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Philip O'Connor @philipoconnor
, 18 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
This night 19 years ago was the lowest point in my adult life. After six months in Sweden I had no job, no prospects & about three euro in my pocket. I didn't want to be here any more.
In truth, I didn't want to be anywhere any more.
I was a total failure.
I'd just quit playing music in pubs because my confidence was shot, and as I dodged the fare to get the train home to the apartment I shared with my girlfriend, who was a student as broke as me, I was praying she wouldn't just throw me out on the snowy street.
I would have deserved it.
I was very little use to her, financially or otherwise. I was still chasing the dream of being a journalist & writer, but it seemed further away than ever.
I remember the emptiness when I told her it would be OK if she just told me to leave.
She didn't.
Instead, she said it would be OK, and that was enough for me.
I put all my energy into learning Swedish, I pulled pints and waited tables and learned how to fix computers.
I was still broke & felt like a failure, if only marginally less so.
I kept writing, mostly about football, and gradually the interest in publishing what I wrote grew. I still wasn't getting paid, but at least I was getting noticed. Then I did an IT course and a news agency offered me an unpaid internship to fix their computers. I went for it.
From the first day I looked into the newsroom and told myself I'd get there. In the outside world I kept writing - and failing - but in there I kept quiet. Given a job and the chance to show what I could do, I worked like a maniac.
I studied journalism and media and communications science as I went. I was working full-time, studying full-time and soon had two young children, but I wasn't going to let this chance go.
I had some brilliant mentors and friends, people who believed in me and who taught me and encouraged me. They showed me how to write and take pictures and film - getting it first, but first, getting it right. They taught me all I know that is of value.
Mentally I was still fucked - being an immigrant with an almost non-existent support network is enormously draining.
I drank too much. I struggled to learn how to be a father. I doubted myself all the time - but not about journalism.
It took me six years to get my first solo byeline on an article - then they offered me the job of covering sport as a freelancer.
With two young kids, that meant resigning from the first - and only - secure job I'd had in Sweden.
I couldn't resign fast enough.
I stopped drinking and tried harder to be a dad. I stopped talking and started listening to people smarter than me (and there's plenty of them). I stopped trying win it all with one knockout punch and bedded in for the long haul.
Since that night 19 years ago, I've written books, been on TV and radio. I've covered the World Cup and the Winter Olympics, fights in Vegas and Madison Square Garden. I've experienced things I never thought possible and got to share them with the world.
Tonight, I'm the luckiest man in the world.
The presents are bought, the fridge is full, and the girlfriend who dug me out of my deepest hole is upstairs asleep. She's now my wife, and has been for 16 years. Our two daughters are beside me on the couch.
I still battle every day, worried that what I worked so hard for might suddenly be somehow taken away.
I never, ever stop trying to find new ways to do what I do, only better.
But I'm older and wiser, and having done it once, I know I can do it all again.
These days I try to help others the way my wife helped me, back when I needed it most. When I didn't and couldn't believe in myself, and when I couldn't see a way out, she could. And she helped me find it, and I am forever in her debt. This is how I pay it back.
Tonight, as Christmas closes in, you may be struggling, and that's OK. It might be money or your career or your family or whatever, but you're not alone - we're all at some point along the same road, it's just that some are further along than others. No-one has it all sussed.
And if you know someone who is struggling, try to be the one who believes in them.
You cannot fight their battles for them, but you can sure as hell fight them with them for a while, and that's worth just as much.
Because no matter who we are, none of us can do these things on our own - some days we're the hammer, and some days we're the nail, but wherever you are in the world tonight, I wish you all the best for this Christmas season. Keep going.
You'll get there.
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