The first thing I remember wanting to be as a kid was a train driver. I have no idea why, although suspect I was heavily influenced by Thomas The Tank Engine.
From there I decided I wanted to drive something a bit bigger, so decided I wanted to be an astronaut instead. I did a project on Space at school and we went to Jodrell Bank for research and I remember really liking, although not entirely understanding, the massive telescope that had no lenses.
After that idea wore off I moved on to becoming a vet. I’d grown up with pets and Mum’s side of the family are farmers so I was always exposed to a wide variety of animals. I did a lot of work experience and “voluntary work” (it was work, it was voluntary, it was just that it was provided by friends of friends and not entirely structured) but it came down to one cold morning with frost on the ground and I turned up at this farm with the vet I was accompanying to watch him pregnancy test a full herd of cows. I couldn’t picture myself doing that when I was 65 years old, despite the fact that it “keeps one of your hands warm”.
The final nail in the Vet Science coffin came at college when it became obvious I was never going to be able to get the grades required to get in to uni for such a competitive course. I realise that’s defeatist, but at some time you also have to be realistic and I felt that there was a point where I was pushing myself to glorious failure by taking on too much, rather than maybe achieving something that was second best.
As it happens, I was just rubbish at A-Levels anyway and that somewhat crushed my ideas to study Optometry. Medicine never really appealed, probably swayed by my Dad’s experiences, but allied health care professions seemed like a nice alternative, from the job itself to the fact that I believe people’s sight is one of the most valuable commodities they have. Alas, no. Despite getting a pretty good offer from UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, as it was at the time) my A-Levels were near disastrous. It was a hard time coming home to see headlines of exams getting easier when you failed as badly as I did. (Technically I didn’t fail any, they just weren’t what they needed).
All of a sudden you’re faced with a decision affecting your future, and you have to make it quickly. Having done badly with science A-Levels the pragmatic decision was not to take the offer of a place studying Physiology (as interesting as I think it would have been) in the hope of gaining a place on the Optometry course and go off on a tangent. I mooted traveling for a year. I was going to be the first of my friends to go Australia; I now seem to be the only person who hasn’t. I still really want to go if I can find someone to show me around.
I also thought about starting my own business doing webdesign, as that was at a time when there was probably so little in the technology side that you could pick it up with a little HTML knowledge and knowing how to install a content management system.
Instead I decided to study Law. I rang the university on the Tuesday I think it was and got a place to start on the Thursday. The idea of Law was that it might be interesting and it might open a few doors away from practice that maybe other subjects wouldn’t. I’d spent my life geared towards science which I found really interesting but I felt I’d reached my limit, so may as well try something else. I started some work experience at high street firms as my A-Levels would not have been good enough to get me a job at a city firm and it became apparent that I didn’t want to practise anyway. Everyone I worked with seemed bitter and I hated the environments, and these people were doing basic conveyancing or will writing while working regular hours – it shouldn’t have been that stressful. I’m not saying that’s representative of all high street lawyers, it was just what I saw. When I was at university I was interested in Sports Law, Family Law and Legal Theory, while being pretty good at Gender Law, Succession and Employment Law. Sports Law is really niche, Theory really only gives you a job as an academic while the subjects I was good at did not really inspire me. Family Law I could have gone in to probably, but most of the work comes from dissolution (one way or the other) of the family dynamic and at the time I didn’t think I was someone that could cut myself off from that and focus on the process.
I came out of uni with a solid degree, but no idea how to use it. I sent a speculative CV to where I work now having done some work experience the previous summer. I got invited to cover for a honeymoon for 2 weeks in HR. A few months later I was moved to Payroll and then to Quality where I managed technical specifications. I got my first permanent role in a data management team that was being formed and that is where I am now. It’s enabled me to travel most of Europe and over to America which I enjoyed until it became a “normal” and therefore a bit of a chore. Traveling is more appealing now that it can be done on my own terms.
Truth is that I’m still not entirely sure what I want to be right now. Work is a means to an end for me so as long as I can get some job satisfaction and enjoy my life, that’s fine.
Are any of the things I wanted to be as a kid connected to what I do now? I can’t think how, no. I was actually walking down a pier the other day and noticed the train running passengers from one end to the other and wondered how different my life would be if I’d have stuck with what I wanted to be first.
It’s off to work we go
We keep on singing all day long
Got to make your troubles go
Well, you keep on singing all day long
Heigh-ho by The Seven Dwarfs (yes, I really just did that).