I have spent the early part of this summer speaking at conferences. I have talked about small businesses, entrepreneurship, being an athlete, non-profits and my general experiences as a Millennial. Most of which goes back to my upbrining as a third-cultire kid.
One of my earlier talks was at my former school to a room full of parents, teachers, students and relocators who help families in transition.
The subject was pretty dull: something about cutting it in today’s job market. Anyway, the topic is almost irrelevant as I inevitably end up talking about my experiences; highlighting the fact that I’ve actually never applied for a job in my life. And now, after almost 10 years in the job market, I’m finally happy with my career path.
What’s the secret? I have been thinking about this a lot recently and I believe it comes down to three things: hard work, experience and support. I will touch on the first two points in other blogs, but today I would like to focus on the incredible support I’ve had throughout my life.
Now support comes in various ways: from family, friends, mentors, colleagues and teachers. I have been in the fortunate position of experiencing this entire spectrum.
As a kid, I dreamt of being an inventor. I would, pre-bath time, mix all the shampoos and soaps in the tub. I wanted to be a scientist, to discover and create new things. Now you can imagine the look in my mother’s face, walking into the bathroom to discover me drenched in goo, toothpaste on the walls, the floor covered in talcum powder. But she always kept her cool. She’d humour me by asking what I was up to, to which my response would be something along the lines of “I am inventing an invisibility potion”. She would ask if it worked and I would say no to which she would calmly give me a bath then put me in the kitchen with a bowl of water and flour and say “invent, these ingredients may work out better.” A few year later, when she visited me at university during my PhD research, she smiled and said “look at you, in your lab coat surrounded by all these test tubes, you’re a scientist”.
My mother realised that my curiosity was the early makings of a scientist. She bought me the chemistry set I wanted for my birthday, despite all the other kids riding bikes, and she encouraged me. A handful of years later, I was graduating with a doctorate degree at the age of 22.
And this support continued throughout my life. From my friend Chris who made sure I was up to speed on all the theory I needed during my research, to my friend Diana who inspired me to run my very first marathon (and look where her support has lead to now!).
Before I go on, I better say that support differs from guidance. I was never told what to do, nor was I given advice or steered towards a certain direction. It was just support, sometimes in the form of encouragement, listening to my ideas and being by my side for when things go right or wrong, and sometimes it was inspiration through action.
My life trajectory all came to a head exactly a year ago when my professional career, the most significant part of my conscious life, went pear-shaped. I woke up one morning early last summer and hit snooze on my alarm. An action I have not done before. This continued for several weeks and then I realised that I was not fulfilled. I was no longer learning at the job and I was not proud about what I did. I had to resign, and take some time out. And this is where support was crucial. I had people telling me that I was crazy and would regret my decision, and I had those that really mattered reach out to me to listen and let me know that they were behind me 100%. Now I do not know where my decision will take me to, but I will blog about that as soon as I can! Anyway, I digress. That talk I gave at my school was about support and how crucial it is at every stage of our lives. And I addressed the audience, I looked around making eye contact (Speech 101), and came across my old Physics teacher, Dr Pawel. Now it was my mom who got me started on my trajectory, nurturing my dreams, but it was Mr Pawel who got me into a good university and inspired me to become a scientist. Transitioning my dream from fantasy to reality. He was patient with his students, passionate about his subject and always made sure that we got it.
And I certainly did get it, thanks to his support. And the support of my family and friends. For that I am forever grateful and lucky. I hope we all play a small part in supporting those that we interact with on a daily basis.