It is mid-December 2016 and in a moment of madness (or clarity), I quit my job – I won’t bore you with the minutiae of the events that lead to my departure, but at my leaving party I had to give a speech. I apologised to my friends for not being strong enough to stay and said I am tearful at leaving them a man down. I said my goodbyes and my boss hugged me and whispered “you are stronger than you think, because you CHOSE to go”.
Within a week of leaving, I am happier than I have been in a months. Marian, my wife, immediately notices a change in me. I’m regaining my sense of humour, I have an appetite again and I’ve stopped grinding my teeth in my sleep.
It’s New Year’s Eve. I am trying to finish my online application for the 8th series of GBBO before the fireworks begin. Of course, I don’t make it. I take a break at midnight to enjoy a glass of bubbly with my wife before I return to my form. My expectation versus what is achievable (in the time allowed) has always been an issue and I need to remedy it. “Maybe that will be my New Year’s resolution,” I think.
I don’t finish until 2am but I’m finally happy with what I have written. I press the submit button. It’s done.
You all know what happens after that of course. I make it to the tent, I made most of you laugh (a lot) and cry (a little) and I produce a few good (phallic) bakes along the way. And when it was time to leave, although I didn’t choose it, I am ready to go. With no regrets and the knowledge that I did the best I could.
There were loads of highs along the way. Obviously, the handshake and the two technical firsts spring to mind, but also the absolute thrill of being in THAT tent with all those wonderful bakers surpasses all expectation.
Even the lows such as my cottage loaf looking like BB8 are memorable because I gained valuable knowledge every time I was unsuccessful.
I learnt that the Stroopwaffel challenge was essentially the Kobayshi Maru of technicals, where the real test is how we accept failure, deal with it and move on (and joke about it for the rest of the summer #grainycaramel).
My real lows came when I was away from the tent. I became exhausted because I was practicing my bakes until the small hours whilst still doing a full day’s work (Oh, I forgot to mention that I got a job as a Research Scientist at the Francis Crick Institute Hurrah!). I was so very tired, but my mind would not let me give up on either because I was enjoying it all so much.
So what now? I get asked all the time if I will give up my job to write a cook book or open a bakery. Open a bakery or writing recipes? I really don’t have the discipline for either (it’s taken me six days to write this and its only 600 words!).
The answer is no - baking was, and still is, a hobby. I love my job and work with a fantastic team. I am proud that I help save lives and I have no plans to leave.
So why did I do it?
To prove I could. Me. An ordinary person.
And that’s the point.
If a middle aged Oriental gay female can make it all the way to the GBBO tent.
Then what’s stopping you?
Inadvertently, through GBBO, I have been given a voice. I hope to use this to invoke change for the better.
Bullied at school for being nerdy, now I’m promoting STEM to children.
I am an example that immigration does work. I am proof that we are not parasites to society and have paid more into the system than have ever taken out.
I am a role model to LGTBQ of all ages showing that being different IS normal.
The past year has taught me to never to give up. When there is nothing but darkness, HOPE is a guiding light - words to live by I think.
Merry Christmas and a Hopeful New Year.
This blog is part of HuffPost UK’s 12 days of Christmas series. From 20 December we will bring you blogs and vlogs from individuals at the centre of some of 2017′s biggest news stories. They will reflect on the past 12 months and also look forward to new year. To find out more follow our hashtag #HuffPost12Days or visit our series page.