I regret (almost) nothing

Standard

I think I’m starting to realise the ‘why’ of a lot of things which have happened to me. I’m beginning to feel (almost) grateful for them as I come to understand that they have set me on a road to a place where I am more content with my life, and myself.

One of my biggest regrets has always been where I went to university. I had three lonely, unhappy years in a city I didn’t particularly care for, quite far from home.  This sadness was primarily due to my being extremely shy, so at a time in my life when I should have been living it up, I had few friends because I wasn’t able to make any.

I have always looked back at my degree therefore with regret, feeling I should have studied closer to home, in a city I felt more comfortable. However, the reason I didn’t choose to do so was the course itself; it wasn’t really what I wanted.  The university further way had the better course, Media and Fine Art, the former of which I now teach to international students.  My three miserable university years have meant that I have worked with, and taught so many funny and interesting people in a consistently rewarding job.

My decade of teaching has also cured me, for the most part, of my shyness, so I have a few more friends now. I am also aware that I am precisely where I’m meant to be, and meeting the people I am meant to.  Something I have never felt before.  To be honest, I’ve never really believed in fate but I’m starting to wonder if there’s something in it.

I hope I can continue to realise the worth of all my past hurts and regrets; primarily so I can let them go and move on with the knowledge and understanding they have given me.

I’m working on it.

I hope anyone reading this, especially if you suffer from shyness, can be inspired to keep going through the painful times, and find the place where you belong, even if you don’t do so for quite some time. Just keep moving forward, and you’ll get there.

This post was partly inspired by the following quote shared by Elephant Shambhala on Facebook:

12742290_947604318608306_6712562188214279089_n

https://www.facebook.com/Elephant-Shambhala-766441386724601/?fref=photo

 

 

 

 

 

A Tourist in Your Own Town: Writing Inspiration

Standard

I haven’t written much for Blogging 101 this week as the tasks have been more appropriate for newcomers to blogging. However, when you’re struggling to write, taking a day trip somewhere nearby can provide inspiration and learning too; as you’ll read below.

My students currently have a challenge to promote a local area, and so yesterday we caught the bus from Bournemouth to Wimborne; hoping the weather would hold out for most of the day. My young charges were ready with ideas of what to film and where to visit as we arrived in the town square, and our first port of call was the well-known Wimborne market, which was founded in about 1855 and is one of the largest markets in the South.  It immediately inspired my international learners, who began talking to the stall owners about the locally produced food on offer, and then browsed the antiques and other products throughout the market.  It was also my first visit too, despite having been to Wimborne many times, I’d never ventured far from the centre of town.

The weather was kind for most of the morning, and I browsed the various boutiques while my students filmed around Wimborne Minster, which is a beautiful church and has been a place of worship for thirteen hundred years. Even for those who are not Christian, the architecture, stained glass windows, organ and chained library are all interesting and worth exploring.  Once you’ve done that, you can walk across the green to 9 On the Green, one of many popular cafes and restaurants in the town.  I had a lovely goat’s cheese, pesto and tomato Panini, followed by some Dorset apple cake and a good coffee.

20160108_123934.jpg

After lunch we made our way to Walford Mill Crafts centre, which wasn’t particularly fun in pouring rain (our luck with the weather had run out) but worth it once we got there. For creative individuals, it’s such an inspirational place full of all manner of crafts and arts, many of which are made by local artists and crafts-people.  In the summer you can sit outside the café and relax to the sounds of the river, which runs beneath the mill and can be viewed through a glass section of the floor; there’s also a video which plays footage of local otters.

20160108_135707.jpg

On our way back to the town centre, we passed the Town Hall, which my student had asked myself and my colleague about earlier in the day, and we hadn’t known anything about it! I have since discovered it is a grade II listed building with a Jubilee Garden, planted in the style of a 17th Century Physick Garden.  Hence the benefits of being a tourist in your own town or local area; it not only means you can answer questions from visitors, but also gives you something to write about.

For more information on the places mentioned, follow the links:

http://www.wimborneminster.net/

http://www.walfordmillcrafts.co.uk/

 

Photographs©VCUzzell2016

 

What I’m meant to be

Standard

So is this what I’m meant to be? After all the other ideas have been explored, attempted and given up on, is this the one I was supposed to do all along? One of ‘those who cannot do’ and so I teach; yet how many of those ‘who can’ are able to teach what they know? How many of those doers have the ability to empathise, research, digest and then communicate in such a way that those who listen are able to understand and put into practice what they have learnt?

My dream job list: photographer, yoga teacher, bookseller, writer and media teacher.

At 14 I wanted to be a photographer but I never liked the idea of commercial or wedding assignments because I wanted to be an artist, so I doubt I would have earnt much. I’m not competitive either, which is a bit of a disadvantage in the creative arts. I’m also a bit old school and love being in an actual dark room, with chemical smells and images that appear as if by magic from a piece of paper, rather than sitting in front of a screen for hours on end, trying to create perfection. So, being a photographer was not meant to be.

For my second dream job, a yoga teacher, I trained for three years and taught on and off for several more, but the up and down nature of classes along with the costs of hiring a room, and the day job, which was also teaching, just got too much, and I gave it up. I haven’t missed it as much as I thought I would. I still practice every day, and it’s enjoyable to attend, rather than lead classes instead.

Dream job number three was ticked off after university, when I worked in a bookshop for just over four years. It was like having a whole library to myself, and then things got a bit more corporate. I worked for a well-known chain of bookshops in the UK, and the joy left as boredom set in and I knew I had to move on. So, I asked the universe for a job where I could use my brain, be creative and help people every day, and I ended up being an English language teacher.

11 years later, I’m still teaching international students, and even more happily doing so because I’m finally teaching media, which I studied at university. Having chosen Media and Fine Art, over the years I began to think I’d never get to use anything I’d learnt on my degree, so my current job is perfect. It took me a while to get here, and I didn’t even know that this is where I wanted to be, but it generally feels right. However, in recent months I had begun to question whether I wanted to keep teaching at all, and maybe re-train as a counsellor, another of the potential jobs I had thought about over the years. Yet, at the end of last term the response from my students made me realise that I couldn’t really do anything else. My vocation in life is to teach, and I hope inspire young people to go after their dreams, however many they might have.

So, there’s one job left, a writer; and there are times when I long to be able to stay home all day and write. Maybe that’s why it’s a dream job because I’m not sure if it would actually be good for me. I’d get lonely and depressed for a start. Despite the fact that I like my own company, I need to be around people sometimes. Plus being around others inspires me creatively, especially the young people I teach and their way of looking at the world, which is different from mine on many levels. If I spent every day alone, I just don’t think it would be healthy or stimulating for my writing. I’d still love to write, but I think it should be part-time.

So, a teacher is what I am meant to be. I’m not sure what my 14-year-old self would think of that. Maybe she would be disappointed I’m not a photographer, but then she couldn’t have predicted digital photography, which is all well and good, but not as exciting as seeing an image emerge in a darkened room that smells a bit funny. Happy days!

Order and Chaos

Standard

Marbles

I look at my perfectly organised flat and understand it to be a reflection of my equally organised life. My books, CDs and DVDs are all neatly arranged, displayed and placed just so. My few ornaments are also in their rightful places, and the three marble-filled jars on my table are roughly equidistant from one another, although I haven’t measured it, that would be really too much. I’ve got lists for everything; shopping, potential hotels in each of the cities I’d like to visit over the next few years, lists of books I’d like to read and films I’ve missed and need to catch up on.

My clothes are organised as much as possible, space permitting; skirts together, dresses hanging down in the middle of two plastic storage units which contain underwear, t-shirts and jumpers; shirts and cardigans often go together in the work or non-work side of the wardrobe accordingly. Most of my shoes are kept in their boxes. Everything, all that can, and cannot be seen, is sorted, organised and arranged in the correct way, maintaining order within the little world that is the two rooms I call home.

This tidiness even extends to my colour co-ordinated appearance, and my artwork, which my tutors used to encourage me to ‘be a bit messier’ with when I was at university. I’m a routine lover, and advance planner; I like to know what I’m doing beforehand. Anxiety can set in if I’m going somewhere unfamiliar, especially if I don’t know anyone there.

Yet I don’t entirely subscribe to my ordered existence, and over the last few years have actively tried to shake things up a little by travelling more, getting out of my comfort zone and welcoming more surprises into my life. My work teaching international students helps me to do this, as they constantly keep me open to new and sometimes unpredictable moments in my work and life in general; you never know what someone’s going to say on any given day in the classroom, which is great! I may love to keep order, but that doesn’t mean I don’t welcome a certain amount of chaos.

Ironically, it’s my writing that needs some routine and I can’t seem to stick to any timetable for that. I’ve tried various tactics to get myself to put pen to paper every day; from leaving my writing pad on my table, so I can write after breakfast or dinner, to keeping it by my bed so I can write at the end of the day, but nothing seems to consistently work. Like so many writers, I read instead of facing the blank page. So much easier to delve into someone else’s world, than try and create your own. I also often feel guilty for taking time to myself to write and turn family or friends away for the day in order to do so.

It’s that need for solitude that can be a problem, which I guess any writer reading this can understand. Also, a need to routinely write, which is a struggle too, and is an area of my life I have yet to bring proper order to.

A letter to …

Standard

(I’m a bit behind with this post for Writing 101.  Prompt: Pick up the nearest book and turn to page 29.  What’s the first word that jumps off the page?  Use this word as your springboard for inspiration.  Write it in the form of a letter.)

 

To my students,

Well here we are at the end of term, and I know you’re all worrying about your exams, and starting university too, but trust me, you’ll be fine.  You are at the beginning of everything; of three years of study, hard work, but also fun, I hope!

As I’ve told you before, I didn’t enjoy university; it was a very lonely time for me, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.  So no matter how hard it is to do so, force yourself to make friends and get involved in activities.  Don’t wait for life to come to you, because it won’t.  Don’t say later, because before you know it, time will have passed and later will be yesterday, and the opportunity will have gone.

Remember that you can achieve anything you want to in life.  You only need to reach inside yourself and draw out your strength and power to make all that you wish for, a reality.

Good luck and best wishes,

Vicky

(The word was ‘power’ from page 29 of Sacred Celebrations by Glennie Kindred.  My main focus was on inner power to achieve our dreams.)

Not less of a woman, just not a mum

Standard

A recent article in The Guardian newspaper discussed the position of childless women in society and how they are often treated as sub-women, who have somehow not fulfilled their purpose in life. It cited the example of Jennifer Aniston, who has come under criticism for not having had children, to which she replied that she has ‘birthed a lot of things’, and therefore did not feel any less of a woman as a result.  As I approach my 39th year, I know that it is highly unlikely I will ever have children, but for me, that is not a great concern as I have never pictured myself married with children anyway.  However, I also understand that sense of isolation at times, when those who are mothers, or wish to be, start having conversations which I am not able to contribute to, or am just not included in.  People often assume that if you are my age and childless that maybe you don’t like children, which isn’t the case.  It’s the actual giving birth bit I don’t like!  I have also always felt that I would rather have adopted and given a home to children who would otherwise not have had one, and am also concerned about how over-populated our planet is and would therefore be reluctant to add another being to the world.  That is not to say I disagree if others choose to have children and I completely respect their choice.  Yet I do not feel I have completely missed out on some aspects of being a parent.  I teach Media and Communication Studies to international students who are going on to study at a UK university. I often feel that they are my ‘children’, who I am encouraging to work hard and strive for their dreams.  Three of last term’s students visited me the other day, ahead of starting their degree courses and I was filled with such pride for them, which surely other parents feel about their own children.  So, while I will never know what it feels like to be a ‘real mum’ I do not believe I lack anything as a result because I hope that I can still inspire and have a positive impact on those around me, just as any parent should.

This is the link to the article which inspired this post:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/31/jennifer-aniston-childess-women-judged-unfairly

Fake it ‘til you make it

Standard

I was at the back of the queue when Mother Nature was handing out confidence.  My students are always shocked when I say how shy I was throughout my teens and twenties.  ‘But you’re a teacher!’ They reply in amazement.  There’s an assumption that all teachers must be naturally outgoing and confident, but I’m most definitely an introvert, albeit a fairly sociable one.  I actually ignored the little voice which was urging me towards the front of the classroom for about a year before coincidence forced me to give in (see my earlier blog post ‘Ten Years a Teacher’).  At college and university I had very few friends and spent a great deal of time alone; definitely not an obvious teacher in the making!  So, when I eventually began teaching in my late twenties it was a considerable challenge to get up in front of my classes every day, and yet I knew that was what I wanted to do.  I definitely had to fake it until I could find the confidence I had never had before.  That self-confidence has since then gone on to influence other aspects of my life and my teaching has enabled me to grow and learn so much about myself in the process.  I still have down days, of course.  Who doesn’t?  Yet I know that while I may feel low when I go into the classroom, I’ll feel lighter when I come out again because fake cheerfulness leads to genuine cheerfulness.  So, if there is a quality you wish you had, fake it ‘til you make it!

 

This post was inspired by the following article from Yoga Journal:

http://blogs.yogajournal.com/goodlife/archives/2013/04/fake-it-til-you-make-it.html