- I felt weird, lumpy and my centre of gravity had shifted thanks to giant, milk-filled mammaries and a recently acquired excess layer of cake-based flabbage.
- I was in constant fear of not just leaking a bit of milk, but actually flooding the local area.
- My vagina still hurt.
I’d barely had a full night’s sleep in nine months and whenever I did sleep, I ground my teeth so much I literally shattered my front tooth (hello, sexy mouthguard!). So you can imagine I went into those early client meetings feeling serene, relaxed, in control and ready to take on the world.
I was back! I was still fabulous! I was… wait a second, is that dried biscuit or poo on my top?
The first big meeting I had with a potential new client was like a bad episode of Ally McBeal. It was a farce of epic proportions. And prat-falling her way through the whole thing like a lactating Bridget Jones was me.
I thought I was meeting a friend of a friend for an informal coffee, but as I left the house, it occurred to me for the first time that the person had referred to another person and a booked meeting room. Two people and a room. Then I remembered that she’d mentioned her boss was trying to make it. Two people, a room and a BOSS?
That’s not an informal coffee that’s a 20-minute PowerPoint and “any questions?”
I didn’t have a PowerPoint! Even worse, I didn’t have a laptop, having dropped and killed mine the night before while working on it as I walked down the stairs (that old story).
As I pondered this with increasing alarm, it dawned on me that I was going to be late. I’d left the house at the time I should have been getting on a train. That meant I’d be at least 10 minutes late. For the boss. I would have run to the train station, but there was no way I’d catch the earlier train before my vagina fell out.
At Elephant & Castle I panicked, thinking I could jump on a magic new tube I’d just invented in my hysterical mind that would get me there 10 minutes faster than the one I always take. I got lost in the concrete maze of Elephant & Castle’s underbelly. I decided just to get on the next train. Then I changed my mind and got off. Then, at the last minute, I changed it back again, jumped onto the train as the doors shut, caught my foot on the edge of the tube, fell forwards and landed in a sprawled heap of hair and shame at the feet of a carriage full of London commuters.
“Hi!” I said, looking up at them all with (I thought) considerable aplomb. One person laughed. Everyone else stared a London stare. The shits.
Anyway, the short version is that I arrived late, which no one seemed to notice (this is London, people are always late for meetings), I got into the tiny meeting room, saw there was no computer or projector, acted all collected and asked if there was a room with a PC, got taken to a board room, located a SlideShare presentation online I’d made for a different client and winged it. They invited me back for another meeting.
What’s weird about that experience is how it affected me afterwards. Through the years I’ve often felt out of my depth, suffering from the Imposter Syndrome experienced by so many people. But I also know I’m good at busking. And yet, I did not come out of that meeting thinking, “Phew, I totally shat miracles today, I really am a jammy madam.” I just thought, “By golly, what a total shambles! You are like some crazy, wobbly, mum-brained moron. I don’t even know who you are.”
I was shaken. I came home feeling that I would never get another client again and that my years of successfully running businesses had all just been a giant fluke. That one, mildly comical experience led me to make some huge decisions about my life that were totally wrong for me.
It took me a long time to get over it.
Here’s what I learned along the way.