With horrific headlines such as “A bad UK winter could cause 120,000 hospital deaths linked to covid-19” and England’s water supply could run out in 20 years, MPs warn” it’s easy to feel pessimistic about the future. However, the important word to pay attention to in both of these headlines is “could”. They could happen but that doesn’t mean that they will happen – especially if we take the necessary steps to ensure that they don’t happen. As a sign at a local church says, “If you don’t plant seeds, all you’ll get are weeds”. This is why it’s important to have hopes and dreams for the future and not become fatalistic. So here’s our Claire again…

When I was at school, I wanted to be an artist. I remember asking my Art teacher whether I could make it as an artist, to which he replied “No”. This seemed to be confirmed when I failed my A-Levels. Fortunately, I already had a free place at Art College but then my parents moved and the new Art College wouldn’t accept me. That’s when my career path diverted and I eventually ended up taking a HND in Graphic Design instead.

I would’ve taken this through to Degree level but Tony Blair’s Labour government brought in tuition fees and so I got myself a job at the local newspaper instead as an Ad Setter. I hoped this would give me plenty of opportunities to express my artistic ability but, with the recession and the impact of the Internet, turnover became far more important than artistic quality. So my job became more and more robotic and I was glad to accept voluntary redundancy in 2011. Then in 2013 my husband died and I truly hit rock bottom. So that is when I began to consider what I really wanted to do with my life… and I had the same answer I had when I was 11: I wanted to be an artist.

So with a friend’s help, I got onto a Foundation Degree, which lead to me doing a BA (Hons) in Fine Art. Having been out of education all those years, I found it tough going and then, last year, I had some kind of breakdown and felt unable to continue. Although my tutors were concerned that I would “lose momentum”, I accepted college’s offer to defer for a year and returned in the Spring… only for the pandemic to hit and have to go into lockdown!

Fortunately, I had the equipment at home to continue with my painting and the rest was able to be done ‘virtually’. That is when I began to really appreciate how my art gave me a focus away from my worries. So I was only too glad to get stuck into art work rather than think about the pandemic. As time went on it became apparent that life wasn’t going to return to normal any time soon and so both our graduation and exhibition were pulled. This disappointment was made up for though when I got my result: a First. I had to do a double-take but, no, despite everything I’ve been through, I now have a First Class Degree.

Already, I feel this is laying ghosts to rest but, more importantly, it tells me that, with enough determination, my ambitions are achievable. So I feel more than ever that we shouldn’t let someone else decide our future. It’s our lives at stake. We have far too much to lose by surrendering our responsibility for them to someone else. So, if you want something, go for it.

The Centre at WHISC is temporarily closed in our effort to keep everyone safe in line with the tightening of lockdown restrictions across the region. We will review on a weekly basis. We will also post updates on Facebook.
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