CAROLINE MARTIN – THE BEGINNING
I sat back on a sofa in a hair salon on Glaslough Street in Monaghan town where my mam took myself and my sister for a haircut. I was 6 years old. Of course, every time we visited that salon, I got to brush the floor, which I loved doing for Teresa and Bernie. As I sat back, proud as punch that I once again got to brush the floor, a little old lady beside me asked, “what are you going to be when you grow up?” The salon went silent, all eyes on me with big smiles, I responded with , (and I can remember this as if it was yesterday)
I’m going to be a hairdresser
And from that moment, my dreams began. I have never and will never forget that moment.
Throughout my school years, the notion of becoming a teacher came to my mind, then maybe a counsellor, my passion for helping people was becoming strong. But my passion to become a hairdresser was stronger. Little did I know, I would be able to merge all of my passions together to form my future, because despite having such a strong urge to help people, physically, mentally and academically, I had a significant love for creativity, It came naturally to me and I loved it. Finally, at age 16, I completed my leaving cert and headed off to study hairdressing. It was a scary feeling, but one I couldn’t wait for.
I struggled in the beginning, I began studying in Derry, a place I now love, I made lifelong friends and met some incredible people, however the course was not what I had expected. I wanted more, and I knew I had to move. In between hairdressing, I also studied nail technology, to broaden my skills and while i loved being creative with nails, it was just not for me. I didn’t feel satisfied with any of it.
After my first year of hairdressing, I decided to look for a course closer to home, I found the perfect course, one that merged the theory I so much needed to learn, along with the practical, where I got to finally explore my skills and creativity. Monaghan Institute is where I studied my first two years of basic hairdressing, and I loved it!
One day in computer class a lovely lady came to talk to us, she came from Southern Regional College in Newry, to tell us of the progressing courses available after we qualify from our first 2 years. Level 3 advanced hairdressing was the next step we could do if we wished, and I straight away said to myself, I’m doing this !
It wasn’t until she mentioned the next course after that, when my determination began to grow. After finishing Level 3 and having a higher qualification, you could then enroll in Level 5, where you had the opportunity to gain a qualification to teach hairdressing. At this point, I knew this was the path for me. Teaching was one of my interests, and being able to merge that with my passion. That day, was an exciting day!
After qualifying from Monaghan Institute, I applied and got accepted to Southern Regional College, to begin my level 3. I took a year out after that, to gain some experience in the workplace, and it was at that stage, I took on a managerial role in a new job, pushing my skills and responsibility to the max.
My desire to become a teacher was still strong, and the following academic year, I applied. I had been told the course was quite difficult to be accepted onto, as I had few years experience for what they normally look for. The letter finally came in the post, I had been accepted. I couldn’t believe it.
Those 2 years were tough. Mentally and physically. The workload that they had warned us about surpassed my expectations, it was a long and difficult 2 years of study and assignments alongside working in a salon, but the day of my final graduation was a very proud moment for me. I was finally ready to finish my studies and enter the world of work.
Looking back over my college years, while I loved it, I found it very tough. Work placement was a scary place, and sometimes it wasn’t a nice place. I moved salons a few times.. I felt intimidated, shy and sometimes very much out of my depth.. l never told anyone, my friends or family, of how miserable I felt on the mornings of placement. That knot in your stomach walking into a salon where you felt out of place, that feeling of dread when you were told to stand on the salon floor and talk to clients not knowing what to say, or the lip trembling to hold back from crying after being shouted at infront of a salon full of people, staring at you. The lonely lunch breaks, the sore feet and legs, the looks of disgust if you did something wrong or talk out of turn, the fear if you picked up the wrong thing for the girls lunches, the constant cleaning of everything that had already been cleaned in fear you got shouted at for standing around. Not washing someones hair properly, especially after a colour was seen as a mortal sin no matter how sore your back was from a full day of leaning over a basin, you were made feel useless with any mistake, and i was once told “your never going to make it in this job, just quit while your ahead.”
I was spoken to with little respect, laughed at, shouted at, belittled, but I kept my spirit high, because this was my passion and I figured, they all had to go through this, I can do it. I then found a salon near the end, where that knot disappeared, and I looked forward to going to placement. I was part of a team. That was a good day..
On the day of me graduating at teacher level, both my parents looked on with pride at my achievements, not knowing the extent of them. Yes, I completed all the studies I had aimed for with high grade results, but I had also came through some of the toughest years in my career that I had told no one about. The beginning.
My passion is what kept me going, and even on the days where I wanted to give up, I took out my dolly head and reminded myself of why I’m doing it. The day of that graduation, when I sat with tears in my eyes reminiscing of my achievements and struggles, I found my next goal.
I wanted to open a salon, where everyone in it feels welcome, feels apart of something special, where everyone’s opinions count, and most importantly, a safe place to be yourself, to learn and to teach, to laugh and to cry, with no judgement, no attitude and lots of love, support and gratitude. From that day, my dreams had only began. Never forget where you started.
My experiences have made me the person, the hairdresser and the boss I am today. For that, I am grateful. I now know, that in the beginning, that’s not how trainees should be made feel.