Marama Alliance UK
As Nike said... "JUST DO IT!"
When I was asked to share my story, I was really excited and couldn’t wait to share about my journey into finally landing this job I have wanted for almost 5 years. That was a month ago. Today, I’m grappling with what to write and what exactly to share. My story is so similar to that of so many Fijian women who come over to the UK that a part of me feels it’s not a big deal BUT I think I’m being a hypocrite when I say that, as I like to remind people not to downplay their breakthroughs.
I guess each of our stories, no matter how ordinary, is layered with so much things that people don’t know or don’t see. We all only show what we want others to see. I'm not trying to garner sympathy as I will delve a bit into a bit of my personal struggles. Talking about sympathy, I have a whole team of family and friends who love me and cherish me and are always on hand to pick me up from some of the darkest times of my life. I honestly don’t know how my journey would have turned out without the people who have spoken kindness, care, love and understanding into my life. The amount of amazing women who have inspired me here in the UK, is a story on its own. Having a team of people who want nothing but the best for you and who pray for you earnestly is an absolute gift.
Anyways, this piece unpacks some of those layers mentioned above. This is MY story, nothing I say here is meant to downplay the enormous importance of education. It is simply what I have observed and gone through.
Earlier this year I tried to go back into university to continue and hopefully complete a Degree I had started some 15 years ago at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. Back then, even though I wasn’t a straight 'A' student and missed many lectures to have a cigarette and can of coke at the infamous stone tables, getting a Degree was the epitome of excellence. I would on so many occasions picture myself with that graduation gown, that hat and finally moving that tassel to the... left? Or right? I’m not so sure now.
I guess growing up, so much of my self worth was attached to excelling academically. Mid 2018 I was able to come over to the UK on a student visa, thanks to my Uncle and to my Dad who made sure I got everything I needed. I didn’t finish what I came to do and almost 2 years later I was pregnant and married. Starting a family and having children has really been my biggest catalyst for change. It has really forced me to unlearn and unpack so many stubbornly held beliefs and conditioning.
Through my 15 years of being in the UK, I have done it all. I’ve been a cleaner, a waitress, a parcel sorter, a steward and also a carer. Though these were all amazing jobs and helped me tremendously in my journey, I always felt I was nothing or lacking something. Now, looking back I realize how shackled my mind was. I wish I knew then what I know now, that no position and no job will ever equate to my worth as simply being a human being and the daughter of the Most High.
In 2017, I started dabbling in immigration matters and realized how much I loved it. I have been invested ever since, and for the past 5 years including the past 3 at MAUK, I’ve been deeply engrossed in anything immigration related that affected the foreign and commonwealth (F&C). For anyone that knows me, they will know how much I’ve wanted to get into a role that would help me to be regulated by the OISC as an Immigration Advisor, but to cater specifically to the armed forces community.
I have prayed and thought about this so much, I cannot even put into words how much I wanted this. But as a mere mortal, and as someone who struggles with a lot of self issues mentally, I somehow convinced myself that maybe I wasn’t gonna get it after all. So, I tried going back to Uni, and absolutely hated it. I then gave up and beat myself up about it.
Earlier this year, the F&C post from AFF was advertised. I got to the interview level but didn’t get it. Still, I kept on with the volunteer work in Immigration. However, I felt that I was a few years away from 40 and I wanted something definite and something that could bring a steady stream of income. So, I threw caution to the wind and started applying to join the RAF. The day I went to sit for my test, on the ride back home from Bournemouth, 2 of my good friends messaged me with “there’s another AFF F&C post being advertised”. I guess that was Gods way of allowing me to do what I am most passionate about. I applied and finally got in! The tears of joy that were shed the day I got the job, is probably one that will hold a record for my 'tagitagive' ways. Elated was an understatement.
After 5 years of volunteer work, there’s a few things I really want to stress:
Volunteer work is INVALUABLE. If you can do it, do it with all your heart and do it well. People are watching, trust me, they are! I guess for the most part, your ability to give 100% to something that doesn’t give you any monetary returns speaks volumes to your character.
When something is meant for you, nobody and nothing will stop you from having it. If your self talk is whack and your anxiety is high, just do it. Do it scared, do it crying, do it anxiety ridden, but JUST DO IT! Our minds at times can be our greatest enemy but if you can push yourself to just do things despite that fear then, congratulations!
Do what you love and do it well. We all have passions buried deep within us that needs some serious digging to get to sometimes but if you are able to discover your purpose, run with it. Your purpose and your job is different and I can honestly say that I consider myself incredibly blessed to be able to do a job that holds my purpose. I will never take this lightly.
If you are in the Armed Forces community, current and veteran here in the UK, please make use of the charity organizations that cater to our needs. I was lucky enough to use RFEA when trying to find jobs and I cannot speak enough praises for the RFEA team especially my beautiful employment coach- Sarah Penaluna. God brought this organization and this woman into my life when I needed it most. Apart from them, there are many more and a simple Google search will bring them up.
Constant higher levels of education is not for everyone. Maybe I lacked perseverance or maybe I just couldn’t sacrifice enough, BUT I’d really like to help more people to realize that you can still make it in life without the most amazing education. I know this might be a controversial stance but it’s something I’ve observed. You can make it through so many other ways. I know so many people who are doing amazing without all the educational achievements. I didn’t realize how rewarding having a side business of baking would be, but here we are. In saying that though, I have nothing but pure admiration and respect for people who are able to hack years and years of studying. It’s not easy and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
In saying all that I’ve shared, I'd like to add that no matter how amazing and how great success, positions and accolades are, never attach your worth to it. Your existence makes you valuable, everything else that comes with it is a bonus. It’s not a definition of you. It’s really taken me years to understand this. We are conditioned from such an early age to attain so much, to keep getting and keep striving. As great and as noble as this is, it’s sometimes scary because we tend to get on this road where nothing is ever enough. I’m learning to be content and to be more present and to enjoy, truly enjoy every moment and to revel in what I heard from a reel on Facebook as “mundane normality”.
And with that, thank you for reading. This piece might have been all over the place but I hope something here has caught your eye and warmed your heart.
All my love,