Lyn's* Story

*Name changed to protect identities

My curiosity to see a different life was what drove me to leave my home country, Guyana, and move to London. That was in 1974; I was 22 at the time.

As a girl, I was quite restricted in my younger years. My father was Indian, and I was brought up in that culture. I was told what I should and shouldn’t be doing. I used to dream of being in the army, or being on stage in the theatre, but I couldn’t tell my parents.

I wanted to be a free spirit; I could feel it waiting to burst out of me. That’s the main reason I made the move.

Two days after I arrived in the UK, I started nursing school at Central Middlesex University Hospital. I enjoyed it, but I struggled. I wasn’t confident and I became very introverted, feeling like I was always in the background. It was hard to get accustomed to British culture. The food and the weather of course, but the behaviour as well: everyone in the UK hugs, but back home we only shake hands. Even when I was at the airport and leaving home, my father only shook my hand. All the hugging was a shock!

I spent three years feeling very depressed and considered going back home, but the thought of qualifying as a nurse kept me going.

While nursing, I met some girls who were also from the West Indies, who had lived here longer. They got me out of my shell. They kept me here. 46 years later, and we’re still all in contact. It’s wonderful.

From then on, things got better. I became comfortable with the lifestyle in Britain, and I became confident.

After qualifying, I became a neuroscience nurse, helping people with speech and mobility problems. I remember walking onto the ward on my first day and just falling in love with it. I’m a people person, so it felt right. I felt like I was doing something good in the world, and that’s why I did it for more than 30 years.

In the early 2000s I was diagnosed with Lupus and Sjögren's syndrome, and it soon became time to hang up my scrubs. I struggled on until I was 55, and in 2007, I retired.

As I got older, I found I wasn’t doing much with myself, just the odd bit of gardening here and there. I started having cardiac problems because of the Lupus. I had one episode where everything went blank – I genuinely thought I’d died. I had to have a pacemaker fitted, and I knew I need to start getting out and being active.

One day, in 2017, I spotted a leaflet for Hestia’s Age Activity Centre (AAC) in my local pharmacy. They were doing yoga and Tai Chi – all the good stuff I needed to be involved in!

I didn’t really categorise myself as an ‘older person’, especially as I’m one of the younger people at the centre. I still feel 18 at heart!

But it really has added something special to my life. I’ve met interesting people and made close friends; people I feel I’ve known my whole life.

We all have such a glorious sense of humour. A lot of the people there are from the West Indies, like me, and it’s an important space for us.

Covid has meant that the AAC has to stay closed, though the staff have kept in touch and provided support wherever it has been needed.

I do however feel locked in at home, like I can’t be the free spirit I am anymore. I’m hopeful things will change soon.

When it does reopen, I’m going to continue going for as long as I can. Other than that, I plan to carry on gardening, and taking every day as it comes. I don’t have any major goals. I don’t want to be this or that - I just want to be me.

Which book has impacted me the most?

I’ve read a lot of books on personal growth. Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers It’s all about positive thinking. Those types of books grab me from the beginning and I gain something from them.

Which film has impacted me the most?

A film that touched me is The Bridges of Madison County with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep. I’ve seen that film so many times, and I feel like I have lived through the plot in a past life. I believe in spiritual things like that.

Which song has impacted me the most?

I love songs from the 60s and 70s. The year I came to the UK was the year that Abba won Eurovision with Waterloo, so that song always reminds me of moving here. I love Queen and Bowie too – their songs remind me of taking a break while on shift as a nurse, heading to the break room and putting the radio on.