The biggest story of our lifetime - Rena
As she lay on the bed on the private jet, Rena couldn’t help but let her mind wander back to January 2019. She remembered laying on the bed in the egg shaped hotel surrounded by snow sprinkled mountains. She had the usual four days of meetings and talking and networking and eating and drinking and smiling and nodding and trying to stay awake. But that was the year when she extended her stay. Three days to herself to relax and three days to get down to the real business of finalising plans for the future.
She had felt her stomach flip when she thought about what lay ahead. She remembers the taste of the expensive wine she poured for herself. She remembered that moment because it was the most relaxed she’d felt since she became Prime Minister three years before. She had come to hate this conference. The first time she ever came was seven years before, in 2012. She had worked her way to the top and was a headstrong, divisive Editor in Chief for a global media corporation. She started at the bottom as a journalist and steamed her way through the ranks. She was determined, controversial, focused and didn’t care who she trampled on to get to where she wanted to go.
When she was appointed Editor in Chief she felt like she’d made it. This is what she’d worked for. The highest female earner in the industry, with a 7 figure salary, she was living in a stunning modern apartment in Central London. She was the definition of ‘work hard play harder’. Her vibrant social life was a constant stream of A-list parties, invitations to club and restaurant openings, awards and VIP access to concerts. But something was always missing.
She'd been trying to stop thinking about her life then. To let go of the past. But even after the hours and hours of therapy sessions disguised as haircuts, gym sessions or trips to the spa, she still felt a twinge of shame. It was a work in progress. And she found it hard to forgive herself for how she had behaved. Back then then she was often angry and judgmental. She felt jealousy towards other people even though she had it all. Her therapist had explained it wasn’t her fault. She’d behaved the way she did because of self preservation as a result of her childhood trauma.
She wasn’t able to understand that at first – she’d had a privileged upbringing – she’d attended the best schools, a boarding school, and she had everything she needed financially. But she was never shown how to love herself, to accept who she was or how to feel and process her emotions. She had come from a long line of families who had suppressed their emotions - the 'stiff upper lip' syndrome. And for her, this manifested in the belief that she had to overachieve to gain the love of her parents. She never felt she was enough and thought having a successful career and money would solve all of it. Then her parents and family would finally accept her. They didn’t.
She’d been walking through a fog all her life. Until the summer following her election when she visited her parents and siblings at their country home. She expected a rapturous welcome, congratulations, an acknowledgement of her becoming PM. But there was nothing. Not even a card. A handshake and forced, "well done dear" was all she got. She went to her room and as she unpacked she realised she didn't want to stay. She broke down, sobbing uncontrollably for what felt like hours. She didn't realise it at the time, but It was decades of built up emotion releasing itself from her body. She didn't unpack. She made her excuses, put her case back in the car and she was driven back to London. As soon as she got home she made an appointment to see a therapist. And the fog began to lift. Rena was realising who she was.
That conference in 2012 was the first time she’d met Alex. He'd introduced himself as a London/Saudi based businessman. Rena had felt an instant dislike for him but could never figure out why. It was Alex who had planted the seed about moving to a career being in politics, instead of just writing about it. He knew exactly who she was. And she had figured out it was no coincidence they’d been sat together on numerous occasions at the conference. The pieces of the puzzle started to fit together until one Sunday morning, eating breakfast, for the first time in her life, she knew exactly what she needed to do.