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The country life for me

Justin Micallef

I’m a 29 year old fellow from a country town called Lansdowne on the Mid North Coast. I grew up on acreage and enjoyed being out in the country, growing up running around the backyard with pets and driving paddock bashers in the paddocks.

Justin

I lived there with my mother, father and older brother for many years until I moved away from the area, but eventually found myself back in Taree and I now live in Taree on my own, though I do not spend a lot of time there due to work commitments away from the area.

Growing up on a farm was great. I certainly learned a lot of life skills and cherished being outdoors. My brother and I loved going camping on the farm, setting up a fire with a sleeping bag and sleeping under the stars with our dogs’ right by our side. I recently joined MDNSW as I want to be able to help others in similar situations as my own.

I found out about my MD when I turned 17. I was an avid sportsman and played soccer all the time. I started to realise there was issues when I had just made the Northern NSW Futsal team and went to training and couldn’t keep up like I normally did. I then felt it worsening when I went to outdoor soccer training and found it hard to keep balance once I pushed a bit on the ball. I got tested and found that I had Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy and my wish of one day being a professional soccer player was over.

I found it very hard at the time, with my initial worry being not being able to do what I loved. Over time and now being 12 years since I was diagnosed, I’ve realised how lucky I am and how much worse it could have been.  I still get tired at times and can’t do all that I wish I could, but I try and not say no to anything until I’ve tried it. I also see how much better off I am than others and am very thankful!

After school I was very unsure about what I wanted to do and so I talked to my father. He said I either needed a trade or to go to university. Its advice I took onboard and went and looked for an apprenticeship. I realised I would not be able to do my preferred trade as a chippy and thought I could make a go of it as a chef. I found a great employer and finished my apprenticeship at the one place and learnt a great deal about my trade.

I now work as an Area Manger for quite a large catering company. I got this job as I completed an apprenticeship as a chef and over the years got a position with the same catering company I am currently with in Aged Care. After a month of being a 2nd chef, I was promoted to Head Chef and then after three years I was promoted to my current position of Area Manager. I currently have 6 facilities I look after with over 100 staff members.

I find that this job has been very good for me and my MD as I am not always on my feet so do not get as tired as when I was cooking for 10hrs per day.  I have great responsibility within my position liaising with clients and superiors to make sure we hold onto contracts and hopefully win some new ones. I find it a very rewarding position and am very proud of where I have gotten to. I’m very proud of the fact that no one knows I have MD and I work without anyone knowing I have the condition. This is not because I am embarrassed, but because I do not get any special treatment and still achieve everything my colleagues do.  I’m also very grateful and feel I’m a perfect example of what hard work and commitment can achieve.

My parents have been there for me every step of the way and my close friends are also extremely supportive. I look up to my brother a lot as he lives with Spina Bifida but continues to live his life as best he can. It pushes me to do what I can to achieve my goals.

The hardest thing I find about living with MD is wanting to do certain things like hiking, playing sports and so on that I am unable to. The mental struggle can certainly take its toll at times, though every time I feel down, I look at what I have achieved and the things I am able to do that others aren’t and soon enough, I’m back to myself.  I best manage this by getting good rest at night and having a great life away from work to help stay on top at all times.

My social life is very important to me and I love being around my mates. Most of the winter, I stay as involved as I can with soccer. I go to every game on a Saturday and support the boys even though I cannot play anymore. I still get huge enjoyment participating this way.

If I’m not at the soccer, I really enjoy going out to a live band, exploring new areas and camping out with mates and having a good laugh. There’s no better medicine then getting outside with your friends, having a drink and a good time around a fire!

In the future I want to travel as much as I can and when I return, get another good job and settle down with a family.  I plan to travel next year with a few mates. We are hoping to travel to Japan and then onto Europe. We have not put a time frame on this so we can see as much or as little as we like. My mother is currently living in Malta as that is where she originates, so that will definitely be a stop we make. Being a huge Football (Soccer) fan, I will definitely be visiting England to watch a game or two!

My approach to life is I try to be positive always and not say no to anything before I have tried it. I never look back and am always looking at what tomorrow may bring. To me, hard work and commitment is the key to achieving your goals. It does not matter what obstacles you have in front of you, with a strong mindset anything is achievable.