Around six years ago, whilst I was working for the Ministry of Justice, I went to an event for women in leadership in the public sector. Whilst the details are sketchy, I have never forgotten the impact one of the speakers had on me. She made lots of eloquent and relevant points, but the one that really stayed with me was about the importance of role models. Seeing someone you identify with doing things you are impressed by is galvanising and enables you to take steps towards a dream you never realised was achievable. Its a tangible manifestation of what you could be if you just work a little harder, put yourself out there and open your eyes to the opportunities around you.
Success is a relative and personal concept and throughout my life I am lucky to have encountered many inspiring individuals who have had success in ways I admire. I have endless gratitude for this: For my parents who were unequivocally supportive of my academic career (though there were tears when I turned down Warwick to study in Brighton). For Eleanor, who when I was 22, showed me what how support, encouragement and honesty can really help to get the best out of people. For Helen, sharp as they come, down to earth and authentic, able to calmly and deftly navigate the toxic office politics which had me grinding my teeth in frustration.
And for Farah, my cousin who I met as she bounded off a plane at Maroochydore airport in Queensland. I was eight years old, she was in her mid-twenties, a town planner, full of life and love: independent, fiercely bright, compassionate and driven. She told me to make my own choices and own them. She helped me gather the strength to follow my own path. She is part of who I am. On 21 June 2018, Farah died. She was too young. Wife, mother, role model, beloved. Rest in peace and go with love.