Julie’s Story

I was born in the 1960s. I am the youngest of 3 children and have two older brothers. My parents were originally from southern Ireland. They didn’t really know much about schools in Dublin and so mine was ultimately chosen because our neighbour had 5 daughters and it made sense for me to travel into school with them on the bus. It probably wasn’t the most thorough selection process but I was glad of it since I ended up attending a school I really enjoyed for both primary and secondary.

My parents ran their own business. First from our home, then from offices near where we lived.. I credit much of my career success now with the early experience and exposure I got from working summers and holidays in my parent’s business.

No one event stands out from my childhood, rather it was their creation of my sense of being wrapped in love and fundamentally loved. Mum and Dad were always there for us even though they were extremely busy. When I’d came home from school each day I’d ring my Mum at work and proceed to give her a blow by blow account of my day at school. We are talking 10-15 minutes in the middle of her work day before I’d skip off happily out to play. Apparently, unlike my brothers, I needed this time to ‘off load’ and she never hurried me off the phone. On the odd occasion I wasn’t able to talk to Mum, I’d be in a grump for the rest of the day. Of course I didn’t know this but my Mum had worked it out and so scheduled this time into her day.
Mum and Dad always made time for us and valued our opinions. We always felt like our voices were heard. They allowed us to be creative and dream. We had a large container in the back garden that Dad had got at work and it was the site of many of our adventures with our neighbours. I think there is nothing more powerful than being free to be who you are and loved for who you are. They encouraged me to dream and fly and were the softest place in the world to fall.

My Mum always encouraged me to enjoy my childhood. She used to say that I would be old enough for long enough and to enjoy each day. My Dad used to encourage us to ‘press pause’ when good things happened so that we could appreciate the moment. He said it was good to store these moments up. It could be something as simple as lying in the grass making up stories about the clouds. I think above all my parents created an environment in which I was nurtured, secure and loved and consequently happy. They supported all of us kids in whatever we chose to do and only ever pushed us to do our best and to enjoy our childhoods.
They encouraged me to never be fearful of authority, to ask questions and to stand up against injustice. I remember once in school one of my friends couldn’t afford an annual we were all eagerly awaiting. I told my Mum that I didn’t want one either as I didn’t want my friend to be alone in not having one. My Mum said she respected my decision. Then to my surprise, on the day the annuals were being given out by the teacher we both got one too! I’ll never forget our excitement. I found out lately that my Mum had quietly paid for them both but asked the teacher just to say they were extras.

They also encouraged me to be involved in community activity and volunteerism. Through this I found my love of girl guiding. This gave me a space to be myself, a child, an adventurer. Girl guiding thought me to learn through fun activities. Many of the friendships that I made through guiding remain to this day.

Like any child I had ups and downs, fallings out with friends, and definitely a few personality clashes along the way. My parents encouraged me to ‘offload’ and share my feelings. They didn’t try to ‘solve’ my problems but they nudged and helped me in finding my own solutions. My parents worked on the basis that if I told the truth I would never be in trouble. Our relationship was in essence based on trust. It was very empowering and something that I still to this day cherish.

I know I was lucky to have a happy childhood. With all that I know now I realise I was extremely fortunate. I used to think at times that my parents were being too tough or mean but I realise now that they were looking out for my best interests.

Unlike my brothers who seemed to sail through exams, academia was not my strong suit. In my late teens I failed an exam and it had a profound and negative effect on me. In particular, it impacted my mental health and I found myself lethargic and depressed. I was very lucky to have an enlightened doctor who suggested counselling as a way to work through my feelings around failure, to understand that failing didn’t make me a failure, and to develop coping strategies should these feelings arise in the future. While a very difficult experience at the time, I believe this experience equipped me for so many life events, successes and disappointments. I think everyone could benefit from an opportunity to understand their feelings and how they deal with their emotions.