Courtney has spent much of her working career in the male dominated construction industry, working for her father’s Power Tool and Construction Supply business and with civil construction. While this environment can be an uncomfortable place for women, for Courtney it helped to shape who she was.
Courtney often experienced male colleagues having conversations and sharing stories that she wanted no part of. When they would try to coax her into the conversation, she knew that they wanted to get a reaction from her. Courtney was careful to not let her emotional side take over and become outraged and offended.
She would simply respond to these situations by saying: “Look, not cool. You’ve actually overstepped the mark here and crossed a boundary … so knock it off and have some respect for me and for yourself. If you wouldn’t say this in front of or to your daughter or wife or mother – don’t say it to me.”
Courtney has recently started working in Early Childhood Education and Care and she says it’s not so drastically different.
“I mean its pretty similar working with a group of men to a group of children, both of them don’t always listen or look and definitely need a little help to get things done smarter not harder,” she says.
This change in industry came as Courtney was at a crossroads in her life. A place where she found herself so deep into a dark abyss where in her mind she did not think she could escape. She could not ask for help, because she had always been that tough girl who stood up for herself and for others.
Through her schooling years, she attended a private high school until moving to a public school to complete her VCE. She felt that the private school had very high of expectations upon its students to perform and prove that the school was the best. This approach did not align with Courtney’s morals or beliefs. The high expectations without emotional or psychological support was only detrimental to Courtney was already experiencing unsteady self-worth and self-esteem.
She was searching for something, searching for belonging and acceptance. She wanted to be her most authentic self-described “CRAZY self”.
From a young age Courtney was aware addiction ran through her family on both sides. Whether addiction to drugs, alcohol, adrenaline or shopping – it was always there rearing its ugly head. Courtney would find out that addiction through drug use and gambling would affect her life too. These addictions gave her a sense of contentment and gratification.
When Courtney joined the EMBRACE program – it became a second family. While she wasn’t the typical participant, Courtney has been involved in mentoring and supporting the program for a number of years.
“There is a mutual understanding and respect between those who have been apart of it. EMBRACE is a space of safety, of different opinions, thoughts and feelings and no one is ever wrong,” she says.
Courtney’s influences have been her mother, grandmother and as much as she avoids admitting it – her father. Her aunts and uncles have also supported her and given her honest stories and advice in her darkest moments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led Courtney to reflect on her earlier years of feeling trapped without freedoms and choices. She now realises that this was just a figure of her own imagination. During the lock-down Courtney experienced a mental breakdown, having a psychotic episode. She lost herself. But she learned to accept her mental illness and began to make changes, in the only ways she realised she could create freedom. This included moving out of the family home, into a share house and finding a new full-time job to not only fill her time, but for her it was a new way of life. To educate and care for children. And in doing this Courtney has found herself again, she has found her calling. She has found her purpose.
When we asked Courtney what kind of advice she would give to her younger self, she responded “I would let me know that it is going to be okay, this isn’t the end, you are going to learn from all of this. Trust your gut, and believe in something greater than yourself. Keep doing the things that make you happy. Do not let any other person make you feel like you don’t belong because you do. Love your true self, not your ego self’.