I am 51 years old this week and I have always considered myself to be a good human. I have worked hard all of my life, paid my taxes, always had a social conscience, never been arrested, and many others things that I think add up to being a model citizen.
Life is made up of chapters and this weekend I realised that the building safety crisis is a chapter in my life which is holding me back from moving on to the next chapter, whatever that may be.
I was 40 when I purchased my apartment, which is now found to require remediation. My personal contribution could be as much as £40k, on top of a service charge increase of around 100%. This is just the financial impact. The impact on my time – having to deal not only with my own stresses but also the additional burden that comes with being a director of my building – is immeasurable.
One of the happiest chapters of my life was when I took time off work and decided that an American road trip would be a great way to work on myself. The first few weeks were great fun. One of my dreams was to go to the Burning Man festival in Nevada (a long story!). With three days to go, I managed to get a ticket and drove 1,100 miles to get there. Burning Man is portrayed as this utopia where there are few boundaries or constraints on who you want to be, and it was here that I realised that, given the choice, I was happy with who I was. I was 46 years old.
As is the case with a lot of things (let’s not go into that now), I felt like my building safety story wasn’t worthy compared to the stories of others: people who have children or want to have children, grandparents who want to be closer to their grandchildren, or people who have shared ownership but have to pay for 100% of the cost.
I also felt embarrassed to talk to people about this crisis, as I questioned how I had got myself into this situation. I am used to succeeding at most things I do, and so I felt unable to open up, even though I knew that my friends and family would never judge me and would be so supportive.
I want to get back to being that person who left Burning Man, but I know that for now that isn’t possible. To get him back, I have to change, and so do lots of other people. I have to realise that my story is worthy, and that I do have to open up to friends and family.
With so much pent-up frustration and anger, I created an alter ego on Twitter to just let it all out and express what was really happening to me. I created this alter ego because “cladding me” is not the real me and so they deserve different personas. If Beyonce can have Sasha Fierce, then I can have my cladding alter ego.
And that is how I realised that I am not OK.
So, my advice to you is, if you are feeling any of the above and you can’t deal with things as your real self, embrace an alter ego and let your true feelings out.
And then once this crisis is all over, whenever that may be, you can say goodbye to your cladding alter ego.
The End Our Cladding Scandal campaign calls on the Government to lead an urgent, national effort to fix the building safety crisis.
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