The Biggest And Most Expensive Mistake I Ever Made

Morning, readers… And welcome to a brand new week. 

Today we have a post from the marvellous Naomi Liddell,  the brains and talent behind Rocked By Life (if you don’t have this bookmarked, do it now.  There’s some beauty on that there blog). 

This post is about what happens when you realise the path you’ve followed isn’t the right one  - even when your gut told you it was.  It’s about how to start over without compromising yourself. It’s about how to dig deep and find the guts to do it. In short,  I hope this speaks to you about did me. 

In short,  fate 0 : Naomi 1:

You know that feeling of leaving the house, rushing to be some place and feeling that cold-sweat rush of realisation that you’ve forgotten something crucial and are unable to go back and get it?
You know that feeling of saying something in company accidentally that you know will deeply hurt or offend someone that’s within earshot and the blood rushes to your head and your stomach sinks with regret?
You know that feeling of spending a horrendous amount of time on something computer related only to hit ‘exit’ and realise that you never hit ‘save’ first and all of the work and time you’ve put in has disappeared into the ether?

Well roll all of those feelings of panic, anger, frustration, disappointment, embarrassment and regret into one big disgusting pill and try to swallow it. That’s exactly how I felt when the slow realisation hit that I spent four years of my life and tens of thousands of pounds doing the wrong degree.

My name is Naomi and I’m a designer. I was 8 years old when my aunt asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, to which I replied “An Interior Designer”. She then went on to ask me if she could have her house designed for free, and my response has been a family story pulled out at Christmases and Funerals for a collective aw-how-cute giggle. I said “Maybe I’ll give you a discount”.

There, my friends, began my life’s path. I never once veered from it, questioned it or really, to be honest thought about it. I was going to be an Interior Designer and that was that. Sure I had an interest in it, I spend my time admiring art and design of all forms. I did well in Art class throughout school. I loved the experimentation processes and the self expression involved. I loved problem solving and couldn’t get enough of being labelled as ‘artsy’. I embraced the huge plastic portfolio case I carried to and from school, I listened to Placebo and The Cure, I spent free classes in the art room melting wax and trying to paint with it. I genuinely loved it.

Fast forward several years, I decided I would go to Edinburgh College of Art. The application process was nerve wrecking. There were hundreds of applicants and eight places. I fucking got one! I still remember fist pumping the air and heading out on an absolute bender of a night to celebrate my success and the fact that I would be setting out into the world on my own. In another country.

I started the course with unshakable enthusiasm. Yes, I partied and paid about as much attention to my studies as any self respecting 19 year old does, hungover and operating at about 64% of my capability. But here’s the thing… I ENJOYED it. I loved the course and the challenges that come with it! Critiques, projects and hours spent in front of computer design programs. I loved learning the history, research and principles behind design.

But what has become increasingly obvious to me over the last few years is that I love to learn. So that passion and enthusiasm for learning new things masked the red flags that this was not the career choice for me. I graduated and got a job working for an incredible company. It encouraged ethical creativity and pushed resourcefulness. All of which I jumped on board with, but after a while I became jaded. The kind of jaded where you know you need a drastic change. You need to get married / quit your job / cut your hair off / set off to travel the world. So I did. All of the above. Within three days.

Since then, I’ve landed in Perth Australia and not moved for almost three years. So although we’re still technically on honeymoon, life is no longer ‘on hold’ anymore. I blindly decided to follow my career path in Interior Design when I got here but very very quickly realised, I hated it. I hated everything about it. I had grown and changed and become more aware of myself on my travels.

So what the fuck do you when you realise that everything you’ve worked towards has been absolute big fat waste of time?

You put your big girl pants on and you suck it up. Then you soldier on.

About two years ago I did some soul searching, I started following some motivational people (we can chat about it in the comments if you want to know who… there’s quite a few) and just generally started getting my shit together and sorting myself out.

I’ve spent those last two years also studying marketing, graphic design and moving closer to my real creative dreams of Art Direction and Brand Design. I’m no longer trying to shoehorn myself into a career path that doesn’t fit or suit me. And it feels incredible. I’m still figuring some things out, so although I haven’t come to a solid whizzbang conclusion about all my hopes and dreams, I do know one thing…

There is massive power in realising what you DON’T want from life. It frees you up, creates space and makes your goals more fluid, letting you course correct towards bigger and better things. Even if it costs a fortune and hurts your heart to admit you made some mistakes along the way.

Categories: Life Experience, Money and Career
41 interesting thoughts on this


  1. ChirstyMac
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    “put your big girl pants on and suck it up”
    I need this on a T Shirt. Now.

    Way to go Naomi! Ladies like you are totally inspirational. Love that you shared this. Thank you. And hope the new path gives you everything and more: you totally deserve it for your ballsiness (if that’s a real word?!).

    • deltafoxtrotcharlie
      Posted May 12, 2014 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      I would wear that T-shirt every. damn. day

      (maybe I should buy more than one…)

    • Posted May 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Ok so first comment in and I’m tearing up already. I’d love to say it’s the baby hormones, but it’s actually just because you’re the sweetest.

  2. Posted May 12, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    I cannot describe how much I needed to read this today. I have been increasingly unhappy in my job (no promotion opportunities, no career structure, constant battles for funding and redundancies). I spent most of the weekend utterly fed up and dreading this week. I spent most of Friday night crying and tryin to persuade myself not to quit after a horrible meeting in the afternoon.
    I also loved my degree and I loved learning but it’s not led me anywhere (unlike you I had no idea what I wanted to do). So I have sort of half decided to go back to Uni, do an access course on a weekend, and try again. I need to be passionate about something again.
    Your post has reminded me that, should all go well, I’ll only have a year before I start again.
    It’s put this week in perspective a bit. Thank you x

    • Posted May 12, 2014 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

      Gwen! I am sending you the biggest, tightest virtual hug I can. I’ve been there (crying on a friday night) and it SUCKS. Just know that often times, I’ve found that the hardest part happens right before a break through. Also, my advice? The internet is one big Willy Wonka Land for learning. You don’t need to wait until another uni course to get passionate. Find what you’re interested in and Google the shit out of it. That’s how I started re-training.

  3. Katielase
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Brilliant post. I’ve spent most of my post-Uni life trying things that weren’t what I wanted to do, and it’s very hard not to consider it all a big fat waste of my time and effort. I think the only way to look at it is a necessary part of the journey towards what you DO want to do and what WILL make you happier. You can never regret anything that took you towards where you want to go, and in the end everything takes you in that direction, even if only by showing you what the wrong way was.

    Big girl pants FTW!

    KL xx

    • Posted May 12, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      “You can never regret anything that took you towards where you want to go, and in the end everything takes you in that direction, even if only by showing you what the wrong way was”

      This. Perfectly worded.

      I think the whole point is to just knock as much fun out of the mistakes you can, right?

  4. Posted May 12, 2014 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    This has been a big topic in our family recently as my eldest niece is just going through her Higher exams (2 down, 2 to go) and passionately isn’t enjoying her subjects because she chose them in 4th year and based her decisions on what qualifications she would need to become a doctor. A couple of months into her 5th year she went on work experience at the hospital and very quickly decided she didn’t want to be a doctor anymore. She now wants to do English at university having decided to concentrate on what she’s good at and what she enjoys rather than focus on “a career” and, understandably, has found herself distinctly lacking in motivation to study Maths, Physics and Chemistry. It’s been hard watching her go through this process and remembering back to how I felt at that age and just how incredibly heavy all that pressure can be. Pressure to decide. To choose a path and follow it. To do well despite losing your mojo. Despite changing your mind. Despite being a teenager FFS.

    This is a brilliant story, so motivational to anyone who may have lost their way to show that there is a path out there for you, you just have to find it. Or let it find you. I’m off to send it to my niece to read now in fact.

    Love xx

    • Posted May 12, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      Steff, it is so heartbreaking to watch someone you love in your family flounder at the idea of their future and all the decisions they need to make. I have a massive problem with the current stagnant education system and the pigeon-holing of our young people. It’s so broken and outdated it’s frightening.

      As for your beautiful niece, if she needs a bit more reassurance that everything will be ok, feel free to pass on my email. I’d be happy to be her online cheerleader/penpal. (naomi{at}rockedbylife{dot}com)

  5. Annéka
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink


    I absolutely f-ing love you for posting this. I too based my university choice on what I thought I wanted to do with my life, and once at uni quickly realised that wasn’t at all what I wanted to do. So I did a job in events instead. Then decided to go back to uni to do a PGCE Primary thinking I would love teaching. After an absolutely horrible year where I was reduced to tears and told I was worthless by my head teacher, I quit. Fast forward to moving across the other side of the world, I now write a wedding blog and magazine whilst being a nanny for the money. Which just tells me that I should have listened to my heart at 18 and done English or History at uni!

    Pulling on the big girl pants now! Xxx

  6. Posted May 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Oh absolutely everything you’ve said. Absolutely. In fact I wrote a post on here a couple of months ago about turning away from the degree to find a job you love. It’s very much worth it, but scary. Especially financially, leaving something secure is hard. Enjoying life is more important though so go get it everyone Xxx

  7. aDizzyGirl
    Posted May 12, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Fantastic post – it’s much braver to realise what you don’t want and do something about it.

    I’ve recently been wondering about how much my degree has contributed to what I do now. I have a business and IT degree and now work in Digital Marketing so I guess there’s some link there. But I don’t use anything I learned at Uni at all! However, my degree did help me get a summer job as a web designer which then led me into my career now. I’m almost certain that I wouldn’t be where I am now without that degree. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not necessarily a mistake if it leads you along a better path. And it sounds like you are a lot happier!

    As an aside, I was one of the youngest in my year at school thanks to a December birthday. Which also mean I had to choose school subjects aged 13 and then again at 15. How many 15 year old know what they want to do the next day, never mind for the rest of their lives? But those subjects that you choose aged 15 can completely control what you do for a sizeable chunk of your education. It’s always seemed crazy to me!

    • Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      I can barely remember the stuff I learnt in Uni! Or high school! And yes. I’m 100% with you on the broken system of choosing your life’s work at 15. Balls to that.

  8. Posted May 12, 2014 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely adored my degree but it qualified me for jack shit. I’ve forged a successful and enjoyable career since then but if I had my time again I’d do it all differently and would be an engineer. Annoyingly I only discovered this in my late twenties without even having the a levels necessary to retrain and now in my thirties it doesn’t feel like the right time. Maybe one day I will though.

  9. Posted May 12, 2014 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    I loved my degree but I have recently discovered a passion elsewhere and if all goes well will start retraining in September or January which is nice. Relocating kind of have me some perspective. It sounds like you did a bigger renovation and got a bigger thing out of it!! This is a brilliant and exciting post to read :)

  10. Posted May 13, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    I know I tweeted N my love for this but ohmygoodness did I need this this week!

    I am currently at loggerheads with myself whilst job hunting, having applications in under the ‘academic’ guise as dictated by my doctorate and expected career path. And then next week i have an interview for a job that isn’t the remotest bit related to any of my studies, but sounds like it could be awesome. Both myself and my husband are trying to persuade me to go down the academic route (better pay, nicer hours etc), but in my heart I don’t want it.

    Big girl panties will be pulled up and tucked into my bra strap on Monday I think.


    • Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Listen to your heart… Then if you want, you can always fall back on your doctorate. Not a bad situation, eh? So excited to hear how your interview goes.

  11. Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Been there and done that Naomi and every single time I hear of or read about someone else who did what I did and walked/ flew away (oh to have flown away!) I get this strange sensation which is part ‘hell yeah!’ and part a flashback to those feelings of GAAAAH that you describe in your opening. That gah feeling is still uncomfortable years later. Not that I regret it, but it was still one of the biggest traumas of my life and I don’t think you can shake such shadows off that easily. You are amazing and I wish you all the best with the next stage of your working life. Thank you for sharing x

    • Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      Trauma is a good word for it. And no, you’re totally right, it never seems to leave you. Thank you for your kind words lovely.

  12. Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Oh Hun I do admire you there is nothing worse than hating what you do, most people just carry on hoping it will all be alright in the end. Finding out what you do love and doing something about it takes balls and you my lovely have some big ones!

    I funny enough am a interior designer but it’s not something I studied in!
    I had a pretty shit time at school and was not helped to find my way when I said I wanted to do a creative job, I really wanted to be a fashion designer (so I thought) and was laughed at by my careers teacher. So I found a course in graphic design and styling (odd combination) thinking that window dressing sounded good.
    I left the course thinking I wanted to do graphic design but couldn’t afford to go to uni. I then started working to save some money for uni and got a job working as a junior for an interior design company a job that I had never considerd! I never looked back and despite the company being pretty awful to work for I stuck it out for 7 years and then got a better job at another company.

    I’ve been working in the industry for 21 years and I’m the creative director so it just shows you, you don’t always have to start off on the correct path. And careers teachers are idiots!!!

    • Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

      Oh my God! What is it with ‘realistic’ career teachers. You will not believe the amount of people who I’ve had tell me that there careers teacher laughed at their ambitions! How rude!

  13. Posted May 13, 2014 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    Loved this, so real and so true for so many of us! Besides doing all that change in 3 days (crazy pants, but awesome!), I feel like I took the same path and am so thankful for it today. Thanks for sharing Naomi!

    • Posted May 16, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Leah if shit ain’t going to plan, I tend to just make a dramatic change immediately. Sometimes it works in my favour… sometimes not. Glad to hear you got value out of this post :-)

  14. Lee-Anne
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Great post Naomi. I loved my first degree but couldnt get a job that used t so I went back and studied to become a librarian. I love my job but hate where I work, low pay, no promotion prospects and not really appreciated. On maternity leave atm amd need to decide soon whether to stick it out in the hope it doesnt get any worse or start to hunt out a new job. Well done you for realising what you want and going for it x

    • Posted May 16, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

      “Hope it doesn’t get any worse” sounds like a morbid future. I have a friend who’s a librarian and it took her a few goes to find the right school. But now she loves it. I’d say keep your eyes peeled and something will present itself to you. (Jeez, I sound like Mystic Meg).

  15. Amanda M
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Amazing post!

    I must say, I think liking what you do is pretty much a privilege rather than a right. Or maybe that’s just want I tell myself to stop myself going insane!

    • Posted May 16, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely agreed. It’s a privilege. But not one out of reach for most people with a bit of soul searching and hard graft, I reckon.

  16. Laura
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Great post. I think I remember seeing a post about you leaving work/setting off on your new life, or i’m confused who knows.

    I would be really interested in finding out who you found inspirational in your journey.

    Thanks xx

    • Posted May 16, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      I started reading and watching a lot of Tony Robbins stuff, then Danielle La Porte and Marie Forleo. Some of it’s a bit spiritual, but I love that shit. I am also addicted to TED Talks. Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk in particular always strikes a chord with me :-)

      • Laura
        Posted May 16, 2014 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, I’ll have a good look over the weekend. Xx

  17. Posted May 15, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    That is one of my mother’s favorite lines, “put your big girl pants on”. Hey we have all been where you were. We are figuring out life! Some of us take much longer to figure it out and some of us do some soul searching and kind of figure it out early on like you did. Thanks for sharing your story Naomi!

  18. Maria
    Posted May 15, 2014 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Awesome post!
    I’ve put my big girl panties on many times, and they keep sliding down.
    Up they go again!

  19. Posted May 15, 2014 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    So good! I felt this way for years as a musician. Since I grew up with the dream of being a rockstar since the age of two the dream of being a musician that I created seems real – but the reality is much different. I loved the art and hated the day to day work.

    Thank you for sharing your story. When I read yours it helps me come to a deeper understanding of my own.

  20. Posted May 15, 2014 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Ever since I can remember, I loved arts and crafts. However, when I was very young I decided I wasn’t doing any sort of “art” job because the only kind of artists I’d heard of was the starving kind like Vincent Van Gogh. It was never an option on my radar for me. I majored in business because I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I figured that gave me options. Turns out, I don’t like business. At all. And now I’m doing (self taught) design and I absolutely LOVE every minute of it. It’s so funny how life works out.

  21. Emma
    Posted May 16, 2014 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Oh how this has struck a chord with me. I too am in the process of realising what i DON’T want from my work life but I have no idea what I DO want. I too want to pull up my big girl pants and find something i really love. Life is too short to be sitting behind a desk doing something i tolerate but i can’t find my way out.

    When i was 13 and then again 16 I chose all my subjects based on the fact that I wanted to teach. I chose my degree in history based on a love of the subject, knowing i could use it to teach. I did work experience in schools and now I can’t think of a worse way for me to spend my time. I admire and respect teachers but i just can’t do it. Now I work in visitor services in the heritage industry and i’m stuck and i don’t know where to go. I have no real work place skills. I can write a historical essay and i can sell tickets.

    I really hate that as kids we are forced to decide on a ‘career’. Who the hell knows what they want to do at 14/16/18?! I’m 25. I still don’t know.

    I seriously admire you for running off to Australia and finding a new path for yourself. If only I could do the same!

    • Posted May 16, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      I think there should be mandatory ‘get your shit together’ years as a buffer between high school and uni.

      As for you… I vote you work backwards. Figure out what you’re good at, what you enjoy and then just start learning in your own time. Google is a wonderful thing. Once you start following your passions, I’m pretty certain the career path will become obvious. It can take some time to flesh out (hell i’m still not there two years in), but you’ll be happy figuring it out.

      Don’t let experience (or lack there of) be a barrier. If you figure out what you want to do… you’ll find a way to re-train and gain the experience you need. Baby steps, just have faith that if you want it bad enough, you’ll get there :-)

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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