My schooldays were neither a glorious time domestically or scholastically. The former, no doubt, having some effect on the latter, but life behind closed doors was not discussed and certainly not taken into account at school in those days.

Imagine then, my amazement, when I was recently asked to contribute to a ‘Monday Motivation’ page on the website of my old school. I titled it, ‘Triumph over adversity.’ I had met the headmistress later in life. “I made good in the end", I told her. “I knew you would”, she said with a smile, “you had spirit!”. Not particularly helpful, I thought. But she was right, and that ‘spirit’ has been my saviour. I wobbled on the rails, but never fell off. While challenging authority led to years of problems at school, it also led me to question those with power all my adult life. This has been invaluable.

A qualification in nursery nursing has proved most useful at various times through life, in a variety of workplaces, including at present, doing voluntary work on a children’s ward. A spell in retailing led me up, down and up the management ladder.

A staff appraisal revealed positive managerial skills. I was puzzled, as I was only using what came naturally and not anything in which I could have taken an exam. I also created a matrix for meal break entitlements, still used to this day, but wasn't good enough to take any maths exams.

A return to nursery nursing led me to work on an acute psychiatric unit. I decided to retrain and five years later I opened a psychotherapy practice in York. I have also been a chocolate taster for Nestle for twenty years. I wish there had been an ‘O’ level in sensory perception.

Some life lessons.

1. Life never turns out how you imagine it might.

2. Choose degrees and courses that you want to do, not what you feel you should do, which often leads to unhappiness.

3. Managing failure is important. Without it, we cannot learn.

4. You have skills of which you may not be aware yet. There is no age limit to learning.

5. Emotional intelligence is as important as academic intelligence.

6. School friendships can last a lifetime. Value them.

7. The ages between 50 and 70, can be the most productive times of life.

- Rita Leaman is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in North Yorkshire. As Alison R Russell, she is the author of ‘Are You Chasing Rainbows?’