• I experience a form of double-dreaming to make up for lost time. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Meet Kemi, our life coach, delivering real-world motivation in her weekly column. First up, is the many paths she has travelled to be the unapologetic dreamer that she is.
By
Kemi Nekvapil

27 Apr 2016 - 6:09 PM  UPDATED 28 Apr 2016 - 3:20 PM

Many children dream, but I was never a dreamer as a child. Instead, I learnt how to survive, to protect and to become independent.

I once participated in a workshop where the participants were asked to look back over their lives, to see what three unconscious mantras or phrases had got us to where we were.

Mine, I discovered, were: you are looked after; keep going; it will all be okay.

I am a British citizen (manners are very important to me, as is John Cleese), with Nigerian heritage (boldness in being and in fabric abounds), living in Australia (possibilities and genuine kindness are abundant); many paths have led me here.

As I look back now, I am very grateful for the multi-layered view of the world that I learned from living with multiple white foster parents, from two weeks old until adulthood. 

I had the best manners: I desperately needed to be good. A good black girl. If I were good, I would be loved. If I were good, I would not be moved on, again.

But when I was in it, when I was living it, I always felt unsettled, unstable, and at the mercy of whichever foster parents I was with at the time.

I had the best manners: I desperately needed to be good. A good black girl. If I were good, I would be loved. If I were good, I would not be moved on, again.

I was very blessed (or maybe I was lucky): of the five foster families I lived with, only one was abusive. Otherwise, I was loved and nourished in all the ways a child should be.

I always knew my birth parents’ motivation was to give me and my siblings the best possible education they could, which meant to them a UK education living with a family rooted in England. Their sacrifice was huge.

Like any normal child, I wanted something different than what my parents wanted for me: they expected a lawyer or doctor who would return to Nigeria. What they got was a baker/chef and actor, who would never call Nigeria home.

I loved school. I loved the routine. I loved the stability.

I wanted something different than what my parents wanted for me: they expected a lawyer or doctor who would return to Nigeria. What they got was a baker/chef and actor, who would never call Nigeria home.

With the career guidance of my final foster mother, I decided to train as a baker, so that I would have a ‘craft under my belt’ before auditioning for top London drama schools. I love food; it has played a big role in my life and is a part of my identity. I nourish others and myself with food.

After bakery college, I spent many days at drama school pinching myself. How did a child like me end up with an opportunity like this? Every day was a gift that I never took for granted. One week after leaving drama school, I was a lead character on TV. I worked as an actor for seven years, including seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre Company.

It was my love of food that pulled me to leave a successful acting career. I was in New York with the Royal Shakespeare Company, listening to the artistic director speak. While everyone’s eyes were on him, I was trying to figure out what was in the chicken wrap I was eating: dill or chervil? That was when I knew that, although acting was fun, it was not my calling.

Food then led me to work as a chef in Thailand. I created a special spaghetti Bolognese dish that wooed the Australian stranger who is now my husband. (Like any meal we create to woo a partner, I've only recreated that dish once in our now 12 years together: funny how that happens.)

I experience a form of double-dreaming to make up for lost time.

I packed up and left my whole life in England while six months' pregnant with my son, suffering with pre-natal depression, and moved in with my in-laws for the first three years of our life in Australia.

I had never met my mother-in-law, so I kind of fostered myself out. It was a wonderful, abundant home of four generations living under one roof. When I left, to move to Melbourne with two children under the age of five, knowing no one, I had to pull on my mantras every moment of every day.

It is only now, as an adult, that I have started to dream and I dream big.

I dream with no apologies, and I love nourishing the dreams and goals of others, which I get to do with my work as a life coach, speaker and author.

I experience a form of double-dreaming to make up for lost time.

Last year, I travelled around Australia in a caravan with my husband and two children. We covered 52,000 kilometres in 385 days - that was a whole new level of being unsettled and unstable. Even though I knew that, as a homebody, I would be challenged, I also knew that I was looked after, I could keep going, and it would all be okay ... (to be continued in tomorrow's instalment).

 

Meet Kemi, our life coach, delivering real-world motivation in her weekly column.

Love Kemi? Follow her on Twitter @keminekvapil.

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