Carrie WalkerI’d been working in the same company for six years and felt totally stuck. I’d convinced myself I couldn’t leave, I wouldn’t get paid as much anywhere else, I wouldn’t be good enough, I wouldn’t be able to do it – I’d be exposed as a fraud. And I was far too old at 36 to start again. I’d left it all too late.

I was floundering with a boom-and-bust mentality, desperate for a change but not knowing how to make it happen and came across one of Philippa Perry’s columns in Red magazine. Someone had written in with the exact same stuck situation and her advice had been to look into the Hoffman Process, which I took as a sign from the Gods. I had a moment of spontaneity and thought, ‘Sod it!, I’m going to book myself in and see where it takes me’.

In my initial chat with the Hoffman enrolment team, some questions came up about my parents, but I had no issues to report. I hadn’t had a traumatic upbringing, and I wasn’t looking to face my parental demons, but the idea of exploring my childhood and thinking about what a younger ‘me’ might have needed growing up, appealed to me. The pre-course questionnaire had me immediately captivated; thinking about who I was in relation to my parents – what they did and didn’t do – and I instantly recognised patterns of behaviour that I hadn’t ever thought about before.

The Hoffman Process was completely new to me, so I had no expectations and no real idea what I was letting myself in for. I’d done lots of self-development but never any therapy, and I hoped that throwing myself out of my comfort zone in this random way might somehow ‘unstick’ me.

Being tech-free for a week was my first shock to the system. I sheepishly asked for my phone back to check something, half an hour after I’d handed it in. I felt panicked without it. No distractions in my pocket. No phone to wake me up – would the alarm clock I’d brought even work? Wanting to make friends but mindful of intruding, unsure of who was going through what. It felt like being on a weird school trip.

The Process was a rollercoaster and once I was strapped in, there was no getting off. I decided to go with the flow and be as brave and honest as possible to give the week my absolute all. The money was a significant investment and I wanted to get as much out of it as I could.

Initially, it was all about noticing patterns of behaviour that I didn’t even realise I had. It also struck me that I didn’t know how to access or sometimes even know what my feelings were. I remember an exercise when we had to talk about how we were feeling and I felt like the question came at me like a fireball. I’d never really defined my feelings so specifically before.

I found the Process fascinating; full of wonder and interest. I was captivated and day by day it helped me interpret the feelings in my heart. It was like nothing I’d ever done before and I was so glad that I had a week to spend on myself. So many thoughts to navigate. I was grateful when we were asked to observe a few silent meals, to have some much-needed processing time. Writing out my future vision helped me consciously consider what I wanted for myself and that has been something that has evolved these past eight years and I’ve always come back to.

The week left me feeling discombobulated and a bit… strange. Overall, I got a sense of freedom from doing the Process, from cutting ties and standing on my own two feet. This new understanding about who I was as a person only reinforced my want to make a change, but I still wasn’t totally sure how to do it.

I got there eventually.

The first shift happened a year after graduating from the Process. I got a new job – in my dream agency – which turned out to be a nightmare. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. I was paid six months’ notice, which gave me the time and money to start writing and take my future vision seriously. I also met a lovely, kind, button-nosed man and finally felt like I was on the right path. Man, writing, money, laughing, enjoying myself.

But my poverty patterns soon got the better of me and after a few months I panicked and got ‘a real job’ alongside my writing so I had some reliable, regular money coming in. And I went from working two days a week, to three, then four. Managing two people then five, then running the company until my brain was completely absorbed by it, my creative resources redirected – and my writing, once again, on the back burner.

I remember my boss thanking me for putting my dreams on hold to help her achieve hers, and those words really hit home. One of my lifelong problem patterns – helping everyone else with their thing and ignoring my own. Nine times a bridesmaid.

I finished my book in 2020, sent it off to agents and publishers and had lots of beautifully worded rejections. And then Covid hit. I was in a writing group with four other girls, and we dragged each other through the pandemic week by week, meeting on Zoom to keep ourselves accountable.

Carrie with booksThen finally some real change started to happen. A turbo-boost to my future self, eight years post-Process. I married the button-nose in 2021, we moved house in 2022 and two weeks into our new home – still surrounded by boxes – I had an email from one of the publishers I’d sent my book to the year before. They wanted to work with me. I signed a two-book deal three months later under my pen name Carrie Walker and my first book Escape to the Swiss Chalet came out in 2023. This was followed by Escape to the Tuscan Vineyard which was published in May 2024.

Following the right path while battling my poverty patterns is a daily challenge. I want to stay true to my creative soul and not run screaming down what Hoffman calls ‘the Left Road’, but the panic is always there. ‘What if my book doesn’t sell? What if everyone thinks it’s rubbish? When should I get another real job?’ My inner critic is constantly being told to SHUT UP; but at least I now have the tools to spot its voice and dial down its messages.

Future visioning is something I’ve continued to do, as well as being my own parent and giving myself what I need to flourish. I’ve learned to own my feelings – ‘I’ not ‘you’ – and the music from the Process is always in my heart. Hoffman also expanded my support system; I’m still really good friends with two of the girls who were on my course. And on every single plane journey, when I hear the onboard safety message, I remember the learning; Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.

Escape to the Tuscan Vineyard by Carrie WalkerEscape to the Swiss Chalet by Carrie WalkerYou can find out more about Carrie / Joanna and her work on Instagram @carriewalkerauthor
Escape to the Swiss Chalet is available online here and Escape to the Tuscan Vineyard  is out now, here