It’s easy if you try?

In our darkest hours, imagining is the bravest and hardest change we can make.

I wasn’t young enough to believe in pixies and unicorns when I discovered the Beatles, but I was certainly young enough to still believe in adults. 

The Beatles were grown-ups to me, when I discovered them through watching A Hard Day’s Night and Help! during the TV celebrations of Paul McCartney at 50 (June 1992). It was years before the eras they went through artistically and personally, and the sheer time the group was active – or, in the case of John Lennon, alive – became visible to me as terribly short. 

One reason for that realisation taking longer than it might, I suppose, was the death of my friend Sophie at twenty-five. Sophie and I were in youth theatre and university together. She’d been given the all-clear from cancer at least once, and had beaten the odds in living as long as she did. Which, obviously, didn’t make it any less cruelly unfair. The Sponsored Write I run for Macmillan Cancer Support exists because that was Sophie’s chosen charity. One of my key memories of Sophie and her influence on my life was when I confided in a pub one night at the end of my gap year how afraid I was to go to university. My sixth form experience had been the worst two years of my life. I’d come out of it believing (not thinking; deeper and less conscious than that) there was something incurably wrong with me; that others would never accept me (entirely based on my relationship with that one year group). Sophie told me university was nothing like sixth form. You didn’t have to do what everybody else did; the sheer numbers of people were too great for anyone to even notice, let alone have a problem with what you chose to do or not do. If you wanted to sit in a cafe and read instead of go clubbing, you got on with it. Just being who you are. 

It was unimaginable.

But it was true. I came out of an atmosphere of bullying and shame into a world where you chose what you did based on who you were.

Speaking of unimaginable, I see that same quality of ‘unimaginability’ when a client has been living or working in environments that aren’t right for them. I’ve talked with people who genuinely believe the even when they’ve left their job the boss will still be calling them at home with demands. They can’t imagine that not being the case. I’ve talked to others who genuinely believe their lack of enjoyment or being themselves in a relationship mean every relationship will feel like that. As a result, it can seem like a ‘crazy dream’ when I offer a ‘what if’ along the lines of what a different experience might look like. Different has become unimaginable.

Imagine is a word I try to keep with me. It’s not only about the end result – world peace – but the beginning of the journey: individual peace. Imagination is a life skill; it’s very unlikely the world will make the first move in terms of improving our situation without a little direction from us. Each day contains a handful of opportunities of imagining who we are and what we want to see in our world. However good or however bad things are in it. 

A few days ago, I was sitting with my friend in the area of Central Park named Strawberry Fields, which, I realised via explaining it to her, is a place named for a song named for a place. The original Strawberry Fields is the children’s home in Liverpool John remembered from summer fetes from his childhood. This Strawberry Fields is very close to the Dakota Building, on the corner of 72nd Street across the road from Central Park where John lived – and where he died, at two years younger than I am now.

From far away, twenty-something-year-old John once looked like an adult to me. I have to have faith that from just as far away, as I get older just as when I was younger, I will keep on remembering how very much time every day contains and that knowing it is going to end is not a reason not to start. Whether that’s in my art, work or life. The changes are always scary. But what if my life can improve if I let myself imagine, just as Sophie encouraged me to do when I’d given up?

My ten-year-old self wasn’t wrong about the Beatles. They were grown-ups; they were amazing. They always will be. And however short I see their time as now, my best and worst times have taught me how very, very long each moment can be and it’s on me to keep imagining what I want to create with them.

Join the Writers’ Gym for a Writing Workout this Monday, 6.30pm 
and for Coffee & Creativity this Wednesday, 1pm-2.30pm.

Secure your exclusive anthology by sponsoring Green Ink Sponsored Write for Macmillan Cancer Support.

View this month’s full calendar at