So I left the last post, about to turn 22 and in my last year at Uni. I was a little unsure of exactly what area of fashion I wanted to go into when I left university. Someone had come to speak to us about a teaching programme, with almost on-the-job type training to become a high school teacher. It's something I'd imagined doing towards the end of my career rather than the beginning, but I was intrigued by it anyway. I went for an interview in the north east of England and was accepted. This is when the turmoil began. Let me digress slightly here for a moment, I'm a girl who goes with her heart. I listen to my head, but it's my heart that usually wins and my heart I want to listen to. Like I said in that last post, I just knew that college I visited wasn't for me, the moment I set foot in it, but the Uni I went to instantly felt like my kinda place.
Our uni course involved a term (and summer) of unpaid work experience in second year. So let me deviate further and say careers advisers fill me with dread. My high school one wanted me to become an engineer rather than 'waste' my life in fashion. I had zero interest in engineering, could she not tell that just from looking at me? She wanted a backup plan if I didn't get into Uni (for me, I was going into fashion or going into fashion, there was no backup plan). I said I'd work on the beauty counter (which I already did after school) if fashion didn't work out and joked that I'd have free lipstick for life. She was not amused. So back to Uni and this careers adviser found me a placement after we'd had a chat and filled in forms about aspects of our course we liked and didn't and where we'd be willing to relocate to (anywhere in my case as I was very flexible). She picked this pattern making job for me. An area I didn't enjoy. It was my last choice actually and obviously I was disappointed seeing as everyone else seemed to be matched with areas they did like. Giving up my paid job all summer to work unpaid and in London where I'd have big expenses, was something that worried me, although I wanted to do it. I had to go for an interview, so I remained open-minded and knew I could decide when I saw the place. I walked in and honestly it hit me immediately. I hated it. The manager was creepy and made me feel uncomfortable throughout the very informal interview. You know when someone is undressing you with their eyes? Yeah, that! Although friendly, my future co-workers just didn't feel like people I'd get along with and when they started suggesting friends couches I could sleep on during my stay-I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
To make matters worse, I'd travelled down to London with a classmate as she was also being interviewed (elsewhere). When it came to us going to her potential new job, the place was just lovely. I remember it was bright and they had this huge vase filled with flowers (the silly things you remember!) and they couldn't have been nicer to us, getting me settled with magazines in the office while I waited and giving us both a tour (my mate had been left standing at the drafty door in my joint). I just got this vibe in there, that it was the type of place I'd be happy to work. It was an easy decision for me, I wasn't going to take the job and went straight to the careers office the next day to tell her. I was too late though, she'd already accepted the job on my behalf! Creepy guy had phoned immediately after I left to offer me it (obviously completely unaware that it doesn't take 2 seconds to travel back to Scotland)). I was adamant I couldn't do it and lets just say I felt the wrath of the careers lady that day! She shouted "how does this make me look? I've already accepted. He's going out of his way to provide work experience for students here and you're jeopardising the whole thing". I mumbled that she had no right accepting it before speaking to me and that I just didn't think it was feasible. I left her office in tears (I'm not usually a 'public crier') with her shouting behind me that she wouldn't look for any other job for me, because clearly I wasn't prepared to move to London. She was totally wrong. I'd have moved anywhere for the right job, but that one wasn't it. After what I'd been through in 1st year, I refused to make myself unhappy just for a job and especially one that didn't pay.
So in the end, I had to stay at Uni for the term with three other classmates (we were like the naughty kids that didn't get to go on the school trip) and it turned out to be extremely rewarding. We had a great project (designing/making an Oscars outfit, then the high street version of it) and with smaller class sizes, I learnt so much. For anyone interested in how my friend got on, she was hospitalised the very next day after contracting a strain of meningitis (she's ok now). She never took up her placement and I certainly would have been the last person to be offered it. I told you there was drama every minute! The girl that did go to 'my' placement, ended up working there for years (actually she only left just recently) and is now working for a big name designer, so she's done very well for herself. At the time I didn't know her very well but she was curious as to why I didn't take the job (I babbled about money being an issue rather than creepy guy) and she said her boss was disappointed I didn't take the placement as he "fancied me". Yuck! My intuition saved me yet again!
Anyway the point of that long-winded flashback, was to illustrate how I go with my gut feeling. I trust it. So this teaching job I'd been offered. I was obviously nervous during the interview day, but I didn't get a straight 'no way' or 'yay' feeling from the place. I could possibly have seen myself working there, but I wasn't sure. It was a very hard decision for me. I think the hardest decision I've ever had to make actually. I knew my parents wanted me to take it, it would've been a stable income and wasn't as risky as starting my own business venture with my flatmate (which we'd been seriously looking into). Teaching was the 'sensible' option and I even had a lecturer blast me, when I said I was undecided with whether or not to take it. I think I was the first in my course to be offered a permanent job and on this alone, I should take it. Apparently! I knew it was a decision I had to make myself, despite all this input and it was genuinely really hard. I clean and walk (not at the same time) when stressed and I did a lot of that during this time. I remember walking miles into the next town (and back), on my own, just to think (every passing car thought I was mental). I knew in my heart I didn't want to take it, but I didn't want to let my parents down. It's funny how the world works though and in the end, the decision was taken out of my hands.
I turned 22 towards the end of May and in the couple of weeks following that, began to feel ill. It started with tiredness and aching pains. I'd come home to work one weekend and I remember having to take my shoes off during my break and sit with my feet up because I was so sore. My Uni exams were finished and my dissertation had been handed in (I'd stayed on my own all Easter break and worked to complete it rather than go home) and all that was left was to tie up some loose ends and of course my Graduation Ball! I was (obviously) designing and making my outfit from scratch and after choosing a dissertation only (rather than part essay, part garment collection) that year, I was happy to be sewing and doing what I loved again.
Our whole house were feeling the effects of working (and playing) hard. We all felt a little 'off', but none of us had any inclination of how bad it was about to get. My Mum had come down to visit and by then I was really quite poorly. She insisted I go to the doctor. I was in extreme pain and had stopped eating because I found it hard to swallow. My glands were visibly enlarged and my throat was agony. My nature is to push on and get on with things and seeing as I only had a few days left, I wanted to finish my ball outfit and go to the ball! I figured I had time to rest when I got home after that week. When I went to see the doctor, I couldn't even speak. He asked what was wrong and I just croaked and motioned to my throat. He immediately suggested glandular fever and took some blood for tests. A sure sign I wasn't feeling myself, I didn't even flinch when he took blood!
He sent me home with some soluble painkillers which he knew I couldn't even swallow. So I had to gargle it and spit it out and hope that it did something! I'll never forget how awful that felt, being unable to swallow and being in such pain. I was even spitting out my own saliva because it was too painful to swallow-it just felt like my throat had closed up completely. Looking back, I probably should have gone to the doctor earlier, but as bad as it felt, I still thought it would pass. I think it was later the next day that the surgery rang to let me know the results and it was indeed glandular fever. I was just stunned and numb. I know it had been likely and I only had to take one look at my neck to see it, but none of it felt real. I just didn't think this would happen to me.
The rest is a blur. My Mum came back down for the day to help me home (we don't have a car, so it felt like the longest train journey of my life). She'd had the florist send round a beautiful bouquet of flowers earlier that day because she knew I'd be upset at not getting to my ball when the other girls in my house were going that night. She'd organised it before we found out about the GF. I didn't get to pack anything, I just took a small bag with underwear, my toothbrush and medication and the flowers! That was it! No goodbye to my house, Uni or anyone.
It felt like everything stopped. Time stood still and even now I'm sketchy on days/weeks/months during this period. Thankfully the throat spray and steroids did the trick and my throat cleared up. I think it was 6 days later that I managed to eat three small bites of melon. I'll never forget how proud my family were watching me eat for the first time. Such a stupid little thing, but at the time it seemed so enormous. The doctor had initially said 6-8 weeks bed-rest and I kinda laughed at the thought. Surely I wouldn't be out of action for two whole months? I was young, strong and active, so thought I'd bounce back quickly. Little did I know it was about to get much worse.
Part 3 to follow (the whole thing disappeared, so I have to re-write it, grrr), Part 1.