We start out in life with what our parents have made us, and then life moulds us to become what it wants us to be, or perhaps it was all part of a plan and we would always be changing. Do you think you are the same person you once were?
Split personality syndrome. I know I am about six different women rolled into one rather scary package; the personalities have evolved because I have lived in so many different places, done so many interesting and challenging things. Life has changed me.
At 17, I left a job I hated because I did not have the courage to ask for help. I was shy and frightened of everything. Oh, if only I had the strength I have gained now, how different it would have been. I worked in a college office (the most famous boys college in the city), then in insurance as a typist, and hated both jobs. At the time I lived in Bristol in the United Kingdom. I was not meant for office work.
A new woman emerged a year later when I plunged into a job my mother disapproved of. I started training to become a nurse in a mental institution – that was what it was called then. I had found my strength, I was good with people, I could care for them, I could understand their struggles. All was going well; I was passing the first exams easily. A year into my studies I met my husband to be. New start again. I fell hook, line and sinker, and he told me he had been offered a job in New Zealand.
Jacqueline Mark two. I was a young bride off to NZ, I had no idea what I would face in that first year. I became ill just after we arrived, having picked up TB when I nursed on an open ward. I recovered after eight weeks in hospital. When I was at last at home I decided no more waiting; I would grab life, after all I began to worry, ‘What else could happen’? I didn’t expect to become ill, so fate might have other surprises. It meant throwing caution (and birth control) to the winds, I would take chances, which was how we came to have our first baby.
Coping with so much on my own meant I was becoming stronger. I was 12,000 miles (19,312km) from my family, I just had to get on with life. I was nearly 21 when our daughter, Kerry, was born. I am sure I made mistakes, but I was a simple barefoot mother; I did what I felt was right. Within those first three years we had two children and a third on the way. Against the advice I might have had if I had listened, the children were fine.
I was becoming more assertive, but still had a long way to go. Returning to England just before the third birth – a beautiful son weighing 9lb 9oz (4.5kg), I had no idea just how horrible the next couple of years would be.
Mark three personality was forged by the hardships we faced. My dad went bankrupt, my husband’s father died of cancer, we had no money and few possessions. I was 25 and life was tough. Three children under four, and I was still waiting for a washing machine that first year or so.
Mark four was a whole new ball game, I found a place I loved to live, a Wiltshire village became our next home. My husband started a graphic design business. While I worked as a nurse, doing two nights, then as a waitress, also in a chemist shop; later in several local bars, always working around the needs of the children. We had a better standard of living, there were parties and life was fun. I wore mini skirts and felt I had at last found my personality, I didn’t realise I was so brave, and that I could enjoy life this much. We took holidays inviting all the family to share with us. Happy times on quiet sandy beaches on the north coast of Devon. I was cooking for 10, but was completely content. Our living standard and the business both improved. The children went to college and then all were ready to fly the nest about the same time.
Personality five was when we had time to ourselves, holidays alone on beautiful islands off the coast of Spain, weekends in Paris. We had moved to the city of Bath, to an apartment flat in a Regency house, built more than 200 years earlier. I worked in retail fashion, but finally decided to return to a career more suited to my caring nature. I did a course as an occupational therapy assistant. I was confident, and seemed able to deal with anything, in my late-40s I had found my strength.
Just as well too! As my sixth persona is as an Australian. I love it! I have lived in Australia since 1987, and took easily to Australian life. I had work within the first two weeks of our arrival, caring for Jewish elderly at Monefiore, then as a carer for dementia patients in the Chelsea area. In fact, I worked until I was 70, winding down slowly to just working in a nursing home locally, doing activities for a few days a week.
My husband and I now live in Gippsland, and I love the people and the place. We are no longer well off – quite the opposite – but I find the important things are friends, environment, and contentment. I have all three.