New Horizons

I alluded in a previous post that it hadn’t been the easiest start to the year. For various reasons it’s felt as if things have been in a state of limbo, and the planner in me has found this hard to handle. But one thing that is very much pressing ahead – whether I like it or not – is my Masters degree in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology, which I am undertaking alongside my full time job on a part time, distance learning basis with the University of East London.

For years since graduating from my original Psychology degree (in 2002 – scary) I have had an itch to return to psychology. I’m pretty sure my friends and family thought it was a ‘grass is greener’ situation, and at times I thought the same, but something kept making my mind return to the idea. And now, almost fifteen years later (better late than never), here I am, enrolled on an MSc and already four days in.

I won’t lie, it’s terrifying. All the old feelings of inadequacy have already begun to surface, and I find myself thinking ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘Everyone else is going to be better’ at least ten times a day. But, at a deeper level, there’s excitement; a spark has been ignited after years of being dormant and it’s filling me with hope for the future. I’m older (a lot), wiser (a bit) and ready to give this everything I’ve got.

It’s not going to be easy. The social butterfly in me is already pining for fun nights out and carefree weekends. But this is important. It’s my chance to see if I’ve been right to harbour this longing; if I’ve really got what it takes to succeed in this field. If I wasn’t scared alarm bells would be ringing. That’s how I know I’m on the right track.

My first term module is coaching, and already I’m expected to be recruiting coachees (more info on that here), which is sending my imposter syndrome into overdrive. At the same time, I’m feeling a healthy curiosity about my ability to coach, how quickly I’ll pick up the skills and how much of a rapport I will build with my coachees.

Ultimately, what excites me the most is that this could put me on a totally different career path. Hopefully soon the limbo phase will be behind me once and for all.

 

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Doubting Thomas(ina)

Why do we doubt ourselves and our abilities, when experience has taught us time and again that we are more capable than we first thought?

As a Libra, decisions have always challenged me. I never know if the path I’m treading is the ‘right’ one, and often find myself hesitating at a crossroads for so long I am paralysed by indecision – sometimes to the point where I retrace my steps to the safe, well-trodden path of before, for fear of the new one leading me somewhere I don’t want to go.

But here’s the thing: The path I least want to be walking is the well trodden one. Why? Because I’ve walked that path a thousand times before. I know each twist and turn, each pothole and each puddle. There are no surprises on that path. It’s boring. Predictable. And the more I get to know myself, the more I know deep in my heart that boring and predictable are two things I never want to be.

And here’s the other thing: How can you know if a path is taking you somewhere you don’t want to go, when you won’t know if you really want to be there until you actually get there? It’s the ultimate Catch 22.

So. The way I see it is like this. In life there are only ever really two options:

  1. The Known (Safe) Option
  2. The Unknown (Unsafe) Option

If you take Option One, you have to accept that you may never feel that thrill of the extraordinary; the adrenaline rush you get when you take a risk and it pays off. Equally you may never feel the crushing disappointment of a failed risk, so there is at least some solace in that.

If you take Option Two, you must accept that risks are part of life. They may not always pay off, but at least you will never look back when you’re grey and old and wonder ‘what if?’ And that, exactly that, is my motivation for choosing Option Two, always.

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Reflections on 2015

Another year has passed, and for me it’s been a year of firsts: the first year of living abroad, the first working for a PR agency, and also the first as an engaged lady. As I sit here reflecting on the last twelve months I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Many people do not have the wonderful things I have: loving and unswervingly supportive family, fiance and friends, a good job, a great apartment in a city that I have come to love, and the means (well, almost – thanks to the expense of our 2016 wedding this point is a work in progress) to pursue the lifetime of adventure that I crave.

Many of this year’s events have highlighted the shocking disparity between those of us who have, essentially, ‘lucked out’ in life’s lottery, and those who have never even had the opportunity to buy a ticket. I have been particularly affected by the refugee crisis, which, as residents of Brussels, has been literally on our doorstep – both in Brussels and in the ‘jungle’ of Calais that we pass by so regularly on our Eurostar trips home to visit friends and family. How easily we Europeans take for granted our freedom of movement, when our brothers and sisters from Syria and Sudan have nothing but doors slammed in their faces when they try to pass through borders and seek escape from persecution and a better life for themselves and for their families. Their plight is heartbreaking, and the ability of so many to turn the other cheek nothing less than horrifying.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Sometimes, just as I am about to despair of humanity altogether, something will come along to restore my faith. And the many ordinary people who have been galvanized by the refugee crisis into coming together to help have done just that. I have been following in particular the activities of The Worldwide Tribe, a fantastic group of young people from the UK who have been documenting the experiences of those in the Calais jungle, and in the process raising money to help improve their situation. Such dedication and commitment to this important cause is awe-inspiring, and goes to show that anyone can make a positive difference in the world, if only they have the drive and determination to do so.

I hope that those for whom 2015 was challenging will find fresh perspective, hope and happiness in 2016. And for everyone else, keep doing what you’re doing! May your year be filled with peace and love.

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NaNoWriMo Day 26: The Impossible Dream?

Given the recent terror threats in Brussels, and the ridiculous amount I’ve had on at work, I could perhaps be forgiven for falling behind with my NaNo novel. Nonetheless it’s frustrating to be four days away from the end of the challenge feeling uncertain as to whether I will manage to complete it. I’ve had a good bash at translating my idea into a story, but along the way, as so often happens when you lack a solid plan, I’ve wandered off, allowing my characters to do exactly as they please, often with most unpleasing results. Still, in its current form my ‘novel’ (and I use that term in the loosest possible sense) stands at a not unimpressive 37,397 words – which is precisely 37,397 words more than I would have written had I note decided to partake in the challenge again. So I suppose whatever happens from here on in I should at least be proud of that. But now I’m so tantalisingly close to crossing the virtual finish line I’m not sure I can let it drop. Maybe four days is enough to cram in almost 13,000 words. Maybe this dream is not impossible. Maybe…Just maybe…

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Riding the Hamster Wheel

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After the success of my sitcom writing course (writing a 15 minute script and having it acted out by a Game of Thrones actress does count as success, right?) with the City Academy I have once again grasped the nettle and signed up for a 7 week summer course in crime writing, this time with the City Lit. This will run concurrently with the screenplay idea I’m working on with my amazing writing mentor, so I’ll have lots to keep me busy!

You see, what I’m coming to realise is that being busy is always best – or at least that’s the case with people like me, who are creatively minded and enthusiastic but tend towards laziness and phases of paranoid inactivity. Deadlines are key to productivity, and without concrete plans (submit essay by x, write plot outline by y) it’s all too easy to drift out with the tide, never to return to shore. So whilst I will quite often bitch and moan about not having enough hours in the day, I know deep down without these goals and targets I would lack the momentum to achieve anything at all.

Discipline, however, is a different beast entirely, and one that’s far more difficult to tame. You can set all the goals and targets that you like, but if you don’t ‘show up’ regularly, as a good friend recently said to me, the game is lost. And the fact remains that whilst I’m full of good intentions and prone to bursts of fervour, showing up regularly is still something I struggle with. That, and the idea that you don’t have to be in the ‘right’ mood to ‘write,’ nor even must you know where the writing will take you. You just have to sit down and do it. No but-I-have-to-hang-out-the-washing-then-go-to-the-gym-and-make-dinner excuses.

And on that note, I’m just off to the gym and to make dinner before I sit down with my laptop for the evening…..

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Strengthening Resolve / Finding Wings

It’s been five months since the end of my ‘write every day of 2013’ challenge and I can feel myself drifting. The desire to write – to be a ‘writer’ – has never been stronger, but when I do sit down to write it’s piecemeal, and my attention dots around from short story to novel to sitcom script (this latest addition being the result of my signing up for an eight week sitcom class with the City Academy) like a bee collecting nectar in a flower field. It seems I’ve lost my focus, or my confidence, or both.

I miss the halcyon days of being involved in writers’ groups, both online and in the ‘real’ world. At their best, they offered valuable critique, support and – above all else – comfort that other people were in a similar situation and going through the same painstaking process. Just knowing that others in the group were feverishly beavering away at their works-in-progress was enough to encourage me to do the same, and my output in the early years of my involvement in such groups was impressive.

At their worst, however, I found writing groups to be time-wasting (when you’ve spent two hours critiquing someone else’s work only to find they don’t have the common decency to critique yours in return it makes you wonder whether you should have spent the two hours working on your own writing instead), demoralising (for the same reason) and, well, downright sad (one woman started coming to every meeting with a clutch of business cards and invites to her latest ‘launch’ event – despite the fact she had self-published her book because no publisher in their right mind would print her terrible, clunky prose. I knew when I began to dread hearing her read her latest excerpt that it was time to leave that particular group for good, although I did so with a heavy heart).

My one remaining solace is being a member of a private writers’ group on Facebook, where many of my ‘old’ online writing buddies have also migrated. A lot of them are published now, and I have nothing but admiration for them. I also know the reason they are published and I am not comes down to one primary factor: Resolve. They have not allowed pithy excuses like having too little time to write (my personal favourite) to stop them from doing what runs through their blood. No. They have made the time to turn their works-in-progress into works-in-print, and in doing so have set their creative spirits free to soar into the literary galaxy and beyond.

At this juncture I am therefore teetering on the precipice, knowing in my heart I cannot bear to let another year of writing promise slip through my fingers like the sands of time. And the obvious fact that’s been staring me in the face is only now making itself plainly and uncompromisingly clear: The ONLY way to overcome procrastination, writer’s block and crippling self-doubt is to WRITE: EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Not necessarily on my blog but somewhere, and for a minimum of an hour each day. Only then will I earn my wings to fly. And, make no mistake, fly is what I absolutely intend to do.

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Three Hundred and Sixty Fifth Post

So here we are on the last day of the year, which also happens to be the final day of my 365 day writing challenge. As with all challenges (and indeed years) there have been highs and there have been lows. There have been moments when the words have flowed like molten gold, many more when they’ve stuttered like a dying car engine. But what matters is I stuck with it through thick and thin, and I feel proud of my achievement. It’s kept the motor of my writing inspiration running throughout 2013 and got me to a positive position from which to start 2014: The Year of the Edit.

I will still write regularly in this blog over the coming year, but the posts will be fewer and farther between. Before signing off for 2013 I would just like to say thanks to all those who have been reading and encouraging me along the way. It’s meant an enormous amount to hear your feedback and read your comments, and I hope you’ll all stick with me in 2014 and beyond.

This is Belle365 signing off from Hong Kong. Happy New Year 🙂

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