I remember standing outside the institute on a busy Melbourne street. I felt frozen with fear willing myself to go in. At that moment, my phone rang and it was one of my closest friends, I burst into tears. That’s not random. I was attending an information session on a course I wanted to do but I couldn’t get myself through the door. I had four young children at home, aged 1-6, and I was desperately longing to do something just for myself. My friend coached me through the entry, gently reminding me it’s gathering information only. And that is how I stared my pathway to study. Hesitant, not believing I could do it and yet a little excited I might actually achieve something other than mothering my kids.
I finished the course wishing for more. My marriage ended and at the same time I started an undergraduate degree. As you do. I remember submitting my first essay and freaking out when I got the mark back, it said a D. I immediately thought A, B, C, D, that is a shite mark. Then I looked it up, oh okay, it’s actually a distinction. Yay for me. In many ways it kept me focused on something tangible rather than ruminating on the crap unfolding in my divorce. I really do not know how I got through those couple of years, but I do know this study gig was giving me hope and a different future.
I had to take a semester off because it was way too much emotionally with the divorce, that pissed me off. I needed it though. I then thought I’d make up for it and did four university units in one semester, just outright crazy. Pulled it off though. I also did a disc in my back and I have memories of standing in the laundry, laptop on the bench because I couldn’t sit without pain, kids about my feet, writing a difficult essay on cognitive psychology. Blurred is how I would describe that period and I managed some pretty good marks too. Might have been the prescription pain killers.
I wanted to quit out a few times especially when doing three units of statistics that just got harder. There was a high failure rate, students were repeating for the second and third times. Far out. My friends told me not to quit but to get a tutor. I did. I passed those units without failing. Phew. I finished that degree in 3.5 years, not bad for a solo mother of four young kids. I then sold the matrimonial home, down-sized and re-committed to supporting myself whilst forging my new pathway back into the workforce. Maybe one day I could contribute to my own super fund. And that was a big thought for me.
Of course, I signed up for some more study, completed a post-graduate certificate. Still I was not satisfied. Yep, it was a Masters next. Bring it on. I was pretty efficient at managing home life and study by now, also adding in running a small business. This is when the gallery appeared, I was scoffed at for that and told I should get a real job. Some of those moments had me reeling in self-doubt. At times I felt stripped bare of feeling worthy and that I deserved something fantastic for myself. Thankfully, my friend’s voices were much louder than my self-doubt. Rock on gorgeous friends, I love you.
My Masters has been monumental, in volume of work and continuing to believe that I could do this. I am very familiar with the old imposter voice often declaring “who are you to want something better for yourself?” Then the gallery pops up again, telling me I should just get a mindless casual job like all single mothers do. I sunk into that statement, especially as it was said in front of my daughter and full of disrespect. Ultimately, every snide remark made me more determined. I realized my kids might have heard those disparaging comments, however my actions were speaking a lot louder. I cared about my example to them much more than the critics on the sidelines. They have watched their mother rise. And it seems in spite of the gallery, my own self-doubt, I was up for the task as I have just received notification I can apply to graduate. I am done. Happy dance.
I wouldn’t give up this road I’ve paved for myself for anything. Stressful yes, and at times, so very busy. Many have helped me along the way, too many to mention. The greatest advice I got when considering study was “the time will pass anyway”, it certainly has but I’ve come through with some considerable education behind me. I’ve challenged both my inner voice and it seems a few other critical voices. Maybe they’ll all shut the hell up now. I can pinpoint the reason I have succeeded and it is only because of the effort, I showed up. Kicking and screaming sometimes but I never, ever gave up. Throw in an ocean of logistics (thanks to the Colonel, my father, I ace organization) and the determination to create something brilliant for myself it has been a mighty undertaking.
The kids want me to do a PhD now. “Hell no”, was my answer. My brain is tired. I need to do some hiking, and I’ve taken up cycling. I’ve got some great trips planned spilling over into 2019, and there are job opportunities opening up as well as my own practice and Leaning Inwards. I finish 2017 knowing there has been endings which also means there are many new beginnings arriving, and it feels amazing. I feel bold, fierce actually. The gamble I took on my life coupled with the tiny belief it might be possible to create something better for me has paid off. I’m not a betting girl but when it now comes to myself I will back myself every time. And as for the gallery, I believe it has gone quiet, I like to think rendered speechless from here to eternity.