From cruise ships to celebrant, Worthing woman finds positives instead of being all at sea
As a senior officer on board cruise ships, Julie Sherrington could have been all at sea in the past year but instead, she has turned the pandemic into a positive and rethought her future.
Julie has been sailing for more than 30 years with Royal Caribbean Cruises and has enjoyed every minute but the pandemic has grounded the industry and she has had to find a way to survive on dry land.
She was brought up in Godalming but moved to Worthing 15 years ago and says being on the coast has made all the difference to her since sailings were cancelled.
Julie explained: “My lifestyle has completely changed during this pandemic but living by the sea in Worthing has been a godsend. I miss the life at sea and every day I look out to the sea and think of my life on the ship.
“But I have turned this situation into a positive, I have volunteered for Age UK and Time to Talk, I have taken a job as an activity co-ordinator in a residential home for the elderly and trained to be a wedding and funeral celebrant.”
Julie has always had a real passion for people and prides herself on her ability to ‘turn every frown into a smile’.
She said: “I would really love to get more involved with the celebrant role, as I feel I have a real passion for it, especially the funeral side of it.
“I especially feel my love for life and people, combined with the ability to capture a person’s lifetime in an emotional eulogy, is an amazing combination and one I am embracing.
“I also love my new role as activity co-ordinator in the residential home, it is so rewarding knowing I can make a difference to their day.”
With the lifting of restrictions on holidays and some cruises setting sale in June, will Julie be going back to sea?
“That is the million dollar question!” she said. “I would ideally like to spend time at home here in Worthing, enjoy my nice home by the sea, spend time with my parents, siblings and friends - an opportunity I have rarely had in the past 30 years as I am usually away from home for months of the year.
“If I start missing the sea, I simply need to walk 50 yards and I can sit on the seafront and look out to the ship from land, instead of looking out from the ships to land.”
Julie has spent her career sailing around the world, seeing different countries, sampling international cuisines and generally ‘living the dream’, but it has not all been plain sailing.
She explained: “As a guest relations director, I have to manage many situations that require many skills - quick thinking, organisation, empathy, compassion, to name a few.
“A life at sea I have loved and enjoyed so much, so when the pandemic hit and sailings were ceased until further notice, I felt totally lost. Life as I knew it had changed, leaving me having no direction, no purpose and no plan as to my future.”
Julie decided she needed to do something to occupy her time and her volunteering has been extremely rewarding.
In her new job as activity co-ordinator, she spends her time thinking of new and entertaining things for the residents to do.
Julie said: “Oh my goodness, it is so different to what I usually do but I love it. There is never a dull moment.
“A year ago, I would have been responsible for over 3,000 guests every week, dealing with immigration concerns, emergency situations and all aspects of ensuring the guest cruise experience goes smoothly. Now I am painting pebbles, calling bingo and loving every minute of it.
“But this was not enough for me. I was used to working around the clock, dealing with unpredictable situations. So I decided to revisit a career I have often thought about doing. I realised I have a real passion for people, a skill to make others feel comfortable, the ability to read situations and people, and a genuine interest in people’s lives in general.
“I have always had an interest in becoming a celebrant. I searched online for a training course and found one that suited me. However, it was changed from classroom training to online Zoom lessons. The course was amazing, so informative and the tutor is from Worthing, so we had a connection immediately.
“I finished the course and am now hoping to communicate with the local funeral homes and directors to be their celebrant of choice. I really embraced the writing of the wedding service and the eulogies, and found my passion for writing all over again.
“Having a celebrant perform your wedding or funeral gives you so much freedom. There are no rules, no restrictions and you choose your words and, along with the celebrant, get to create your special day exactly how want it. I am looking forward to being the celebrant for local wedding and funerals.
“So, one year after I was told the sea would not be home for a while, I feel I have learned so much more about myself, have learned new skills and actually had time to spend with my friends and family. Unfortunately, I have still not learned how to cook but hopefully that’s my next lesson.”