Tuesday Tales: He’s like me afterall – Donna Thistlethwaite

Does anyone else have a child who is so like their other parent that you could easily question whether they’re yours. Thankfully I gave birth to my son, Matthew, so there’s no doubt but it could have easily existed were it not for that.

Recently Matthew and I were chatting while driving somewhere and the conversation took us to the similarities between him and his dad. “Yep, you’re like peas-in-a-pod” I said, not for the first time. “But surely there’s some part of me in you … there’s got to be some ways that we are similar”.

Matt cocked his head to the side, contemplating the idea. After a few moments, with a complete poker face, he said “We blink”. What a joker, although I’m not sure how much he was joking. We are two very different people and both his appearance, and his personality and demeanour are a lot more like his dad than me.

A day or two later Matt opened up about his day at school. Matt is in an alternative school which is play-based, child-led and highly experiential. For maths the day before his class had paired up and built a number of different structures using paddle pop sticks, plastic cups and 1cm x 1cm wooden cubes. There were numerous different challenges, eg. the highest structure, one with something coming out of the side … and they were required to build from one of the very small wooden blocks.

Matt became very animated as he shared about the experience. He said “Mum, it was sooooo much fun”. I was with Mitch and we did so great. “Mum I took risks … I kept building higher and higher” he said standing on his tiptoes and throwing his arm in the air. “Mitch told me to stop”. He said “Wait Matt, let’s get a photo now, don’t go any higher yet”.

As I listened to Matt, I was struck by an insight. “Matt, Matt … can you hear yourself? There is something that we have in common. I’m a risk taker too Matt. That is not your Dad, the risk taking is one of my personality traits.” “It’s not just the blinking, we have more in common”.

I loved that I could identify this trait in my son and that I could help to build his self-awareness but also that I could appreciate a trait in myself that I’m not always in touch with.

When I reflect on my history, I can see that I have taken more risks than some people might feel comfortable with, for example: I changed careers at 42 and again at 52; I publicly shared the story of my suicidal crisis; I established my own business; I ride a road bike at least twice a week; I regularly ask for help; and I have stayed self-employed despite obstacles and challenges that have come up over the nine years I’ve been on this journey.

Recently I have made some further big changes that I’m hoping might inspire you to go after your dreams and/or to make bold decisions. The first quarter of 2022 was really difficult for me, in fact I nearly went broke. I owned the ATO $4500 and had $1000 in the bank and no work in my pipeline (some of you may remember me sharing about struggling with my mental health at the time). This was the first time I had experienced financial pressure in around 25 years and I hated it.

Thankfully, everything has worked itself out now (a lot of soul searching and a bank loan later) and I’m grateful for the lessons and decisions that came out of that challenge.

I realised that I was not prepared give up my business and what I am trying to achieve with it. I decided to invest in a sales and marketing course, acquire a business partner, and to put on a contract administration assistant so that they can do some of the activities I’m currently doing to free me up to go out and tell people what we do which I’m hoping will lead to more time in front of groups to help equip them to thrive.

Will this risk pay off? Who knows? But at least I’m not going to wonder when I get to the end of this journey whether I should have given it a go. What’s the worse that can happen? Can I handle it? Absolutely. I’m becoming more and more adept at re-invention. Something that we can all do.

What could you do today to take you in the direction of your goals and dreams?

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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