Immortal

I sat down today completely prepared to write my next blog post about the next steps in my plans, or on books I’m currently reading, or what this week’s exercises in The Artist’s Way are. However, I’ve just been told the bad news that a friend’s father is in hospital and is critical enough that the family have been called home. So of course, everything else of substance has completely left my mind.

I’m thankful that, so far, while I’ve been old enough to remember neither of my parents have had any major health scares. My mother was ill for a time when I was younger – not old enough to really remember what it was like, but old enough that I have a deep-rooted sense of dread and fear whenever my mum gets a bad cough or cold. Clearly her illness when I was younger was bad enough that it hit my subconscious hard. But thankfully in recent decades (gosh, it’s weird that I can write decade(s) plural now) thankfully our family has been mostly in good health. I sometimes worry about the fact that my dad is forty years older than me, but we’re a close, tightly-knit unit of four and for the most part we’re immortal.

There have been illnesses and deaths in the wider family. Grandparents died before I was born or in my teens, with my great aunt dying just before I started writing this blog in 2014 (one of the catalysts behind it, in fact). Our wonderful next door neighbours, like family – now in their late 80s – have had more and more health problems in the past few years, with a scary touch-or-go situation earlier this year requiring an extended hospital stay.

But obviously my immediate family of four, we’re immortal.

When the same neighbour who had the extended hospital stay suffered a heart attack a few years ago, it was again touch-or-go but thankfully (obviously) one where she pulled through. It was late Autumn, and that Christmas on returning home, the neighbours stayed in their house for New Year’s Eve rather than joining us in my parents’ as usual. We all visited my newly-recovered neighbour of the course of the evening, one-by-one or in drifts and drabs, not wanting to provide too much stress or make her too tired.

As the fireworks hundreds of miles away over London were shown on the TV, she began to cry. It turns out that they were tears of relief – she hadn’t expected to live to see the New Year with us and thank anything that’s out there that she had. And has for every New Year’s since.

My close, wonderful, tightly-knit immediate family of four. Immortal.

Sometimes when I’m talking to mum I can feel that she’s aged. She’s no longer the 30-something who raised small-child me. We’ve had decades pass since then. We’ll be talking about plans, about books we want to read or places we want to visit, and we start to become aware of time. That there’s only so many more birthdays, or Christmases, or New Years. There’s a sense of needing to become realistic about what can be achieved. It’s a need to prioritise.

My dad is forty years older than me; sixty-six. I was alive when his parents were my age. While I think I would like children at some point, I’m currently enjoying being single and living a life free from responsibility. They’re not in the cards any time soon. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that I don’t want my future children to have a grandparent die while they’re really young. It’s a horrible, morbid thought, but we only have 20 years until my dad’s mid-to-late 80s.

We don’t have that many Christmases left.

But despite all of this, aren’t we immortal?

No matter how much I notice or think about time passing, or if things happen to extended family, it’s impossible to imagine anything hitting us until it happens. You can’t prepare. All you can do is hold onto the moments that you have tightly, to remember in moments of irritation how much you love each other, to not to take anything for granted. It’s me realising that I need to make an effort to get home more frequently. Thankfully no one can tell me I need to ring home more often, that I have done in abundance, but nothing that takes place over the phone can compare to the moments that you’re with your family in person.

There can always be an excuse why this isn’t a good weekend to travel home. I live too far away, I work out of town so I have more things to cram into my weekends, I want to travel somewhere else, why can’t they come visit me instead?

But they’re all excuses.

We’re not immortal. I should remember that.

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Revamp 2017

It seems like I only ever start writing here when I’m in the need for a refresh, when something sparks the part inside of me that screams “I need to get this off my chest” and wants someone else to hear it. Unfortunately, as with the event that sparked this entire site in the first place, this one apppeared completely out of the blue.

It’s nothing so dire as a death in the family. Instead, my manager told me that he’s resigning.

Let me start from the beginning.

Over the past year or so I have started to actually like my job. For majority of the past four years, with the exception of a few brief periods, I have simply ‘not minded’ my job, content with having a steady income that can support my lifestyle outside of work.

But this year two things have happened. The first is that as I’ve grown to become more knowledgeable in my field I’ve started to feel more secure in my abilities and more interested in developing in my area. I’ve had a manager for the past few months whom I really respect and look up to. I think his abilities are incredible and I found myself thinking that I would like to be just like him in a few years (although preferably a little less busy and stressed). Finally, after 10 different managers in under four years, here’s one that I’d be quite happy following for my next few projects, something I’ve only really felt like I could say about one or two prior line managers.

The second thing that happened is that work has started taking over more and more of my life. Gone are the days of a not-too-busy 9-5. This last week was more akin to 8-8, not including time travelling to and from Birmingham where I work at the moment (I live in London) which added up to a staggering 17 hours over the last week.

But I haven’t really minded any of this. I like the people I work with, I have a good manager who makes me feel like there’s lots I can do to learn and improve but that I’m also doing a good job and can be trusted with responsibility. I’m ok with work being the main part of my life during the week, and I can focus on everything else at the weekend.

And then my manager resigned. And this entire mindset came crashing down.

As I said, a large part of the reason I’ve been so happy at work is that I like my manager and I like our working relationship. Knowing that this will no longer exist in a few weeks and that I’ll have to get used to something new yet again has made me look at my work/life balance in a completely new light. I like the people I work with, I like the other managers on the project. I would still prefer to have my manager above any of the others.

I’ve realised that I’m as satisfied and happy with my life as I thought I was. I had thought I had a good balance between work and non-work and was quite happy to continue as I was. But my balance is off. I’ve been too work-focused, and now that something’s made work a little less enjoyable, I’m able to see the bigger picture again.

One of my friends has just moved to Vancouver. Another is moving to Toronto in two months. Another has moved a bit further out of London and I don’t see them as often. And I’m still here, not doing an awful lot other than working and not-doing-much at the weekends.

This upsetting the balance I’d found between work and non-work made me realise that if something doesn’t change, I could find myself seriously unhappy very quickly. If I stop liking work, how happy am I with what I’m doing outside of it? My friends are moving away, am I doing anything to replenish my social life? Am I satisfied with the things I’m doing and achieving outside of work? Will they make me feel fulfilled when work becomes just about the income again?

I didn’t really like my answers to these questions, so I’m going to do something about it.

….

The Plan

I’ve wanted to get this going again for some time now; I’ve opened and closed the webpage many times. How it’s been a year since I last even tried to start writing on a regular basis again, I just don’t know.

I’ve got a plan for what I want to talk about. I just keep having difficulty getting started.

Not only do I want to improve a number of different areas of my life, but I’d like to get better at expressing myself, at forming my opinions and being able to hold a conversation. So it is my current goal that this blog cover the following:

  • ‘Leveling up life’: Health/fitness updates, skill learning updates – I want to become more consistent in moving towards a healthier lifestyle, and share my journey to encourage others or at least show people a ‘what not to do’!
  • Book/film reviews/commentary – I need to read more and watch more and spend less time browsing social media. I’ve really enjoyed finding my old blogs and re-discovering what past me thought about various things, and I’d like to be able to do the same in the future.
  • Opinion pieces – I’m very bad at owning opinions or sharing them in a constructive way, for reasons I’ll discuss in the future. I’d like to get better at expressing myself and feel this could be a good way to do so.
  • Anything else I can think of – because why not?

I’m hoping that over the coming year I’ll be able to develop, critically and thoughtfully, and create a space for engagement, questioning and growth both for myself and for any readers. It sounds a bit pretentious, but hey, I’m writing a blog post here. I think a little pretension can be forgiven.

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Laying bricks

I remember reading once that life – and goal setting – is like laying bricks. Whether you want to build a cottage or a cathedral you have to put down just one brick at a time. There are no short-cuts, it just has to be done. Eventually you’ll build what you’re trying to build.

One of the dangers with this, of course, is that you can both lose sight of the bigger picture for focussing on the small things, and also get overwhelmed with how long the journey seems to be taking; how long you’re going to have to do what you’re doing in order to get there.

Recently I think I’ve been having a problem with the latter issue and have been focussing on the wrong things. I’ve talked about how I let things go around Christmas and fell into bad habits, and I link that often in my mind with the fact that I haven’t really lost any weight since this time last year. So in the last month or so, I’ve been thinking a lot about how can I lose the weight – should I be counting calories, paying more attention to portion size, fitting in a few more workouts etc… I’ve been so focussed on what can I do to lose the weight now that I’ve not really been thinking about it in a long-term sustainable way.

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Rebirth and Renewal

rainbow fountain cow

There’s really no correlation between this picture and this post

Surprise! I’m still alive!

So, that went well.

Despite the fact that several of the last couple of posts published on this blog discuss re-starts and a need for increased consistency in posting, you may have noticed that I’ve failed spectacularly in doing just that. Whilst I did indeed have several very good weeks following on from my last post in regards to improving my diet, exercise, sleep schedule etc… I quickly fell into the same problem that so many people have with the end of the year, when I let December and the Christmas holidays completely derail my progress.

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New Season, Fresh Start

Autumn LeavesOctober. Fall. It’s the start of the dying of the year, when it gets colder and darker and everything draws to an end. It is also, I have decided, a time to appreciate fresh starts – although I realise we’re currently heading into the latter part of the month. Plants are dying and turning to mulch so that new plants can grow in their place next year. Leaves fall from the trees so that those trees can survive the winter and then continue to grow, fresh and anew in the spring.

So whilst some people are starting to hunker down for the winter, their summer plans and fitness routines and optimism for the year starting to fade, I’ve decided to use the start of the season as a fresh start for myself.

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