“I was doing a lot of drugs. A lot of coke. My girlfriend of five years had just broken up with me. I had a great job managing one of the best hair salons in London, but I was lost. Some of my best friends were Muslim, and they were just so kind and understanding that I got curious and converted. They didn’t judge me, and to be completely honest I think for that bit of time I found in religion what I didn’t have growing up—shit this is quite deep,” says Luke with a laugh.
Luke pauses, then continues. “I still use a lot of the principles—being kind, being considerate— but like any religion there were parts I didn´t agree with, so along with London, I left it behind. Then everything changed.
“I was working fulltime at a barbershop in Exeter. I’d wanted to own my own business and, along with a partner, we were waiting to sign a lease for a shop. I was cutting a client’s hair and I felt someone walk up behind me, ‘Please leave when you finish this hair cut…’ said my boss. So, I did.”
“I had to do every pop up I could and then we opened our shop in 2017. It’s been doing well since,” says Luke as if in a hurry.
Suddenly there is palpable excitement. “Then one day I met Holly. Our first date was at a local pub. I had to go to the toilet to give myself a pep talk…a proper get yourself together one. I was so nervous I gave her a handshake at the end. Three months later she was expecting—we planned it. She already had a boy, Solomon, and in the space of a few months I had a toddler and a new-born baby at home.
“It was all I’d dreamt of, all at once. It was the steepest learning curve ever. Then it got dark and heavy. For six months I slept on the living room floor. I felt no joy. I didn’t want to even go near Holly. All I felt was pressure. She would lean in for a kiss and it would feel horrible you know? I struggle with communication. I didn’t have it growing up. People need validation? That used to be my mindset.
“Holly turned to me and said ‘We either see a therapist or this isn’t going to work.’
“We had to start looking into each other’s eyes for two minutes a day. We also started to explore each other’s needs more. Things are different now. Now, when I´m in a place that I need time for myself I might ask Holly, ‘give me X amount of time and we´ll talk, ok?’ I’ve also learnt that to give, I have to top myself up. Does that make sense? I do physical exercise. I take time for myself.”
Luke’s voice turns soft, but I can hear him clearly from behind his tattoos, “When we go for a long walk together, or we sit having a conversation in a coffee shop, or I see her with the kids, everything makes perfect sense. Even just holding hands. Suddenly everything becomes light.”
What would you say has been your greatest challenge in life? Trying to be the father I want to be.