The best advice I have ever been given

This post is inspired by Josie’s Writing Workshop over at her Sleep Is For The Weak blog.

The best piece of advice I have ever been given came to me  in the middle of Wales in 1993. By a guy whose name I can’t even remember.

I was coming to the end of my university course and it hadn’t been the fabulous experience I’d expected. Brought up in the 80s on a diet of Johnny Ball and Tomorrows World (when it was good) I was fascinated by how things worked, so I’d chosen to do a physics degree. But the reality was very different – apart from one afternoon a week in the lab, the rest of the course was just maths, really hard maths.  Half way through the course my confidence was at a low and I dropped out. I was talked back by a tutor and ended up taking physics with a medical physics option, which was an improvement because it was using science to make ill people better. All that maths had a practical use at last.

By 1993 I was coming to the end of my course and, even though life was better with medical physics, I wasn’t going to get the grades I needed to actually be a medical physicist. The recession was just about at its worst so there were next-to-no jobs out there.  At that time I felt I’d have been better off if I’d left school at 18 and got a job – at least I’d have some useful skills.

We went on a residential course somewhere in mid-Wales a few months before we took our final exams. The physics department had invited an ex-student back to give us a presentation on life beyond the University of Wales. He’d got a physics degree, but like me he hadn’t been the natural born scientist he’d hoped to be.  He’d done some more studying and become a Master of Wine. Despite doing something completely different from his degree, he said that his physics had come in useful. Especially when he had to learn about the technicalities of producing wine.

“Nothing is ever wasted”, he said.

Just four words, but it gave me hope that the tough previous three years hadn’t been for nothing. Those words have come back to me whenever I’ve come to a crossroads and wondered if the path I’ve taken to get there was a waste of time and effort.

Like the time I realised, even thought I’d spent a year getting qualified as a teacher, I didn’t actually like being a teacher.  A couple of years later I got a job training teachers in IT,  using what I knew in a way I didn’t expect. And it led me into a whole new career in training.

Then there was the day I realised I couldn’t go back to my full-time training job when my maternity leave ended. Was that the end of my career? I kicked myself for not seeing it coming and making better plans. But over the next few months I realised that six years as a freelance trainer was actually pretty good preparation for life as a self-employed mum.

As the man said, nothing is ever wasted.

So if you happen to know Master of Wine who is in his early forties and has a BSc in Physics with Astrophysics from the University of Wales, please let me know. I’d like to say thank you.

5 Replies to “The best advice I have ever been given”

  1. I am still getting over the fact that you can be a Master of WINE!! I have so missed my calling…

    Great advice. And true for me – I’ve had a bit of a stop and start life and times felt I’d wasted my energy in things that didn’t work out. But as time goes on I begin to see how all the little experiences have added up and lead to other things. Like you say, nothing is ever wasted.

    Thanks Helen! x

  2. Thanks to you to, Josie!

    I was surprised by the master of wine too (all I know about wine is that it comes in 3 colours – red, white and pink!). You never know, this could be a whole new career!

    Life does seem to involve a lot of ‘doing what seems best at the time’, doesn’t it? So many of the loose ends we make along the way do seem to tie themselves up eventually.

  3. Hello!
    My name is Sarah Abbott; I’m a member of Mum’s the Boss, and a Master of Wine (yes, I know it doesn’t sound like a proper job, but it is really, promise.) Really enjoyed your post. Like you I did lots of seemingly unrelated jobs which have all come together now that I’m running a (toddler friendly) wine events business ( if you’re interested). I’m not sure who your Master of Wine is, but there are only 280 of us. If you’re curious then you could probably find him on the Masters of Wine Website:

  4. Hi Sarah! It’s a funny old world – there are only 280 masters of wine and I’ve now met two of you! Thanks for your post and I hope to meet you in person at Mums The Boss soon.

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