As I’ve previously mentioned, my inclination to escape the family tradition of being a teacher was strong. I was young, as far as I knew, straight, and highly motivated at the age of seventeen. Such a different person to the near forty-year old mother of five I am now. I would still describe myself as highly motivated, but my end game was a completely different one. I had something to prove – exactly what I didn’t quite know – but in my usual driven fashion, I set about making my mark.
My budding career in the media industry had potential. I had worked at radio station 4KQ for about a year and a half on a casual basis during my PR-studying days, as well as scoring a full-time contract position with a small but well-to-do PR company for a couple of months. This kind of experience at the tender age of nineteen was rare and I know I had the envy of some of my PR friends who, too, would have loved these opportunities.
Sadly these experiences ended up being wasted on me, as by the time I finished my second year of this degree, I realised all too clearly that PR was not to be the career for me.
No offence to my fellow PR enthusiasts – I have the utmost respect for all the work you do – but personally I loathe the level of corporate ‘schmoozing’ required. Possessing the subtlety of a steam train, backside-kissing is NOT my forte at all.
I can do it if I have to, but honestly, I’d rather chew nails.
Throw in my ‘Coming Out’ experience at this time and add about ten kilograms of weight gained from my year-long interlude overseas and, suddenly, any confidence I possessed when I first began, was gone. My desire to embark on a high-flying career disintegrated; with it went the appeal of hanging out amongst the movers and shakers of the media industry.
Public Relations is a profession that is not only under the pump, but also under the microscope at all times. I marvel at how friends of mine never fail to have their hair and make-up done perfectly, their eyebrows waxed and manicured, their lashes on point at all times.
It’s a good day for me if I have brushed my hair.
Public Relations is all about image and identity – neither of which I felt any control over after ‘Coming Out’. My whole life had been turned upside down, and I no longer could see my way forward. The task of forging a completely new identity was mammoth given my self-image was in pieces. I had all the pressure I could deal with already from the Richter scale-worthy shockwaves generated by my homosexual revelation. Life was not as it used to be – I felt raw and as though my outer protective layers of skin had all been seared away, leaving me exposed, aching and vulnerable.
I had made the agonisingly difficult decision to return home from the UK (even though I was very tempted to stay in hiding) purely to complete my tertiary qualification. Having worked in minimum wage situations enough whilst away, I knew I wanted to be tertiary qualified. In any field – even PR.
Thus, I did what was required to complete my degree, then set about getting the first full-time job I could get, working in the banking industry. Although not related to my current teaching career, I consider this time was very well spent. As well as meeting wonderful people, I learned a great deal of valuable financial knowledge which I find useful even now. I bought my first house at age 22 based on this experience, a decision that, to this day, rates up there as one of my best.
I have taken 39 years to reach a place where I feel confident and comfortable with who I am. I feel like people are starting to understand and respect my journey. Both are such wonderful feelings.
The irony of all this musing on my ‘redundant’ PR degree, is that I actually use my PR degree every day. Being part of a lesbian family with five children tends to draw attention. I’m constantly justifying the decisions I have made – not only for myself, but for my children. My Rainbow Tribe has become my ‘brand’, with Lisa and I managing our family together as best we possibly can. It’s not always easy, but, it is oh so worth it.
If my reflections help even one family feel a little less isolated, I will have achieved a worthy purpose.