For some, today isn’t a day for jokes. Or joy. Or even thinking about the future. But in among the thousands of posts filling up my timeline today about the president-elect, there’s one joke you couldn’t fail to miss: “Donald Trump is a reminder that you should apply for that job you want, even if you don’t have the experience.” Hah.
I mean, the most unqualified candidate in living history – the only president to have never served in the armed forces or held any sort of public office – will now be moving into the White House. Isn’t this a fantastic example that anything is possible? That if you work hard, then you can achieve your dream? Well, billions in the bank sure help, and a nation angry at the establishment, and the economy, and the – well, we won’t go there – but here’s our list of others who have come out of nowhere to get what they wanted:
Before becoming a professional footballer, Jamie Vardy combined playing for a non-League team with his factory job making medical splints. In 2007, he was paid £30 a game, but by 2015 he had scored in 11 consecutive games for Leicester City, breaking a 12-year record and earning love from football fans far beyond his own club. He was long-told to give up football as he was too small. His tradition of port, three cans of Red Bull and a double espresso before games apparently continues, but Vardy, who has just released an autobiography called The Boy from Nowhere, has somehow achieved more than even he could have dreamt of.
Joanne Rowling was working as a researcher and bilingual secretary for Amnesty International when she first had the idea for the Harry Potter books which have seen her rise to fame. Sitting on a delayed train from Manchester to London, she first dreamt up the plot, but it took seven years and the death of her mother, the birth of her first child, a divorce and relative poverty before the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, was published. From state benefits to multi-millionaire, Rowling has been named the Most Influential Woman in Britain.
Any Britain’s Got Talent fans will remember the night that Susan Boyle first appeared on the programme. Shuffling onto the stage, few could predict what would happen when she opened her mouth and sang I Dreamed a Dream from Les Mis. Before she’d finished the opening phrase, there was a standing ovation. She went on to release the best-selling debut album of all time and has sung for the Queen. At school she was bullied and called “Simple Susan”, but gained international praise since her initial performance. Up until recently, she still lived in her family home, a former-council house.
Eddie the Eagle
Michael Edwards is the infamous British skier who became the first athlete to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping. A good downhill skier, he switched to ski jumping because it was cheaper and easier to qualify. Wearing borrowed equipment – he had to wear six pairs of socks so his boots would fit – he was told he was too heavy, and often couldn’t see, as the glasses he wore under his googles would steam up. He finished last in the two events he entered in the 1988 Winter Olympics, but became loved around the world for his spirit. At the closing ceremony, the president of the organising committee singled out Edwards for his contribution. King said looking at the competitors: “You have broken world records and you have established personal bests. Some of you have even soared like an eagle.”
Beginning as a production assistant in Hollywood, Lupita Nyong’o, a Kenyan-Mexican actress, worked on a number of small screens before pursuing a master’s degree in acting from the Yale School of Drama. Fresh from college, her first role was Patesy in Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave. She then won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress – the first Kenyan and first Mexican actress to win the prize.
In 2009, a blog appeared on BBC Urdu detailing the life of school children under the Taliban occupation, and the blogger’s dreams of education for all girls in Swat Valley. The author was Malala. A New York Times documentary about her life was released the next year as the Pakistani military intervened in the region, and she rose to prominence in the media, nominated by Desmond Tutu for the International Children’s Peace Prize. As she boarded the school bus in 2012, a gunman asked her name, then shot at her three times. She survived, and was flown to the UK for treatment, but the Taliban reiterated their intention to kill her and her father. However, her story eventually led to the ratification of Pakistan’s first Right to Education bill. She’s been called the world’s most famous teenager and featured in Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” list in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was a bishop for just over a year when he became the primate of all England – nothing to do with monkeys,fyi. After an 11-year career in the oil industry, he was initially rejected for ordination, being told the Church of England had “no place” for him. But he went on to be accepted in 1989 and held several parochial appointments before becoming dean of Liverpool in 2007. He said his appointment as archbishop was a “joke” and “perfectly absurd”, having been a bishop for such a short time.
So, what’s your dream? If today’s news seems utterly dark to you, remember that that one positive is that we live in a world where some people do achieve their dreams, even when these seem totally unrealistic to many. If there’s one thing we can take from today, it’s to keep dreaming!