At 19, studying for my A-levels I had quite a lot of abdominal pain. A trip to the GP led to a referral for a scan and the possibility of an ‘infection’ pelvic inflammatory disease. I was devasted at the possibility my then fiancé had been up to no good and so I went to the hospital by myself, shamed and embarrassed only to discover I had a tumour the size of a grapefruit on my left ovary.
Two weeks later I was in surgery having said ovary removed and was left with a scar and recovery akin to a caesarean.
A few weeks later I found out I hadn’t done so well in my A-levels.
A few months later I felt I wasn’t ready to start my degree in Estate Management.
And so, things ground to a halt.
I made a conscious decision to not think about having children. I wasn’t broody as such, but being in a long term relationship, I was constantly asked would my lack of an ovary affect my chances of having children. It was overly personal and downright awkward.
I took on a YTS job as a school receptionist (those who know me might well find that hilarious!). I moved about on temping jobs gaining experience in customer service and marketing and found a steady job working in the call centre of a mail order car parts firm handling complaints and was doing really well at it.
I had what seemed a great life, ‘landed’ as they say back home. House, car, cat, lovely fella.
Then one morning I woke up and thought – will life get any better than this? It wasn’t a positive feeling it was a sinking feeling. I felt ashamed I wasn’t satisfied with my lot, ungrateful even. I struggled for a long time spiralling into a depression that left me teary and unable to sleep. Generally, I was just very, very sad.
Looking back, I most certainly had depression – yes it happens to young people who seem to have it all. Back then, as weird as it sounds now there was no internet or anyone to talk to about how I felt.
No matter how good things are in life, if they don’t tick your boxes you can feel trapped, alone and frustrated. You survive, you don’t thrive.
There was little careers advice about. My challenge was needing to earn to pay the mortgage, so I looked about for courses I could do to build on my skills – marketing and business administration mainly. A friend’s mum Mrs Valentine was a careers advisor and so I had a chat with her. Career’s advice is generally poor and gets quite a slating, but she was really helpful. We talked about what I wanted to do before my illness and she encouraged me to apply for a degree at the local college. She pointed out there was funding available at the time especially for environmental science.
It was too big a jump from my safe world. I knew if I went the whole hog studying full time my life would change – my nice comfortable life. Too big a step. Things would change. I would change.
So, I took a small step and resigned from my job, found myself some part time temping work and signed up to re-sit my geology A-level and a business administration course. I could do this balancing act.
I remember my last day at work, it was just so liberating, and I felt brave. I was doing this! I left on the Friday to start my course on the Monday.
Not only back then was there no internet, there were no mobile phones either and I got home from work to find a message left on my phone to say the business administration course had been cancelled, sorry about that.
I was devasted, but I couldn’t let myself slip into tears. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone. We had a busy weekend planned with some local events and I drifted through it all in a daze and gained some perspective. If I didn’t do something, I would just drown here.
Monday morning, I walked straight into the local college explained my predicament and as I did, a lecturer from the Estate Management course was passing. He remembered me and heard what had happened. I signed up to do what I had wanted to some 5 years earlier and the rest they say is history.
A few years later I came across this poem, I have it pinned up on my wall.
- The Summer Day – Mary Oliver
I’m always quite sceptical when people talk about the power of the universe, but I do believe some things are meant to be. You just need to take that leap of faith and trust life. Yes, my world did change significantly. I moved away, found a different fiancé some years later (who is now my husband) and my career has been my baby when I thought I wouldn’t have children and I have since been blessed with two beautiful cheeky children.
What I didn’t have back then was encouragement to explore and go for it and is why I am now so passionate about supporting careers in surveying, especially women through the RICS, the Surveying Sisterhood and LionHeart.
It is also of the reasons I have taken the opportunity to deliver workshops for LionHeart – there were points in my life where I was given a nudge in the right direction and the right encouragement and that made all the difference to me. LionHeart gives those of us in the surveying community access to experienced coaching, counselling or sometimes just a sounding board, and the workshops also offer chance to network and learn from others in the same profession.
You can find out more about LionHeart here.