As a 37 year old, father to two precious girls, with a seemingly successful 20 year career in financial services behind me, my desire to go to university has surprised many. However, as is true in life, there is more to a person’s story than can be assumed from merely looking at them or applying presumptions about their stage in life... to understand my dream to go to university now, you need to understand what’s led me to this point.
As an 18 year old, fresh from scraping through my A-levels, I had the opportunity to go to university. At that point, however, I was trying to pick myself up after three torturous years of bullying in secondary school, I was reeling from an inability to concentrate and make the most of my A-levels in sixth form, plus I was in love! I had little self-confidence at that stage, had no proven ability to apply myself to studying and wasn’t going for the lifestyle; as is the delusion of the all-conquering first love! So, deciding not to waste further time in education, I instead opted to work full-time. Financial services seemed a smart fit while I figured out what to do with my life; I loved real maths, some of my family were financial advisers and I wanted to start earning, to finance an adult life - first home, holidays, car, etc. I was 18 and I secured employment working for a highly respect investment company. I embarked on a crash-course in surviving – then later thriving – in the adult world of work.
I stayed there for 9 years in all. I held various positions – some I enjoyed, many I didn’t – the highlights from that time; I met a lady who would later become my wife and the mother to my children. While professionally, I challenged myself and slowly climbed the ranks. Sadly, it ended on a sour note after my bosses let me down in style when my wife fell ill and was hospitalised. While still struggling with her health, my wife fell pregnant with our first child. I had a big decision to make; by this stage, my income was the only thing keeping us afloat and I needed to earn more to enable us to survive as a family of three. There were many things I didn’t like about working in financial services, but needs must! I embarked on my first real financial services exams, a move designed to open up my options for higher earning potential. Shortly after completing the Certificate in Financial Planning, with my wife now five months pregnant, I secured a role as a financial adviser for a large bank. Now that was a rough time, it must be said; the credit crunch had just begun at a time when I was a first-time mortgage and protection adviser for one of the big banks. Add to that, my wife’s pregnancy was traumatic, followed by the joy, yet incredible pressure, of becoming a father.
As of today, I’ve worked in the banking environment for over ten years. I only advised for three; it really isn’t a role that sits comfortably alongside the pressures of having a young family! Especially with a wife that was poorly. So I moved into compliance. I completed the Diploma in Financial Planning and I climbed the ranks to eventually becoming a manager in a highly technical and pressured environment.
My ‘career’ has been one of necessity. When I was 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones that has a passion for a career in teaching, or medicine, or anything specific. I was a lost boy that hadn’t matured socially during his school years due to bullying and I had no self-confidence. No real self-identity, in truth. It’s only through the benefit of hindsight that I understand how vital those years are for a child, helping them to mature into a young adult with a purpose and passion. Trauma, isolation, bullying, whatever the impact may be, can rob a child of maturing at the same rate as others. In my case, I was a shell of a ‘man’ at 18 and it took me years before I had an identity of my own. In fact, it was in my late-twenties that I finally had some intent about the career path I wished to follow. Two main avenues stood out to me then; the police and primary school teaching. I looked into my options for both – in fact, I applied to join the police force many years ago – but the truth was, I was trapped in a career I didn’t choose, with no real option to change direction. Financially, my wife couldn’t work, so my income was necessary to meet our mortgage and living costs.
I was never passionate about my career in financial services. In truth, there were a few roles I’ve held over the years that I felt some passion for, but those moments were fleeting. By the time my marriage came to an end towards the end of 2016, following a nervous breakdown in February 2016 – a story in itself! – I had felt desperately trapped in my career and my life for years. It’s a horrible, panic-inducing feeling, to have no control over the direction in which your life is heading. While it’s not ideal to be starting over at my age, I consider whatever happens from hereon to be a blessing. That’s because I’m now making choices!
It felt like the end of the world when my marriage ended and I was confronted with a future as a part-time father. My children are my world and I’d pushed myself beyond my breaking point in order to provide the best life I could for my family. It was a couple of months into my new life when it dawned on me – my silver lining – I have a do-over at life! I can follow my dreams. I can choose a path for myself and I can live the way one should live; with passion. With intent.
I began 2017 with one short-term goal; improving my science GCSE to a C grade. I didn’t want to force myself to decide my future at that point, as I know that real clarity of mind comes organically, so I simply considered my options. My desire to join the police had long since passed; the starting salary and the state of the country were handicaps. So at that point, with a career in primary teaching as a real option, I needed to ensure my GCSE grades were adequate. Unfortunately, life had another cruel joke to play on me; I collapsed after a Thai kickboxing session and this led to the discovery that I had a heart defect. I had two surgeries in February last year to set me right, but it provided me with a further period of reflection.
I started 2018 by completing the Biology GCSE papers and then I gave real thought to what direction I want to move in for my future career. While primary teaching still appeals to me, a burning desire has come through over the last 12 months. As most people do, I’ve suffered many traumas and setbacks in my life. For numerous reasons, I’ve had cause to experience various forms of counselling and psychiatric support over the last 15 years; either for myself or in support of others. I’ve seen first-hand the impact that the right kind of support can have on the quality of life someone suffers/enjoys. I’ve always been fascinated in psychology; how different people are. Body language and social cues, the impact of trauma, the human ability to adapt. Therein lies my passion; to help other people as I’ve been helped (saved, in truth). So, why uni? The big, first step in realising my dream of a career that I can be passionate about. I’ve had an unconditional offer for a place with my first choice university for this coming September and I’ll be studying psychology… and I can’t wait to get started!