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Way back when I was in high school I had a lot of ideas about what I might want to ‘be when I grew up’ but I found it very difficult to decide on one thing and had real problems imagining myself actually making a living out of being say, an archaeologist. University just seemed incredibly daunting to me, so despite an interest in psychology, I shied away from that too. Being a Clairvoyant or Intuitive professionally wasn’t even in my vocabulary back then.

I’d always had a knack for designing and making clothing and spent many an hour at the dining table hunched over an old Singer sewing machine. Back when I was a teen every high-street had a haberdashery store full of wonderful fabrics on rolls, buttons and trims and those old paper patterns that you could buy in a packet, pin to your fabric and start cutting your great new creation.

Working within the 'All White' theme dictated by our teacher, this was one of my first designs at college.

Working within the ‘All White’ theme dictated by our teacher, this was one of my first designs at college.

“Okay, so I guess I will study fashion design and become a fashion designer.” Not as much fun as its sounds, as I would soon discover. The three years of study at East Sydney Tech in Darlinghurst were absolutely gruelling. Whilst my school friends were complaining about the 12 to 18 hours of lectures they had to attend each week in their ‘full time’ university courses, we were subject to 40….yes 40 hours a week of classes – Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm – and then had a mountain of homework to do most nights. ‘No Doz’ and anything that could help me stay awake soon became my friends.

Our year was a mixed and interesting group of people but I was never one of the ‘cool’ ones. I made some great friends but the constant competition and the relatively superficial nature of the subject matter soon wore me down and I remember feeling miserable before the first year was even over, wishing I could leave and do something else. But what? I kept telling myself that it would all be fine and that I would be happy and successful one day. But that day never came. Not from my point of view anyway.

In the ten or so years that followed my graduation I moved from one reasonably good job to another. I escaped to London a couple of years after graduating and wound up living there for nearly three years, avoiding the fashion industry altogether. On returning to Australia however, my limited skill-set and desperate need for an income drove me back to the rag-trade and all the things I had disliked about it before.

Trying to 'be someone' in one of my college creations.

Trying to ‘be someone’ in one of my college creations.

Design College sketches

One of my illustrations for a design assignment

On the face of it a good salary and a company car sound great. Further job changes and promotions brought overseas buying trips into my job description, but I still felt like I was drowning. Out of my depth, uncomfortable and unhappy. By then I knew without a doubt that making myself a great dress for a big night out was very different from working in this cut-throat industry where getting to the top and staying there were the only things that mattered. I remember feeling so shocked when I discovered that some of my female colleagues were earning double what I was because they had been sleeping with the bosses of that large company! Ugghh! How revolting and how demoralising when I worked such long hours and tried so hard!

Eventually, my emotional and physical health began to fail and I found myself beset by recurring bouts of depression and serious problems with my immune system which brought on illness and discomfort ranging from appalling tonsillitis to chronic fatigue. Some days I was so depressed and the idea of going to work filled me with so much dread that I would cry from the moment I got out of bed until the moment I stepped out of the house. Clearly, this could not go on for ever.

At the time, I really believed that there was something wrong with me. Obviously I had a great lifestyle. There was enough money, I lived in a nice suburb of Sydney and drove a comfortable car. I flew here and there business class and stayed in fabulous locations in luxurious hotels. What was wrong with me? How could I not be happy? Suppliers wanted to take me out for dinner and they sent me Alessi kettles for Christmas. I couldn’t leave all that behind and I certainly couldn’t tell my father I wanted out after he had spent a small fortune putting me through college.

Finally the relationship I was in, during what turned out to be my last two years in the fashion industry, fell apart. It had taken me a while to admit it to myself, but he was a binge drinker. When he came home late from work one night, drunk, angry and threatened to hit me over some MyISAMcuous comment, I knew my life was hitting rock bottom. The next day I sent him packing and the roller-coaster ride began in earnest. So, at the ripe old age of twenty nine I had to restart my life.