Growing up, I dreamed of being a vet. I found all animals fascinating and I seemed to have an affinity with them. I should have been born into a family of naturalists! I think my obsession with becoming a vet probably spun out of family telling me I should be a vet; mainly because I could get tablets down the throat of the wildest cat, while they spat and scratched and wriggled free for others, leaving the well-meaning human maimed and cursing cats everywhere, I could somehow do it with a minimum of fuss. Clipping nails, training dogs to sit and stay, grooming, bathing, this was my domain.
We had a wide variety of pets,
ranging from guinea pigs to goannas. We never had a monkey which I would
have loved, and I never got the longed-for pony. We thought all children
in Australia rode horses to school, having watched tv shows where they did, my
pony was all but guaranteed when we moved here; it was not to be.
What no-one knew, as I became more and more convinced that I would become a vet one day, was that Maths and Science would be my weakest subjects and were of course pre-requisites to Vet science; Trigonometry sounded the death knell on my dreams.
Well, if I couldn’t be a vet, then I
would be an actor. According to my family there’s no money in acting, this was
not a career my family could get behind. In high school there was no one to
help students discern where their strengths lay, or none that I remember. I was
a prolific reader and writer, which should have been a clue; when the rest of
the class groaned as the teacher wrote “What I did on my holidays” I would be
digging in my desk for paper and have the first chapter finished before others
had come up with a first sentence. My teacher would emphasise, for my
benefit, only one page please; alas, according to my family, there was no money
in a writing career either.
I began to give up on the future in the early part of year eleven, drama, singing and writing were the only things I seemed to be good at. I became so disheartened that I tried to take my own life, unsuccessfully of course, which added to my sense of failure. I felt all I had to offer the world was my mediocre skill as a chemist shop girl. How childish it all sounds now, but at the time it was literally life and death.
I decided running away from home was
the answer and it worked for a few weeks, but my father found me and made me
come home. I refused to go back to school to face the humiliation of
failure there, so with no hope of a bright future and all my dreams in broken
pieces, I started a job as an office girl. This began a long, weary
litany of one dreary office job after another.
I learned how to answer phones, be polite to customers, file alphabetically, dress neatly, turn up on time and how to avoid actually doing any work at all. I learnt how the world of city office jobs worked; men made all the decisions and young girls needed to look pretty to get a job. They also had to learn very quickly how to handle sleazy old guys and randy young ones; sexual harassment was the norm.
I never thought of any of my jobs as a career, mainly because I had given up on my dreams, I was just going through the motions. No surprise then that alcohol and drugs became my choice of escape. Going out for drinks after work was a common occurrence and it was frowned on if you didn’t have several drinks; this was the beginning of a decade of numbness and oblivion.
I ended up getting a job at the blood bank somehow, working as a nursing aide, trained on the job. It turned out I had an affinity for helping humans as well as animals. It also turned out I was a quick study and I found it all completely absorbing, maths was not a requirement. I probably could have had a nursing career if that had only entered my head, that or a primary or kinder teacher; 100% on all the tests should have told me something. After a while, the blood bank became yet another mind numbing job, so I went to a recruitment office in my lunch break one day, interviewed well and landed an office managers role at a new Collins street medical clinic. It sounded exciting, but it was slightly better paid drudgery with patient interaction on the side, working for two very ego driven doctors.
I left after five years to have a
baby and never went back, they didn’t factor in maternity leave in those days.
Turned out I was pretty awesome at being a mum and could relate well to kids of
any age. Who knew? Not me! I think I was going way too fast
to slow down and think about what it was I could contribute to society or the
world at large. I rarely, if ever, planned ahead or dreamed dreams back
then, they had disappointed me in the past so it was easier not to think.
Two years into my new career as a
mum, I became a fully fledged Christ follower, with all the trimmings. My
life took on new meaning and I began to take yet another trajectory. The
mind numbing escapism stopped with a jolt and I woke up at last. For a
long time I regretted all the years I’d wasted, but someone helped me see that
God could use even my mistakes. The real change began with hospitality I
suppose, I just opened up our home to anyone who needed refuge, a place to pray
and someone to pray with, a meal, a bed for the night or the year. Glyn
went along with it all thankfully, poor guy. God began to send more and
more people, young, old, creative, lonely, troubled in their marriage, troubled
Along with this new way of seeing
people and encouraged by Ross Green, I got involved in music, first with
children and then worship leading; I even started writing children’s
songs. The flame of my creativity began to flicker and as long as I
didn’t shine too brightly it didn’t upset anyone. The church lapped up my
meagre music gift and I sang and played guitar as often as I could. We opened
up to the world of drama, puppets and even clowning.
Little by little it became clear to
me that not everyone could relate to young people as easily as I could and that
my words had an impact in their lives. I decided to study theology,
majoring in Youth so I could answer all their tricky questions, instead I
learned to ask them. I am eternally grateful that my dad got to see me
graduate. I was thirty-five but I was the first of his brood to wear a
cap and gown. Dad was an academic and held education above all else, and
although years late, I was proud to take out the prize for youth min that year
for his sake.
I had been volunteering working with youth for years, but now with my qualification I would be paid for the privilege. I worked for ten years in a very regimented environment and in the end I had to leave to preserve what little of me there was left. I gained much in the way of experience; leadership was idolised and creativity was seen as ‘touchy feely’ and unnecessary. I am thankful for all that I experienced and gained, but I am saddened to this day that my creative self, my very soul, almost faded out completely.
I tried teaching singing and guitar at the local high school for a couple of years but the world of high school teaching is a very negative, isolating world and I decided to take a year off to write a book before I became as negative and gloomy as the teachers around me. Glyn was so supportive and encouraging, but little did I know I actually needed time to recover. That year everything was stacked against me and I ended up hardly writing anything let alone a book. I did manage to write a bunch of stuff and to do some online courses, even one in a classroom, but then the year was over. I had buried two friends, a horse and our dear little dog and almost lost my husband to a gall bladder attack and that’s just some of what happened.
I ended up going back to work in
admin for a church feeling like I had come full circle. So, my ‘career’
has wandered here, there and everywhere and I have just launched into a new
church admin job, will I ever learn?
I have learned a few things on the
way, like it’s not about the money or the prestigious titles or even the clever
answers, it’s certainly not about the test scores, even when they’re 100% most
of the time, it is about doing the next right thing, whatever that happens to
If there is a moral to this story, I don’t know what it is! I am still me and I am who I am because of all the experiences I have had and perhaps I could have been someone completely different, if only I had known then what I know now. I am content to be me and I’m now far less willing to compromise my creativity and much happier to shine quite brightly if necessary. I am looking forward to where God leads me next.