I was severely bullied at school in Birmingham, whilst studying for my GCSEs so, when I was 15, I decided to move to Buckinghamshire to live with my Mum and Stepdad. Off I went, with two cracked ribs, lumps of missing hair and a seriously bruised sense of myself. I’d been broken down by my tormentors and I hated school. Starting at a new place, with my thick Brummy accent and the anxiety of being the new girl took its toll on my education, and although I achieved average GCSE grades, my previously academic natural was in tatters, like my confidence.
Never the less, I returned to the school in Bucks for my A Levels. By this time, I’d become friends with a wonderful group of people and finally felt like I fit in somewhere. Then half way through the first term, the bombshell was delivered. My parents were being relocated to Malaysia through my Stepdad’s work. I’d been given three choices. I could return to Birmingham, which in my mind was an absolute no, I could go to a boarding school, or I could relocate with them.
I chose the latter, and just after Christmas in 2002, we packed up our lives and got an Emirates flight to Kuala Lumpur.
As I turned 17, I started at Alice Smith International School, just outside of the city. I was the new girl again! I managed to make a few friends but I couldn’t keep up in the classes. The curriculum and the level that they worked at was slightly different to what I’d been used to. My parents were called into the school after my second term there to discuss my grades and we all decided I needed to move back to the UK.
So, for the third time, I packed up my life and went back to Birmingham. I enrolled in college to restart my A Levels but by this point I had checked out of education. I rarely attended my classes and would usually be found in the pub. When it came to taking my exams, I didn’t even turn up to some of them. I’d given up on myself.
When college ended, I had very bad qualifications and started working full time at the shop I’d been doing weekend shifts at. There I stayed for a few years. I would visit my family back in Malaysia a few times a year and in 2007 I went over for 6 months and worked at Alice Smith International School as a Reception year Teaching Assistant.
The only work experience I’d had up to that point was working as a shop assistant. So, seeing that I was good at doing something else really motivated me. I was good at something! There could be more things that I was good at. I just needed to find them.
I’d always wanted to get a degree but with my horrendous grades and no belief in myself, that just seemed like a pipe dream. When I returned to the UK again, I’d got a temp job working in an office, living week to week. But heading back to KL really inspired me, so, with my new laptop that I got for my 21st birthday (A pink Dell!), I did lots of research and settled on starting a psychology degree with The Open Uni. I’d toyed with the idea of a history degree too, but my heart was firmly with psychology. I love learning about why people behave the way they do – Although, in my opinion, some behaviour is beyond description!
It was such a hard slog for 5 and a half years, working full time, then studying through the night, cramming for several exams each year and giving up parts of my social life. But I got to the end! Each time I passed a module, my confidence grew. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I did it all on my own. I was so pleased to have finished it.
Due to family illness, I missed my graduation, but I got to attend a ceremony in 2017. It was such an emotional day and I was so proud of myself. An unfamiliar feeling for me. I cried, I laughed, I hugged and kissed a lot of people. Then we drank loads of gin and ate a whole heap of pizza to celebrate.
Part way through my degree, I met my Husband, Dean. Meeting him has been pivotal in my change of opinion about myself. He has built me up to become the inspired, confident person I am today, who knows her worth.
He sat up late with me, going through my mind maps and flashcards on the run up to my exams (we still joke about some of the robot voices we did to help me remember long words) and always encourages me to apply for promotions at work.
I’m still in an office job, but now I am a Specialist with the private sector Probation Service. Within this role, I train my colleagues on behavioural economics, so my life still revolves around psychology and behaviours. My studying days now seem like a lifetime ago but you’ll usually find me with my head in some sort of psychology text book on the commute to work (Let me know if you have any recommendations).
Another of my proudest moments was welcoming our son, Teddy, into the world in November last year. He has really tested my strengths and weaknesses to their limit, showing me again that I can do more that I’ve ever expected I could.
Wanting to keep my mind active, I was looking for something to do whilst on Maternity Leave that wouldn’t take time away from Teddy. So, on Mother’s Day this year, inspired by a significant date, Dean and I launched a Midlands based parent network called Not Another Mum Group. It’s still a work in progress, but we’re aiming to connect parents with events, businesses and each other. It’s taken off so much that we have now collaborated with some big brands and have some exciting projects in the works. We do event and product blog reviews, hold regular coffee mornings with Mums who are also on Maternity Leave and arrange monthly family meet ups so the Dads can get involved.
I’ve gone from no qualifications and no significant career prospects, to being happily married with our beautiful boy, a job that I enjoy and website to manage that allows us to work with and meet some wonderful people.
Surround yourself with positive people, who encourage and build you up. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from, just that you make a start in the right direction and keep going forward.
My family have taught me to never underestimate myself because you just don’t know how far you can go.