Letter To Your Younger Self

Olivia Donovan

Olivia Donovan - Management Trainee

My current job (as of September) is a Management Trainee at the Wellcome Sanger Institute. This is a brand new graduate scheme and they took on 4 of us to rotate around different operational departments at the organisation which is a genetics research institute. It’s a fantastic scheme that allows you to be part of really exciting science without being a scientist.

Dear younger Olivia,

You’re 18 years old and all the hard work has paid off. You’ve got the grades you need for medical school and you’re moving to Leeds to begin the best 5 years of your life, ending in becoming a doctor. Just to give you a heads up – its now 5 years later and you’re not a doctor. You’ve got some pretty tough things to go through, but it will all work out in the end, though there are so many times when it doesn’t feel like it.

You’re probably wondering well where did it all go wrong?? I’d prefer to say it didn’t all go wrong; it just took you a bit longer to get it right. Medicine at Leeds started out great but before too long your mental health started to spiral out of control and returning after that first Christmas became
impossible. The fact that you even made it out of that situation safely is massively down to your lovely boyfriend – the one you’ve just got together with! Things don’t work out in the long term with him but you’ll always be grateful to him. That whole year was the worst of times and yet you fight
through it, taking a job in a pub and going on some amazing adventures around Australia and Europe. This time away from everyday life gives you space to think about what you want and eventually you land a job in recruitment in central London. Life suddenly becomes very “work hard, play hard” and you grow up a lot and gain so much confidence during this time. As much as you love your team and the London buzz you begin to realise that this industry is not for you long-term and that you still have a passion for academia that you feel has been unfulfilled. And so you take a huge
leap, leaving a job you were making great progress in, to taking up a place at the University of Hertfordshire to study Politics and International Relations.

This is not the sort of university you can ever imagine going to at the moment but trust me, it is the right decision completely. You will have the most supportive and caring tutors who help you deal with the loss of 2 close family members and some fairly major health problems and personal issues. At the end of your first year you meet someone very special who you’re still with now, 2 and a half years down the line. He believes in you more than you could ever believe in yourself and is your absolute rock. During your degree you work in various part time jobs – a couple of different pubs and an estate agents – and then before you know it it’s your final year and you have to think about what comes next. It’s a stressful time and it’s made a whole lot more complicated by a global pandemic that brings the world to a halt – not an ideal time to be graduating! Somehow though,
against all the odds, you achieve a first class degree and secure a graduate scheme management job at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

So as you can see, the next 5 years are going to be a bit of a rollercoaster for you. I know right now you think that everything is going to go smoothly but

“unfortunately being a high achieving school student doesn’t mean the rest of your life will go as planned.”

At times you will feel lost and you will feel like a failure but you’re not. I wish I could say that your time in Leeds was the last of your mental health battles but it’s not, it’s something that will keep making an appearance. We haven’t quite figured out how to beat it yet but overall we’re happy. Life is unpredictable, more than you could ever imagine at the moment, so just keep going and I promise it does all work out in the end.



Dear Olivia Donovan