When Shelly Johnston left St Catherine’s as a bright, fresh faced teenager in 1980 she could not have imagined the missiles that life would hurl her way, or the strengths she would discover in herself.
At 19, Shelly, known as Shelly O’Carroll, found herself running a painting and decorating business with her husband and bringing up a young baby. She also ran a printing business, worked two days a week for a property developer and invested in property. Financially, life was good.
Then her marriage fell apart and at 40 she found herself alone, without an income and bringing up two teenagers.
Shelly also survived by learning to dig deep inside herself to find her inner calm through studying meditation. She reinvented herself as a nutritionist and meditation facilitator, able to take life’s challenges in her stride.
“I learned at St Catherine’s that education is a great way to build yourself and also to re-build yourself. When times were bad I’ve told myself, ‘go learn something’ and that’s always re-inspired me. It’s triggered a new joy for life.”
Another reason for her success is the deep bonds of friendship formed in Year 7 that have remained unbroken throughout her life. “The thing I value most about my time at St Catherine’s are my four close friends and a wider circle of 15 of us. We’ve had money… and lost it, had different jobs and lifestyles and we’ve supported one another and talked things through. We try to talk or get together at least twice a week but most importantly, we laugh.”
Shelly is a nutrition consultant and teaches meditation in small groups in her private practice in South Coogee. She has recently extended her meditation practice to Randwick Community Centre and she travels in Europe for two months each year with her partner.