Athina England, Managing Director of Athina England Photography
Capturing images of people, nature and landscapes with a unique perspective
I dropped out of university three days into freshers’ week. I’d applied to study Management, but I hated it. Without relevant experience, I struggled to find work. Getting an IT apprenticeship with QA changed everything for me; I learnt on the job and got my qualifications. I was such an advocate I became a Microsoft apprentice ambassador – speaking at the Houses of Parliament and Microsoft’s headquarters.
QA helped me get a job in IT. Within three years, I worked my way up from the support desk to become a tester. Redundancy hit me hard in 2015. I’d been working a reduced six-hour day to help me manage my multiple debilitating health conditions – including ulcerative colitis, enteropathic arthritis and an arachnoid cyst in my brain.
I knew it would be tough to find a new employer willing to offer those hours, but I managed it – working my way up to become a release and test manager; then in February this year, I caught a cold which turned into pneumonia. I collapsed with chest pains and from the day I was admitted to hospital, I never returned to work. Eventually, I was diagnosed with inflammation of the muscles around my ribs – a painful condition I’ll have for life.
In April, I ploughed £10,000 into setting up a garden design business. In spite of my best efforts, I never got a single customer all summer. It was a spectacular failure – deepening my depression.
The only time my spirits lifted was during a holiday to Cornwall. Snapping photos, I recognised a glimmer of hope. Two years previously, I’d followed my passion and started a photography side hustle. It was too much to handle working full time, so I’d mothballed it. The time felt right to try again…
As soon as I got home, I dusted off my website and Etsy shop. Two months in, I’ve opened an Amazon store and started selling at makers markets. I took my first commercial commission this week.
I’m troubled by the mistakes I made with the garden design business, but I have a great GP who reminds me I’m not a failure. I’ve picked myself up and moved on; not everyone does that.