When I was little, I wanted to be everything. A doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, everything. I wanted so much that I didn’t actually know what I wanted at all.
I chose GCSEs that I enjoyed and was good at (French, Spanish, Music and Physical Education). I had my first operation when I was 16, not long before my GCSE exams, so I had to drop Music and PE as there was no way I would be able to pass the exams after missing so much school.
I went on to do A Levels and chose English Literature, Theatre Studies, Psychology and Media Studies. I went in with a fierce determination because I didn’t want my GCSE grades to affect my future. I had another operation and had to drop Psychology and Media Studies because I’d missed so much. Again.
Then I broke my arm on my way to my first exam. So you could say my education was interrupted. Really interrupted.
I didn’t hold much hope that my grades were going to be any good, but when I came out with good enough grades to go to University, I chose subjects that I actually wanted to do. I graduated in 2012 with a degree in English and Creative Writing and still had no idea what I wanted to do. I was just happy to graduate with all of my remaining body parts.
I got a job in a bar (several bars!) because I love being around people, but serving drunk customers night after night and coming home smelling of beer, you start to think of your life choices. If only I hadn’t had that operation, if only I’d done a different degree, if only…
Then one day, at the most soul-destroying job I could’ve found (please don’t ever put me back in a booth with no one to talk to!), I decided enough was enough and I was going to law school. A year later, I completed my Graduate Diploma in Law, despite life throwing family-sized hurdles in my way for the final 6 months. I was incredibly proud of myself.
After a year working in retail, I decided to go back to law school to do my Legal Practice Course so took a job in an office doing the standard 9-5 to save up money. But when life handed me £10,000, I picked up my life and moved to London, dreaming of getting a job at a law firm who would sponsor me through my LPC. After 3 months, I realised that 100 law students were vying for the same positions and moved home to save up for law school myself.
Within two weeks of moving home, I found a temp job at a college and only left when I got my dream job in a top 50 law firm.
I practically skipped to work on my first day. I was so excited that I tried to soak it all up. The suits, the intelligent conversations, even the admin girls had a legal education. This was my big break.
After struggling for almost 2 months, I had a panic attack on the way to work.
I couldn’t even look at the building without my heart pounding. I went to the doctors who said I’d developed situational depression, caused by my job. She prescribed anti-depressants and signed me off for 3 weeks to allow them to kick in, then I tried to go back to work.
The first day back, I got to the road next to the office and had to stop myself from walking in front of a tram. I wasn’t ready to go back. The doctor signed me off again.
When I tried to go back again, I had a panic attack on the steps. The next attempt, a panic attack in the office. This just wasn’t what I wanted and I’d pushed myself through so much that my body literally wouldn’t allow me to do it anymore.
It’s not that I couldn’t do the job. I was struggling to find my place in the team; I felt unwelcome, I felt like I wasn’t supported, I felt that I was being pushed to the side because they were too busy to teach me anything. I had decided to do the menial tasks to the best of my ability, even rearranging the files into number order so the lawyers could find them easily… I even asked to shadow other admin girls to show I was interested in learning as much as possible but I hated it.
I’d had enough. I handed in my resignation and started a new job the following week.
It was a simple temporary admin job at a small recruitment company. I was given autonomy to just get the job done and it was incredible. My confidence grew in leaps and bounds and I was back to my old self. No medication. No panic attacks and after 5 months, I had the confidence to pack my bags and move to Australia.
It’s incredible what a good manager can do, and the team was amazing too. I felt supported, I felt needed, I felt at home as soon as I sat at my desk. I actually miss that job, even though I came home most days with some sort of complaint. I couldn’t wait to get to work every day.
A job should be more than something that pays the bills.
The average person’s workday looks like this:
- 6:30 am – wake up
- 7:30 am – leave for work
- 6:00 pm – return home from work
- 10:00 pm – go to bed
We do this five days a week, then feel the need to go out at the weekend to ‘live our lives’ and be happy.
Please, if you only take one thing from this post, let it be this. You spend some much of your life at work, make sure you enjoy it because your happiness is so much more important than a job. If it doesn’t fit, don’t cut off your toe like Cinderella’s ugly step-sister. Just move on. It’s ok.
You haven’t failed.