Hi, I’m Leila Johnston.
In my almost four decades on this planet, I’ve mostly had a great time.
I’ve interviewed hundreds of fascinating people for successful (and less successful) projects. I’ve met most of my heroes, from Jacques Derrida to Maggie Philbin. I’ve had books published, and heard from people who seemed to like them. I’ve been the Deputy Editor of a national magazine and written for many more. I’ve crafted copy for major brands and zingers for Radio 4 shows. I’ve performed to hundreds of people at massive London venues and presented Tomorrow’s World. I’ve had artwork commissioned by major galleries and festivals. I even co-wrote and performed a musical! But better than all that, I’ve worked with and learned from some of the best creative practitioners in the country.
Things weren’t always like this. When I left school with terrible A levels (and I only took two!), then promptly dropped out of University, things didn’t look particularly bright. Even my Headmaster confessed he’d failed me. But fast forward a few years and I had been back to uni – twice. I had a First Class degree under my belt and an MPhil from Cambridge: a higher degree in a subject I didn’t even have an undergrad degree in.
Curiosity vs knowledge
Honestly, I wake up every day fully aware that I know nothing. Maybe there are people who feel they have it all worked out, but I’m not one of them. I know nothing about what’s going to happen, nothing about who I am today, nothing about who I can trust or how I’m going to be made to feel. I have no special wisdom to impart and no knowledge about how people or systems work that differs from anything else you can find online.
The only thing I’m sure about is that this has been a gift to me. This bedrock understanding that I have no idea about anything is the only reason I’ve met and talked to so many amazing people and done so many things I had no right to be doing! I have a constant hunger to find important things out.
We all face each new day with a choice. We can let ourselves be immediately frozen by this sense of the beginning of everything – a terribly oppressive feeling like finding yourself at the bottom of a well (oh, I’ve felt it!) Or we can choose another path: wait, look around, ask questions, and find out what the world is like today.
Today isn’t a trap. But the superstition that it’s stacked against you, individually, is. What do you imagine is so special about you? Every moment is a new beginning for everyone. This is the digital age! We are part of a system and the sooner we stop trying to take the world so personally, the better.
If I’ve learned anything through talking to and working with so many interesting people, it’s this:
Those who navigate life with a useful offer to their communities are the most heartily rewarded.
I’m creating this project not because I know more than anyone else, but because I think it’s my most useful offer. This feels like a good way of funnelling the experiences and contacts I’ve collected over the years into a rich, delicious collection of resources. Your offer will be different. Possibly, some of the voices and ideas I share here will help you find it.
Wherever you are on your path, I wish you luck!