Where do you begin to tell your story?
I am a full-time single mother to a challenging, boisterous, lovely young (almost) 8 year old lad. Remembering my life Before Child (BC) seems such a distant memory.
I was, what my younger brother called, a square at school. I am very competitive with myself and loved to push myself to continue to do better in everything that I did. It was also my way of trying to stand out amongst my many siblings (five brothers and five sisters…yes, I’ve heard all the jokes).
When you come from a big family, such as mine, you find any way that you can to stand out. I didn’t take the path of a couple of my siblings and do the rebellion thing, try to get in trouble to make mum and dad notice me. I hated disapproval; I still do.
During high school, my cousin passed away. He was a bit older than me but he came to visit us so often, I considered him to be one of my best friends. We would hang out – he probably thought we were completely annoying, but I loved my big city cousin. I will never forget the phone call from my aunt telling us that he was in a coma. He passed away a couple of days later. My mother didn’t allow us to go to the funeral and I don’t think I ever got the closure I needed.
So, I did what I thought everyone wanted me to do once I was finished high school. I signed up to University in Geelong. I was a Geelong supporter so I figured it was where I needed to be. Truth be told, I was lonely. I went from being surrounded by so many people to being completely alone. From having a humble amount of really good friends to knowing basically no one. It was truly confronting to me. And I crumbled, and returned home after six months.
I saw this as a failure on my behalf and was suitably unimpressed with myself.
By the end of that year I had begun working at the local printing establishment, where I stayed for three years. I made some absolutely wonderful friends, some of who I am still in contact with today.
During my tenure at the printing group I saw my life change infinitely. I bought myself a new car at 19. A year later I found myself in the bank applying for a home loan to buy my first home. At 20 years old. I won’t lie, on the meagre wage I was on, I struggled to survive (I WISH I could go back to those home loan repayments!) but the pride I had at owning my own home at such an early age trumped any disappointment I felt.
Six weeks after I turned 21, I went to my mother’s house and was told the news that my brother had passed away. This is when I started to internalise and not allow myself to feel too much for my friends – I pulled away from them and subsequently lost a lot – because I have such a big family. People you don’t get to choose to care about. Why would I want to add to those people I could potentially lose?
To allow myself the closure I thought I needed with my brother’s death, when my mother went to identify him at the morgue, I insisted on being allowed to see him too. That memory is etched on my brain for the rest of my life and is something that I would never wish upon anyone. Seeing someone in the state he was in, let alone my brother, crushed me. But I was determined that I wasn’t going to let anyone see me cry. I wanted to be strong. I didn’t even allow myself to cry at his funeral.
I finished work five months after his death. I felt like I was wasting my potential at a workplace that didn’t allow my talents to shine. And, knowing how fragile life was, I didn’t want to be content with settling for a job that provided me an income and creature comforts. I wanted to be proud of the job I was doing.
A month after this my three year old nephew died. My insular demeanour was only fortified by his passing. His funeral was awful. Seeing my brother and, then, sister-in-law in so much pain broke me internally. There isn’t anything you can say. There aren’t words that can convey the absolute sorrow.
I sat at home on Centrelink benefits for about a year while I was in my rut; I didn’t care. But, I soon found myself bored with this and decided that I was going to make a concerted effort to better myself. I wanted to contribute to my life and better myself. So, I signed up to complete a Certificate II in Business at Bendigo Tafe. I wanted to be the best in my class, so I pushed myself and ended up completing work that was slated for people doing the Certificate above. I didn’t get recognised for this, however.
Once finished, I moved to Western Australia, chasing the dream and got a job at a logistics company. I don’t think I even told some of my close friends that I was leaving. That was how much I had distanced myself from them.
I never really felt like I was treading water at the role I was undertaking. I was shown ‘the ropes’ by the son of one of the owners who, let’s be honest, didn’t have to do much and kept his job because of who he was. He freely admitted this. After a personal tragedy, I returned to Victoria and found myself job searching once again.
Eventually I gained a role at a local disability provider which was meant to be a week’s work. I was there for three months. Then, when that work had finished, I decided I wanted to re-apply for university and got into Ballarat.
This didn’t last when I was offered a maternity leave position at my previous workplace. That is where I stayed, for 15 months. During this time, I found myself pregnant – not planned – and I thought I would have a job to return to. Turns out, I didn’t.
So, for the next two and a half years, I was a stay at home, single mother. If you think you’re struggling, ask a single mum how she’s managing on Centrelink payments with rent, car payments, nappies, formula and food to buy. Struggle Street wasn’t even in it. It was the hardest time of my life. But, it was also the best.
I had a beautiful young boy who depended on me and I loved every minute of it.
I moved to Melbourne chasing love, that didn’t work out, and I ended back in Maryborough and back at my former workplace again. However, this time I have stayed. The first couple of years I worked as hard as I could to prove my worth to my boss.
I’m still there to this day.
Which isn’t to say that it hasn’t been without its issues. Work has been tough. My life has been tougher.
Last year, in February, I was diagnosed with depression (it’s taken a long time for me to openly admit that to anyone).There are a number of factors that lead to this but it was the scariest time of my life. I was encapsulated in a darkness that took hold and didn’t let me go. Not until I made the decision that I needed to.
I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in the Focus Group for Career Change Happens. It may not have changed my career, but it changed me. After the first evening I spent listening to, and soaking up, the wisdom that Maria was imparting, I felt lighter. I felt different. I was changed.
CCH provided me with tools to understand and negotiate life and its many difficulties. To accept that I’m not perfect, and that’s ok. Most of all, I learned that I needed to be kinder to myself. I needed to give myself a break and accept that I couldn’t be everything to everyone. I needed to look after myself so I could look after my son.
This ‘Find Your Calling’ program isn’t a gimmick. It’s life-changing. I don’t say that lightly (I don’t give praise too often). If you give your all, if you are able to accept your own role in the life that you have; you will go far. Best of all, you might even meet some absolutely amazing women, much like I did, who become your cheerleaders. Women who catch you when you fall, who become some of the most important relationships of your life. It became my safe place to fall. And it still is.
If I could complete the CCH program every year for the rest of my life, I would. If I could bottle Maria Smith and sell her to the masses, I would make millions!!!
Take a chance. Not on the program, but on you. You won’t regret it.
A single mum who devotes her life to her son. Kate is an inspiration to everyone who has been through tough times. Her insightful writing explores her own deep inner struggles that many women can relate to. She is courageous and hopes that her writing can help other women break through the barriers that hold us back, through her personal life stories.