I am 50 so it’s not my first job, but it is my first in this industry.

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I take a deep breath in and hold it. 5..4..3..2..1 I exhale slowly. Repeat. I look down at my boot as I step onto the door mat. My heart rate increases. My palms become a little sweaty. I swallow. I’m nervous……very nervous but I’m also excited. I take my phone out of my pocket and double check the shift details. I’m 3 minutes early.

It’s my first shift alone as a disability support worker. I’m 50 so it’s not my first job, but it is my first in this industry. I begin to focus on the participant on the other side of the door. I’ve read their file and am prepared as much as possible. But would they like me? Will I know what to say? Could I do this alone? All these questions rush through my mind as I continue to stand silently at the front door. I close my eyes and take in another deep breath.

My mind wanders to thoughts of my grandmother. She was my role model; she was an independent woman who travelled the world, wore cool runners and took me to the football every Saturday afternoon. I loved spending time with her. Her name was Annie Walker and she worked for the local council in the role of Home Help. On school holidays, she would often take me along with her to work which was to visit other people’s homes. I remember having fun on these visits as there was always someone for me to play with. What I didn’t understand at that young age was each of my new friends had a disability and my grandmother was there to provide the family with support.

I remember the warm greetings we would receive. Her ‘friends’ were always happy to see us. She left a wake of laughter wherever she went. Time with her was time well spent. There were memories of delivering homemade shortbread or roses from her garden; she taught me the pleasures of giving and caring for others.  She suffered her own loss when her 18 year old son passed away from kidney disease. She connected so well with her ‘friends’ as she had her own hardships for many years and could relate. She was a kind and loving woman and she made people’s lives better.

It was during these visits that I met Charles. He was a few years older than me and we loved to play in his back garden or games in the lounge as my Grandma would spend time with his mum. We would visit him every Saturday morning. I knew there was something different about Charles but that never got in the way of us having fun together. He was a kind and gentle boy and I always enjoyed spending time with him. All I knew as an 8 year old was that Charles was my friend. It wasn’t until a few years later did I understand that Charles had a condition called Down syndrome. We were friends for many years as my grandmother stayed in contact long after her working life was over.

After one of our visits with Charles, I told my grandmother I wanted to be a teacher so that I could help people like Charles. She proudly reminded me of this as she watched me graduate as a primary school teacher.  Now with over 25 years experience as a teacher, I know I kept my promise to her. I feel I have come full circle. I’m starting a new career; one that will utilise the skills I have learnt throughout my life, personally and professionally. I am excited about the experiences ahead. My grandmother would be very proud as I follow in her footsteps.

I focus back on the door in front of me. I take a deep breath and knock. The door opens and I am greeted by a smiling face. Instantly my nerves are gone. A huge smile spreads across my face and I instantly know this is exactly where I am meant to be.

Full Circle – Kerry J Allison