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As a child my mother always told me that I was bright enough to do anything I wanted.

I’ve always focused on the anything part. Which just leads to confusion, how do you decide, when you can do anything?

Today I chose to pursue the thing I wanted to do, not just the thing I could do, and was successful.

Sometime in March or April I will begin managing the implementation of a restructure, which I’ve been scoping for 2 days a week since January. I’ll actually be working to make a difference to people and to help them, doing something worthwhile I can be proud of. Not spinning my wheels at work I’m OK at with minimal direction, as I did for most of 2009.

It won’t be easy, but it will be challenging, and it will be the skillset that I enjoy using.

That’s the first necessary change of 2010, the year of the Tiger.

Stay tuned for part 2

painting of two fish, by Jedidiah Morley

Ponderment. copyright Jedidiah Morley

After a year of absolutely lovely weather in South-East England (Poki, I don’t care what you feel obliged to say about English summers, 2009 was lovely ;P ) January was just dismal. Grey, bleak, dark, all those English weather cliches you hear about so much. I think we had 4 days that were not oppressively overcast. Blerch!

So, that’s my major excuse for lack of blogging here during January. Mild depression and introspectiveness caused by the weather. I didn’t have the energy to get my thoughts onto the page. Also, Jed gets SAD, so a lot of my January was spent gently bolstering him and picking up some slack in day to day life so he could take the time he needed for naps. (NB: this is not to imply he wasn’t pulling his weight, just that we all fluctuate with the seasons, and perhaps acknowledging this more often would lead to a less broken society).

The dismal weather was coupled with the 9 month homesickness jag. Or maybe the first winter homesickness jag.Whichever way reaching out to others was a bit tough for the last month.

However, while all this was happening there was also stirrings in other areas, indicating what the year ahead would be like. The soil in which my new life has been planted has been warming up, shoots are starting to poke through the soil, buds are unfurling, and all other aspects of that metaphor that are appropriate. To whit:

Work has been busy and mostly fulfilling. I’m running the implementation of a restructure for one of the services in the Council, which means my strengths are actually (finally!) being used. At least, they are for 2 days a week, since that’s all the time I am allowed to bill to this project. This is rather frustrating, not least because this service asked for full-time support and needs full-time support. My team is under-staffed and playing political games so this service didn’t get the support it needed.

I’ve been seriously thinking about my future, what I do well, what I excel at and enjoy. All sorts of ideas are cropping up, realigning my assumption that life was going to take me through a traditional hierarchical career path. Perhaps I am more suited to project based consultancy type work. Go in, fix a problem, then move on. I get rather bored once it’s all routine. Then combine this with ideas I have for a content-based online ittybiz for some other income. A more fluid life.

Combining the two ideas, next week I am going to see if the service wants to hire me full-time. I’m still on an ongoing monthly contract with my current team, so there’s no compunction to stay there. There may be internal politics, i.e. a feeling that my manager’s manager has to be asked if he can spare me. Which is unfortunate, since he is likely to say no, as they need me. They don’t, they could find someone else to rewrite strategies for them at the drop of a hat. Finding someone who can walk into a service and gently, respectfully guide them through a restructure is much more difficult to find.

Also, I’m a bit grumpy about this, as the entire bargain of having a contractor on site is that you can fire them when it’s expedient, but they are also likely to leave if a better offer comes along. I tend to have a very particular idea of the employment bargain: it’s two sided and I get a say in what sort of work I do, or I’ll find something else. I’m aware of my assets enough to not settle, and certainly not because one director holds more of a sway then another one does. We’ll see how this one pans out.

Talking futures, we’ve been plotting Jed’s future as well. Trumpet flare: He now has his paintings available for sale on line via a print-on-demand site. Go look! They’re fantastic, I’m so proud. Order something if it suits you, or forward to someone else who might like to look.

I’ve spent a lot of the last couple of months skilling up in online marketing and small business administration to support him in this endeavour. It will make him so much happier to be able to do this, and I have those skills already, generally contracted out to someone else. What better use of them is there than to support my love. Complementary aspects.

Last night we registered a URL for him. Today I will be doing the initial install and build of the site. Later next week (maybe) we’ll launch it. Very exciting!

Despite the SAD, I’ve watched him blossom and change in the last month, as he’s had permission (and given himself that permission) to paint, to create, to put his work out into the world and get good feedback.

My 2010 kicks off on Chinese New Year – next weekend. Stayed tuned for what this might look like. In short, brighter and better than 2009. Thankfully!

Last week I promised I’d have updates for January by the end of the week. It’s now Monday, everywhere on the planet.

Here’s the first part of a (hopefully) 4 part series to catch you all up on the end of December and January. The other three will cover home & local area and work & future direction, and things that happened that were not Christmas.

Obviously I need to resolve to either follow through on promises, or not make promises in the first place. Gentle self-awareness suggests that the second option is probably more realistic.

We spent the week before Christmas at Jed’s parents place in Devon with all the family, including his sister. Overall it was quite a pleasant week . As I’d spent Easter and another weekend in Devon I felt much more comfortable with the routine of the family, and I suspect they felt more comfortable with me.

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Changing Gears

Snow covered footpathFirstly: I’m alive! And fine, and happy and stuff. (and the proud owner of a new red sofa! Yay!)

But, as I eluded to in this post, this is my most introspective time of the year, so I have many thoughts and ideas chasing around in my head, none of which are ready to be structured, which also means they’re not quite ready to be shared.

The effect is that I feel like I don’t have anything specific to say. Yet. Soon there will be a flood of ideas and thoughts and observations.

A lot of these thoughts have been around my experience of 2009, and hence what I’m heading into in 2010. What is apparent is that 2009 was about being tossed around on the waves in a boat with no paddle, seeing where the currents took me with the occasional large wave washing over the boat and causing chaos. I think 2010 is shaping up to be time when I get a paddle and start to steer the boat again.

I’ve been too passive (necessarily so, while dealing with so much change), but I’m feeling the desire to become more active again.

Hence I’m changing gears. Thinking about livelihood and social life and what I need to be happy HERE, rather than what made me happy in Sydney. I can learn from my past, but I can’t replicate it.

I’m also questioning my assumptions about how to earn money, thinking about what my skills are and what I enjoy doing, rather than what career I want. A subtle but important difference.

I hear you saying: “this is all well and good, but why can’t you keep us updated with what you’ve been doing?” Mostly, it all got a bit overwhelming. I wanted to upload the Christmas photos before I talked about Christmas, and that took more than a week, and then the overwhelm of writing about 2 weeks of life, and then the stress/frustration of going back to work, and then work has been (pleasantly) busy ever since. So, I promise to have some sort of “What I Did over Christmas and January” type post up by the end of the week.

In the meantime, a brainstorming request: Let’s pretend you had the funds and could hire me, on some sort of basis to do something for you, or make something for you, that you know I’d be good at, better than most other people you know. What would that be? (non-smutty answers only please). I’m trying to gauge what sort of things other people perceive that I am good at, as often we have blinkers on this aspect of ourselves.

Also, what sort of things would you seek my input on? Advice? Specialist information? e.g. I have a questions about X, I know I’ll ask Karinne!

(While none of this will be new to those of you who have lived in snow before, it might amuse you to see which bits weird me out the most. Apologies for the obviousness of some of this, but that is partially the point of these posts, to reveal things that are obvious to the natives)

Firstly, my history with snow: when I was 9 we went to the Victorian snow fields in Australia. It snowed a little bit when I was in the UK in April 2008, but it had melted by midday. That’s it. So snow is quite alien to me, and hence I don’t know how to deal with it, or what might happen when it snows, what the different sorts of snows mean, and when to be careful. Quite scary for Little Miss Capable and Independent.

So, day 1 of snow, on 16 December was quite confronting. Also, it was the first real wake-up call that my life had substantially changed. Very much a ‘Toto I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore’ moment. Up to this point my subconcious hadn’t really absorbed that it was somewhere different. Most of the things I experienced could have occurred in Australia, somewhere, sort of. Snow in an urban environment? Nuh huh! Just weird. So I freaked a bit. It didn’t help that I had a colleague sitting next to me panicing about being snowed in, as they were in February. We kept ratcheting up each other’s anxiety levels.

snow hips

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In reverse order, so you don’t get worn out by the home-related words, of which there will be many:

I’ve been rather sick for the last week. First was a head cold that I caught from Jed. Overall rather mild, didn’t need to take time off work, but still sniffles and fuzzy headed not as good as being well.

Then on Thursday I spent the day in bed (and the neighbouring bathroom) with a stomach bug. Thankfully it was a 24 hour bug, but my stomach has been very delicate since. Eating has been problematic, with my energy spiking and crashing ever since whenever I eat (or don’t for too long). Not very fun, but I’ve had this happen before and know what to watch out for.  Hopefully it will even out while we’re in Devon and in time for Christmas. Being fed regularly might help, rather than the ad hoc eating patterns Jed and I have on weekends.

The interview last Wednesday, so you can all stop crossing fingers, etc. The  job was quite similar to the one that I had in Sydney, that I enjoyed immensely. I walked away from the interview thinking it had gone reasonably well. Felt I’d stated my case as a desirable employee, my knowledge of waste infrastructure projects and experience in case managing them, and that I’d built a rapport with the Chief Operating Officer. As long as I was what they were looking for then I’d be fine.

I received an email on Thursday stating that I’d not been successful. In the midst of being sick this didn’t really register, but since then I’ve been feeling a quite lost and despondent. Not sure where I belong or what I’m doing or where to go from here. Income is not an issue (yet) as my current employers keep renewing my contract. But, it is increasingly apparent that the team I’m working for does not fit my workstyle. Almost detrimental to my confidence and sanity in many ways. I need something else. But if it’s not a job with London’s Waste and Recycling Board then I’m a bit lost where my skills and knowledge are needed, where I should be targeting. What to do as a small fish in a large pond.

I’ve been feeling this very strong urge to run back to Sydney (and take Jed with me) and beg DECC for a job again, for the security and stability I had in Sydney. If only this was feasible. Perhaps I need to learn to live with a modicum of uncertainty and instability?

They’ve invited me to call to discuss the decision, which I will do on Monday (if there’s time after the drive to Devon) or Tuesday. I’d really like to know the basis for the decision, if there’s something I’m overlooking during interviews, or whether it was simply that there were more qualified candidates that pipped me to the post.

Right then, HOUSE

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This has been sitting in draft form since 5 December. I finally have the brain space to finish it. Enjoy!

1. Power plugs in bathrooms – as in there aren’t any, anywhere in that room, except for an electric  shaver plug, which is the wrong voltage for any other appliance. I thought it was just our house, but after checking 8 other rental properties, and asking the (real) estate agent, it seems this is standard.

Gah! I can’t blowdry my hair in the bathroom and not actually disturb my sleeping bf. Can’t blowdry my hair in the bathroom and be able to easily sweep up the hair that falls out.

Why is it that men can have their grooming item in the bathroom where the mirror is, but women can’t? This extends to straighteners, and curlers as well as hair dryers. Why allow one type of electricity and not another?

I’m assuming it’s a health and safety thing, not wanting electric appliances to fall into baths. But, seriously!? Some of the risk averse practices of this country are very confusing to me. (Which reminds me of a conversation I want to have with Poki at some stage, about the difference between a nanny state and a risk averse society, and which comes first, since they’re both in existence here)

 2. Changing power cables – In contrast to the previous item, it seems extremely common and acceptable that people change the power cables on their appliances. Extend their length, shorten them, change the plug type if necessary. Something I’ve never seen anyone do in Australia, except a flatmate who was a trained electrician, nor have I heard anyone discussing it as something they’d do on the weekend.

This seems rather dangerous to me, although I am assured it’s relatively stratightforward.

3. Dogs on trains – all dogs are allowed on trains, not just guide dogs. It’s odd. I sat next to a couple the other day who had their small (yappy-type) dog in the woman’s lap. The dog insisted on attempting to eat the chewing gum under the table. I’ve even seen them on some local buses.

I think this is firmly in the “different” category. I can see issues with the practice, people with dog allergies for instance, but I can also see benefits, being able to take your dog to a large park/forest and give it a chance to run around.

4. Plastic Surgery – It seems to be more accepted and more prevalent here. Whereas in Sydney, I was vaguely aware that some people, somewhere, had plastic surgery, it was no-one I knew. The attitude of the people I hung out with was that it was mostly the middle-aged women who had a certain image to maintain and a disposable income, and why would you put yourself through it. Such a vain thing to do. And more an American thing.

However, here, half the classified sections in the back of fashion magazines are full page ads for plastic surgery clinics, 3-5 pages worth. Which gives me the impression that plastic surgery is more acceptable and more common.

Thinking about it further, perhaps it’s the difference in gender politics between the 2 countries. A number of sources agree with me, that Australia tends to be more gender neutral, you’re worth is judged on your personality, knowledge and competencies, regardless of your gender. This is less of the case here, gender matters, although it’s very difficult to point out to British friends what triggers this. It’s subtle, but I’ve never been so aware of being a woman and the role that I should therefore fulfil and what I am and am not allowed to be and do. This also translates into greater pressure to look good at all times. (NB, British men, particularly those over the age of 40, similarly have much more restricted concept of what it is to be male, and how they should and should not behave, than the Australian men of the same age that I have had dealings with).

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