Well my birthday has just passed and it’s a New Year and a time when we all consider where we have come from and where we are going in the future. I’m going to take this opportunity to document my journey through life, or at least the parts I can share with you. It’s interesting only to me I should think, but if you’ve got nothing else to do, read about how I got where I am today in my ramblings below. Warning – it is all about me, so sorry about that. But then I suppose an About page is supposed to be all about me. Well, anyway, here goes writing my life history as I remember it.
My (adult) life history
I feel like I’ve come a long, long way since I started. Originally British, I always felt like I had been born in the UK by mistake, and belonged in a more tropical environment so I always traveled as much as I could afford and always to warm and sunny locations. It just felt right. But you know how it is, life takes over and my husband and I fell into the usual routine. Work, housework, study, work, housework, gardening, DIY, work, always working harder and longer to save the money so that we could afford the 2 weeks annual holiday in the sun.
The very early years – 1980’s and 1990’s
Hubby was never particularly ambitious, but he was great with people, hardworking and reliable. He worked his way up steadily through the ranks in the insurance company he worked for and stayed in that same job he had from school for 18 years. It had great benefits that helped us on the property ladder and got us started when interest rates for mortgages hit 15%. We moved into our first house in a less than desirable neighborhood with just $50 cash left between us, a huge mortgage and a loan we had taken out against our car. But we were happy!
I was always the ambitious one. Bright, keen, full of get-up-and-go, I wanted to be the best at everything! I wanted to be the youngest, the first woman (in the 80’s things were even worse for women in the workplace than they are today) and the fastest for promotion. I left school at 16 and got my first job at the same insurance company where my husband worked (that’s how we met), and went to college in the evenings. I was soon bored of my first job within 2 years – the company was just too large and structured and there was no place to shine when your career was on a schedule based on time and age rather than ability. It was te sort of place where everyone got the same pay rise each year, just for turning up. So I moved on to a smaller company where I could break through that structure. More studying, more hard work and within another couple of years I moved again to become Pensions Manager at a large engineering company. Yes I was the youngest ever by far and the first woman.
I completed my pensions and insurance qualifications, and sorted out that department until what had been a full-time job became so organised and efficient that I couldn’t fill my day anymore with the role I had been taken on for, so I took on responsibilities in the Management Accounting Dept, as assistant to the Group Accountant. Wow, I always knew I loved figures and pensions work was interesting, but I loved accounting.
It was in this role that I started to become really proficient at numbers, spreadsheets and computer use in general, coding complex pension calculations and creating accounting automation and systems from spreadsheets in the days when software was nothing like it is today. I discovered one of my passions in life (and got my first RSI as a result!)
However once you are manager, there is no where left to go and ambitious as I was, I needed my next position. The only way up was to go further away, to where the big-guns were, the biggest company head quarters. I went to London for my next move and became Pensions Manager for an oil company.
My move to London – I’m a Yuppie
My appointment to the job in London was a very good one. I got a great boost in salary and responsibility and a chance to sit on a regular board meeting with pension managers and advisers from other top oil companies – who were all at least twice my age. It was an exciting time. However, it wasn’t all roses. I had to commute up to London and back, nearly a 3 hour drive each way and it just wasn’t possible to do that everyday. So I rented a spare room in a house close to work, and lived up in London from Monday to Friday and just came home at the weekend.
That was tough on any marriage. Hubby and I took this as a chance to re-evaluate what we wanted from life. Ambition is all well and good, money is very nice thank you, but we hardly saw each other, always felt tired and stressed. Why were we doing this? What was the endless working for? Just to have money so we could buy a better car, buy a bigger house, go on a better holiday, “keep up with the Jones’s”? We came up with a 5-year plan to get away from it all, take a break from all this and start afresh, but it was long term and in the meantime, we would work as hard as we could, save hard and make plans for a better life. So ‘Project Fast Car’ was born, named after the Tracy Chapman song. “We’ve got to leave tonight or live and die this way”
We had upgraded to a 4-bedroom house now in a very nice estate, again got ourselves a very large mortgage to go with it, but it was only us, no kids and I wasn’t even there 5 days out of the week. It made perfect sense to get some lodgers. So we let out 2 of the bedrooms and got some housemates, and that money all got put away into our Project Fast Car fund.
Where were you on Millennium night?
Did you do anything special on the day the clocks turned over from 1999 to 2000? Hubby and I were climbing up Mount Kilimanjaro as the highlight of an African walking and camping safari we took. As well as climbing Kilimajaro we walked the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanazania and another reserve in Kenya which I’ve forgotten the name of right now that had a lot of elephants. Wow, that was one awesome holiday and something we’ll never forget.
Back to Bristol – 2000
In the end, I was working away in London at the oil company for 4 years before I found the break I needed back closer to home during 2000. I came back to take up the Pensions Admin Manager position at a large super-market chain and again took a nice increase in salary. We were getting close to our goal now. Not long now until we give up the regular life and go out on an adventure.
We buy a camper and travel – 2002
In early 2002 we packed up everything we needed into a camper and left for Europe. We had a 12 month trip planned to visit all of the amazing places we had ever heard of, and some we had not, all over Europe. These were the best days of our lives. No work, only play and lots of time to spend together and visiting all the wonderful sites. I wish I had photos to share, but these were the days before digital cameras, and all the photos are in an album tucked away safely in another country right now. I’d love to go back and re-visit both the photos and the wonderful places we visited one day.
However all this came to an abrupt end when we got a message to say hubby’s mother had cancer and only had a few months to live. We came home right away and planned to resume later on. Except doctors were wrong and she lived quite healthily for another 5 years, so we never did get to resume our trip to Europe. One day we’ll go back and see the places we planned but never saw …. one day.
2003 to 2006
Determined not to head back into the same old routine as before, hubby and I decided to work together. We bought old and dilapidated houses and renovated them to either rent out or sell. It was hard work but fun, we loved working together. I also went back to school, 1 day a week and two evenings to get my book-keeping qualifications and turn all that financial experience into something formal.
I started working as a freelance book-keeper and soon got enough clients that I had more than enough work. I was never happier than when I got handed a plastic bag full of old faded receipts and had to complete a set of accounts and a tax return from it. Heaven! Yes, I know, I’m quite strange like that. I love to solve a problem, and if numbers or computers are involved, even better.
Hubby got a job as an estate agent (realtor if you are in the US I think) and I had my freelance book-keeping work so things were just fine. We made enough money and were doing up a house on the side, but it still really wasn’t the sort of lifestyle we dreamed about. You know they say that happiness comes from taking your favorite hobby and turning that into a job – and so we did just that.
Scuba diving for a job
So all those exotic foreign holidays we worked so hard for each year, they were all to popular scuba diving destinations. I’d been really fascinated by scuba diving since trying it out in the Girl Guides. We got our PADI Open Water qualifications in the Red Sea in Egypt back in (mumbles..) 1992 and had been really keen divers ever since. We’d already been slowly working our way through the various training courses and were qualified Rescue Divers, but now it was time to think about diving as a job.
So we took the plunge, literally, and sold up everything, left our jobs and moved to Thailand where we enrolled in Instructor training school. We were really taking a risk. Scuba instructors are usually much younger; it’s a gap year job, or something kids do to earn while they travel around the world. Would anyone want to hire a ‘more mature’ scuba diving couple? We were in Thailand and Asia for about a year and traveled around during that time visiting Cambodia and Vietnam. We met awesome people along the way, many of whom we are still in touch with now – we’ve got a couch to sleep on in dive resorts all over the world!
Eventually our scuba travels brought us to the Cayman Islands in mid 2007 and we both got a job as Instructors at a resort on the quiet East End of the island. The typical guest at the resort is older so they were happy to employ older instructors to match. It’s gorgeous here. Quiet, laid back, sunny almost every day, peaceful, low crime, tropical and warm. And we were being paid to go scuba diving. Could life be any better? We didn’t think so. We came intending to only stay 6 months before moving to our next job, but immediately it felt like home and we’ve never left.
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Everything changes in 2012
You know how you think everything is just perfect, life can’t get any better? Never say that out loud – you’ll jinx it! In April that year I had only said to my husband how everything was perfect, I’d never been happier and wanted it to go on forever. Then on 1st May I had a stroke just out of the blue that changed everything. I won’t go on and on about that here, no one wants to read miserable stuff, but let’s just say I wasn’t the same as I was before. I lost my job, lost a lot of my memory and had no idea how to do things I used to do before. I even had to learn how to drive all over again.
The start of something amazing
I’d never been particularly ‘crafty’ before, but all of a sudden after my illness, all I wanted to do was sew. No idea why, but it was all I could think about. I’ve never sewn. Well, we had to do a compulsory year of dress-making when I started my secondary education at the age of 11, and I made this awful dress from totally unsuitable material and in a horrid 1980’s batwing, shoulder-pads horror style. There was no fitting lesson, just make it up straight from the pattern, the whole class trying to share 5 sewing machines. (I feel a certain nostalgia for that pattern and have searched for it for hours online with no luck.)
So I borrowed a sewing machine from a very kind and encouraging colleague, rummaged around in the remnants bin and came away with some materials with which to start. And my sewing obsession was born. With limited access to materials and patterns, I made use of the free resources available on the internet and was delighted to find so many talented people out there willing to share their work and knowledge. Because my memory was so bad, I kept an online sewing diary of what I was learning so that I could refer back to it when I had forgotten it all again next week. I never expected anyone to read the site except me, but to my surprise, people started to find it, to comment and to encourage me in my sewing journey and so my sewing blog was discovered and started to grow.
The growth of So Sew Easy
I started to monetize So Sew Easy in December 2012 and in my first month I made a huge $37. Not a lot but it showed that it was possible, so without being able to work, blogging and earning money seemed like a good alternative. I could do it on my good days, get to enjoy some sewing, and only work when I felt well enough.
Well I threw myself into learning more about blogging, how to earn money, the ins and outs of advertising and affiliate marketing. As my sewing skills grew, so did my blogging know-how, so did my page views and so did the earnings from the site. It honestly took my breath away how successful it all became, until the site was generating a very comfortable full time income. Now, it was long hours and hard work I assure you, but just shows that you can grow something from nothing and be successful online doing what you love.
I’m no longer in charge at So Sew Easy. A lovely lady from Singapore runs the site now and I’ve taught her everything I know about how to be successful online. Hopefully she is a good student and will put all those lessons into practice and go from strength to strength. I know she will because the site is enjoying record traffic week after week and things there are growing like crazy. Good luck to you Mayra, I think you are going to be busy.
Where I am today
So as I said right at the start, I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned SO much. I’ve made a lot of changes in life, often completely stopped and turned off in a new direction. Sometimes of my own choice, sometimes suddenly things happen and life changes when you aren’t ready. Where I’m going, I don’t know. How long it will take me to get there – no idea. But I know whatever I do it will turn out all right in the end, so long as I follow the rules. What rules? Well these are the basic rules for success:
- do what makes you happy
- work hard and be the best you can be
- always keep learning something new
- focus and don’t give up