Navigating your own path

Guiding Vibe blogger, Harriet McCartney, tells us her story of finding her own way through education and choosing a career path.

In 2016 I quit university before even sitting half of my second-year exams… and I cried for 2 whole weeks about it! The thing was as much as I loved the social life of university, meeting loads of new friends, participating in sports teams and events, and joining the students’ union. My lectures and the content of the degree I was studying was nothing short of, well, boring. The excitement I had for university was squashed by the fact I simply hated it. So, I quit.

I cried for 2 weeks because now what? I was a university drop out with mediocre at best A level results, and a load of debt, while my friends around me continued to excel in their studies get their degrees and seemed to follow the “normal” path in life. Because that’s what’s normal right? You’re born, you go to nursery, primary school, secondary school, college and then university and then you get a job get married and bibbity-bobbity-boo life is perfect. Well, I quit that path, and while at the time it didn’t feel like it, me quitting university was single handily the best decision I have ever made.

What next? I got a job, a job with the council and a title that seemed to earn me some respect and for a few years, I was saving money and working up the career ladder. However this job, involved me effectively meddling in people’s business, their homes, communities, parks, and telling people bad news on an hourly basis; I was getting phone calls and emails of people screaming and shouting at me for something that I had no control over; I had complaints about my work from the local Member of Parliament, I had to attend hearings and be cross examined and because I worked so hard I was given so much responsibility eventually my pay and the title I had didn’t quite make up for what I was doing. My work started to take over my life, I had no hobbies and I barely saw my friends.  I decided to stand up for myself, I arranged a meeting with my boss and their boss and my union representative to discuss my pay and possible career progression. In this meeting I was told there was no space for career progression and that my pay would increase with the national living wage at the end of the year like everybody else’s. So, I quit, again.

So, then I’m 24, living alone, with no degree and a good few years of work experience, but I went and got another job in a similar position as my last, except with a pay rise and better title. Go me! I worked for this council for almost a year and then… Covid hit. For me, lockdown had the benefit that I finally had the time to do some soul searching and discover who I truly I am, what I enjoy doing, who I want to be around, and what job I would like to do. And so, with a lot of discussion and a few tears, I applied to university as a not so mature, mature student.

Complete career change, this time I was going to study something I wanted to do, something I was truly passionate about and something that would qualify me for a job when I finished. I landed on a BSc in Occupational Therapy, and that meant quitting my job… again.

It’s now a year later, I’m 26, and I’ve just finished my first year as an Occupational Therapy Student. I did a placement in a really challenging sector and absolutely loved it, I feel like I have truly found my calling, not to mention I now have time to see my friends, I joined the gym, I go on hikes, and I started back with Girlguiding as a leader. So, if you take anything from my ramblings, take this; your happiness and health comes first. It’s okay to quit. A “normal” life path doesn’t exist. You’re not a failure. And you will definitely figure it all out eventually.