How I reinvented myself

fiona doubleday

Those that know me well will, no doubt, argue that I have done this many times but I just want to focus on the biggest reinvention when I left a very well paid job as an academic in a university and moved to a Scottish island.


I remember when news of my resignation start creeping around the university.  They only knew me as this fiercely ambitious woman who had been promoted year after year and was, quite possibly, destined for the top job.  So the emitting shock was palpable.  But with it came an assumption that I had found an even more senior job at another institution.   Little did they realise that I was all done with institutions.  When the news flooded out that I was leaving it all behind to become a full time mum, walk barefoot on the beach and braid my hair the shock was even greater!

I was not concerned with their views as I was beginning a phase of my life I was definitely destined to enter.  My late father some years earlier had done the same and had also predicted that I would turn my back on corporate life by the time I was 40; I was 38.  One thing that continues to bind my father and me together is the need for a challenge and if I am truly honest there was no challenge left in my old life so it was time for a change.

With my supportive husband and four fairly young children we took off to live on a Scottish island and grabbed two part time jobs between us.  The first thing we discovered was that we could live on far less money than we had been.  We moved into a small cottage owned by my mother and paid a small rent but it was the other outgoings where we really noticed the savings.  Living on an island is limiting but in a very positive way.  Gone is the currency to spend money all the time.  If there is nothing in the fridge to eat you hit the cupboards to find cans lurking at the back rather than phone for a take away.  Family days out involve a picnic on the beach and a swim in the sea rather than an over-priced theme park.  From the off we loved this lack of spending and it has probably dictated everything we have done ever since.


It wasn’t long before working for someone else lost its shine completely and thoughts turned to running our own business.  As I had worked through a secret exit plan from the university I had retrained at night school in silk painting.  With a friend I initially start a craft business but it became clear we wanted different things from the business so I sold it to her and went out on my own opening a wee craft shop on the island.

crafts 001

That was when the reinvention really kicked into gear and I began to thrive once more.  I was making things for my own shop and I was also making well researched buying decisions and the business was an instant success.  Many things have happened since them, not least the recession, but although I no longer run a shop on the island I still make things and I still sell through other shops on the island and online.

So I had reinvented how I made a living, how we spent time together as a family and what our priorities were.  It was a gradual process as I let the island speak to me and I truly believe that Arran is a place where dreams can come true.  That is because you have space.  You have space to think, to dream and to turn all that into a new reality.  The island encourages you to think outside the box and it supports you as you do.  It creates just the right context for reinvention and I am quite sure I would have failed anywhere else because I would have gone against my own destiny.


Things changed again when I began writing and I now spend more time doing that than any other activity and it still amazes me that people are willing to pay me for something that I love so much.  I do realise that I am a very lucky bunny rabbit.  Reinvention takes courage, I have no doubt of that.  It also requires an unquestioning intention to succeed but I can’t help thinking that that is a useful thing to pass onto my children.   My ex-colleagues were keen to point out that I would regret my decision and I am here to say that I never did; not for even one moment in time.  My moments are less cluttered, they are far reaching and aspirational with just a small hint of true contentment and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  So what is my top five pieces of advice for those of you desperate to reinvent yourself?  Let me see….

  1. Be bold and be fearless as you actually have nothing to fear.
  2. Have an outline of a plan but keep it thin on detail.
  3. Relocate as your new space is just waiting for you.
  4. Drop money as a priority because in the big scheme of things it matters not.
  5. See the change you want to be…..have a vision of the new year and work towards it with a fierce sense of determination.

But above all that have fun with your new invention and know that your life is, very much, in your hands.  Wishing you every best wish for your new happiness.

PS  And yes I have braided my hair and walked bare feet on the beach!  Xx

scottish island mum



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