Two weeks ago I graduated, and the day after the ceremony I wrote this stream of consciousness, which (unsurprisingly, especially for those who know me in real life) was too long for LinkedIn. You’ll have to forgive the slightly self-indulgent nature of this article – the regular readers among you will (hopefully) know this is not the norm!
The topics you’re about to read are ones I’ve not written about before on this blog – for many reasons, and for many reasons I have not gone into detail about my back story or my route to law later in life. However, I’m publishing it here for those of you who are struggling with shut doors, people saying no or fighting other battles. I hope this serves as a reminder that where there’s life there’s hope, and that we should all dare to dream.
Six years ago I was in a hospital bed – during a decade plus battle with illness – unable to even do the most basic things for myself. Five years ago, I sat in a rowing boat and worked up the nerve to say for the first time out loud that I wanted to be a lawyer. Four years ago, at the age of 25, I finished studying for my GCSEs and Access Course having missed my formative school years. Three years ago I was awarded an academic scholarship from King’s College London to study at the place that has become my home and given me the most extraordinary experience of my life. Two years ago I had got mooting, mini-pupillages, paralegalling and student partying under my belt. One year ago I finally finished post-hospital medical appointments, received offers for Training Contracts and accepted one from Mishcon de Reya. Today I am someone with a law degree, a job lined up and a safe and comfortable roof over my head. I’m incredibly privileged, and I know it!
I came to university as a mature student with only four GCSEs and a Diploma from an inner-city college peopled by disadvantaged and underrepresented students – people who, like me, had not had a straight path in life, but were determined to look forward and better themselves. I was incredibly lucky and by some miracle the team at the Dickson Poon School of Law at King’s saw potential in me and my application, that I perhaps didn’t. King’s has helped me find my place and my voice, and for that I will be forever grateful. In the last few years I have tried to explore, experience and improve; improve not just myself, but others’ opportunities and experiences both in and out of university. There has been self-doubt and self-criticism, there have been heartaches and headaches, there have been the best of times and the worst – but through it all there have been the most amazing people to share and learn with; always a friend, always a smile, always a support.
My university experience was far more than just getting my degree – that was the icing on top of an already delicious cake – one made from friends for life, incredible experiences, wonderful teachers, self-knowledge, developing an ability to stay balanced, maintaining my health and ending up proud of myself and the person I’ve become. Those are things much more prized than anything in my eyes. So when I was told ten minutes before the start of my graduation ceremony that I was being awarded the Jelf Medal I was utterly floored and brought to tears. The Jelf Medal is, “the most prestigious prize, given to the student who has most distinguished themselves not only in academic proficiency but in social activities – nominated by the College academics and staff”. I am (still) utterly speechless at getting the award and can only thank everyone who put my name forward – it astounds me. The award is the cherry on top of the icing, on top of the cake!
So if this slightly garbled, lengthy post hasn’t spelled it out – don’t give up. Don’t stop yourself saying out loud what you want. Don’t let the past, the seemingly insurmountable barriers you might face, yourself, or anyone else drown out your voice, smother your potential or tell you you aren’t good enough. Dare to dream. Keep the hope alive. Get to know your self, your innate abilities and talent (that aren’t proven by accolades or pieces of paper). Feed that vital spark that we all have inside ourselves, and go for it at your own pace. If I can do it, so can you!
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