What actually happened at the end of a five year plan I discussed in a magazine interview in 2013.

In 2013, I was interviewed for a publication called Career Compass, an opportunity that was set up by a friend. The article essentially detailed my career journey towards becoming station manager at the local radio station at 23 years old, which happened as a result of me gaining experience and working part-time while I was studying at university. It was meant to inspire other students to consider working alongside studying to build up their CV’s, before heading into the job market (something I would still recommend and I know is more of a requirement these days considering the global employment outlook).

I was rather shocked when, a couple of days ago, one of those dreaded Facebook memories popped up (thankfully not reminding me of the “Conrad Schwellnus is READYYY 2 PARTAY tonight” posts from 2007), showing that it had been five years since the article had been published. I was curiously interested in seeing how differently I felt now, all these years later, especially considering my new journey of self care and mental health prioritisation, and also to find out what my 30 year old self would have to say about how my 25 year old self saw and portrayed himself publicly.

While I essentially skimmed through the interview, scared I would be totally embarrassed by my answers, one question caught my eye; the dreaded “Where do you see yourself in five years?” humdinger, which possibly grabbed my attention as a result of the fact that it is now five years later (alarm bells in my head), and that I’m actually busy living the “end” of my so-called set out five year plan. Here’s how I answered the question in the interview:

“I’m a firm believer in setting up five year plans for yourself. Recently I stumbled across a list I had written for myself in June of 2008. We’re now five years from that point. Point 8 said “Get involved with the opportunities at MFM [92.6 Radio Station]. Make a name for yourself. While this is one point I have certainly achieved and I am proud of, there are other areas that I still need to work on. It’s a constant process of evaluating yourself and your life, and the harder you work on yourself, the greater the rewards.

Needless to say my 2018 list is currently in draft phase! In five years (when I turn 30), I see myself working in the music and broadcasting industry, but across more areas of the industry. I’m very interested in taking up a management role in a commercial radio environment but I would also like to pursue my other interests, such as songwriting, journalism and marketing.”

Here’s how I interpret the piece now, today, as I’m sitting under the covers, snuggled up and listening to the rain, on leave from work and taking a day to do whatever feels right. Please enjoy the running commentary that played over in my head from reading the answer out loud to myself this morning.

I can’t believe how much I wanted to control my life and my path. I can’t believe how rigid I was about my career and where it should go, what I was expected to do, and what path it should have taken. I can’t believe a goal was to “make a name for myself” and to so blatantly blow smoke up my own ass, and say that I have already achieved this. I can agree with constantly evaluating your progress, not constantly evaluating yourself (essentially I said you should evaluate who you are!). I have also learned that working hard is not the only way to reap rewards or to find joy in life. Sometimes life gives you gifts, and sometimes they can be as small as a kindness from a stranger, or a hug from a friend on a bad day.

I mentioned blindly that I still wanted to work in the music and broadcasting industry at 30. I worked for a major record label between 2014 & 2017, and it was a tremendously bad fit for my mental health. I was hellbent on a management role in an industry that wouldn’t be able to satisfy my soul, as much as I had wished it would. It must also be said, that I mentioned commercial radio in the interview not because I wanted a job in commercial radio, but because I assumed it would look good to a prospective employer. I had no intention of staying in radio and am shocked that I even said that back then as I knew it was never about the industry itself for me. What working in that industry was for me, was that it was always about connecting with the people and my team: this included individual development, goal setting and guiding potential in people wherever it was possible to do so.

I certainly am nowhere near where I was expecting to be based on the response to the question in the interview. I now work in the conservation industry (which I could have never predicted in a million years), as well as running a marketing consultancy called Delve 6, which has just signed its tenth client. I recently started up a mental health coaching business called Delve Deeper Coaching, signing my first client just this week, something I am tremendously excited about. Is my life worse off for being on this path, rather than the one I had expected myself to be on now? Very doubtful.

I could have never predicted that my career would have brought me here, even to this very blog and this very moment where you are reading what I want to share, and I wish I had given myself more freedom to enjoy the way in which life brought me here, highlights and rug-pulling-out-from-under-you moments combined. The years since I made “the plan” and the second half of my twenties can only be called a hot mess, as all of life tends to be and we need to get comfortable with things being messy! I made some good and bad decisions but I’m accountable to each and have taken as many lessons as I possibly can from it all.

I was convinced that turning 30 meant I had to “have my shit together” so to speak and that I’d have it all figured out by then. I wish I could have just given over control right from the start of my career, taken it day-by-day, and seen it as a marathon, and not a sprint. I may well have ended up writing more songs than the two I penned about my first love in my twenties (please stop laughing) and I may well have had the guts to submit them to the artists that I worked with on the daily had I not believed I wasn’t good enough and didn’t deserve to enjoy my life. All of that is busy changing thanks to prioritising my mental health and my general wellbeing and the past three months have really starting driving this point home for me in a big way.

Before I carry on with my day off, I wanted to share how I would answer the question now, at 30, and having started this new journey of self care, connection and mental health advocacy. Short, sweet and to the point, with the BS meter in check:

I don’t believe in setting up five year plans for yourself at all. In five years, I’d like to have lived out over 500 000 five minute plans. I’d like to have taken time to enjoy the journey, rather than focusing on what I think the destination should be. I’d like to be better at cutting myself some slack in each sphere of my life. I’d like to have celebrated the small and big victories, as well as continuing to learn from the losses and disappointments. I’d like to be encouraging others to take their lives just a few minutes at a time and to be living that very mantra myself, no matter how difficult it may be. All of this in honour of my physical, mental, spiritual and emotional wellbeing. I want to have connected with as many people from as many walks of life as possible, in order to learn more about myself and also nurture and encourage potential wherever possible. Let’s see how it goes and be alright with whatever the outcome may end up being.”

Conrad was here.

 

 

How I shared my depression diagnosis with 600 people.

In my early twenties, I went through the same social media mania all millennials went through when it first became a thing. As the years went on and my depression started to take a firm hold on my life, I slowly moved away from sharing updates, to the point where people would ask me “where are you?” when they bump into me in real life, as if my social media silence implied I wasn’t standing right in front of them right now. I had to hold back the urge to say “I’m standing right in front of you, dumbass!” a couple of times.

Yesterday I felt a compelling pull to open up to my Facebook circle about my depression diagnosis, especially as it was one of the better days and I had the strength to interact with others. This blog is in itself a platform for me to share my journey, but opening up and breaking down the stigma is something that starts at home. While I’ve had conversations with my family and core friends, I felt compelled to reach out and find out if there are others who have been suffering in silence, and the response was rather overwhelming. I’m still processing the reaction and taking in as much as I can from people sharing their stories of their own struggles, or the struggles of someone close to them. One friend messaged me to say “While I don’t know what it’s like myself, I can sympathise as a family member has suffered with depression for years, and I’ve seen what it can do to a person”. This kind of self-awareness and compassion is what anybody suffering with something major wants to hear and I felt a lot of love hearing that.

So here’s how I did it. If you’re reading this from somewhere around the world and it strikes a nerve with you, you can reach out to me directly via this page on the blog.

At the start of this week I was diagnosed with depression, something I knew was a long time coming, and something I’m now aware will be an obstacle I’ll have to deal with on a day-to-day basis moving forward. I’ve taken a couple of proactive steps in the right direction this week, including taking a break from work, seeking treatment with a GP, getting in touch with a therapist and joining a local depression support group in my area.

 

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had multiple conversations with people who are in a similar boat and are simply not coping with the pressures of modern life. In fact, just from a few small conversations, I have a list of nearly 20 people in my direct circle who suffer from anxiety and depression related problems, and pretty silently and secretly so. I’m sure there are many more. My message today is simple and clear. PLEASE REACH OUT. If you’re suffering, talk to someone about it. It took me a paralysing 40 hour stint in bed to realise that I needed to put my pride aside, have some honest conversations with colleagues, clients, friends and family, and to do something to get help before it’s too late.

 

As part of my recovery and as a therapeutic practice, I’ve created a blog which will detail my journey of living with, opening up about and breaking down the stigma attached to depression. If you’d like to read it and find out more about my story, pop me a private message and I’ll send you a link. If you’d just like to talk to someone about the disease or ask questions about the help I’m getting and how I went about it, then DM me too. I’m not an expert, but I’m learning and am happy to be an ear to anyone willing to reach out. Depression is a serious disease, and suicide is never an option. Let’s start having some real conversations about it.

Conrad was here.