My path to get to where I am now has taken me in various directions since I left school after 5th year at the age of 16 (almost 17) to where I am now at almost 42 years old.
I enjoyed my secondary education at Aith Junior High School. They really were the best years and best teachers. I studied at a Credit level over 3rd and 4th year (top end of Standard Grades) and obtained very good results in my final exams. 2 1's and 6 2's. I reluctantly decided that my next best option was to carry on my education at a higher level and I decided I would go and try 5th year at the old Anderson High School. Living in Walls at that time, I had to go and live in the Hostel as the daily school bus home only went as far as Bixter.
I didn't really like the change of school and to be honest I struggled with being away from home. I got lost on many occasions and went around with the map of the school for the first few months. I found the teachers so different from the ones at Aith. I was very out of my comfort zone. However I pushed through and completed 5th year with absolutely no intention of carrying on to 6th year. My higher results had let me down. I didn't even get a grade for one of them and only a C for English and a D for History. I was gutted.
I had no intentions of going 'Doon Sooth' for university and there were limited options here in Shetland at that time. I applied to the Shetland College for a health and care course which I hoped would start a career in care and was hopeful of working in my local care centre, Wastview. Having grown up living next to the sheltered housing scheme, I was very familiar with older folk and felt I would like to pursue this further. I attended my very first interview for this course and was very nervous. I struggled to answer the questions and really I just fluffed it. The letter came soon after to say they were very sorry but I hadn't been accepted. Another let down.
I had left school and had no idea what I was going to do next. It all felt a bit overwhelming. I had a good cry and then picked myself back up and pondered over my options. I was not going to go back to school so I needed a job. The career I wanted was off the table. I called up my previous after school employer, Angela, from the Walls Bakery and asked if they had any work going. Angela said 'Yes', you can start on Monday. Relief!!. I loved my time there. I learned so much. Much more than just how to pack bread. It built my confidence and gave me a chance to learn new skills, grow my work ethic and supported me through challenging and sad times such as when my Dad died later that same year when I was 17. It was an environment with people I knew and trusted. The bakery was my new comfort zone.
I worked at the bakery until I had my first child at the age of 22 in 2003. A new chapter in my life. I didn't go back to the bakery immediately when my maternity leave was up but financial pressures meant I went back for 15 hours a week which was plenty with a small one around. I then started some hours working in the Walls shop and then the Post Office as well which I loved. It was a very social job and I got to meet loads of different folk. I learned new computer skills and with the tills and the post office counter role which was quite challenging initially. I also decided to apply to Wastview Care Centre for some relief domestic and Kitchen work which I was successful with. I loved these jobs and they were quite flexible being a relief role so I was able to fit them around my family. A few of my colleagues would try and encourage me to try a social care worker role. I would always say 'oh, I dunna ken if I wid mak a good carer'!!. My confidence was knocked and I was scared to try it again. They kept at me so I gave it a chance and applied. First some relief shifts. I absolutely loved it. It was such a rewarding job. I was eventually able to get a contracted post of 15 hours. I threw myself into all the training available I was keen to improve my skills and knowledge. Completing my SVQ 2 in 2009 was a great achievement and I was quite proud of myself. My Mam was very proud but was not happy with me at my graduation when I refused to wear a gown. So I promised her if I ever did my SVQ 3 I would wear one then. I was fairly confident that this would never happen.
I went on to have more children in 2013 and 2015. When back at work in 2014, I decided to just concentrate on working at Wastview so I didn't return to the shop and post office after my maternity leave was finished. My senior at work was always encouraging me to apply to start the SVQ 3 award but initially I was hesitant. Saying 'I don't know if I would be able to do that'. I also had a few staff members telling me that they thought I would make a good senior myself. Again I would say 'no, I don't think I could do that'. I continued to work away and keep learning.
2019 came, and with it later in the year an opportunity of a Senior post arose. I thought 'oh why not!!. I will apply for a fun and the process will be a learning curve'. Having not done an application form for many years or an interview in long, it would give me a chance to see the process again. I was successful in an 'Acting' senior role which was only temporary but I was excited and ready for a new challenge. With it I started doing my SVQ 3 award. Once completed, I duly kept my promise to my Mam and wore a graduation gown much to her delight.
Fast forward to now. I am in a contracted senior role at Wastview. I have almost completed my SVQ 4. The equivalent of the third year of a degree. I am very proud of myself and all I have achieved. I have had amazing support from my husband (my rock) and my family who have been there to encourage me along the way. It may seem to have taken a long time but life sometimes gets in the way. I always say 'what’s meant to be won't pass you by'.
There is no right or wrong way to follow your dreams. There are so many more opportunities in Shetland now for those who don't feel able to leave the island. I wish the Modern Apprenticeship courses were and option for me when I left school. Learning on the job with staff who have many years of experience is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to learn. If your path takes you off island, that is great too. I have never worked outside of Walls. My home village and my happy place.