I usually reflect on my year with something visual but for this birthday, I’ve recorded a wee audio essay. It’s only eight and a half minutes long – I hope you enjoy 🙂

In case you prefer to read, or need a wee bit of help to understand me, here’s the transcript:

No one could have told me what a difference it would make.

Outwardly, the shift is perhaps imperceptible, although I haven’t run a poll to gather hard evidence.

Inwardly, the transformation has been such that I’m comfortable with the words liberation, freedom and release and yet, the truth is that I don’t often think about it.

The realisation most often arrives when I look back at old footage for Mandala Magic and sometimes when trying to find a particular image in the Photos library on my magical iPhone.

Aye, I call my iPhone magical. I know we’re all addicted and in danger of staring down at those dastardly wee screens more often than we get lost in the eyes of our loved ones.

But that wee phone has been one of the best investments I’ve made in my tiny creative business. 

I’d always imagined that in the second decade of Mandala Magic, my shelves would be groaning with DSLR cameras and associated lenses.

Instead, I’m almost exclusively recording on my iPhone, whether for the Mandala Magic School classroom or during a live Zoom.

In the early ‘90s, my job was as a sales & marketing exec for an Apple computers reseller – there were no Apple shops back then.

Margins were super tight, especially as my territory was education. Memory was minuscule and monitors were almost as big as the telly in your house (the girth of them, not the screen – that was tiny!)

Sales is not something I’ve ever had a natural talent for and thankfully, I was able to concentrate on marketing and communications for the rest of my first career.

I laugh at that sentence now because marketing has been an area I’ve sorely neglected in the second!

Still, here I am, trying to balance my discomfort with being online and my gratitude for connecting with so many amazing creative souls.

Being comfortable on camera comes more easily for some. At college where I studied all aspects of communication, we practised a wee bit.

The set-up was much less comfortable, with a television studio approach and even in the late ‘80s an encouragement towards the rounder vowels of Received Pronunciation. 

Each day, my working class, West Lothian accent was being replaced by an Edinburgh University twang. My pals at home teased me for it then and even now, I fight hard to resist the automatic switch to what I call my phone voice when I’m recording myself.

To be transparent, I attended Napier and not Edinburgh Uni, but we were all at it. Even those like me, where linguistics was part of our curriculum and we were taught that our native accents were considered base by mainstream media.

I’m always in admiration of those folk from that time who held on to their true tongue. My pal, Mhairi, moved to Canada a lifetime ago and still sounds as Scottish as she was when she left. 

If that were me, you’d likely not be able to distinguish me from a native just a few months on. 

Born in England to Scottish parents, I’ve had to negotiate a few accents, dialects and even language in my time with at least three wildly differing mixes before I was ten.

When we visited family in Scotland before we moved back here, my mum’s Dad, Pop, couldn’t understand what we were saying and asked for a translation. 

These days, I consciously try to stay true to what feels most natural. Even so, I can switch it up multiple times in one day, depending on what I’m doing or who I’m with.

These changes help with making myself more easily understood and that works well, but there also lies underneath an echo of the shame I felt about my working-class background.

A council scheme in the eighties during the miners’ strike wasn’t a particularly aspirational place to be. My sense of romance was high, you see, and wasn’t yet to be met by any aspect of Scottish culture. Politics and socioeconomics were difficult – these were the Thatcher years. 

Even by the end of secondary, I was ignorant of Scottish folk tales, myths, most history and literature, aside from the ubiquitous Burns. The curse of the modern comprehensive education. Oh, but Tam O’Shanter fair took my breath away!

College started to see a shift, with an introduction to The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil and what had been awakened back in primary school with an audio programme on the prehistoric Skara Brae was brought more consciously to the surface in my final year project on the symbolic art of the early Picts.

The land we now call Scotland and the folk who have inhabited it have such a rich, deep culture. That it’s taken so many years to unravel and discover the aspects that light up my ancestral knowing and my creative curiosity is just a small part of the story.

As I prepare for yet another cycle around the sun, I’m much more comfortable with who I am and in the work I choose, where I come from is just as important.

Writing this, I’m much more at ease in the places where shame and confusion used to sit. Year upon year, I’m growing ever closer to home. You could say I’m feeling comfortable in my skin. 

For a perimenopausal woman, this seems like no mean feat. 

I’ve always had skin issues. Not the teenage acne kind, but the hormonal, always shifting and metamorphosing.

It reached a crescendo about eighteen months after my mum died. The herbalist I was seeking help from told me this was likely significant.

She also had me cut out caffeine and nightshades and drink copious amounts of herbal tea.

Since then, the skin issues didn’t ever go away, they just changed. From eczema to pustules, the conditions always affected my face most of all.

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly vain but when you have to film yourself regularly as part of your work, it’s quite disheartening to deal with shifting blemishes. Och, in the whole scheme of things, I know it’s small fry – but bear with me.

Over the years, I’ve managed to cope with my face, choosing when to be on camera, guided by when my skin looked its best.

Just over a year ago, I visited my GP right when I was in the midst of a virulent and painful outbreak. Previously, I’ve sought out herbal practitioners and alternative, natural therapies.

Perhaps it was the distancing of myself from the new age persona I’ve accidentally adopted over the years, but that day I felt so exhausted with all of the menopause symptoms, that I knew I wanted some straight-talking science and even medication to help.

I figured it was a case of menopausal acne and upon arrival, told her so. “Why don’t you present the symptoms first and let me give the diagnosis?” came her swift reply.

My straight-talking GP decided to offer treatment for a type of pustulating rosacea. Two tubes of medicated cream later plus a new skincare regime and I’ve remained almost entirely blemish-free since. 

Liberation, freedom and release might seem hyperbolic to you. But I can honestly say it’s been my experience. No longer do I have to figure out when to film based on how my skin looks and I’m losing some of the self-consciousness that comes with it.

Being comfortable in your own skin comes in many forms. Whether it’s deep-seated psychological, socio-economic, geographic or physical, it’s a prize well won.