As a police officer you see some amazing things. You step very briefly into the lives of strangers and are offered an amazing insight into the community you police. During my first couple of months of work, my partner and I were called to the scene of a man standing on the side of a bridge threatening to jump. It was the early hours of the morning. Like so many of the jobs I attended during my first few years, I felt completely useless. I was 22 years old and had less than 6 months policing experience. What did I know about life? Not much. What did I know about policing? Almost nothing. What could I say to this man to convince him to step away from the edge?
Thankfully my partner did all of the talking. The man told us he was married with kids and today was his 30th birthday. I reeled. This man was well dressed and presentable even at this time of night. But 30? 30 was when life was meant to be sorted and worked out, wasn’t it? That was the age when you had everything in the basket and you could sit back and enjoy the spouse (naturally) and the kids (probably a couple), whilst living in your own home hosting the occasional dinner party. Hmm. Yep, that’s how I was going to be. That’s how my parents were. So I was convinced of it. My partner talked this man off the bridge that night but like a lot of those first policing experiences, the man stayed with me for years to come. I felt so terribly sad for him and couldn’t imagine what nightmares had driven him to that bridge.
So, my 20’s looked something like this as I worked towards my 30 year deadline.
I worked hard and partied hard; check and check. I fell in love (a few times); check. I had my heart broken (a few times); check. I travelled overseas; check. I worked overseas (bonus); check. I was a finalist for the ‘ACT Young Australian of the Year’ (laughable but..); check. One year I appeared as one of Cosmo magazine’s ’30 Most Successful People Under 30′ (even more laughable but I still have the edition, so..); check. I continued to study and earned a Masters; check. I met a man who gave me a ring; check. We got ourselves a mortgage; check. We had a big, flash wedding: check!
A few months after our wedding in my 28th year (I was so close) I watched my Mum (my world) be attacked and then killed in the most deplorable, horrific way, by a disease whose name I could not pronounce. One year after my Mum died almost to the day, that man who had given me that ring told me our marriage was over. Divorced; check. Humiliated; check. Failed; check. I thought of the man on the bridge.
We had been living overseas so I flew back to Australia. To the town I grew up. To the house I had lived most of my life. To my Dad. To his grief and to mine. Without Mum, whose arms I needed around me and whose head I needed to dissect what had happened. Those months living back at home were the lowest of my life. I didn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other to start again. I was almost 30.
My dad cooked for me and attempted to solve the logistical problems of my life. He took me out and taught me how to play golf. He said, ‘keep your head down when you hit the ball’. ‘Follow your swing through with your entire body.’ He said ‘don’t worry if your ball goes astray, 18 holes is a long way’ and most importantly ‘Kate, stop, look around and enjoy the walk’. And I did.
So, with my employer’s help I transferred to Sydney and with Dad’s help I found a one bedroom unit and paid rent I couldn’t afford. And I turned 30. Living alone and so afraid. The day after my 30th birthday, I walked back into work. Into a new office where intentionally I did not know anyone and they did not know me. I held my head as high as I could and I started again.
I worked hard. I kept my head down and followed through with all I had. And very slowly, I started to look around and enjoy where life had taken me. I enjoyed the journey. My journey. And you know what? My 30th year turned out to be nothing like I had dreamed of, imagined or hoped for.
It turned out to be so much better than that.
Kate has been a police officer in the AFP for 12 years, having worked mostly in Canberra, Sydney and Darwin. She has 2 children (Kalani 3yrs and Xavi 1yr) and lives with them and her partner in NSW.
Where has your life taken you and what did you learn along the way?