Here’s the (relatively) short version:
At age 4, I was funny. By age 6 or 7, I’d write little plays with my school friends. At age 11, my best friend, Katy and I would write shows based on two characters we’d created, Molly and Mabel. Happy days.
By age 14, the writing had fallen by the wayside and I was funny on a less regular basis.
By age 21, I was doing a Law degree. Didn’t see that one coming when I was 4.
Ended up working for a London law firm and drinking vast quantities of alcohol.
Finally, the agony of having studied for a Law degree and qualifying as an attorney made sense as it gave me the opportunity to move to New York – a City with my name written all over it.
As I only expected to live in New York for six months, I lived life with a sense of urgency and did all the things I’d always wanted to but had never found or, rather made, time to do. Mmm, interesting how good that felt.
Started Latin dance lessons (please do stop for a moment to savor the visual of a very white girl cha-cha-cha-ing in a very cheap blue lycra Latin costume ) which ultimately led me to Oscar, the man who would become my husband and the father of my 3 children (Eva, 14, Francesca, 12, and Leo, 7) who have inherited his genetic predisposition to tan evenly and some very fancy dance moves.
While I was pregnant with our first child, I was shocked to realize that I was about to become someone’s role model. It made me think that maybe it was time to finally figure out what I wanted to do with my life and – equally importantly – figure out exactly what was holding me back.
During the pregnancy, my husband, Oscar, who had heard me talk a big game about wanting to try stand up comedy gave me a life-changing gift which was a 10 week comedy writing and performing class at Gotham Writers Workshop. I ended up onstage at Stand Up New York with both a fire and a baby in my belly and realized that my 4 year old self truly had it all figured out and what a waste of 26 years!
Discovered the writing of Martha Beck which transformed my life further. Trained with her as a life coach (which sounds so cheesy – trust me, I’m English so I get how very cheesy it sounds! – but it is truly an extraordinarily powerful profession). In August 2009, I received my Martha Beck Master Coach certification after an intensive and intense training period.
Founded Stand Up, Mama! – a coaching practice for other mothers like myself who had it all figured out at age 4 and then spent the next 30 odd years going in completely the opposite direction. At age 40-ish, they’re ready to reinvent themselves back to what their 4 year old self knew they should have been doing all along.
What gets my creative juices flowing? Watching people who are so clearly doing what they were born to do – Tom Jones, Bette Midler, Billy Connolly, Michael Buble, Oprah, Rod Stewart, Annie Lennox, The Beatles, Barack Obama, Chris Rock, George Carlin – people who are living the life they were meant to live. I find that extraordinarily stimulating and inspiring.
As a mother, I want to be that kind of inspiration for my children. To show them a life lived out loud, where laughing till your stomach hurts is just a regular day.
On January 26th 2010, I got back on stage to do a comedy set as part of the “Rosie the Irreverent” series. It was SO good to be writing and performing again.
On February 1st, 2010, I performed my one-woman show “Just Like Your Mother” for the first time at The People’s Improv Theater in New York. The audience laughed and they cried.
In August 2010, I performed at Caroline’s Comedy Club which was a long-held ambition of mine. I was thrilled to be asked to perform as part of Caroline’s “Best of New Talent” show which opened the New York Comedy Festival in November 2010.
Here’s a slightly longer version if you’re interested in the journey I took in my own reinvention …
I’m Sally Robertson – a mother of two daughters, Eva, 14, and Francesca, 12, and a son, Leo, 7 or, as my Spanish mother-in-law likes to call him our “only child”. I’m also a life coach, founder of the Creative Groove Studio and a stand-up comedy writer and performer.
Before I had my children, I was an attorney. This was the closest I came to a passion as I hated it with a passion.
I’m not entirely sure how or why I became an attorney. As a child, my passion was writing plays with my friends. By the time I was 11 years old, my best friend, Katy, and I had created two characters called “Molly and Mabel”. We would write scenes with these two characters and perform them for our English class.
As I got older, I moved further and further from my Molly and Mabel days. I found myself doing a Law degree. The only part of it I enjoyed was Criminology and the chance to perform in moot court competitions.
I ended up in London working for a top London law firm. I applied to do a six month secondment to their New York office. I wasn’t successful the first time I applied and I still vividly remember sobbing uncontrollably in the ladies bathroom. I couldn’t understand the intensity of my reaction. I’d never been a particularly adventurous person and the decision to apply to go to New York felt like it truly came out of nowhere.
I was encouraged to apply again six months later which I did and I was successful. Interesting side note: had I been successful when I first applied, I would have had to return to London after six months to complete my qualification as an attorney. The fact that I was successful six months later allowed me to stay in New York indefinitely. Lesson learned: things happen for a reason. Trust that to be so.
So there I sat, 30,000 miles above ground on my first transatlantic flight, gin and tonic in hand as I raised a glass to myself and to the grand adventure that lay ahead.
I’ll never know where the decision to come to New York came from. I had never been to the US at all. Our family had never “done” Disney. Family vacations were always to Scotland to visit a beloved grandmother, wee Lizzie, and the rest of the Robertson clan.
Wee Lizzie may be a significant clue to what proved to be a more adventurous spirit than I had been thought to possess. She got her first ten-year passport at age 70, never imagining that she would renew it. But renew it she did. In her late seventies, she traveled to Orlando on her own and did her first and only exercise class. Lizzie in lycra must have been a vision.
Two days after I arrived in New York, I went to Central Park. It was covered in snow and the sky was the most vivid blue I had ever seen. In that moment, I experienced a sweet sense of contentment and the strangest sense of having come home. For the first few months, I lived life with a sense of urgency. As I only expected to be here for six months, I tasted, smelled and savored every thing it had to offer. I took dance lessons, horseback riding lessons, music lessons, made new friends, watched two movies back-to-back on Sunday afternoons, went to comedy clubs, drank too much and enjoyed every single moment. I had never felt so alive.
I really got into my Latin dance classes. I even started competing with my dance teacher. There I was “cha-cha-cha-ing” as only a very white girl can when my teacher told me not to fall on my fanny. Now, in England, my fanny (and, for that matter, every other woman’s fanny) is a quite different part of their anatomy (hint: vital for childbirth). So being told to not fall on it was an eye opener.
The Latin dance lessons paid off as I married a dancer from Colombia. My Scottish family was just thrilled that there would finally be a tan in the family.
So, I’m now the mother of three native New Yorkers who are living up to the stereotype of Americans in that they are a little louder than is frankly necessary. Instead of telling them to use their “inside” voices, I tell them to use their “English” voices. My oldest daughter does a brilliant English accent although she does sound more like Madonna than someone who actually IS English.
So genetically my kids are a blend of Colombian, English, Scottish and Spanish. It seems to assure one thing only – a love of soccer.
As for the tanning situation, my oldest daughter turns in to a mini J-Lo the instant the sun shines. By the end of the Summer, I look like the British nanny except that my kids really aren’t THAT well-behaved.
For the most part, my children are oblivious of their multi-cultural background. However, on occasion they will have a Barack Obama moment. After learning about Rosa Parks at school, my 9 year old said “Mommy, where would Daddy have sat on the bus?” Because clearly, I would have been sitting on the front row.
I know in my heart that I was meant to be my children’s mother and they are, without doubt, three little New Yorkers. Their night light is the Empire State Building and from the age of 18 months, they hailed a yellow cab with confidence and recognized a Starbucks.
I often wonder where they will travel in life. Maybe in 15 or 20 years, they will be sitting in a London pub asking their friends how on earth their mother could leave such a wonderful city. And it’s a fair bet that the whole pub will be able to hear them.
So, here I am, twenty years, one husband and three children later. The decision to study law makes sense now as I look back on my life and realize that becoming an attorney was my passport to New York City, the city I chose to make my home. It’s a city that suits me down to the ground. It’s a city that gives me the opportunity to live the life I was meant to live. It’s a perfect fit.
Stand Up, Mama! is dedicated to my beloved grandmother, the once-met-never-forgotten Lizzie Robertson. She was an amazing woman whose North Star shone so brightly for 93 glorious years that it not only guided her life but inspired all who met her to live their lives more passionately. She was truly a stand up grandma!
It would be an honor to work with you to help you find your own North Star, that is, the life you were meant to live. I invite you to contact me if you are interested in finding out more about Stand Up, Mama! and the coaching services I offer.
Click here if you are seriously interested in becoming a coaching client and would like to schedule a 15 minute call to discuss one-on-one coaching with me.
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