I’m here at the moment in a sport’s rehabilitation centre in France recovering from my shoulder surgery. I’ve been told I will probably not regain full mobility with my arm… But how many times have I been told that I won’t be able to do something in my lifetime of 46 years!
As a youngster, I would come back from my winter holidays and say, I want to be a ski instructor, my brother would say, “that’s not a real job”… I went on to join the Austrian ski school in the early 90s before going to university. I then worked as a ski rep for PGL school ski holidays, where I met a snowsport’s instructor who I fell madly in love with (and looking back, I think I must have been mad at the time!). When I said I liked the idea of doing the job of a ski patroller… he replied, “that won’t be possible, you can’t ski!”.
I went on just under ten years later in 2007 to pass the formidable French ski test and gain a place on the sought after ‘Pisteur Secouriste’ (ski patrol) training and earned the 1st degree.
In my workplace, the ski resort’s name I won’t mention, many of my male colleagues said I didn’t have the experience to go to the next level. I soon rose to the challenge and gained a place at ENSA, the renown Alpine school in Chamonix to do the 2nd degree – which I passed.
This was when I was given the privilege of taking on a puppy with the French fire brigade mountain rescue unit to train as an avalanche search and rescue dog handler. Again, I was told that I was probably not up to the standard to pass the exams. But when I left for the course two years later, my boss just said with no encouragement for my own competence in this field, that “I had a good dog”. I passed the 2-week course with flying colours. It is often said a dog is what it’s owner makes it.
Maybe every time I am goaded, the fire in my belly gives me the force to go forward in these male-dominated professions. I have learnt that even if someone says I’m not capable, and yet I feel the capacity deep down – I keep pushing forward. Also in those bleak moments, and we all have them, I get outdoors with my best friend, my dog Fjord. I feel so much better after a stride into the hills in the rawness of nature. I am now channelling my energy into educating British children on mountain safety, viewed through the eyes of Fjord, my search and rescue dog. Don’t be put off by a challenge, RISE to the challenge and push through, it will make you stronger. We all need a purpose in life!