It’s sometimes hard to describe how the Game Changers programme works because although it is often about a career change or starting a new business this is not always the case. I was thrilled that Ali agreed to tell us her story, not just because she is clearly so talented with words but because she reflects on changes that I think we can all relate to alongside sharing some wonderful advice.
Why did you book on the programme?
I honestly cannot remember why I entered the competition <Ali won a place>. I had a 6 month old baby and was just emerging from the haze and chaos that is life with a toddler and a newborn. But enter and win it I did, and so I found myself in August of last year willing the baby to fall asleep quickly so that I could drive into the depths of Ardwick and attend the Game Changer taster workshop. I didn’t really know what the workshop was about but I was impressed and awed by the other participants poise and drive. When asked what I wanted my own Game Change to be I made up something on the spot about setting up a community cinema. It had, until that point, been a vague notion floating around my head but saying it outloud made it feel real and alive.
I was so fired-up by the Taster Workshop that I came home and booked myself on the full Game Changers course. I still didn’t know if I had a game to change but I knew I needed something to be different, somehow.
What has happened since?
I completed the course over 6 weeks. It was hard getting the baby to sleep then heading out for the evening but it was wonderful spending time with other professional women, who were mothers, who wanted to do something for themselves. It was, I think, the first time at least since my children were born, if not long before then, that I took the time to think about what I love, what my goals are, what are my hopes and my aspirations. This thinking took place not just at our lessons, but during the homework too which I squeezed in during the baby’s nap time or when my toddler was at playgroup. It felt a privilege to take that space back inside my head and turn my gaze towards myself. As a mother you give so much of yourself to others that it takes some practise to get yourself back.
Whilst taking the course I was offered a new job. I felt ready for the change but also frightened by it. I used what I learnt on the course to help me make the decision to go for it. I knew that my fellow Game-Changeristas had my back, whichever way I went. I wanted a new challenge and I learnt to let go of feelings of guilt and responsibility that were raised by taking that challenge on.
I have been working in my new job for 6 months now. It is often difficult. Some times my life feels more difficult. But i feel happier and I feel better and I know that if that ever stops being true I will have the courage to make the change again (photo below courtesy of Rebecca Lupton – The Mothers).
What difference has it made?
I feel brave.
I know myself better than I ever did before and I have a group of cheerleaders who I can call on if I need support. Women who have no conflict with me or rivalry, no edge or bitchiness. No concern about my parenting choices or interest in my politics. Just support, respect and joy in my achievements. And I feel the same way about them.
I have a new job. Instead of working 3 days a week in a job I liked but had lost interest in, I work 5 days a week term time only in a challenging new school. I am setting up a brand new library, supporting pupils with low literacy and spreading a love of reading all around. There is considerable effort and a great deal of responsibility but I am always interested and never bored, and boredom is a big barrier to my happiness. I am learning new things every day which suits me well and we have adjusted our home life to accommodate my new hours.
Before Game Changers, I almost didn’t realise I had goals. I certainly didn’t have a number in mind of how much I wanted to earn and I’d never had the desire to pack it all up and go travelling.
My goals are subtle, often internal. They involve making it my mission to support and love other women, especially mothers. To be forgiving and loving towards myself. To take time for self care. To respect my job and do it the best way I can. To make time for my friends but acknowledge my need for solitude. The Game Changers course helped me identify these goals and gave me a roadmap towards achieving them but the biggest difference is that I know that the only person who can really make the change is me.
Why should others book on?
I didn’t want a new career and I didn’t want to change the world. But I did need something in my life to be different, to address the imbalance between my own and my family’s needs. Game Changers for me was about reconnecting with myself, remembering what gives me joy and making small adjustments to do that again. I have learnt new skills in personal organisation so that I can fit in doing something that I love rather than fritter time away doing something mindlessly.
It is easy to make excuses, I have no time, I’m too busy, the children need me, but sitting down and looking into my heart has been the greatest gift I could have given my self. I know I am worth that investment, and you are too.
(See here for the next intake of our Game Changers Programme)