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Mental healthSocial issues

You don’t learn anything by standing still.

Here I was, unemployed, hungover and staring dumbfounded at my phone, wondering if there was time to get drunk before my flight.

By Elizabeth Earle

Some of the best advice I have had has been from strangers. One piece was in the back of a taxi in Dublin. My friends and I have just had a very messy evening and were struggling with a tequila infused hangover. On the way to the airport, I had an email to say that a position I had trialled for had fallen through. It was for a football recruitment company and I happened to be the only female in the office. Despite recruiting above the required number of teams, the boss of the company wanted me to wait two months before I could have a real position.

Two months.

That wasn’t possible.

I had rent to pay. I had bills. I had a family I didn’t want to disappoint.

Plus I didn’t even like the job. Why would I wait two months?

In the midst of panicking with what on earth I should be doing with my life, my friends did their best to reassure me. But all I could think was what a failure I was.

I used to be an English Teacher. It was something I could actually feel proud about saying what I was. I spent my entire educational life aiming towards that goal. From the age of 13 I started my working life as a waitress, convinced that one day I would be teaching the next generation. I want to inspire. I want to teach. I want to motivate.

I can’t actually describe what it felt like to finally be there at the end goal and hating the job. And it wasn’t the students. I loved the students and I loved teaching. It was the politics and statistics and entry scores that I hated. It was the pointless paperwork and endless nights spent feeling anxious about inspections, percentages and more meetings.

The best thing I ever did was quit that job and became a waitress.

And suddenly… I was back where I started, all those years ago.

Since quitting as a teacher, I crawled my way back through the system, trying to find some sort of respectable job I could be seen as a real adult, all the time spending my mornings, breaks and nights squirrelled away writing like a madwoman- that had always been the dream, you see. To be a full time writer.

But a writer’s road is not filled with reliable pay packets, frequent promotions and a tidy pension package.

I was trying so hard to be an adult, to pay my way and make my family proud at the same time. I had needed that job. I had needed it so badly. My sister was married, had a house and a child. My cousins were all settled. And here I was, unemployed, hungover and staring dumbfounded at my phone, wondering if there was time to get drunk before my flight.

Getting out of the taxi, the driver stepped out to help us with our bags. He stopped me before I could take another step.

“I couldn’t help but overhear, lass,” he said, his hand gripping my arm. “Can I give you a bit of advice?”

Alarmed, I nodded, bracing myself.

His hand remained on my arm as he stared at me. “You don’t learn anything by standing still. You got that?”

I nodded again and swallowed.

“Remember that, lass,” he said. “You don’t learn anything by standing still.” Content that he had drummed his way home, he popped our bags on the sidewalk and went on his way.

I felt there and then that something had changed in me.

And you know what? I have taken his advice. Our journeys are always moving forwards. Just because we hit a bump in the road, doesn’t mean that we’re starting back at the beginning. Some of the best crews are the ones that have withstood the storms. You have to carry on.

It’s ok to have your life falling apart sometimes- because it’s getting ready to build up into something even better. That’s what I had to believe in. Since that day in the back of the taxi, I’ve had the time of my life with my friends, visited countries I never thought I would, had a book published and moved to Australia. I kept moving. Kept learning.

So thank you to that taxi driver back in Dublin.

I will never stand still.

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