Tourism student Marie Doran from Kilwinning shares her story about how taking the big step to come back to college and retrain for a new career helped change her life.
I loved my old life as a support worker working for the learning disability team in Kilwinning where I helped people who had a learning disability to live independently in their day to day living. I had 30 clients a week and supported them in ways like shopping, budgeting, paying bills, attending meetings and arranging holidays. It was a challenging but extremely satisfying job and I felt I was making a difference. I also attended college on day release to achieve HNC Social Care. Married with three children, I was confident and happy with my life, but it turned out fate had other plans for me.
In 2011, I was involved in an accident and suffered a horrific injury to my back. I was on a bus when the driver took a corner too sharply and I fell off my seat hurting my back. An MRI scan revealed that my spine had popped and I needed an operation immediately as any delay would result in me being paralysed.
My recovery has been a painful process – not just physically but emotionally too. I was left with my left leg numb and had years of attending hospital and receiving physio. I lost my job through the accident and was told by one of my doctors that it was unlikely I would ever work again. I was completely unprepared for this and it put me under enormous strain, mourning the loss of the life I had. My marriage broke down and I had to rely on my circle of friends to look after me and my children. I became depressed and began a rollercoaster ride of different emotions.
My condition is called Cauda Equine. Having never heard of this before, I researched it online and discovered a Facebook page for women with this condition. This was the lifeline I needed. The whole group was so supportive and inspirational, and it was not long before I was Skyping other sufferers around the world. I finally started to take charge and feel in control of my body.
Around the same time, a new friend encouraged me to get back out there and meet people again. I am a people person and need the socialisation to stimulate me and get my positive outlook on life back. My first small step was volunteering in a local community centre as a secretary.
I have a passion for travel and always loved researching holidays for friends and family online, and it started me thinking that maybe I could do something like this as a new career. It was time to focus on what I could do rather than what I couldn’t do! I applied for college and was interviewed almost immediately. I started on the course before I had the chance to lose my confidence.
Coming to college has been a big step for me to take, but it was a positive step that gave me a purpose and an incentive to get out of bed in the morning. My class has been amazing – we all gelled right away, and even at my lowest points when I thought of giving up they encouraged me to keep going. I have had great support from the College’s inclusive learning team and student services team. They have been a godsend and helped me overcome the difficulties I have had juggling a health condition with my college work.
I would encourage anyone reading this who might have a health problem, or who is at a point in their life when their confidence is low, to seriously consider coming to college to help them rediscover their life. College is liberating – you have the freedom to think in different ways, discover new ideas and skills you never knew you had. I have started to focus on who I want to be rather than dwelling on who I’ve been so far. There is a whole new future opening up for me thanks to finding something I am passionate about. Doing something you enjoy definitely helps you get your confidence back.
My advice is to find a level of course you can cope with and don’t push too hard – take baby steps at first. Although I have a HNC in Social Care, I could not have managed the HNC Travel and Tourism first time around. The NC has been a perfect choice. It lays the foundations of learning about the tourism industry and I can’t wait to discover more. More than anything, the NC Travel and Tourism course has given me the confidence I needed to push myself.
Ideally, I would love to get back to work. I have a work ethic and I want to be a role model for my children and make them proud of me. I am also interested in doing some peer mentoring, using the skills I have to help others discover the joys of learning. I love researching travel and particularly enjoy product management, and my dream job would be in this area or working in a travel agency.
My next mission is to get some relevant work experience so that I can start to make that dream a reality.
RAISING ASPIRATIONS | INSPIRING ACHIEVEMENT | INCREASING OPPORTUNITIES