The Day I Gave Up On My Dreams


I’m a really positive person and my story is an uplifting one so keep reading to hear why the day I gave up on my dreams was a good day!

Recently, I’ve been on a long journey of change that has turned out to be one of the most fulfilling and enlightening experiences I’ve had. However, I need to take you back to when I was three and my dream was born.

Donna Ford 1989 BalletBallet shoes and a pink tutu; I fell in love with dance and wanted to learn how to move effortlessly like a ballerina and express myself through my body. Throughout primary school, it was the thing I loved doing more than anything in the world. Performing dance as well as acting and singing made me feel alive. Then, at age eleven, my dance teacher decided to go on maternity leave and gave up her dance school. I was devastated because even though I lived in quite a large town in Northern Ireland, the nearest ballet classes were over 10 miles away and we didn’t have a car. So, I had to give up dance. Throughout my secondary education, I tried whenever possible to be involved in the theatre scene and at school tried to incorporate dance into my drama classes. I learnt more skills and realised I loved dance more than ever, so, with the same fire in my heart, I applied to study it at university. My careers advisors thought I was mad, given that I was predicted excellent grades in Physics, Maths and Biology, but I was determined to at least try!

Against all the odds, I got in! I moved across the English Channel to Guildford to study a dance degree and fell in love with dance all over again. I learnt lots of styles including contemporary, salsa, african and ballet and sank my teeth into the philosophy and aesthetics. It was amazing and formed much of who I am today. To cut a very long story short, after completing my degree I eventually moved to London to do an apprenticeship with a dance company and have never left this amazing city (consequently meeting my husband and starting a family here). I felt a calling to bring dance to everyone in the community as a means of self-expression and well-being and ended up working for some amazing companies including the Royal Academy of Dance, Age Concern and Trinity Laban. My heart was full of gratitude everyday as I went to work. One day I’d be doing an intergenerational workshop with school children and ninety-year-olds and the next choreographing in a secondary school or working with mums and their newborns. It took me to housing estates, schools, convents and even Italy! It was a wonderfully fulfilling and diverse job and I loved being a freelancer.

Donna Ford 1989 Michael Jackson danceThen, after my second son was born everything changed. The fire went out in my heart and, without any classes to return to after maternity leave, with every fibre in my body I realised that I didn’t want anything to do with dance or teaching anymore. I had to take over a year to admit that I had to ‘break up’ with dance and that somehow there was something else I was meant to be doing, but I had no idea what that was. I spent most of Ethan’s first year in a mental fog, not really sure what work I was going to do when my maternity leave was up. When he was about 10 months, I started thinking that there must be other passions in my heart that I could turn into a business.

So, I signed up for the Successful Mums Start Your Own Business’ taster workshop organised by the lovely Helen Hamston of Mummy’s Gin Fund as a community fundraising event. I actually meant to sign up for Find A Job You Love’ but booked the wrong one! But I still decided to go along anyway. It was a really inspiring night and I loved hearing everyone’s business ideas as they were so varied. Someone wanted to become a birth photographer, start mum and baby exercise classes, sell homemade lampshades and run a little black dress shop. However, I left that night still unsure what I wanted to do. The tutor, Jane Knight, advised me to get a journal and organise my thoughts and I left with one thing ringing in my ears – that phone call. Jane promised to call us all in exactly a year’s time to see what we had put into action and how our businesses were doing. Eek! That was just the challenge I needed to get myself into gear.

Donna skirtingI knew I loved interior design but was really put off the idea of doing further training. Just before becoming a parent I completed two diplomas and couldn’t bear doing any more studying, plus I started realising that I really wanted to run my own business, I just didn’t know what that was yet. I enjoyed a rest over Christmas, not thinking anything about my career and then in the first week of January I had a lightbulb moment. Literally out of nowhere. I was reading a parenting blog and realised that I could actually set up my own interior design blog which could lead on to paid work.

DIY ManualI did extensive research into other bloggers in the industry and took friends of friends who had connections in the industry out for a drink to bend their ear. Both of these were tips Jane suggested at the taster session. Next, I signed up to the Successful Mums Back to Work course which helped me gain more confidence and put a clear action plan in place. I set myself the goal of launching the blog within 3 months of having the idea, which I achieved. I’ve set up my own website, arranged my own photo shoots, written all my own content and have so many exciting ideas. Within the next six months, I plan to figure out how to get paid to blog and also think about the services I could offer to the community. I feel like I’m on the steepest learning curve as I learn about blogging, social marketing, business and a whole new industry. But I’m loving it!

My blog Skirting Boards & Chandeliers has been going two months now and I have enjoyed every single minute of it. I now have a new dream to run my own creative business and from somewhere I’ve found the determination and positivity to believe that I will make it happen. It’s been so fulfilling and what I’ve realised is that the process of designing a room is not actually that different to choreography. The aesthetic process feels very similar. I’m now choreographing the play of colour, light and texture in rooms rather than designing arms and limbs in space. This new venture is building on everything I’ve already learnt and the heart of the new blog is not that different to when I was teaching dance; helping people use their own creativity to aid their own wellbeing. We all have a home that on a deep level we desire to make more reflective of our life philosophy and personality, whether we realise it or not.

Skirting Boards and Chandeliers logoReflecting on my career journey for this post has been such a cathartic and enlightening experience. I’m surprised I’ve come so far in a relatively short space of time. Although my children have no idea what a blog is, and no awareness of what mummy does on her laptop, it’s actually their determination, bravery and fire for life that inspires me to keep moving forward with my business. I want to leave you with the thought that your dreams can be born out of the most surprising circumstances and that we are never too old to change things around. Sometimes we just need to hold our head high, take a deep breath and just take one step forward.

The next Mummy’s Gin Fund and Successful Mums ‘Find a Job You Love’ and ‘Business Start Up’ workshops are now on sale. Tickets and more information here.

Instagram: @skirtingboardschandliers




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Donna Ford is an interior design blogger who is passionate about inspiring people to create spaces in their home injected with their unique personality! Previously a dancer, she has two little boys and loves visiting museums, art galleries and the theatre. Donna loves mid-century style, is a huge Mad Men fan and loves rollerskating and BMXing in her spare time. Instagram: @skirtingboardschandeliers Facebook: Pinterest: