Settle in, this is a long one! The end of month summary will be next week, when all the interest is in. Feels silly to post before the ‘dust has settled’. This post was inspired by comments to this post
When I was nine, I had a very serious conversation with my mother on her bed, during afternoon nap time in our big Queendlander in Brisbane. I needed to decide, right then and there, my future career. I didn’t want to leave it to chance. Make the wrong decision. Close doors inadvertently. And I haven’t changed a bit – I still have absolutely no patience!
Mum and I discussed what I liked in life. I loved travelling – I was lucky that my parents saved and took us overseas. In 1992 I was taken to the US to visit my aunt who was doing a PhD there. We flew JAL via Tokyo, and on every leg this cutie asked for an upgrade. Would you believe it, we got one from Tokyo to Cairns! In 1993, my whole family upped and moved to the south of France for 15 weeks, which my parents had their long service leave. So in 1994, when we had this discussion, I already had a taste for travel.
Mum directed me that I’d be best to be a pilot or diplomat.
Both those are admirable careers, but I struggled with the ‘how to become a diplomat’ question. It’s not that simple, you might get a law degree, and then get into it, but you just as likely might not. And I don’t like those odds! So pilot it was. I dreamed of joining wherever I wanted, and once I got there, enjoying it, unlike the passengers who might have the scurry off to business meetings. I thought, wow, I can just up and leave husband and kids and take a break and call it work! Cheeky, wasn’t I?
In 2001, my penultimate year of school, I decided I needed to know more about becoming a pilot. I knew I had essentially two options: self funded, or government funded through the defense forces. Whilst my parents travelled, they aren’t in the world of wealth that finances a pilot’s licence with private lessons. So, it was pretty clear to me, at 16, with no real earning opportunities being a boarder, that I would need to go the route of the air force.
I made an appointment with the recruitment office (which is now the Red Cross Blood Bank in Brisbane), and did my hair in the tightest, neatest bun ever. I knew that whilst this was an ‘information’ interview, I needed to look the part. I spoke to a someone – I say ‘someone’ for effect – he told me I’d need to learn all the ranks and all the high ranking official in the Air Force. And all the aircraft. And all the depots/bases. And once I’d learnt all that, I’d have a medical examination too. I’m not the sort of smart that memorises things. I never really have been. Certainly not dry military information. Then, to be told that the medical exam would require me to waddle, in a squatted pose, across the room, to see if I had hip joint issues, I started to think ‘is this all really worth it, and necessary?’ Neither of those reasons are ‘enough’ to not continue, but I wondered if I could endure the 7 years studying, and the further 8 years ‘payback’ obligation in the service. I loved the idea of being paid to learn, and pretty much living a financially easy life, on the government’s dime. But could I commit to 15 years with them (or suffer the repayments if I left early?).
There were too many things that I wasn’t comfortable with. And I decided to listen to that uncertainty, and explore additional career opportunities. As an Aussie, it pains me to big note myself, but I knew I was academically talented enough to study for almost any career I might be interested in. But what did I want to study, and make my career and future? That’s such a hard question to answer at 16, with no experience of Monday to Friday 9-5 pm sorts of hours. All you know is study, with some sport and music thrown in.
I read the course manuals, and attended open days. In the end, I decided I would do Bachelor of Forensic Science in Applied Chemistry with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies. My other ‘options’, well I wasn’t really sure. There was some industrial design. And there was some engineering. My mother suggested that pilots are engineers. This is not factually true, but hey, what mother hasn’t told a furfy? And really, I can’t blame her, I’m pretty pleased with where I am in life today!! My mother, being a teacher, spoke to her school’s career’s counselor and I met with her in the school holidays. (My mother and I lived in different states, and I planned to study in the state my mother was in). The counselor offered me a number of scholarship application brochures for various engineering courses. Her advise was for the cost of a stamp and some time, you could be handsomely rewarded. She was right, it wasn’t that hard to church out some scholarship applications on the long and boring days of school holidays (when the rest of my family was at work and school).
Much to my surprise, most universities rejected me. I remember the long, bare footed walk to the letterbox at that house. I got an offer, but the letter wasn’t addressed to my name, but another name at my address (imagine what might have gone wrong there!!). But, the University of Technology, Sydney did want to interview me! Thankfully, not during my planned ‘schoolies’ week – the celebratory booze up that students illegally enjoy!
I arrived at the interview holding room, and thankfully put my foot in it there (rather than later, say, in the real interview) with a lady who’d become my boss for all my years at uni. I said ‘oh yeah, I’d like to do aeronautical engineering’ to which she replied ‘our university doesn’t offer than specialty We don’t offer it because there’s only 2 jobs per year, and the other two ‘big’ universities both graduate 30 students each per year in that specialty’. Wow! Talk about back to reality. Thank you Betty! You saved my bacon, because, of course, I did get offered a scholarship, if I put engineering at this particular university, first on my preferences. (University admission is centralised, it’s all a bit cloak and dagger, and not very well understood).
The scholarship was perfect for my commitment phobic self. It was for one year, it was for $10k and it required a credit average in my first year, and my re-enrolment in second year. As I saw it, I could come away with $5k if I didn’t like engineering, and didn’t sign up for second year. That would have covered my tuition at the very least. Needless to say, almost every year (and it took me six years with the Bachelor of International Studies, and failing only one subject four times) I contemplated changing – to law, to forensic chemistry. Just quitting and becoming a flight attendant and travelling. Eventually, I’d done more than I had left, so I stuck it out, and man did it take *every single once* of willpower on some days. Engineering is not easy but it is rewarding!
There’s so much more I could write, but at more than 1200 words, I’ll save it! Questions warmly welcomed!