The Last Shift

Today’s the day.

I first entered employment at seventeen-years-old simply because my mother needed financial help. I continued to work hard at college and do well in my A-levels during the day, and then in the evenings and weekends I would go to work in a grocery store working on a checkout and bringing home maybe £80 per week.

That money was huge, it helped our household immensely. I am so grateful that I could do that for her and for my little sister.

Then after all the drama of losing my mother and sister, I discovered that I was pregnant with my first child, at the age of 18.

I continued to work those unsociable hours at different jobs for the next thirteen years. This was so that I could be present for my children during the day, I could be with them, and teach them, and take them to school, never miss an event. It was also so my abusive ex could go to work during the day. His income wasn’t great and he refused to do anything about it, so I had to go out to work to keep our family ticking over, I had to work when he was at home so that we didn’t incur childcare costs. This meant evenings and weekends.

For fourteen years, twelve of those I have been a mother, I have gotten up at the crack of dawn, I have run a household, managed three children, childminded during the day for a couple of years in the middle, and always gone to work at 6pm, I would finish late, get home and flop into bed. All through the night I would manage children, and babies, all the usual nonsense.

Then do it all again.

Today’s the day that finally ends.

Today, I am leaving my job.

You see, in the last two months, as if by magic, I have thrust myself onto the path of pursuing my dreams. It’s terrifying. It’s exhilarating.

Last night we were working on my website, preparing my business for the serious launch. It still feels a bit surreal.

I’ve always been a writer, you see. In my own space, never sharing my work, but writing so passionately and fervently whenever I had the chance. I always dreamed of writing for a living. I remember being in year five at primary school and my teacher reading out my creative writing project to the class.

I was so pleased with myself that day, hearing her praise and my words spoken out loud to the class. That particular story got me in a bit of a sticky situation – it was a lost love story about a woman walking along the beach looking for her dead lover, it ended with her walking into the sea to join him in death, and the man’s name was Jack. We happened to have a Jack in our class and after that he was quite persistent in asking me to be his girlfriend. I had to admit that the name was purely a coincidence and the story was not a secret love letter announcing my undying love at the age of nine!

Through secondary school I adored everything creative; acting, music, English, expressive arts. If it involved the imagination, I was there. I did really well. I remember returning to that Jack story in my GCSE’s for my expressive arts project. We had to pick two of the arts and create a project that combined them, I picked creative writing and art, that story became a book and I did all my own illustrations and cover design. The finished product completely blew my teachers away.

I continued to write during college, and then obviously my purpose in life changed. I started to work to help provide at home, I lost my mother and my sister, I fell pregnant with my first child and life became very different. Suddenly I had to work to survive, I had a bundle of small people over the next lot of years and I was navigating a long term abusive relationship, raising children, and staying sane.

Every now and then I would sit at my laptop and immerse myself in the worlds that I created, safe in the knowledge that it would stay with me and I could write whatever I wanted. There was a freedom there that I can’t explain.

When my eldest started nursery at age 3, I enrolled with the open university to finally do my English Degree. It took me four years and one pregnancy but I graduated with first class honours degree and I was glowing. I remember sitting a three hour exam while I was 36 weeks pregnant, I was absolutely dedicated to doing my very best, for me and for my children.

I’ve always maintained that everything I do is for my small people. They aren’t an EXCUSE not to try hard, they are my REASON to always do better.

After that, I started sending my work to publishers and one of the first pieces I sent off was picked up, they wanted to see the rest of the manuscript. The problem was, there was no rest of the manuscript and as I was working on it my ex decided that was a great time to get me pregnant again to keep me down.

I struggled a lot being pregnant with my third child, I already loved him more than anything but I knew from having my first two with that monster what was in store for me. I think a little piece of me died during that pregnancy. I lost every single ounce of motivation for myself. I channeled everything I had into being a mother and I lost every other bit of me.

Fast forward to 2021 and the fifteen year abusive relationship finally ended for good. I was free. After that, I somehow found the strength to tell my best friend about what I had been through and he was so wonderfully supportive.

We fell in love. It was unexpected and the happiest I have ever been besides the days my children were all born.

We shared everything together, the good, the bad and the ugly. I told him about my long dead dreams.

“You want to be a writer,” he said, “why don’t we do something about it?”

He helped me to set up this blog to start sharing my work. Five weeks later I was sharing stories all over social media, including Linked In. From there my dream exploded in ways I could never have even imagined.

Now I’m working freelance, editing and ghostwriting and still working on my own stuff in the background. I am writing and getting paid for it!

I have so much work coming in that my cosy little evening job just doesn’t make sense any more. So I’m leaving. Today. Pursing a lifelong dream that I had given up ever hoping I would achieve.

I’m terrified. I’m empowered.

I am eternally grateful for the life that I have found now. I have always shown my wonderful children that working is so important, and now I want to show them that following their passion is possible too.

I will continue to share my journey and my work here, watch out for my website, thats already on its way!

I am grateful to the employers who have given me that space to earn and have a social reprieve during my darkest times.

Nobody’s journey is easy, everyone has their own trauma. Mine is what led me here to this space, to this opportunity, and this happiness. I am learning that I would not be who I am now if it wasn’t for my experiences. So I am learning acceptance, peace and gratitude.

I’m so excited to go into work tonight for the last time. I can’t wait to see what this next chapter of my life will bring.

© Emma Stead

44 responses to “The Last Shift”

  1. So happy for you. You’ve earned every bit of this. Be sure to pamper yourself for getting to where you’ve always wanted to go. I wish you all the best. Wonderful. I wish you miracles. Xoxo.
    (This will only get better …)

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Another brilliant bit of work Emma,you have proved too everyone that you got through this with your determination and strength…you are a star ⭐️

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Congratulations for sticking with it Emma and for being present for your kids, when they needed you. That is a real gift that will pay many dividends. Glad things are working out for you. You have earned your way there.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Your personal story is amazing and inspiring (and well written in this post, a writer you are indeed!) Good luck with the next chapter!!

    Liked by 1 person

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