I am Graham Phoenix and I am British. Its important to me to clarify what that means. I was born in England to Scottish parents with Irish ancestry. There’s even some Welsh in there somewhere.
This helps me to understand why I love moving and travelling and why my interests are so wide. I regard no specific place as home, I have no roots that I hang on to, I am not defined by anything other than the life I lead.
The Second Phase
At eighteen years old the second phase of my life began, I left home to work in the theatre. My brain was imploding with the idea of following my father into financial work, so I got out, fast. I sought excitement, challenge and variety. I had had enough of being at home.
My world expanded rapidly. I spent my days with people who were open, exciting and dangerous. I was challenged in ways I couldnt have imagined. It was a case of sink or swim.
I worked day and night, drank, partied hard and loved life. I moved around Britain from theatre to theatre developing my skills and exploring how to live. In under a year I was in my third job in Scotland and I found a home, for a while. My poor mother was distraught, this was where she had left before I was born because it was such a dangerous place to live. Here I was back! How did that happen?
After experimenting with different types of work I had now become a Stage Manager. I was working with actors at the heart of a production. This was exciting work that opened my eyes to people, their stories and their motivation. I was living my life and making my decisions, I had left the life guided by my parents behind. I was discovering me.
I found politics, left wing politics. I joined Equity, the actors union, and started campaigning on behalf of stage managers. I joined the Scottish Committee and found myself talking politics with famous TV actors. My mind and intellect was growing way beyond what I thought it was capable of.
Around this time I found sex and love, in that order. I was now completely lost and totally addicted. I was happy and enjoying myself, but I wanted to know more about what life had to offer.
I wanted to become more involved in the creative heart of theatre. I wanted to create what people saw and experienced, I wanted to influence people and help them to grow and change. It is interesting to see that many years later this is still where I am, wanting to influence people and help them grow and change. Now I do it by writing and talking.
I never felt I was an actor, I didnt feel I had the intellectual development to become a director and I felt I didnt have the artistic skills to be a designer so I homed in on being a lighting designer. Looking back I can see how I was suffering from limiting beliefs about myself. My view of myself was still influenced by my childhood, although I was experiencing life I was not growing in understanding myself.
I moved to London, where theatrical activity was in a frenzy, and became an electrician. I soon became a Chief Electrician and Lighting Designer. I was lighting shows every few weeks and practicing my craft, developing my skills. I worked with experienced, skilled designers, used their ideas and, eventually found my style, what in writing I know as my voice. I found myself sitting in the auditorium with famous directors discussing my approach to a production and creating the look and atmosphere of the shows that people saw and loved. This was stimulating and helped me to see that there was a new future for me out there, a new way of looking at who I was.
I didnt settle for this, I didnt settle for anything. I was restless and striving to move forward, wanting to improve and grow.
I married during this time and joined the real world out there by buying a house. Up to this point the ordinary world that most people inhabited was unknown to me. I didnt go out in the evening, I worked; I didnt go on dates, I had sex with colleagues; I didnt work at a career, I shifted and changed and followed my passion; I didnt take care of myself, I drank and took drugs.
The Shift Point
Life with my wife continued as before but soon I came to a shift point, one of those moments when everything changes, when your whole view shifts and you, apparently, become a different person. Was I Graham Phoenix any more?
My two sons were born in quick succession. I was now responsible for these two new lives. It was not just about me any more. My wife had worked in the theatre for longer than I had, but now gave it up to focus on our two boys and our life together. I was touring with an opera company and was regularly away for six weeks at a time. This didnt work for me, I wanted to be with my family, I wanted to be part of their lives.
I had to become normal, join the everyday, be a person at last. I needed to find work that allowed me home in the evenings and at weekends, a job that allowed me to have another life.
I looked at work in computers, these were early days, but the programming work available seemed so dull. I answered adverts for all sorts of jobs, but nothing came off them. Then I saw an advert in the Evening Standard in London, I phoned, interviewed and got the job. I managed to use the skills I had and to shift into Architectural Lighting Design with a commercial lighting manufacturer.
So the third phase of my life began, a new Graham Phoenix. I took my responsibilities as a husband and a father seriously, I viewed marriage as something you committed to for life. Where before I worked and partied, now I worked and went home. I played with my boys, went to dinner with my wife, developed friendships where I lived and grew outside my working life. I became interested in running, hill climbing and watching TV. We went on holidays and I grew to love being with my family.
I worked for a number of manufacturers before I finally joined an independent lighting consultancy and became an independent architectural lighting designer. This was to be a very powerful period of my life, one that is only now finishing 25 years later.
I worked for, ran and owned three design practices, the last one being just me as a sole practitioner. The work was fascinating and varied. It took me around the world and connected me with extraordinary people. I worked on historic buildings such as cathedrals, museums, art galleries; modern buildings such as offices, shopping centres and theatres. I spent a significant number of years developing and writing lighting strategies for towns and cities, creating a new discipline where none had existed before.
My favourite projects were the cathedrals I lit. In England we have some of the most magnificant buildings in the world with cathedrals such as Durham and Ely. These buildings are close to 1,000 years old and are extremely precious. To have the privilege of re-lighting them is special indeed, but to also become involved in the communities for whom these buildings are life, is rare.
During this time I became involved in an association of prominent lighting designers around the world, eventually becoming its President for two years. This was a powerful time of networking, travelling and achievement. During this time I significantly contributed to the legacy I will leave behind, the Graham Phoenix people will remember.
My children grew up, becoming artists and musicians. I had businesses go bankrupt and my marriage fall apart after many years, so although this was a successful period, it had its failures as well. Somehow the normal life I had embraced wasnt working. I felt I was living behind a mask, I was not being the real me.
Confusion and Answers
I ended up confused and wondering where all this work and achievement had led me, and I found I did not have the answers. I set out to find some and get my life back on track. I attended a number of personal development seminars and found the power I had within me. I volunteered as a leader for the seminars and entered another period of travel and networking. I grew spiritually and found a whole new ability to communicate, lead and teach.
I met my new partner, now my wife, through this work and discovered, through our relationship, my power and strength as a man. This discovery and the work I started doing around it has resulted in the fourth phase of my life. It was a return to a more rebellious me, a less normal me. I felt the shift reverse and I found a new peace in letting myself just be.
I gave up my house and most of my possessions and had no home. My wife and I travelled the world working, networking and enjoying our life. We have a great deal to communicate and we have found a love and a passion in doing it.
we eventually settled in Southern Spain, in Andalucia, and have now bought a home there.
I focus on writing and communicating through my online work. My focus is on the work I do for men and on relationships..
In many ways I have come full circle back to helping people and living with no roots, back to being Graham Phoenix, but in between I have developed a rich life and a deep understanding of myself and how I relate to others. I have spent my life communicating with the result that I have an enormous circle of friends and colleagues who love what I do.
Living in uncertainty is the experience I have of life. As a man, having the courage to be vulnerable is a challenge I accept.
This experience is one that many men aspire to. I am here to help you find and fully embrace your experience. It is within you already waiting to be released.