Today I received my copy of ‘War Hecatomb’ the book that my work on First World War military suicide has been published in. Spoiler alert, I am a little excited about it.
Now I could write an extensive sob story about my life up to now:
I could talk about having gay parents in the 80s and 90s in a small north English town and the negative experiences that rewarded me with this, and my mother’s inability to disassociate us from my Grandfather – the current Member of Parliament for the area, and future Lord and Knight of the realm. I could discuss never having a father, and being abandoned by my birthmother at 12, to be then raised by her partner and my amazing sister (and family) in the northeast of England.
I could describe my troubled teens, being kicked out of different places, spending time on sofas and occasionally some streets, getting into trouble and being stupid, before leaving school with little, believing I was stupid and dropping out of college with even less, before falling into Holiday Repping and losing a good 18 months of my memory.
(bugger, seems you are getting all of it – I’ll keep it brief) Then in my twenties, I straighten out, settled down for a time, developed a career in recruitment that quickly drove me to desperation to actually get some qualifications and try to become a teacher. Married and relocated to Scotland, I applied to university at 25; and was rejected. No qualifications, no dice.
So College then, quick HNC in social sciences at Kilmarnock College that proved to be one of the most pivotal moments of my life! (I was interviewed about this for Ayr College recently, and I really proud to be included in their success stories!).
Next Strathclyde University, Sociology, Spanish, Film in Languages, and History. During my first year of university, a lecturer told me I could do a PhD. I was excited, my wife (at the time) felt otherwise, ‘let’s see if you can even get a degree’. A new baby boy, three years and First Class honours degree later I applied for teaching but hit a snag – no A levels (highers) – no dice. Astonishingly, getting the highest mark in the year, put me in the running for a funded Masters in Medical History from the Wellcome Trust, so I did that. A year later, another baby boy, and still no dice for teaching, BUT, a funded PhD from the ESRC was a welcome (no pun intended) surprise. I was going to be a Doctor! (Maybe).
4 years later I graduated with a PhD in Medical Military History. No longer the same person, I had become divorced, moved terrified and alone away from my boys and home, travelled the world for research and work, scrimped for money and survived on the generosity of others, made new friends, loved new people, presented, published, and wrote; I also attempted suicide and was diagnosed with depression. In short, I lived a lot in 4 years.
To bring the story up to date, (and to answer the point of this narcissistic life history), today I read my name in a book for the first time. As of today, I have six separate publications with three pending, my PhD, two amazing sons, an actual house to live in with my beloved partner and our puppy (Pond!), amazing friends, supportive family, and a job that allows me to both teach (thank you so much for that) and help pupils like younger self get into higher education.
There are challenges ahead, my passion for teaching has not diminished and I am determined to continue my research into military suicide. Each rejection of a teaching position (now university rather than schools), a research role, or a funding grant; is devastating; but I keep hoping and trying while doing everything I can to help those who do not have same advantages as others to get into higher education.
I wrote this post to celebrate and talk about how weird it is to be in a book. To see my work, my research, and my passion clear in print for the world to see, judge, and debate. Military suicide is my obsession, and I am determined to what I can to save the lives of veterans and serving men and women. This chapter is the beginning of my work, which seeks to save lives in the future by understanding the tragic events of the past. This is my overall goal and what I am fighting for.
But honestly, I think this post is just for me (felt soppy, might delete later #jk). I’m lucky to have got here. I was at the graduation of a dear friend and what struck me was not that we were both Doctors, but that without doing my doctorate, we never would have become friends. The last 8 years of my life have been transformative, difficult, and indescribably wonderful. So much I have now is from the belief that a handful of people had in me; and is that belief that keeps me applying, and writing, and trying after the inevitable rejection comes in.
So actually, this post is for you. You know who you all are, I won’t name and shame 🙂 but thank you (oh dear, it’s all gone a bit oscar speech, hasn’t it? Calm down Si, its a chapter not a Nobel prize) from the bottom of my heart.
Look it’s me 🙂
Up next – my book! 🙂
(Thanks guys xx)