Life can be tough for many a teenager and for a multitude of reasons, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, if you hold on long enough, surround yourself with positive people and pursue your passion.
It helps if you have a dream. Any interest or hobby can develop into a career, with determination.
Award-winning (Australian) jewellery designer Alisha Walker knows what that is like. She had a tough time as a teenager. She grew up in rural Cambridge then moved to Hamilton with dad and eventually got shipped off to mum, in Levin.
Alisha said moving to Australia has opened up opportunities she never had here, though she admits moving to Australia was also a big risk.
For Alisha, Australia became the land of opportunity.
"I studied jewellery when I was younger however there were not many opportunities at the time, so I went into another career. Later on, I started designing jewellery as a hobby in my spare time. Very quickly I started to get quite busy."
She's won Finest Engagement Ring Designer 2021 and last year she won Most Innovative Engagement Ring Designer 2020 and Most Alternative Jewellery Designer 2020. Thanks to the internet she was customers right around the world, whom she offers custom-made design.
She trades as Sapphire Design Studios. Her work has attracted a lot of attention in the USA.
"Sometimes you just have to take a risk and I have never been afraid to fail. I believe failures are your successes and you don't know if you don't try," she explains her move to Australia.
She had studied jewellery as a young person but found there weren't many opportunities for her, so switched to psychology, and working part time. A career as a demand planner followed with Fonterra, then in Australia she worked at National Oilwell Varco.
She started designing jewellery part time at home and it grew quickly from there.
"Year after year our fan base grew. We now have a great team with customers all over the world."
She was able to open an office and then a shop.
She said she spent her teenage years in Levin, which was difficult for her at the time.
"I grew up in rural Cambridge and then moved to Hamilton. Though I made friends quickly, Levin is a lot smaller than Hamilton. I had too much time on my hands, was bored, and got up to a bit of mischief.
"I always find myself doodling, drawing or painting," Alisha said. "Before I started the jewellery business, in my spare time, I painted now and then and even sold a few paintings."
Her jewellery designs are rather unique. "I wanted our designs to be different. I didn't want to create the same old jewellery you see from store to store, I wanted to create something unique, something people hadn't seen before.
"This is what our clients love the most – knowing they can't get these designs elsewhere and how unique they are.
"I take inspiration from art in all forms, my favourite artists and poets, nature ..."
Innovation is part of her approach to her art and craft.
"I felt the jewellery industry was a little tired and the designs were very 'cookie-cutter'. I wanted to bring innovation. The industry also lacks younger people and new ideas. I was drawn to it because it can be quite technical but also allows me to be creative and to create something new."
Among that innovation is custom design, where personal touch is important.
"Every customer is so different, some are not sure what they are after and some are very specific. We start by determining who they are designing for, what are they into? As it is something they are going to wear forever, we want to make sure it's special and encompasses their personality."
So a time of struggle and searching for a passion and identity early in life has resulted in a good life across the ditch and a great way to learn a living. She employs a number of others, including her brother.
"I chose to remove anyone negative in my life as this just is not helpful. It's important to be surrounded by people who encourage you and support you whether you succeed or fail."
Reflecting on her teenage years in Levin she said, "For a teenager it can be hard to figure out what you really want to do and to have a job that doesn't feel like a job is a luxury that not all people have. I feel very lucky in this sense. But having your own business is a lot of hard work.
"My advice to anyone thinking about what to do with the rest of their lives is look at your hobbies and interests, what do you like to do in your spare time?
"Could you do this as a career, would you be happy? In my opinion, we spend so much time at work and life's too short to be at a job you despise. Never give up on your dreams, anything is possible."
You can find Alisha's designs on the internet: https://www.sapphirestudiosdesign.com.