Thursday, 13 August 2015

A Lesson From Ann

Today I had chance to think. I’m not very happy with my last blog post, which is why this one follows so shortly. My blog wasn’t created for me to rant. It was made so that I had the opportunity to reflect on past experiences, and appreciate the people and events that have led me to where I am now. (And also a great opportunity to learn to write like a human being again).

So this blog will be focused on a woman from my childhood, who influenced my life without probably ever knowing.

I was about 6 years old and I remember being sat in a room with my sisters. I don’t remember my brothers being there, but they must have been. A woman came in and explained that my mum was going away for a while, and that we would be staying somewhere safe. I can’t remember what exactly happened, but I remember different places, none I knew well enough to be able to form a description. I remember my mum’s friend. I remember the drive to my Uncle Georges house with honey sandwiches. The smell of honey still makes me feel sick.

My Uncle George’s girlfriend would say “Call me your Aunty Julie” to which my twin sister and I would reply with the uttmost loyalty, “We already have an Aunty Julie”. I have the feeling she never did like us much. I don’t know the setup, but my twin, Charlotte, my little sister, Melissa, (then about 3 years old) and I would go to stay with a foster parent for various weekends and holidays. Her name was Ann Jackson. She was one of the kindest ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Ann took us to carboot sales, a cowboy fair, the first holiday I remember at Cayton Bay. She bought all three of us rabbit teddies. Mine was called Brownie. Because he was brown. Inventive isn't it? They were all different colours, and I think all three of us have them still. She was determined to make us have the most of our childhood, so I remember her making us go to the foster care group to watch the total eclipse. I didn’t even understand what it was at the time. I just knew from the way all the grown ups went on that it was probably something important and cool.

One of the most memorable things I remember from Ann was how supportive she always was. When the letter sent from my mum came through the door, she would sit with us and read it. I remember her being a kind and patient woman. She never lost her temper when we came bundling down the stairs at earlier hours, or when she’d catch us jumping on the bed, and arguing way past our bed time. But the thing I remember about her the most was her wisdom. She had an certain air about her. More so than other adults. It was as if everything she said was the truth and she was always right. But not in a “I’m always right, you should always listen to me” kind of way. But in a “You can trust me. Believe me if you wish, but I’ll be here if you don’t anyway”.

She taught me a lot of things. A lot of things that I didn’t appreciate until I was a lot older. This is the worst thing about it because I didn’t thank her when I was there. I can’t remember knowing that it would be the last time I got to see her. It had been a while since our last visit. We were in a petrol station and she was there. My Uncle George said hello and we followed. Soon after that we had gone to live in Bradford, and Ann was just a memory. Had we been naughty kids? Once in an argument my mum said that’s why Ann didn’t want to foster us anymore. I don’t know if it was true, but I hope it isn’t. We never saw Ann again, but I think about her all the time. Is she still in the same house? Would she know who we are if we did find her? Would I recognise her?

I don’t know the answer to any of those, but I know this. I know that she instilled something in me that didn’t truly come to life until much later in my life.

Charlotte and I had been fighting for some reason or another.
“I don’t like her” I said to Ann.
“Yes you do. She’s your twin. You love her” Ann replied.
“No I don’t. She’s always horrible to me”
“Laura, you both love each other. She’s not horrible. You should always try and see the best in people even when they’re not being nice to you. Now go say sorry” And with that, the fight was history and we were back to being best friends.

That lesson is something I have tried to remember, especially in trying circumstances. I no longer remember her face, or her voice,  but I remember those words. I remembered them when I received horrible emails when I first came out as gay, I remembered them when an old man at work made fun of my accent, and I’ll remember them whenever the world turns into a dark and miserable place.

I hope that one day she will get a chance to read this, or her family will. And everyone will know what an amazing woman she was and how much of a difference she made to three very scared children who felt alone and abandoned.

Thank you Ann. Wherever you are. I hope I get the chance to meet you again, and thank you for everything you did for me, and the person you helped me become. 

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Rant-Post

I'm writing this while being slightly annoyed. I'm slightly annoyed at the realisation that one test can change my life for the better. One test can give me the chance to reach my goal. One test? One test is enough? Does one test make sense? I'm not sure one test can take me into from the "Ohh let's have a look" pile to the bin. 

Recapping on the last couple of months, I can say that I’m so pleased with my progression. In fact, I could probably go further, and say that the last couple of years have been pretty good for me. At University, I had the amazing opportunity to be a part of a group called Marrow. For those of you who have never heard of Marrow, Marrow is the student branch of Anthony Nolan, an organisation that actively recruits people onto the bone marrow register, in order to give hope to those in desperate need of a transplant. I didn’t just get to be a part of the group, I took great pleasure in leading it, and when I left it behind at the end of my three years at UEA, I did find it hard to adjust to all the extra time I now had. I didn’t just leave behind Marrow, I left behind Student Minds, an charity set up to help students suffering from eating disorders as well as a number of other mental illnesses. You’d think with 3 years of experience working with people and health related organisations, obtaining a 2:1 degree in Biomedicine as well as volunteering over 400 hours to both campus and the local community would mean I’d atleast get an offer to medicine wouldn’t you? Well, you’d be wrong. When I applied at the end of my degree, I got nothing. Nada. Zilch. And to add insult to injury, I actually did well on the test! But anyway, that’s okay. Probably good even, because it has led to me doing much more with this year.

The first couple of months following my graduation were awful. I went from job to job, part time, full time, walking the streets for hours trying to sell insulation and numerous other poorly paid, awful jobs. Cold calling for Greenpeace’s Arctic campaign was my low point and I actually remember feeling myself break a little bit. I later worked as a Food and Beverages assistant which I enjoyed. I like people. That’s the bottom line. Sometimes people are mean and ignorant, chefs can be stressy, and managers and supervisors can be egotistic but I must admit, it worked for me. Working at the Maids Head was great, but something was still lacking. A zero hour contact is never good when you’re struggling to pay rent already. It meant sometimes I was doing less than 15 hours a week and with no parents to support me, my saving were swallowed up pretty quickly. This included the money I had saved for my first year of Medical School. I got another zero hour contact, this time termed “bank” from Spire hospital in their Sterile Services Department. Cleaning surgical equipment wasn’t quite what I had in mind as a hospital career, but nonetheless, I won’t complain. It’s good to see the interaction in hospitals, learn equipment names and the people aren’t bad either!

Finally, I got an interview for a job as a health care assistant in a nearby hospital. I got the job and the rest is history. Working in a relevant field to my application to medicine is good. I went on to organise work experience shadowing various jobs within the medical community, ranging from practice nurse to consultant Ophthalmologist. I’ve aquired a voluntary position as a community first responder and have got absolutely no time for anything else. Now, you would think I have enough to get atleast an interview wouldn’t you? Well, we'll see about that.

One test may have sealed my fate. Now, I’m fairly upset. Scoring above average may not have been good enough, and despite all my hard work for the last year, and the years before that, I might be ruled out before they’ve even read my personal statement, or reviewed my work experience.

I'm not going to lie. This is a much more ranty blog post than my previous but I'm feeling pretty defeated. Luckily, I have another chance. I sit the GAMSAT (another admissions test) later in the year. It cost £295 (ouch! I know! -don't even get me started on this inequality!) but hopefully I'll feel some sort of redemption. 

Wish me luck guys and gals, I've got a feeling I'm going to need it!