… reflections on the journey so far
Two months ago, I spoke of “a year ahead of learning, catching up with what has been going on in the rest of the world beyond my little corner in the workplace and exploring new territory,” concluding that I was “ going to need all the attention span, brain capacity and enthusiasm I can muster.” That describes quite accurately the path I am taking so far, encapsulating both the excitement and the difficulties that have been my experience to date.
A few reflections then, on the first month of my journey in looking beyond ….
On entering into the blogosphere:
So far, my journal entries have been far less structured and directional than I had anticipated but I have learnt very quickly that the only way for me to write, is honestly; and from the position that I actually find myself in, rather than the one I feel it would be beneficial to present.
I now know about this phenomenon called writer’s block. There are times when I could happily be writing into the night and all other tasks, duties or disturbances are irritating inconveniences. Conversely, there are times when getting any thoughts presented coherently on the page is about as likely to happen as the completion of our new bathroom project. I have learned that being a blogger is much more than just writing. It is interactive, has a whole set of rules of etiquette to be discovered and there are plenty of people blogging their tips on how to achieve this…which makes blogging, like all social media interactions, somewhat mind-boggling.
On being outdoors:
Experiencing the outdoors – even just for a short period each day, is unexpectedly uplifting. Yes, I know it is summer and things may change, but listening to the bird song, exchanging smiles with passers-by, being aware of the light and reflections as the sun takes its course in the day, stopping to take a photograph, and just observing my surroundings on a daily basis, provides enrichment and a lift to each day. Apart from riding my bike, I have had a trip to a local vineyard, and two days with a school party at the Heritage Centre on our local Community rail line. Lots more day trips to follow….after all, you can’t promote something you haven’t experienced for yourself.
On working with Volunteers:
I am meeting a whole new group of kind, committed, gifted, friendly and accepting people. The extent to which people dedicate such large chunks of their lives to what they see as a worthy cause, for no financial reward is quite humbling. On a side note though, never once did I imagine that being taken out of my comfort zone would involve learning how to handle unwanted attention of the kind I had completely forgotten existed. I’ve been taken back to Lily Allen’s ‘Knock ‘em out’.
On not working in the education sector:
Many people are jealous of those working in the Education Sector because of the long holidays. There is an important lesson here that I already knew to be true, but it has been good to be reminded of. I remember my biggest, and yet unfounded concern when entering full-time paid employment at age 21, was that I would never have school (or better still university) holidays again. Giving up a job in a school, so close to the long summer break has not felt like a sacrifice to me because I have been so ready to get going with the next thing. What I have realised though, is how much energy I had been expending desperately counting down to the holiday time so that I could relax and enjoy life, and then half way through the holidays, getting anxious about that fact that they would soon be over. I am enjoying living life more in the present. In fact, today I did something that I can’t remember doing unless away on holiday, since I was a teenager. The sun was shining, and being in the middle of a gripping novel, I took it out into the garden and read for an hour. Sometimes the smallest things can be remarkable achievements!
On gaining new skills:
OK, so this one is a bit tricky. In my marketing and communications role with the Community Development Agency in Bedfordshire, I have a job description with five out of seven responsibilities that I have never had before. What I have learned is that if people think you are a capable person, they will assume you know what you are doing regardless of your background. Up until now, my focus has been not so much learning new skills but smartening up a few lost skills that haven’t been needed for a while and trying to size up just exactly what it is that I am going to be able to achieve in my six months there. I need to balance my development needs with the thirst of the charity – without sufficient staffing to meet the desires and enthusiasms of all its projects – for an extra pair of hands.
Getting to grips with the use of social media for marketing in non-profit organisations will be a key learning curve for me over the next few months. It features as an area for development in three of the four Charities that I have currently undertaken to help. Delighted to have discovered a webinar on using Twitter for non-profit organisations last week, I enthusiastically signed up to a one o’clock session. As I was turning off my computer and contemplating a well-earned night of rest, an email reminder pinged into sight, telling me that the webinar would be starting shortly. As my dedication did not stretch to staying up that late I missed it. So I will start with lesson number one on Social Media – it doesn’t have a day and a night, it means 24/7 engagement. Incidentally, a few tentative clicks following this incident, and I have increased my twitter fan club from 3 to 13. It is quite astonishing how much catching up I have to do in this department.
In complete contrast to the marketing role, I am training with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau as a Gateway Assessor. The training program is structured, thorough and comprehensive. It will be weeks before I come face to face with an actual member of the public. In the meanwhile, I am learning once more how to study and how to be comfortable in an office full of strangers, all of whom seem to be going about their business (whether paid or working as volunteers) with a frightening level of competence, efficiency and confidence.
I have taken on three new roles. Apart from the two already mentioned, I am also now listed as an ‘advisor’ for a charity doing some excellent work with youngsters who are finding the standard school environment inaccessible. A recent strategy day had me brushing up such terminology as SWAT and PESTLE. I have never been good with acronyms – I need words that I can make sense of in the context, not visions of running round with a fly swatter and grinding spices with a pestle and mortar. This doesn’t help the professional image I find myself needing to portray and makes me feel out of my depth even when I am not.
On being outside my comfort zone
Can I say that I am comfortable, and yet outside of my comfort zone at the same time?
Yes, there are plenty of boxes I can tick for being out of my comfort zone over the past few weeks, and perhaps it is not surprising that my attention span, brain capacity and enthusiasm have been stretched to the full and at times been left wanting. There was a point some days ago, when being introduced to the third whole new set of staff within as many weeks, that I wanted to retreat back into a shell and reclaim an introverted and timid approach to life. But I am doing what I set out to do, I am enjoying new opportunities, living for the present and looking forward to what is yet to come.
Now I think I will pick up that novel where I left off …….