Sitting in my parked car outside Dunnes one lunch time, I waited impatiently for an interview to finish. Deirdre Walsh was chatting with two ladies from ‘Moving On’ and my curiosity was aroused. These women spoke candidly about their experience with ‘Moving On’ and how it had changed their lives; helped them find a purpose. I needed some of this ‘Moving On’ stuff! So, when I got home, I googled. I must admit to not being able to establish what it was they did exactly, but I felt I was at nothing else anyway, so what had I to lose? I needed to get back into the workforce and find my purpose after having spent fifteen years at home caring for children and parents.
Fast forward a few months and here I was sitting in a room surrounded by other women and boy was I scared. What had I let myself in for? Introductions were made and we were reminded that ‘what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’ … well not quite Vegas, but in the room! Were we in some covert operation or at an AA meeting? A slight panic came over me.
The two Lisa’s shared their background experiences and Lisa Fingleton filled us in on what we would be doing over the course of ten weeks. I still was not quite feeling it, but her palpable enthusiasm was almost infectious, and I felt compelled to return the following week. And so, I did, each week for ten wonderful weeks. What did we do for those ten weeks – I’m still damned if I know! I remember the ‘River of Life’, looking back at what had brought us to here. The eternal sceptic in me, reluctantly drew a few lines and added a few symbols for good measure; I did not fully understand the significance of this exercise – we had to look back to move forward.
Personally, I did not have a university degree, and this made me feel somewhat inadequate. I had held one job for 18 years. I believed that I was no longer skilled for that job and that I was not qualified for any other job. At 52 I reasoned that returning to education was not for me and so there I was stuck – I could not see the way forward. I had built so many obstacles for myself in my head. I did not have an identity. How many times is one asked ‘what do you do?’ My reply was usually ‘nothing – I don’t have a job.’ I was happy at home but felt I needed to prove to society that I had value.
Now that my children were half reared, surely, I could not hide behind the excuse that I ‘chose’ to stay at home with my kids anymore? I looked around the room at women older and younger than me; highly qualified and not so highly qualified; some mothers and some not; and I wondered what had I in common with these women. Then I listened intently to their life stories and I think I understood. I had lost my way.
Somehow life had nudged me off the road and into the ditch. No-one could see me in the hedgerow, and I was struggling to climb out. Now finally I was being shown how to build a ladder – myself; for only I could build that ladder and climb back up.
I hadn’t achieved, much had I? I did not have any employable skills, did I? Then I was shown that I did in fact have many skills built up over my years at home. In my own house I was:
Minister for Finance - in charge of household budget
Defence - protector of my domain & mediator of familial disputes
Justice & equality - making sure everyone was treated equally (or appeared to be!)
Health - nurse, carer & general plaster applicator
Education and skills - encouraging & assisting in schoolwork
Transport tourism & sport - mom’s taxi; day tripper; holiday organiser; no. 1 sideline supporter
Children and youth affairs - I have four - that qualifies me!
Communications, climate action & environment - responsible for recycling bins & teaching my children to be environmental aware
We created ‘Vision Boards’ that helped me wade through the briars in my ditch and find the flowers. What was it exactly I wanted from life? It did not matter how unreasonable it seemed or how unachievable it appeared to be – I could still dream. What do I WANT to do, not what do I think I SHOULD do? Given the opportunity to participate in a computer course in ITT, I discovered that my skills were not that out of date after all. I could quite confidently apply for a job in an office if I wanted to.
Mary Beary was now on board to offer assistance in CV preparation and job applications. I furiously compiled my life’s qualifications to date; from a full-blown account of my Leaving Certificate results to every other night class and itzy bitzy course I had completed in the last 35 years. So now – apply for your ‘real’ job. Truth be told … I didn’t want a ‘real’ job. Actually, I had misheard the instruction. It was apply for your ‘ideal’ job. My ideal job … mmmm? I knew what I wanted to do, but it wasn’t a job; at least I didn’t think it was a job, and again I wasn’t qualified.
Lisa Fingleton showed me that, yes, I was qualified. I might not have a piece of paper to prove it, but I had over 12 years’ experience of writing and producing short sketches and I had achieved success on a national platform. I had written and directed a trilogy of plays seen by an audience of over 800 people. I wanted to take this a step further – I particularly wanted each and every child to be given the opportunity to experience being on stage. The potential to transform the lives of children and young people by instilling confidence and self-esteem through the medium of drama is immeasurable.
With newfound determination, I boldly put myself out there. I put a value on myself and I told people what I wanted and eureka – it worked. Having written a bi-lingual musical for my daughter’s school, I came in contact with a representative of the Creative Schools initiative. I forwarded my amended ‘creative’ CV to them and almost instantly I was asked to assist a local primary school with a stage presentation. I was over the moon. At the outset of this adventure, I asked the question ‘what had I to lose?’ I lost plenty … I lost my lack of self-confidence; my lack of self-belief; and my lack of self-worth.
In return I found a new zest for life, a new pep in my step, but most of all I found utterly amazing women who accompanied me on this journey and who now eagerly and willingly support each other daily. I have re-kindled my passion for life and I am relishing in it.