of the morning, my two girls ages 3 and 1 are lying with me.
I can’t sleep but they have passed out while we snuggled on our recliner, cuddling and watching a movie. The same movie I have watched already twice today with them.
Looking at their beautiful faces. My 3-year old’s long curly hair and my 1-year old’s porcelain doll like complexion and it reminds me of how precious they are and how I would do anything to defend them and ensure that they were never in danger. My maternal instinct is strong, and it pained me for a long time to feel like no one had that strong maternal urge to protect me.
I love 3am – it’s the time where the world is quiet. The time for dreamers, crafters and thinkers. I have always been a night owl and relished the time. The time where I can catch up on everything, no phone going off, no expectations as generally the whole world is asleep.
A perfect time to work on my business, study and review my life and the direction I am heading.
Although I enjoy the silence of the night at times it can also bring a lot of old memories that I had spent a lot of time trying to keep dormant.
The quiet air of the early morning allows for my mind to wander and a memory can lead onto another memory and next thing I know I am reliving memories that as a child I had suppressed for a long time.
Tonight, I have pulled out my laptop to sit and try to tell my story but I am finding it so hard.
Until I found this quote from Brene Brown,
“Courage is to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”
So, here I go – here is a glimpse into the story of me and my journey to becoming an entrepreneur and I’m sharing it, with my whole heart.
I am the eldest of seven children and was born in Adelaide in 1987. Soon after my birth, my parents relocated back to NSW.
Now that I am sitting here reviewing my journey to now, I realise that I had blocked out a lot of my childhood, when people ask about my upbringing – I would always change the subject, and not only did I not want to share, I didn’t even want to bring up the memories. I had buried these memories and applied concrete slab after concrete slab on top of them and it wasn’t worth the time and my mental state to remove these slabs to share them. I didn’t realise in doing this I was hiding my story, I had buried a piece of myself and I was causing myself more harm, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually by adding more and more concrete slabs to these memories and experiences. This would come to affect how I parent, work, study and have relationships and friendships.
I never felt like I was brought up in the traditional sense, I felt like I survived and went from a kid to an adult so quickly.
My first childhood memory was watching my mother being carried out of our house by two men in white uniforms as she yelled, screamed and fought them. She was placed in the back of an ambulance and taken to hospital. She had consumed too much alcohol that night and her parents had called ambulance officers and policemen to take her away. I remember huddling up with my 2 younger siblings and making the decision then at the age of 7 that she clearly couldn’t look after herself so how could she look after us.
The age 7 was a tough year for me and one that I have buried deep, deep inside.
It was the year I believe my childhood had ended and I had grown up faster than I should have.
It was the year my parents had first separated.
It was a year of eating on dog biscuits due to lack of food available.
A year of neglect and abandonment.
A year of being left at school way past days end and made to sit outside the fence in the heat waiting for someone to collect me.
A year of sexual abuse by an older child who would babysit me often.
Years later I addressed the issue with the person who had continually put me into this situation hoping that their response would bring me some closure.
I was informed that I was continually put into this situation because I liked it and clearly wanted it.
My childhood years were quite nomadic, my parents moved all over New South Wales.
Every couple of months or years they would get itchy feet, pull out an atlas, close their eyes and point to a location and that’s where we would end up. Even though they had separated, they would still move to a new location together.
Due to this our moves were never to another suburb or down the road, they would be at least 3 hours away up and down the coast, so this means I moved schools quite a bit. I consistently went through the “new girl phase” and by the time my parents who were both on Centrelink benefits could afford to buy me the correct uniform to wear, we were off on our next adventure.
This occurred until my on-again-off-again parents split up for good when I was 14.
For a few years, my father was a single father to me and my siblings while my mother was not living under the same roof as us. As the eldest child, I became a second Mum to my siblings.
One day my mother reappeared into our lives and had my father falsely arrested for assault and took custody of the children.
At the time, I was 14 and my mother and I did not get along. Not happy with dealing with a defiant teenager who wouldn’t assist her with disciplining her children in unorthodox ways – I was kicked out of home with only the clothes on my back and told if I returned, she would have me arrested. My younger sister who didn’t agree with what was going on also was kicked out of the home and joined me.
For over 10 years my father fought for custody of my siblings to no avail.
Just before this happened, my father was diagnosed with Ramsey’s Hunt Syndrome, Emphysema and COPD. My disabled father was offered no support and because he couldn’t afford a proper legal defence, it was just him and me, his 14-year-old lawyer.
My father never regained custody, so my sister and I lived with him and over time when my other siblings were old enough and forced out of the house by their mother, they would move down to Sydney to live with us.
At the age of 18, I found myself homeless again after being my father’s carer for the previous 4 years, we came to loggerheads and I was asked to leave.
For a couple of weeks, I couch surfed until I was able to secure a small flat at the back of a property about 15 minutes out of town. The owner was Maltese with a strong accent. He kept goats on the property to keep the grass down and I would often chat with the goats and they would always run around in front of my small flat.
My small flat was at the back of his property and away from the main road. I was working 3 casual jobs, studying at university and struggling financially.
One day I was leaving the flat to head to work and just outside my front door, the owner had constructed a campfire. I didn’t think anything of this when I first saw it as he had a property and would regularly have a fire to clean up any fallen branches or debris on the property.
Except today, he was sitting at the fire chewing on what appeared to be a drumstick.
He motioned me towards him, saying “Come Kylie, join me for some lunch. You’ll love it.” As I headed over to join him at the fire to politely decline. I had another look towards the fire as an uncommon smell hit my nose. That is when I saw the goat hanging over the fire – roasting. The “drumstick” in my landlord’s hand was a goat leg.
“You were getting too attached to the goats, so I thought this was the best solution.”
It was time to move out of that place and not wanting to go back to couch surfing, I ended up moving in with my on-again off-again boyfriend.
This experience would teach me later down the track to trust my gut and only my gut.
I had been with my boyfriend for about a year and he was my first love. Once I moved in with him, I was under the assumption that things would be easier.
Of course, we would share the bills and that way I could concentrate on my university and maybe drop one of my 3 jobs.
Unfortunately, this was not the case, and in the end I had to leave university, and I lost all 3 of my jobs and ended up in a lot of financial debt.
Now I look back on it, there were so many alarm bells but my rose-coloured glasses were on and I was so enamoured by him and that someone would love me, be interested in me and care about me and my opinion that I ignored the alarm bells because at the end of the day everyone who had told me that they loved me – hurt me so it was just normal yeah? Clearly due to my history and my luck, I was meant to be here.
At times my wallet and keys would go missing before I had an outing with friends, or a university class or exam or work. It was so strange as I had clearly placed them in their normal spot and now, they had gone, I must have misplaced them. Then if like magic, they would always show up later back in their spot when we needed to head out somewhere together.
The abusive relationship went on for almost 3 years, his parents were aware it was happening and turned a blind eye because their son would never do this. She clearly brought it on herself.
On one horrific occasion, I was able to escape the room I had been locked up in with ripped pyjamas, a bruised face and a damaged rib cage (which has never properly healed)
I was hospitalised for bruising and was forced by my father and sister to go to the local police station to file an AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) against him which I did.
When he noticed, I was no longer in the locked room, he went searching for me and found out I was at the police station and showed up to speak to me and try and stop me from going ahead with it.
When he wasn’t allowed to approach me and was asked to leave the station, his pregnant sister arrived and proceeded to speak to the police officer about how I was crazy and was clearly raising this issue to affect her unborn baby. Even after I was granted the AVO I went back to this mentally, physically, sexually abusive relationship and I was isolated.
It all exploded for the final time when we had a party at our house, and he went to lash out at me about his dog defecating on the carpet, I left the house and never returned. In life, sometimes things change in an instant and at that point I knew I deserved more.
With no relationship, no job, no university, no home and a stack of debt, it was time to find a full-time job and I started in retail management with a large discount departmental company. I continued to work in retail management for the next 10 years and now I look back it, I had a similar relationship to that workplace like I did with my ex-boyfriend.
I was working a lot; some shifts were up to 20 hours with a short nap at home and then I was back. I missed out on birthdays, celebrations and outings to try and get that fictional carrot that was always dangled in front of me to earn that next pay rise, that next promotion or that next bonus. Even through these struggles I would think it’s okay – it’s a good paying job, it gives good experience, they have promised it to me so if I just keep going it will happen for sure.
I went through the ranks quickly into senior retail management where I was managing over a hundred people and generating yearly turnovers of twenty million dollars plus.
The carrot was still regularly dangled, and this was even more evident when I was finally given my last promotion at 35 weeks pregnant with my first child. I had been doing the role for months and extra roles as requested like being the Project Manager of a refit where we refitted a 30 year old store, roof, walls, floor, back of house and front in just 5 weeks while the store was still trading regularly and yet they wouldn’t send out my contract to sign.
I finally received my contract when I refused to advise them of my upcoming maternity leave and told them I would happily deliver my baby on the shop floor if need be.
The job wasn’t all bad, I had met amazing people, learnt leadership skills. I had built stores from scratch, turned unprofitable stores close to shutting their doors into profitable flagships leading the company. I worked in 14 stores in 12 months as I was moved to locations both metro and regionally. It developed my love for business, retail, customer service and smashing every challenge thrown at me.
That company also introduced me to amazing partner of almost 10 years, Kim. I was attracted to his quirkiness, his authenticity, he made me laugh. Plus who wouldn’t want to hang out with a blacksmith turned material scientist? The first time he invited me to his house to hang out and watch a movie, he came into the loungeroom wearing some chainmail he had made himself and handed me a broad sword and instructed me to check out how quality his craftmanship was by stabbing him.
My personal life was on track, but now my professional life was changing.
It sadly all turned even more sour with the company when I was “asked” to return to work after 6 months of my maternity leave and I wasn’t ready. Instead of returning to the store I had previously been running and was promised I would return to, they placed me at a store that was neglected, unprofitable and had a lot of unresolved issues that at the time I was not ready for. Later I would find out I also wouldn’t have the support from my bosses to deal with what needed to be done. The next 7 months were hell!
I was caught between a cowardly narcissist who threatened my family regularly (not directly to me) but to all my staff and customers and a boss who thought I was after her job.
If I didn’t jump through her hoops, things would turn sour. Emails at 11.30pm at night and reprimanded for not responding to them immediately instead of the next morning. Unrealistic targets to be achieved and pages and pages of extra task lists daily.
This resulted in her launching a witch hunt against me to get me fired where they tried everything to terminate me from the company from claiming nepotism to sexual harassment, victimising staff members to stealing from the business all to no avail. Everything they tried to use against me I had proof it was not me, witnesses who would back me up and a reputation that was unfaltering.
However, this constant stress, harassment and bullying combines with mum guilt for not seeing my baby (I was working all the time) triggered me to have a mental breakdown and telling them to go stick it and leaving. If only I knew at the time that no job is worth that. This was another moment that looking back on now showed me that I was worth more.
During the next two years, I drifted and dabbled into different industries trying to find my “place,” where did I fit in?
I graduated with a Master in Business Administration (MBA) and after the birth of my second baby, I woke up and realised that I now have 2 beautiful girls in this world that need a kick arse mum to guide them – to inspire, motivate and empower them and not have them make the same mistakes I did. I started working on my personal development. It wasn’t up to me to find my place in the world – it was up to me to create it.
At the end of 2018, I stumbled across Mums in Business Association on Facebook and became the Event Coordinator for MIBA Penrith-Blue Mountains and in just under a year I took a fledging group of 90 ladies into a thriving, supportive, encouraging community of almost 1000 female entrepreneurs, (that’s a 1,110% increase!). At the end of August 2019, I became the Head Coordinator for MIBA Australia and New Zealand and in just a few short months we have doubled our presence in Australia, and I am excited to see the growth in 2020.
In 2019, I launched my confidence and business coaching business, The Phoenix Within.
This decision came after a hectic year of rediscovery and learning about myself again. A year of addressing my truths, opening the closets and releasing the skeletons that were lurking in there and rediscovering the person I was that I had lost. She was easily found but it took time to identify that woman and renew her confidence, optimism, courage and resilience. To build her back up but finding the right tools and techniques so she could access everything that she had inside her.
I was not broken, and I did not require fixing – I just needed the direction to find my purpose, my calling and my passion.
The Phoenix Within was created to share MY story and to provide women with the same direction, guidance and encouragement to embark on this journey themselves.
I work with women who are lost and unfulfilled who have woken up whether it’s from; childhood trauma, the drunken stupor of their twenties, being blessed to have become a mum or leaving long term employment and are ready to reclaim their power.
This is only a glimpse of my story, but I hope in sharing my journey that it inspires, motivates and empowers others to find their passion, live their purpose and follow their dreams.
I believe we are all born for greatness, no matter what our stories have entailed. I strongly believe that building confidence and embracing our authentic selves is the key to creating that change.