A woman looks overwhelmed at a work desk as multiple people try and hand her various career items.

Fine to Thrive: Choosing a Career Around My Condition

By the mid-noughties, I was at the end of my tether with my skin and career. I worked at Kodak - the giant photographic/film company, examining film and paper in dark rooms. The work was monotonous, and the hours were long. The environment was not the most hospitable place to work if you had chronic autoimmune conditions such as asthma and atopic eczema. The air was dense with chemicals from the emulsions, and the temperatures were extreme depending on what job you were assigned to do on your particular shift.

My eczema was at its worst

Reflecting on those days makes me shudder. I cannot believe I put up with the way my life was heading. My skin was at its worst. My facial eczema was red and blotchy. I had open lesions on my head, neck, arms, and legs.

Being bullied in the workplace

Thankfully, I was hardly bullied in those ten years I was there, which amazes me considering it was quite an alpha-male environment. One guy would constantly make remarks when we worked together but, weirdly, never carried it on in front of others. Normally, bullies work it the other way around. Normally they are more vocal in groups and slightly apologetic in a one-to-one situation. Not this guy! Don't feel sorry for me. I handled him just fine, which is probably why he did what he did in a one-to-one, not wanting to be made to look small in front of other team members. All in all, the people there were decent and honest working.

2005 was a life-changing year

I spent every spare moment I had reading. I inhaled books as a way of escaping from the harsh realities of life — anything from philosophy and religion to comedy and horror. By 2005, I decided that I could no longer stand the way my life was, and I made a change. I didn't want a regular nine-to-five job. I wanted a "fine-to-thrive" job. See what I did there?! I enrolled in a driving instructor course. The training was intense, but I loved every minute of it. I did all my training in Wales, and I felt like this was the perfect job for me and my conditions. I could pick my own hours. The job involved helping people achieve a life skill, and, cerebrally speaking, it was more engaging and rewarding than the work I had been doing previously.

Making my job work around my health

It enabled me to tailor my working life around my health, and it is probably the most important decision I have ever made. I dread to think about what my life and health would have been if I had stayed on at Kodak. I mean, it's not exactly great now, so just imagine what it would have been like? It's not worth thinking about. It is such a privilege to be able to have made that change. My heart goes out for others that cannot make these changes to their lives for whatever reason. As I may have said before, we only get one shot at life. We have to make the very most of it. I think of it like this. If we are lucky, we get about eighty or ninety summers on this planet, and then it's all over.

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