Small Steps. Big Changes.

By Lesley Greenwood

When I look back, I was so nervous walking through the door of the classroom. I hadn’t been in an educational setting since I left school at 18, after my A levels (as it was then) in 1982. I took a job in an office and shortly after married in my early 20’s. As was often the case, you took a job, got married, and had a family. How we have moved on as women!

Then about 12 years ago, when the Internet was new to me, I went to night school to learn how to use a computer. I was terrified of being left behind in the ever-complex world of new technology. Little did I know then that it would lead me to graduate from the University of Chester with a Masters Degree in Clinical Sciences.

Stepping back into the learning environment in 2007 was quite daunting, but I told myself it’s only night school. No one will know me, and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to go back. In other words, I was filling my mind with negative thoughts. However, as with many things, the night school experience was much better than I had anticipated.

Everyone was in the same boat. Nobody knew how to send an email. I stuck it out for 6 months — we all helped each other.

I was also lucky enough to meet an amazing lady who was our teacher and mentor, and I got to chatting with her one night after class. She told me she had a degree in psychology.

I always had secretly felt I’d missed out not going to university in the early ’80s and psychology was the subject I was fascinated with. People are just so damned interesting. Every day, I’m amazed and inspired as to what the human race can achieve.

I went home, my head spinning, and the next week applied to the University of Chester to take a Psychology degree. To my utter amazement, they accepted me, and I began the course in 2008.

It wasn’t easy — life got in the way, sick in-laws, financial problems due to the 2007 crash, as well as feelings of self-doubt. However, four years later, after lots of hard work, determination, and support from my family, I graduated with a BSc (Hons) Psychology degree. I couldn’t believe it.

I started working and writing about psychological issues, mental health and well-being. And I upped my walking activity to get a bit fitter. Healthy body, healthy mind.

Then I started to walk a bit faster, and in May 2016 ran a local 5k race without telling a soul. Doubting myself again, as many of us do, I finished it to my utter amazement!

It inspired me to run a little further, and the weight started to come off for the first time in years. I really struggle with my weight, and the menopause doesn’t help!

Eleven months later, at age 52, I ran the London Marathon, finished, and got a medal. I was in total shock. I had only taken up running 11 months earlier.

At age 53, I started a Master of Clinical Science and graduated two years later. A few days ago I was lucky enough to be presented with my Master of Science degree by the wonderful Gyles Brandreth. To top it off, two amazing actresses — Dame Patricia Routledge (90) and Joanna Lumley (72) were receiving their honorary doctorates at the same time. It really was an absolutely fabulous day!

I’m now a professional psychotherapist, health and well-being advisor, and guest writer for Annabel & Grace (formerly the Country Wives). It’s a career that I thoroughly enjoy.

If you had told me 12 years ago that this was where I would end up, after walking in the night school class to be shown how to send an email, I would never have believed you. But more than that, I would have found the whole experience just too daunting and would never have started the journey.

My very best advice to everyone out there considering any change in life is Small steps, BIG CHANGES.

It’s the smallest actions that can lead to enormous changes in life. Who knows where it will take you, who knows who will inspire you along the way? The important thing is to take that first step. Even if you have been reluctant to venture out recently, try going for a short walk in the countryside with a friend (or alone with a pet if you have one). The fresh air and nature will make you feel so much better!

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