Apprenticeships Week Blog: Letter to my 16-year-old Self

Tuesday February 9th, 2021

by Lee Price

Dear Lee,

I know the classroom isn’t where you want to be right now, but you must continue to work hard in school and pass your exams.  You might not be academic, but you make up for it in creativity. You’re a natural performer, and long to sing and dance on the West End stage. But there’s no one to offer guidance on how this dream of yours can be turned into a reality.

Instead, you’ll use your creativity to focus on a different career as a hairdresser. You’ll go to college and start your first job in Aberystwyth. Would you believe at 19 you’ll marry your childhood sweetheart, Rob? When you’re 21, you’ll swap the Elan Valley reservoirs and the rolling hills for the bright lights of Hong Kong. These will be some of your best years, so live them to the fullest, enjoy every minute.

You will return to Wales though, and experience a love much deeper than you’ve ever felt before – having children. You’re no longer just a woman, but a mother too. The birth of your two daughters, Rhiannon and Lowri, will give you a whole new perspective on life, a new focus.  Those sleepless nights will be worth it; and your daughters will grow into graceful, successful women. You’ll be so proud.

As you watch your children grow older, your duties as a mum become less demanding, and you’ll begin to seek a new challenge. I know change is daunting, but it’s time you did this for yourself. You’ll find the courage to leave a career of 22 years in hairdressing and start working at Powys County Council. At first, you work in administration, but when you move across the organisation to work in waste management, you’re encouraged to consider an apprenticeship.

At first, at 56, you’ll think you’re too old to go ahead with it. Surely only young people do apprenticeships, don’t they? How will you pay the bills? But after reading into it, you can’t believe how much apprenticeships have changed since you were at school. You soon realise you can continue working during your apprenticeship, get a new qualification, and earn a living. Let that be a lesson to you Lee: never let your initial fears hold you back, have confidence in yourself and believe you can achieve anything you set out to do.

I hate to tell you this, I don’t want to upset you, but I need to warn you. A month into your apprenticeship, you’ll face the biggest, most devastating challenge of all – unanticipated grief. You will lose Rob, the love of your life.  You have never known pain like it. You’re supposed to spend the rest of your life with him, but this infinite love will be surpassed by loneliness.

The loss of your soul mate will be debilitating. But Rob will, and does, live on through your two precious daughters and four beautiful grandchildren who give you a purpose in life. His belief in you to complete your apprenticeship makes you determined to resume your training. You’ll work harder than ever. Your courage, passion and persistence will pay off and your hard work will be recognised at the Apprenticeship Awards Cymru where you’ll receive an ‘All Wales Higher Apprenticeship Award.’ This will present a mixture of emotions, you think if only he could see. Well, he can. He is always with you, supporting you, silently holding your hand.

Looking back, you’ll never regret your career choices. Hairdressing and waste enforcement might be two polar paths, but they’re paths you’ve embraced with confidence.  You do sometimes wish you’d fought harder to follow your dreams in theatre and made it to the West End. Regardless, you’ll still be proud of your achievements. Life will present many obstacles but with fortitude, you will thrive again.

The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.

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