Grab Life by the Throat

Really scary things I have done: jumping out of an airplane, bungee jumping head first with feet tied together, and delivering a prize giving speech to two hundred 12 year olds…

“When the headmaster wrote and asked me to say a few words and hand out the prizes I thought ‘I get it, that makes sense,’ we’ve have had a long family connection to this school.

My eldest cousin was here, over 50 years ago, and there is a plaque in the dinning hall in memory of my youngest cousin, who was murdered by the IRA. My brother also came here; he left aged 13, so enlightened he went onto blow up the science labs at his next school. And indeed 3 of my own children have been here at one time or another, and I have a fourth preparing to come.

But then I thought, perhaps I have not been invited here because of those connections and certainly not because of my own school record, where I went from being ‘Head Girl Material’ to ‘No Hope At All,’ perhaps I am here because I have lived life differently, seen it as a grand adventure, grabbed it by the throat and decided to give it all I’ve got. And not marry one of the Dukes on the list my father kept in his desk drawer. Yes truly, there was a list, all the eligible Dukes in England that my sister or I could be married off too.

Instead I packed a bag went ’round the world, moved to Boston, took a degree in photography, became a model, travelled more and oddly found myself washed up on a tiny island in the middle of an ocean, where I fell in love with a man and decided to stay. Island life has certainly been an adventure.

I once came to a Spectrum evening here at this school to listen to a young man talk about his amazing year off and the far away places he had been too…. he talked about scorpions and snakes and sharks and hurricanes. I looked across at my children beside me, they were both asleep. Scorpions, snakes and sharks? They were all too familiar with those.

Moving to school in England from the Bahamas was certainly a change. One of my boys was asked during a character test what they should do if their house caught on fire, instead of saying ‘Call the fire brigade’ he said ‘Run for your life!’

During our twenty years on the island I redesigned a hotel, created a fragrance line, designed jewelry and sold sheets on telly (not at all glamorous, don’t do it), but always for other people, until one day I plucked up the courage to build something for myself. I found two smart partners and we had the idea of launching a luxury direct sales business. This means selling beautiful things not in shops but in homes, and lots of people told me I was mad to do it. But we did it anyway.

Starting a company has certainly been exciting but it’s also been terrifying, and risky. And it’s a huge amount of work, an unbelievable mind-numbing amount of work but its also stretched me, and I’ve learnt to speak an entirely new language, the language of business.

Although I’ve made many mistakes along the way, like joining my first Zoom meeting via computer, a conference call with six other colleagues and not realizing that it was actually a video call, so when the camera flicked on there were my colleagues dressed in suits, there I was sitting in my PJs with a hot water bottle in my lap.

And when we came to launch our first collection and proudly introduced our logo, a beloved beetle, our sign of good luck, one journalist asked me ‘What’s up with the spider?’

I’ve spent countless nights in horrible hotels, on business trips, wracked with homesickness missing my family, wondering what on earth I’ve taken, on but I’ll wake the next day excited once again to be pushing forward with this new adventure and on the days that are tougher I think of the letter Conrad, aged 12, wrote to me:

‘Dear Mum, you don’t cook like most Mums, which I really don’t care about, because you can waterski like a god and you have always been there for me and my money is on you booming in business. My advice is keep working hard and don’t stop.’

That there is probably the best advice of all. Keep working hard and don’t stop.

And remember this, your childhood isn’t who you are. It’s the beginning of who you are. It’s just the opening chapter. And you are the person who gets to write the rest of story.

Grab life by the throat, see it as an adventure and give it all you’ve got.”

4 thoughts on “Grab Life by the Throat”

  1. Don’t know why I teared up when I read what your son wrote to you, maybe because I’ve only waterskiied once, it was before they were born, and THATS why I haven’t received that note. Thanks for the inspiration

  2. I just got round to catching up on reading your blog & this really touched a cord with me. Love yiur son’s note you-so sweet. Very inspirational and funny I should choose today to read it because I really needed that inspiration today. xoxo

  3. You always get it done, pushing through the hard times and challenges that are daily. Conrad is a dream come true, he truly is your son.
    Vanity Fair this month, Gayle King.. What is the quality you most like in women? “I like a girl’s girl! There’s nothing better than women who support and encourage other women.” That is you India!!! ox, Lizanne

  4. India,
    How marvelous to be able to so eloquently speak to many and to humor even more and I think that no matter what we do in this life to create our own stories, as long as we allow for a little humor, then the beetles and bugs don’t get us down. You are a remarkable one. I like how you speak “binness” ha ha.
    pve

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