You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Address 12 June 2005

I remember being stuck in Sixth Form questioning ‘what do I want to do with my life?’ and ‘who will I be?’ It is a truly turbulent time; not only do you endure exam stress but you are faced with the pressure of deciding your future! I wanted to share my story with Bradfield’s next generation hoping to provide some ease at this crossroads in life.

MY PEERS MADE ME BELIEVE ANYTHING WAS POSSIBLE. YOU REALLY ARE ABLE TO WRITE YOUR OWN STORY AND CREATE SOMETHING OF WHICH YOU ARE PROUD.

Emma Bodkin (J 97-99)

My time at Bradfield fills me with great memories and even greater friends. I was hardworking but carefree, and now, looking back, I can objectively see how these early years provided me with the foundations for my current career. Perhaps it was the crazy all weather cross-country running that spurred me on to run high altitude ultra-marathons. Perhaps it was the international mix of pupils that inspired me to become a traveller and not blink at the idea of living abroad! Perhaps it was my peers that made me believe anything was possible.

At the age of 17, I could not decide what to study at university, let alone what career path I wanted to pursue. I took a gamble; I went to Leeds, studied Psychology, contemplated various career paths, and, after graduating, tried a few.

I had so far succeeded in this institutional and exam based step-by-step approach to life through GCSEs, A Levels and then university but then there I was, utterly baffled and almost paralysed by the infinite amount of choice. Even worse, the choice of career seems to define everything: your identity, your mortgage, your immediate network of friends.

Steve Jobs’ 2005 speech, directed at graduates, resonated with me and was enlightening. He said, “You’ve got to find what you love…The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

At the time, I found the concept confusing as I had been taught to choose a more obvious career path; teacher, psychologist, surveyor, and maybe advertising if you are a bit daring. However, each of these felt like it was a square peg in a round hole. The secret is creating your own path. After a brief affair with a graduate scheme in Surveying and a stint as a teaching assistant I found myself bewildered by my inability to find purpose. I trained part-time as a personal trainer during this time, just before the wellness industry boomed and personal training was not considered a ‘real job’. I had no idea what I was going to do with it or how I was going to make money.

I trained friends in Battersea Park after work to get basic experience before deciding to head to the Alps to pursue my passion for outdoor life. At this point, aged 30, I had eight years of work experience in various industries but I had no idea that this was exactly the experience I needed.

Nowadays it is not only possible, but also easy to set up your own business. You really are able to write your own story and create something of which you are proud. More than ever technology is enabling you to do everything yourself and the iPhone has been at the centre of that for me. One of my goals was to work remotely. I love to travel and always thought how amazing it would be to lie on a beach and check my emails, or go snowboarding and take shelter in a cabin to create some social posts.

My business partner and I set up our business without any investment and without any help from our parents. It was trial and error but all the information is out there. I really encourage young people to listen to their intuition and never doubt yourself. You will make mistakes but you learn so much. Act with purpose and integrity and you will flourish.

I want to encourage those leaving Bradfield today to think outside the box and pursue their own path because now, looking back, I am able to connect the dots.

My experiences in Surveying, coupled with A Level Economics, gave me an insight into the commercial world. Teaching and personal training honed my communication and interpersonal skills and all that backpacking had given me the research skills I needed to set up in the travel industry.

ACT WITH PURPOSE AND INTEGRITY AND YOU WILL FLOURISH.

Emma Bodkin (J 97-99)

I now run holistic fitness retreats in Verbier, Sardinia, Sri Lanka, Norway, Iceland, Tuscany and Bali as well as pop up weekends in the UK. I will be forever grateful for the adventure I have experienced by being self-employed. It is a rocky road but so worth it.

Mountain Beach Fitness Retreats run transformative weeks in stunning locations. We use the natural environment as a playground and offer you the chance to disconnect from the daily grind, immerse yourself in nature and focus exclusively on your health and well-being. Find out more at mountainbeachfitnessretreats.com or follow @mountainbeachfitnessretreats on Instagram for info and special offers.

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