Lifestyle

Keeping up with the Alumni

Brig catches up with Elaine Cameron who talks change and how to tackle it

“Stirling University brought me both my first, and second husband” alumna Elaine Cameron confesses with a gentle laugh, “I’m not married to either of them anymore – but we’re all good friends, so there you go.”

Age
Is a badge of honour, 59
Nationality
Proudly European
Pet-peeve…
Questionnaires like this 🙂
Guilty-pleasure…
Mainlining chocolate and box sets
Super-power of choice…
Being able to talk to animals
Drink of choice…  
Cheeky NZ sauvignon blanc

“Going to Stirling, I thought I’d do an English degree, maybe become a writer, or a journalist – one year in I swapped to a French degree and ended up living in France for six years, following university.”

“In terms of a career, going back to the era when I was studying – first of all, there was no google to utilize. Second of all, women were not really expected to have a career – when I graduated in 1983, you might go for something like being a secretary, or a teacher, but ultimately you would be a mother – that was it.”

“So, I had no real plan, you know, I never had a vocation like ‘I want to be a doctor’ – but not having a plan, you just have to kind of, follow the flow.”

Elaine went from teaching English to French businessmen, working as an export manager for a company selling dehydrated fruits, to working as a personal interpreter for Paul Van Zuydam – the owner of Le Creuset, a world-famous cookware manufacturer. But it wasn’t until she entered the international company Burson Marsteller, and found her way into “what they called ‘the knowledge department’ at the time, which was essentially research”, that Elaine found her niche.

“When I got into that knowledge stream, I really took to it like a duck to water. I am such a curious person, and I want to understand how things work, why things work the way they do, what makes people tick, and all of that.”

In 2008, Elaine received the terrible news that she had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a type of blood cancer – causing her to leave work for quite some time. On her return, exciting things were awaiting as the chief-executive gave her free hands to explore the future of the company.

“I thought, this is fantastic – so I created, designed and delivered the role of a futurist within that company. It was terrific, I got to travel the world and make a niche for myself. It has been really fulfilling – I wouldn’t even say it was a job, or a career – but a passion.”

Credit: Tom Barrett on Unsplash

“Thinking about the future, particularly for someone who’s not even sure if they’re going to even see that future, it’s just wonderful to glean this much information about what it’s going to look like, and also to communicate that.”

Facing change can often be scary. Facing the sort of change that you have no control over, even more so. That change being cancer in Elaine’s case, she has turned to knowledge as a source of comfort.

“When I came back from the first time after my cancer treatment, one of the threads I pursued was the future of death. I obviously had a deep-seated need to understand the future of death for myself, but also how technology is changing everything around death, mortality and immortality, so many of the things I’ve researched has given me comfort.”

“I have researched things like people who have had near death experiences, and there’s a huge comfort factor in there, to hear from them that it is bliss, it is sheer bliss, that you will find on the other side. So that’s one thing that has tremendously comforted me.”

“Also, I think there’s nothing quite like a deep understanding of the frailty of life, and your own mortality to bring incredible flavour to your life every day. I now enjoy life, possibly a hundred times more than I used to enjoy it when I, like everybody really, went around thinking that I would live forever. It has actually brought me a great deal.”

When asked about what advice she would give to people facing challenging changes in their lives, Elaine recommends two books which has helped her immensely. ‘You are the Placebo’, by Joe Dispenza, and ‘Lifeshocks – and how to love them‘, by Sophie Sabbage.

“People fear change, because of that lack of control we perceive. These books show you all the things you can do to take back power and control – because that’s what change does when it’s imposed upon you. You need to be able to re-impose control and power for yourself. You are not powerless in the face of whatever it is that you are facing – there are things that you can do. It shows you that anything is possible – if you set your mind to it.”

Featured image credit: Drew Beamer on Unsplash

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