Let Yourself Grow
On the eve of my 47th birthday, I have a story I would like to share.
When I was in Standard 7 (now known as Grade 9), way back in 1985, I took a typical department of education type aptitude test to assist me with my subject choices for Standard 8 to Matric.
The outcome of the aptitude test indicated that I should pursue a career in humanities. Careers in this field are for example; teacher, journalist, public relations, youth care, publishing, advertising, media, training, politics, tourism, etc. There are many more – but you catch my drift.
I chose my subjects and continued on to Matriculate with a very mediocre final report. I hardly studied during my final year of school – I met my first boyfriend in Matric and that was the end of it for me … love befuddled my brain.
It didn’t matter that my Matric marks were not meritorious. Tertiary education was out of the question. It wasn’t part of my family’s culture or within my scope of options. I matriculated in a time where school-leavers could get jobs.
My first job was as a bank teller at United Bank. I worked with humans but it was definitely not a career in the humanities field. All too often I made mistakes which meant that I didn’t balance I had to cash up. I remember my supervisors being exasperated because they would have to work late to help me. They eventually gave up and moved me to the enquiries counter.
No money; no balancing or unbalancing of any kind.
Except, I couldn’t stand the paperwork; couldn’t grasp the filing system; and I was a bit too cheeky to some of the condescending clients.
I resigned before they could fire me.
My next job was as secretary to our pastor. I made appointments and phone calls, typed out his sermons, transcribed and archived old sermons, etc. I quite enjoyed the job – but the pay was poor. Pastor Pierre would give me a small stipend from his own skimpy salary when he could afford it. Sadly, one cannot live on bread alone, I needed money.
I went back to what I knew – despite knowing better – I got a job at Allied Bank. History repeated itself. I made mistakes and drove my supervisors crazy by making them stay late and help me recon and figure out where the mistake was.
A few months into my new job and United Bank decided to merge with Allied Bank (the beginning of ABSA – don’t say my blogs don’t teach you anything). I was retrenched as part of the reshuffling.
My next job was back at the church – is this starting to feel like a game of tennis?
This time, though, I was employed as a pre-school teacher. I had no qualifications except that English was my first language. Here’s a quick history lesson – this all took place in the early ’90s.
Previously disadvantaged people, who were discriminated against for their skin colour, were now allowed to send their children to public schools where English was the language of tuition.
Most of these kiddies came from homes where English was not spoken at all.
We had three or four years to teach the little ones enough English that they would be able to cope in the mainstream education system. I taught 4-year-olds. It was so rewarding.
The little ones would come in at the beginning of the year, not knowing one word of English, and leave at the end of the year ready for the next teacher to take over, until they graduated from Grade R, as fluent as any English speaking child I knew, except with a colourful accent.
While working at the school I met and married Gavin and fell pregnant with our first child. Gav qualified as an Engineer and accepted a position in Germiston. So we moved town.
After a while, I started working part-time at our new church. I sent out birthday cards, phoned people who had visited on Sunday, this and that. Purely voluntary.
After a few years we moved to a plot in Muldersdrift and I became a farmer. First, we grew veggies and watermelons. We had no staff, we were the staff – Gav, myself and my parents, and for a short time, my siblings were with us to lend a hand.
Gav prepared the fields with our little Massey Fergusson tractor. We planted the seedlings by hand and harvested the crops by hand months later. We marketed and sold and delivered as much as we could to local shops, but the bulk of the yield had to go to the market in Pretoria. We received peanuts for our produce. It was heartbreaking when we realised how much the middle man makes.
Next we tried farming with broiler chickens. We erected huge sheds. Still we had no staff. We couldn’t afford to hire people to help, we were taking loans against the bond to cover our operations while we waited for business to take off.
I fetched the day old chicks, up to one thousand a time, placed them in the huge sheds with wood shavings on the floor. I fed the chickens out of fifty kilogram feed bags. I had to weigh and count them and manage their health with vaccines and extreme hygiene.
After six or eight weeks, depending on the size of the birds and the demand for the meat we (the four of us) would get up before sunrise to catch and crate hundreds of birds at a time. Sometimes entire batches of one thousand would go in one day. We took them to the abattoir and we fetched the cleaned and packed meat the next day.
I marketed and delivered the chicken myself. Some of my customers were private households who bought four or eight chickens which I delivered in a skedonky Ford Sierra station wagon.
Some of my clients were hotels, some were spaza shops. It didn’t matter who you were or how many chickens you ordered, I delivered.
Needless to say, we worked ourselves to a state of exhaustion for very little money. Our debt was growing faster than we could grow our business.
We sold the plot and moved to town.
I was a stay at home mommy for as long as I could bear it. I’m sorry – I don’t enjoy housework. I take my hat off to those mommies who keep their homes clean and tidy; you are very special beings indeed. When I felt about ready to run away from home a wonderful opportunity presented itself.
I was offered a job, mornings only, as an assistant to a quantity surveyor.
I took the job to escape from housework – honest truth. I had no idea what a quantity surveyor did.
I embraced the position and even studied in the field to qualify as an assistant QS. I learned so much and my brain revelled in the expansion. With the growing knowledge came the salary increases until I was in a very cushy, well-paying job.
I worked for Leon for nine years. It’s the longest I’ve stuck to anything besides being married. Alas, all good things must come to an end. I hit the ceiling of my brain capacity and was able to learn no more. The job became routine, and when our country’s economy floundered I sat for weeks at a time with no work at work.
It was during this time that I began doing courses on writing and proofreading and editing. I joined an agency and got my first freelance writing job. One job led to another and I was writing Ebooks and articles and blogging for fun and sometimes for money.
At the beginning of this year, my boss and I had a meeting about my future and we decided to let me go. All I asked him for as a parting gift was my computer. The very computer I am using now.
Officially unemployed once more I dawdled through the first four months of the year. I decided in May to pull my finger out and make a go of this freelance writing thing and put all my new knowledge to good use.
Through one of my contracts I learned a lot about search engine optimisation and the gap for social media marketing.
An opportunity presented itself and I took over the social media management of one of my daughter’s design clients. It was then that the penny dropped. I realised that if Cam and I worked together we would make a great team!
That was the beginning…
Seven months later I have six social media clients and I have written articles and Ebooks for many more. One of my clients is a local band. To help me do a better job as their social media manager I offered to take photos and videos of them at one of their gigs. I had so much fun marketing them and taking photos that day.
We were driving home from the event when I clapped my hands in delight and said to Gav, “I finally know what I want to be when I grow up!”
To say my jobs have been varied is an understatement. Never mind changing jobs within the same career path – I drastically changed career direction several times.
The interesting thing is that ten years ago, what I am doing now did not exist. Yes, there were freelance writers, but they worked for newspapers or magazines.
Social Media Management? That was an unknown.
The moral of the story?
Maybe there are a few.
- The fact that I kept learning new things and challenging my once mediocre Matric results should be one source of inspiration. I passed my Assistant QS certificate with 96% and my Proofreading and Copyediting certificate also brags a 98% average.
- The fact that a technologically challenged 1970’s baby could learn about her computer, SEO, Dropbox, PayPal, etc, etc, enough to earn a living should mean that if anyone puts their mind to something they can succeed. Surely.
- The fact that I’m doing something that didn’t exist a few years ago means there’s hope for our children. New careers are being born with every advance of technology.
- The fact that I have never left the borders of South Africa but I have worked for people from Canada, Australia, Israel, USA, England, Norway, Sweden, India and Indonesia shows that geographic borders need not limit your options.
I hope my tour down memory lane leaves you with some inspiration or hope.
You’re never too old to change direction.
Don’t be afraid of change.
Sometimes what could be perceived as a bad thing (like losing your job) can be the beginning of something great!
Go on – be brave and let yourself grow.