When I was young I had ambition, I had lofty designs for my life and I was pretty certain about what it was I wanted to do to fill my adult days. From 1969 onwards I wanted to be a spaceman, I wanted to fly to the moon, in a rocket, and come safely back to earth. It doesn’t seem like a lifetimes work now I reflect on it, but at the time I was positive it was the job for me. So much so that I even painted myself from top to toe with a tin of silver paint I found in my dad’s shed (parental supervision allowed more scope for experiential learning in those days.) Being wise beyond my years I obviously did not paint my clothes, I stripped off first. I still vaguely recall how uncomfortable the scrubbing was, and that it wasn’t possible to get all the paint off with a scouring pad. While this made me the envy of the boy’s toilets for a few weeks it did not win me any invitations to NASA.
Regardless, this career option was my number one choice for many years – until the day I went to the garage with my dad to get a tyre changed. (The tyre was on the car, not my dad.) From the first time I saw the big, loud machine that removed the tyre from the wheel and forced the new one back on with a loud ‘pop!’ I knew that was the job for me. I think I may have annoyed my Dad with the several months’ worth of tyre inspections and checks to see if it was time to return to the garage yet.
Soon after this, for reasons entirely lost in the mists of time, I changed my mind again. My new chosen career was to be frogman. It is possible I had seen Jack Cousteau on the TV, it was the obvious job for a boy who liked/loved swimming. It is to my shame and regret that to this day I have still never been diving, in spite of promising myself that I would. I just never seem to find the time to get around to it; consequently I feel I have somehow let down my younger self. (This year 10 year old me – I promise!)
Several other possible careers were planned in the following years, none with the same passion, verve and commitment that those early life plans commanded.
None of them really panned out, they all seemed pale and insignificant after my younger aspirations. So I found myself studying half – heartedly, for exams I was probably going to fail, at the age of 18. I was bored, loud, usually in some sort of trouble or other and going nowhere fast.
After one run-in too many with a senior member of the English Department’ the course director suggested (quite forcibly) that I should spend a week helping on a local primary schools residential week. I am sure the intention of this was to get me and the member of staff apart for a while to let things blow over. I am quite certain that he could not have foreseen the impact that this would have on me; I was bitten by the teaching bug.
Over 30 years later I am still teaching. The residential week spurred me on to study and work towards a goal. Like ‘young me’ I had ambition again. Sometimes it felt like I was reaching for the moon, sometimes it still does.