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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The art of procrastination

If there’s one thing I’m brilliant at, it’s procrastinating. I can spend hours mooching around doing precious little (whilst convincing myself that the precious little I am doing is of the utmost importance) as the things I really should be doing languish at the bottom of my to do list, gathering metaphorical dust.

But now that I’ve decided Monday is, for the short term at least, to be my day of creative writing rather than commissioned freelance work, it’s more vital than ever that I rein in the part of me that is so very proficient in the art of procrastination and make every minute count. Because a day can pass incredibly quickly when you’re drifting through it, only half aware of what you’re doing.

Today I feel I have been conscious of all that I’ve been doing, though it’s only now as I sit down in my local café at half past midday I’m able to focus on my writing. I decided to start the day with a run around Clapham Common, to try and kick the sore throat that’s been plaguing me on and off for the past week into touch. On the way home I did my weekly shop and by 10.30am I was at my desk having showered and breakfasted, ready to tie up the loose ends on my last commissioned freelance job.

Now that’s done all that stands between now and 5pm is an afternoon of story and character plotting, and I can’t wait to get started on deciphering all the notes I’ve made in recent days as ideas have begun to take shape. So without further ado I must bid you adieu, for there’ll be no procrastination this afternoon, thank you! (It’s a good job I’m writing fiction and not poetry).

When I think of procrastination, I think of Koh Tao, for it was here I spent two weeks in blissful procrastination wondering whether to stay longer or continue further on my travels. Anyone who’s been there will know why I found it so hard to leave. Happy memories indeed.

If at first you don’t succeed…

Tomorrow’s my first official day as a freelancer and I’m excited. I’ve set up a morning meeting with an agency contact who might need to outsource some PR, and will be spending the rest of the day working on a commission for a man whose garden shed product I’m managing the PR launch for. In between those jobs I’m also planning to start working through the exercises in my book on how to pitch feature ideas to publications, and am also keen to start planning out characters and a plot for a new story that’s starting to take shape in my mind. Then on Tuesday I’ll be kicking off week two of the new job by planning a PR strategy. In short, I’m going to be a busy bee!

The past few months have been frustrating career wise but I’ve learned some valuable lessons that I’ll put into practice going forward. It’s scary but exciting to go from being one of many communications professionals to the only one; there’s no one to hide behind and if I don’t deliver it’s my head on the block and nobody else’s. But I’ve always thrived on pressure and now have the autonomy I’ve been craving for a long time-both in my main employment and my fledgling freelance career. I’m determined to succeed – because failure just isn’t an option.

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I love the quotes the station staff put up at Clapham North station. This one was taken a while back but is particularly appropriate for today’s post.

Nothing ventured, nothing lost?

The old adage, “nothing ventured, nothing gained,” might just as easily (slash negatively) be “nothing ventured, nothing lost.”

At least when one does not seek to rock the equilibrium in their life they can be relatively assured that nothing will change for the worse – right? I used to think so, but since joining the ever-growing ranks of the redundant (well, nearly-redundant – I got out just in time) I no longer agree.

Why? Because there’s no such thing as equilibrium in life, it’s a fallacy. Everything is shifting and changing all the time. Anyone who thinks they are immune to change is most likely in for a nasty shock at some time or other, whether personally or professionally. We humans are hardy creatures, but we’ve evolved over millions of years to be this way. If we hadn’t adapted to change we would no longer exist. Just like the dinosaurs – and HMV.

What I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is that it’s far better to seek out change than to wait for it to be thrust upon us. At least that’s the argument I’m currently using to make me feel less panicky about the particular path I’ve sought out; that of the part time PR professional/part time freelancer.

Last night I sat down and took a long, hard look at my finances. And it wasn’t pretty. If I was scared to go part time before, right now it wouldn’t be far off the mark to say I’m petrified. But as I’ve already said, there are no guarantees of constancy in life, and who’s to say I won’t make millions from my leap into the unknown once the initial (and sadly inevitable) period of poverty has passed?

Today, in reaction to the rising sense of panic about my impending part-time-dom [sic], I’ve been updating my online biographies and tidying up my website in preparation for my ‘official’ launch as a freelancer. I’ve also emailed a couple of agencies about getting on their books. Already I’m enjoying this feeling of being in control of my career. Long may it continue.

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This pic makes me laugh – it was taken during a pub quiz a couple of years ago where the quizmaster gave each team two pots of play doh and challenged them to make something. I forget the exact theme, but I was clearly feeling similarly worried about money – or lack thereof – as I am now if what I made was anything to go by!

The ones you meet along the way

I’ve talked before about the different types of friend we make on the journey of life, and how each type offers something different and complementary to help us feel complete. Well, last night I spent the evening with a group of people who I met two years ago whilst volunteering for Raleigh International in Borneo. In so many ways that was a pivotal time in my life. I had finally broken free of the emotional shackles of a previous relationship – four whole years after it ended – had quit my job and was at the start of a seven month adventure. I was, in short, feeling positive and excited about what the future held.

Not only did I meet the man who would become my boyfriend on that expedition, I also met a number of lovely people, all quite different to me, who I am still in touch with today. When we get together there’s a great feeling of nostalgia – we shared something so special during our time in Borneo. It wasn’t always plain sailing (far from it), but we made it through the ups and downs as a team, which is why I love getting together and catching up here in the ‘real’ world. It keeps me grounded, reminds me of how much we achieved and how sometimes strength of spirit really is enough to get you through the toughest of times – that and support from those around you.

So, last night a few of us met up in a quiet and unassuming pub in north London and had a proper catch up, some food, drinks and generally put the world to rights. It didn’t matter one bit that we’re all different ages and at different life stages, and that’s something I value about this type of friend – when you meet people travelling the only thing that matters is who you are, not how old you are, what you do or where you’re going. It’s all about you in that moment, and maybe that’s why this type of friendship, if you can sustain it after your travels have ended, is such a valuable thing to help you keep a sense of yourself long after you return. 

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This was taken right at the end of our expedition in Borneo, on an island called Pulao Tiga (where they film ‘Survivor,’ no less). In the pic are me, my boyfriend and four of the people I met up with last night. This brings back such happy memories 🙂