it took me about a year to detox from politics. Photo / Mark Mitchell
It has been just over two years since I lost my job as Deputy Leader of the National Party. Most of you witnessed this via the news reports. I found myself oddly in the
middle but really on the edges of the drama of a leadership challenge and change.
In effect I was collateral damage to the majority of caucus unwisely deciding we needed a new leader. I wasn’t kicked out of my job because I was bad at it or disliked but because I showed loyalty to the leader and we were seen as a team.
I know it sounds a little ridiculous but at times that made it hurt more – I wasn’t even the cause of my own demise. It took me a while to process that. It took me a while to work out who I was without a very public job and to work out what I wanted to do.
In hindsight, it took me about a year to detox from politics and to gain back the essence of what makes me tick and what was important to me.
For at least 15 years as an MP, I had put the public, the National Party and the all-encompassing job I had first. I don’t regret it, it is in my DNA to give things 100 per cent and the role was so big that it needed most of me.
I still had a private life, I got married in that 15 years, watched my daughter get married and give me grandchildren and tried to be the best daughter and friend I could.
Fortunately, we all thought the sacrifice of me being distracted by work 24/7 worth it. Suddenly I wasn’t distracted. It wasn’t that the phone necessarily stopped ringing. I stopped picking up.
Initially I had to work through a bit of hurt feelings. It was a kick in the guts by a Party and people I felt I had given everything I had to.
I quickly worked out it was actually just a few people and anyway, politics is brutal and I signed up knowing this. I then had to discover a new world and the old me.
It wasn’t that I had built up walls around me, but as a public politician with a relatively high profile people had a perception of who they thought I was.
I always knew I was more than just my job but as I set about finding a new career and taking time to find out what I really enjoyed doing and was good at, the public still wanted to talk to me about politics, particularly because that decision to change the leadership set the National party on a course of destruction that it took 18 months to pull itself out of.
Daily, people would ask me what I thought or share their dismay at the current shenanigans. I didn’t care – or probably more honestly – I couldn’t care as I had to look after my own mental health and to do that I had to walk away as cleanly as I could.
I quickly worked out my answer “that was my old life, I don’t have any interest or an opinion” and for about a year I repeated that mantra both out loud and in my head daily. But internally, in my own head, I still had some stuff that only time would mean I could work through.
A life mantra for me is “bounce”. Life, people, the unexpected can knock me down but I bounce back up.
This time the ball was a bit flat and it took some time to bounce back. I landed on my feet though. Joining Bayleys Real Estate in their commercial division surrounded me with positive dynamic people. I joined a new tribe and I have loved it from day 1.
But I still had stuff to work through. I thought I was all good, new life, new job, turned out I still liked my husband and he liked me as I all of a sudden was home every night. And then a couple of months into working at Bayleys, myself and our MD went to visit Parliament.
Embarrassingly as we pulled into the driveway of Parliament I felt my heart racing, I started shaking and must have been deep breathing. My MD asked if I was okay. I wasn’t. I had to pull myself together, this meeting was important and making a good impression to him was important to me.
I told him I was going to be okay – he is super cool – squeezed my arm and gave me the space to pull myself together. I got through it okay, his humour and kindness went a long way. I hadn’t expected to react like that, I then knew I still had some trauma to work myself through.
I turned a corner about eight months ago. I reflected, I didn’t just push it all aside like I had for a long time. I reconnected. I laughed, I partied, I slept, I discovered people and work I love. And now I have an opinion again as you might read weekly in this column.
I support Christopher and the National Party on my terms. I donate my time to charities I care about. I have fun hosting a TV show (tune in again soon) and most importantly I value the time I have with the people I love.
Life is pretty damn good post-politics.
Paula Bennett is a former Deputy Prime Minister and National Party politician who now works at Bayleys Real Estate as national director — customer engagement.
Post source: Nzherald