My Story

For this first blog post I just wanted to introduce myself and tell you a bit about my life so far, and how I got to this stage in my career.

It wasn’t an easy ride, that’s for sure. I’ve had lots of up and downs along the way, and in fact, most of my twenties have been marked by wrong decisions, failures and disappointments. I’ll be turning 30 next month, and I see this as an opportunity to shake off the mistakes I’ve made in my past, and look forward to this exciting new chapter in my life.

During my teens my life seemed so full of promise. I had some of the top exam results in the country and could basically get into whatever university I wanted. The world was my oyster. The only problem was I had no idea at all what I wanted to do with my life.

I ended up choosing to study Astrophysics at the University of St Andrews. I honestly have no idea why, as maths and science were definitely not my strongest subjects. I probably felt under pressure to quickly choose something, and this seemed like a good idea at the time.

When I got to uni, I quickly found out that the course was completely wrong for me, and also that the university was wrong for me too. I struggled to fit in among all the privately schooled kids who were sons and daughters of celebrities, politicians, surgeons, and royalty – Prince William was there for goodness sake! And I grew up in one of the roughest areas of the country.

I changed from Astrophysics to English Literature, which I definitely enjoyed more. But I still couldn’t cope with university life, so I dropped out and took a job in the office of a construction site until I figured out what I wanted to do.

Eventually I decided I did want to go back to university, so applied to Glasgow, and was accepted the following year. I studied English Literature and History, for the first two years, then changed to just History, and graduated with an MA.

I quickly realised after graduating that there just weren’t a lot of companies out there who were interested in someone with a history degree. I didn’t even know what sort of jobs to apply for – I mean if you study teaching you become a teacher; if you study engineering you become an engineer. But what the hell do you do with history? I applied for everything and anything and attended interview after interview, but couldn’t find anything at all. Some jobs I went for had over 150 applicants, so the chances of actually getting something were slim.

Anyone who has ever been unemployed will know how the constant rejections gradually eat away at your confidence. Plus the whole experience of going to the job centre every week is so degrading. Eventually I did get a job as a receptionist, and was earning £6 an hour. It seemed as though the £17,000 I’d spent on education was just a complete waste of time and money.

I must have been aged around 25 by this point, and all of my friends seemed settled in their careers and were starting to buy their own homes and get married. By comparison I felt as though my life was a mess – I had no future prospects, no money, a string of failed relationships, and was back living with my parents. There didn’t seem to be any hope at all.

Out of the blue, I landed a well-paying job as a data analyst and I also started a new relationship with Andy (who I’ve been with ever since.) This seemed like an opportunity to get my life back on track, and gave me at least some sort of hope for the future.

I soon discovered that I hated working as a data analyst. I had no formal training or qualifications in it at all, so I don’t really know how I got the job in the first place! I was way out of my depth, and would have to work late every single day to complete the workload. I moved onto another company which was even worse, and I just felt completely trapped in a career that I hadn’t chosen. This was easily the lowest point of my career.

This was when I discovered freelancing. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before! It was as if something in me just clicked. I signed up for a writing course, and this gave me the confidence to start seeking out clients. I managed to find two almost straight away, and started doing freelancing work during evenings and weekends.

It was hard work to begin with. I was working 16-hour days with my two jobs which meant I didn’t have much spare time to spend with family or friends. But, I was determined to make it a success, and for the first time in my life I felt as though I had a sense of purpose in what I was doing.

Exactly a year ago, I finally found the courage to quit my job as a data analyst and pursue writing full time. Andy encouraged me to do whatever made me happy, and promised to support me financially if things didn’t work out to start with, which made things seem a lot less scary. It was still a massive leap into the unknown though, but I suppose sometimes it’s necessary to take risks. Of course things have been difficult, but the personal sense of achievement makes it all worthwhile.

In the past year I’ve written for several magazines and websites; I’ve joined a new writing class and made lots of new friends; I’ve started performing some of my stories and poetry in public; and I’ve even written the first draft of a novel!

Two or three years ago when I was in the depths of despair I would never have thought any of this possible, but it’s amazing how quickly you can turn things around if you just put your mind to it. For the first time in ten years I can say I’m truly happy and loving life. I can’t wait to turn 30 now, and find out what’s in store in the next ten years.

In this blog, I want to share some of my advice for success and happiness, in freelance and creative writing, but also for life in general. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I’ve certainly learned from all of the mistakes I’ve made, and there have been quite a few of them! But if I can turn things around, then so can you!

Ailie Wallace freelance writer blogger

Not the coolest kids in school (Back right, 2002)

Ailie Wallace freelance writer blogger

St Andrews University 2004 (right)

Ailie Wallace freelance writer blogger

Finally graduating from Glasgow 2010

Ailie Wallace freelance writer blogger

One of my first times speaking in public (copyright Sweet P Photography 2015)

Ailie Wallace freelance writer blogger

Now I’m a regular public speaker and performer (Copyright Sweet P Photography 2015)

 

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