Learning to Swim

Submitted by: Grace Williams

Looking after my two-year-old son and expecting my daughter any day, I was struggling to stay afloat in life. I’d had a traumatic birth with my first child, taken a £20K salary cut to switch careers from the Civil Service to teaching in a challenging school and then resigned from that job because it was so difficult to balance it with childcare, and because I came home every day feeling like I was a rubbish teacher.

I had no money, I’d put on three stones after having children and hated all of my clothes. The only thing that kept me sane was my late night trips to the local, run-down swimming pool: I glided through the water and my fears and worries were washed away.

In February my daughter was born and nothing had changed but when I looked at her for the first time I realised suddenly that now everything could get better if I wanted it to.

I started to re-read old coaching books which had helped me deal with various relationship crises in my twenties, one of my favourites was Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway: corny, but true. I rediscovered the girlhood habit of keeping a journal every day and writing down my goals.

I forced myself to be confident enough to apply to a local, part-time community development job in my local area. Getting it saved me – working with people, encouraging them to make things happen. I looked around and realised how lucky I was to live in this community, with its creative, can-do attitude.

Balancing work with two toddlers meant I lost weight easily and I acquired a whole new wardrobe, courtesy of the local charity shop, making me feel like myself in a way I hadn’t in years.

Working in the community, I met so many inspirational people – mums who had changed their careers out of necessity or people who had been made redundant and used the opportunity to do something totally different – all people who were passionate about beginning new projects to help the community (and themselves?).

I became a Star Partner for Unltd, a social enterprise support organisation, working with potential entrepreneurs and coaching them to develop their own projects. I realised that people in Walthamstow could really benefit from coaching, but it was often unaffordable.

After going on a free weekend course at the Coaching Academy, I set myself some goals, which at the time seemed impossible – to become a local Councillor, get a permanent job in community development and qualify as a coach.

I decided to develop a free coaching network for local people. Unltd liked the idea and awarded me a ‘do-it’ award, a small grant which allowed me study for my Coaching Diploma, attending weekend courses and working with practise coaching clients.

Now, a year later I have achieved my goals. I got a local, flexible job in Community Engagement at the Hornbeam, running a campaign to support people to use their resources and live well for less! I became a Councillor for the William Morris Ward in May. I qualified as a coach and am now about to start my first free community coaching programme.

My personal definition of coaching is the joy of realising that swimming is much easier than drowning or treading water. I will be running monthly group coaching sessions at the Hornbeam, starting in October and running until March. If you would like to take part in Walthamstow’s free Coaching Network and change your life, get in touch: graciemaewilliams@gmail.com.