What I remember most about being at school, especially at secondary, was I was waaay too sure of myself. Even though it now makes me cringe, I can remember saying things like ‘I always get what I want’. I thought I was charmingly confident as I soared from one stratospheric success to another. Good grades? You bet. Student awards? I had bucket loads. Friends? If only Facebook was around then – my number of virtual chums would have topped any chart. Boyfriend? He looked like he’d just walked off the set from a surfing movie. Little did I know, I was later to come crashing down to Earth with a nasty bump.
I wanted to be an actress. Trouble was, I didn’t take the time, and nor did I have access to the knowledge, to find out HOW to actually do that. I blindly applied to all the top drama schools, despite only having school production experience behind me. Perhaps my teachers should have pointed out I needed professional productions to shout about, and that places like RADA and the Central School of Speech and Drama prefer a drama degree or similar before you apply there. Perhaps I should have found that out for myself.
Six rejection letters followed. I had NEVER failed or been refused for anything before. Initially I laughed it off, then I had a tantrum of epic proportions before finally I was just devastated. I had no clue what to do in terms of moving forward.
“You’ll just have to wait until you get your results and go through clearing.” Was the response I got from my careers advisor when I went wailing to her office for, well, careers advice. “In the meantime, find another course that you might like to do.”
I eventually set my heart on Public Relations purely because the Absolutely Fabulous TV series was in full throttle at this time. I did absolutely no research into what a PR career entailed – which my lecturer very pointedly suggested I do when he told me he would accept me onto his course (a suggestion I failed to listen to).
In the three years that followed, I broke up with my (in my eyes) god-like boyfriend a week after following him across the country (he realised he couldn’t continue to two-time me if I was living in the same town), was quite severely bullied in my second year and put more effort into my waitressing job than my actual degree – to the point where I very nearly failed it. To this day I’m forever grateful to the unknown university staff member who picked through my shambles of a dissertation before arranging for my minor subject (media studies) to carry more weighting than my major (PR).
After graduating, I spent about 18 months working for an independent marketing agency before realising I was bored and stressed. I wanted to go back to my love of drama and got a job as a Press Officer for a local theatre. Now in my early twenties, I also had a failed marriage behind me – something I’m still not proud of. I was severely in debt, confused about where to go in terms of my career and (probably due to the university bullying and aforementioned failed marriage) really didn’t like myself very much.
Working in theatre was great for a few years. They may have been strictly ‘Z List’ but I met some famous people and made some wonderful friends – the social life was amazing! I learned a lot about empathy and dealing with people as well as working to deadlines and being under pressure. But the industry is not for the thin-skinned or faint-hearted and I became disillusioned. I wanted something more fulfilling and, dare I say it, a job where I could have time off!
Teaching! It would be perfect! 13 weeks ‘off’ every year! I would write in my spare time, travel; see my family! That’s right: I became a teacher initially because I wanted my six week summer holiday back. Let me be very clear – this is ABSOLUTELY NOT an intelligent reason to go into teaching. I’ve been incredibly lucky in that in turns out I love what I do, my students are amazing and I couldn’t ask for better colleagues. However, it could easily have gone the other way and I could have been one of the thousands of newly-qualified teachers who resign within their first year.
Right now, I have a job I love and have found my soul mate. We live in what we consider to be a beautiful flat and at the time of writing the sun is shining. The downside is I never have time to do the things I want to do and everything costs way too much money. My wardrobe could also do with an update.
The moral of my story so far? Do your research. Be it college or university courses, where you live, who you want to live with, how to behave at a party, what to wear – research, research, research. And before you shout ‘But how? What?’ that’s what Girl Did Good is here to help you with.