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It's okay not to know

I can’t say I’ve ever been especially academic. I got my grades, and I did well but it never came naturally for me. It would require hours and hours of revision for me to ever get a good grade. I always wished I could have been like those other students who didn’t have to try and were naturally clever, but unlike them I was naturally creative and have always had that in me. From playing piano as a child, to designing and making clothes. So, despite not being naturally clever, I still had a talent.

Let’s start from the beginning

My sixth-form experience was like the average sixth former, except my sixth form was all about university and academic subjects, and then there was me, who studied art, textiles and film.

There were many times when my classmates and I felt pushed aside and made to feel stupid, intentional or not, that’s how we felt. Weekly, we would all have to go to lectures where it would be focused on going to university and studying academic subjects like biochemistry or geology, nothing about what we wanted to do. As useless as they were for providing lectures for the likes of me, they were always so pushy on applying to university.

I didn’t only feel pressure from them, but I placed added pressure on myself. My family have come from a well-educated background and have all gone onto further education. I felt that if didn’t go down that route, I would let my family down, which was never the case, but it’s what I would tell myself. As deadlines were drawing closer for university applications, I didn’t have a clue what to do. I knew I loved fashion, but why? What was it about it that I loved? Was it the designing? The making? Or just simply because I’m a girly girl and love keeping up with trends.

I ended up applying for a fashion design course at Manchester Metropolitan University. I never even went to the open days or even looked at what the course was about. I just felt I had to apply for something. I also applied for similar courses at other universities, but the only one I wanted to do if I had to, would be the fashion design course. Time passed and within no time, the UK was in a full lockdown and students had no idea what was to happen for their future. With all the stress of coursework deadlines and working from home, I found out I didn’t get onto the course. I was feeling such a mix of emotions. I was disappointed in myself and didn’t want to talk about it but at the same time, I was relieved as I felt uncertain of whether I wanted to actually go to university.

As all my friends were getting their places confirmed at university, I congratulated them but felt worse inside. They had a plan and knew where their lives were heading and knew their next steps. I felt like I was being left behind. I dreaded whenever family would call and ask, “So how’s Ellé doing, what university is she going to?”, and I’d have to sit and cringe as I explained I didn’t get accepted and currently just working part time in retail. Not that there is anything wrong with retail, but it was never my dream career and I felt like I was getting myself in a rut and would never leave. I had no idea what was next. Growing up I always had a plan and knew what was to come next, whether that was what I was doing at the weekend or what I was to do when I left school, but now I had no idea at all.

I felt like I left sixth form in March when lockdown started and just left my life there. At this point my friends had all left for university and living life as best as they could, given the circumstances, whilst I was still working in retail with no plans. It was around October time when I decided I needed to sort my life out. For such a long time, after getting rejected from university, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and the thought of fashion physically made me feel sick.

I would sit night after night, and I thought about what I am passionate about other than fashion. Then that was when it hit me. Media! My life revolved around social media, new trends and posting my life. I thought to myself, this is what I wanted to do and I set my heart on it. I then started to apply for apprenticeships, but none really stood out to me unlike this one. It was local and a family run food suppliers. As soon I saw it, I set my heart on it, I applied for it and hadn’t heard anything from them until The Juice Academy contacted me saying Dunsters Farm wanted to interview me. I remember nearly crying when I found out! Yes, it was only an interview, but it was my first steps into my career, even if I didn’t get the job, I would gain experience from it and that was what I needed more than anything. I interviewed with them and fell in love even more with the job, but I criticised myself and convinced myself I hadn’t been successful. Weeks past and I was giving up hope, until I received the news that I got the job! Just writing this brings back such a happy memory. I remember crying with joy after the phone call. My life was about to start in my dream career. Handing my notice in at my retail job was a bittersweet feeling; bitter leaving my friends, but sweet as I was so eager and excited to start my career.

My happily ever after

I now have an apprenticeship in digital marketing working for such a lovely company who support and praise me. I finally feel a sense of belonging and feel like I have regained control of my life again. When family ask me now ‘what I am doing’, I’m proud to say that I achieved my dream at 18 years old and that being rejected from university was the best thing that could have happened to me. All I’m saying is if you’re reading this and feel the same way I was feeling not knowing what to do and just feeling left behind. Take it from someone who’s been there, but I promise you if it’s meant to be, it will be, and when the right thing comes along for you, you’ll know it. It’s okay to feel like you have no plan, or your plans have been pushed back. Anyone who tells you otherwise are lying and protecting their ego. If I could go back to myself 12 months ago, I would tell myself “Ellé it’s going to be okay, you’ll know eventually and you’ll land your dream job”. The sky is your limit. It was a big risk moving from a job I knew I was good at and earned money in but it was never my career, to moving to a job I could potentially not like or dip in salary a lot. 2020 taught me that the person who risks nothing does nothing. I will stand by this saying forever.

Ellé West, Cohort 30, Digital Marketing Apprentice at Dunsters Farm


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