Words by Jenny Lowry
I’ll be 28 next month, and I just graduated…for the second time. I left school in 2011 and went straight to Uni to study BSc Sociology and Criminology. I enjoyed the degree to a certain extent, but I knew it wasn’t for me after the end of first year. But I was too stubborn to admit that to myself, I thought I would be a failure if I “dropped out” without really knowing what I wanted to do. I ended up pushing myself through the course and graduated in 2014. From there, I worked as a Legal Secretary, a job a lot of people thought was fantastic and I should have been so “proud of myself for getting this far so young.” In reality I was miserable. I had so much anxiety about work, and my life in general.
In the back of my mind I knew this corporate life wasn’t for me. I really was miserable and my mental health suffered a lot, I had crippling anxiety about going into work. Even if I drove past the office at the weekend, I would feel sick and my heart would start racing. But in other ways my life was great – I was getting married and buying a house, so I stayed in my job thinking it was the right thing to do to keep my life on track. I always thought I had a plan for when things in my life should happen. But clearly life had other plans for me.
In 2017 I decided enough was enough, I quit my role as a Legal Secretary and got a job as a care worker. I had always been intrigued by the idea of Occupational Therapy as a career, so with a lot of nerve and unwavering support from my husband I decided it was now or never. I applied for Uni at the last possible minute, sat the entrance exam, and was accepted. I started my second degree at the age of 25.
And I wasn’t alone. At least half of my year group were “mature students” with previous degrees. It made me realise that it literally does not matter if your life timeline doesn’t line up with what you expected, or what others expect from you. And you are not alone, there will always be people who are in the same boat.
Doing a Bachelor’s degree again was really, really hard. Especially when I was running a house and had bills to pay. I worked part time as a care worker throughout, working less hours in my final year because I knew my future was more important. I am very fortunate to have really supportive friends and family who helped me out financially. I hated asking for money but they really were more than happy to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, your friends and family will surprise you with their generosity.
There were many times over the past three years when I thought I’d made the wrong decision – I felt like I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself and my family. I thought maybe I should have just got over myself and stayed where I was. But my mental health is far more important, and so is yours!
In the midst of Covid-19 I “graduated” with a first-class honours BSc Occupational Therapy. And I’ve never been prouder of myself. I’ve also just started a temporary job as an Occupational Therapist in a Stroke Unit – I’m loving it so far. Getting to where I am now, I know in my heart I made the right decision.
If you’re feeling out of place, and your gut is telling you that where you are isn’t where you are meant to be – listen to it. You can start again, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to quit your job and go back to Uni, whatever it looks like for you is perfectly ok. Just know, if something is meant for you, it will work out.