It’s exactly a year to the day that I drove the 448ks from South Australia’s capital city, Adelaide, to Mt Gambier in the state’s south-east. It has been a return to the town where I completed my last two years of schooling, before leaving home as a 17 year old to make my life in the ‘Big Smoke’. I stayed in the ‘Big Smoke’ for the next 36 years, during which time I became a teacher, married and had three sons, and changed career directions several times, also working as a homeschooling mother, pastor and mental health worker.
I had my share of ups and downs, including a marriage break-up, which was the beginning of a particularly steep downward spiral in many ways. Without going into all the gory details, I generally describe those years from 1999 as years of loss. I seemed to lose one important thing after another - my marriage, my father, my house, several jobs … just to name a few.
I also knew a deep depression for the first time in my life - possibly triggered by all these losses, but exacerbated by that time of life more accurately termed the ‘mental-clause’. Three key things kept me going during this time … a strong Christian faith, solid, long-standing friendships and the love of and for my three beautiful sons.
In 2011, things took an even deeper plunge with the losses continuing. I reluctantly resigned from a full time job, after an unforeseen dispute with my employers, and found I could no longer afford to stay in the rental home I was living in. I had been saving to add to a home deposit, but was suddenly without incoming funds, and found myself living in the back of a shed, (affectionately known as ‘The Dungeon’). It was warm, and snug and I had wonderful landlords, but I was still going backwards. I was in my early 50s by then - alone and with the dream of my own home seeming even further away than ever.
It was during these sometimes dark years that I began to dust off some personal ambitions and turned to my writing and artistic pursuits in an effort to try to do something that might help to lift me out of my dark hole. I wrote ‘Mine to Avenge’ during this time and produced a wealth of calligraphy.
I had been living in ‘The Dungeon’ for a few months when I managed to get a half time job in a call centre, with wonderfully supportive people but I wasn’t suited to the fast paced nature of the work and had little background knowledge to do the job well. I dreaded going to work each day, but I threw myself into completing ‘Mine to Avenge’ during my spare time.
In that same period, the fourteen months between April 2011 and June 2012, I completed 60 job applications, and was interviewed for 54 of them, finishing in the top 3 for every single one, but always being ‘pipped at the post’ by someone else who had that slight edge over me. I also began to worry about ever finding employment again, being already in my early 50s.
Finally I struck gold, or so I thought, with a full time job offer in Mt Gambier. It was a difficult decision to accept it, knowing I would be leaving behind friendships of over 30 years. There were only two people in Mt Gambier I still had contact with from my two years here - my sister and a high school friend. But I grabbed the opportunity with both hands, moved out of ‘The Dungeon’ and drove down here to start my new job - in my little red Toyota Corolla hatch that I had virtually written off in a crash a little less than a week before leaving. I knew I had no time to do anything about trying to fix it before I left, so I took a chance and drove it here uneventfully. I took it to a mechanic the day after arriving to be told it wasn’t roadworthy, so had to buy another car quickly in time to start the new job.
Anyway, after a bad start at Mt Gambier, I thought things would pick up with the new job, but that also proved to be a mistake. I found I was unable to learn the work fast enough and was floundering. I was seriously doubting my competence by now, and within six weeks found myself on stress leave.
During this time, ‘Mine to Avenge’ was with the publisher. The day it finally arrived, packed neatly in cardboard boxes, I was full of mixed feelings - stranded without a job, and unable to pay the rent (I had committed to a year’s lease) and I was also far away from my closest friends and supports. It was very hard to celebrate the arrival of my books but I had a few new friends and invited them around to lift my spirits and sold my first few books as a published author.
However, I didn’t feel the need to pack up and go back to Adelaide at all. Besides I couldn’t really afford to move back without eating into my precious home deposit savings. Besides, if I was going to be poor and unemployed, it was cheaper to live in the country than the city, but I tried to remain hopeful and began applying for jobs again.
On the Friday prior to the launch of ‘Mine to Avenge’ last November, I was on the way to the airport to fly back to Adelaide when I received a phone call offering me the position of Parenting After Separation Case Manager. It was a position based here in Mt Gambier, so I could stay and wouldn’t need to pack up to move again. So I attended the book launch, buoyed with hope that maybe this job would be the one. I had been given a chance to try again.
I can say now, having been in my new job for 8 months that of all my paid positions during my working life, this is the position I’m most suited to, and the one I’ve been most passionate about. I absolutely love my job, and love going to work, and never dreamed that such a thing was possible. Also being in a country town, my house deposit was sufficient for me to take the plunge into home ownership, as house prices are much cheaper here. So after a long and difficult road, things have turned a corner. I have a job I love, I’m finally paying off a house of my own, I’m going overseas at the end of the year, and I’m a published author too, with ‘Mine to Avenge’ doing well. However, I’m a realist and know that things can change anytime without warning, so I am prepared for any eventuality. In the meantime I’m thankful that at the moment, life is wonderful. Thanks for sharing some of the journey with me and supporting ‘Mine to Avenge.’