The one where the door finally opens…

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And so hopefully it’s now ok to share with you some news. If you’ve followed me from Musings of a Koala to Learning from Sophie to here, you’ll have known me for close to 10 years. You’ll know my journey and that it’s been somewhat tumultuous. Some of you knew me, supported me and prayed for me when I made the decision to go out to South Africa in 2009. Some of you even remember the jokey pictures a few friends and I had about a camper van and doing church on the beach. You’ve been there when I was asked to speak at conferences and FREAKED OUT about it. You let me into your homes when I was a total stranger to you when I went on my road trip around the UK in my first summer working as a partner for the pregnancy crisis centres network. You were there when I struggled to lead worship. You joined me in praying for people who were very sick. You signed up to be organ donors. You joined in with Airmail Christmas. You cheered me on when I went back to Girlguiding, and then when I went back to university. You were there for me when I lost my job. And lots of you have been there to encourage me for the last 3 years where I’ve faced rejection, after rejection to the point where I wondered if there was even a point of still living.

Apparently jobs are like buses…you wait for 3 years and then two come at once.

They were both jobs I really wanted, but never dreamed I’d get offered both. What is more amazing is they are both part-time, so I can DO both!

On 10th June I’ll be saying goodbye to my lovely colleagues at my current part-time job, and taking a week off before starting the first of the two jobs – as long as my PVG update comes through on time (it should, since I’m already registered through volunteering with Girlguiding, People Know How and Scripture Union Scotland. I’m pretty sure people working in the Disclosure Scotland office must know exactly who I am from the amount of times my paperwork has been sent through their offices over the last 16 years!). Then the week after I head down to London to do my induction for the second of the two jobs.

One job is a youth work job engaging with young women.

The other is a fundraising job for a national charity that I’ve supported for a very long time, since a friend of a friend told me about the support she received from them years ago after her second child was born premature.

There is a lot to do – like I need to get my own car, I need to clear out space so I have room to work from home (the ergonomics of working on my bed which is what I have to do with girlguiding admin is probably not a good long term strategy!) and just trying to get my head around it all.

I am nervous, but excited.

I’ve had so many lovely messages since I shared the news with friends on social media, and I appreciate every single good wish. Quite a few people told me that recently they’d be praying more than usual for me about finding a job, so I guess that tattoo on my foot and all those rainbows I’ve kept seeing haven’t been for nothing after all. 😉 Thank you kind friends xx

Here’s to the next adventure…

And to all those still waiting for a door to open…please don’t give up knocking on them. At times I did, and it was hard to keep trying new doors when they remained closed or got slammed in your face. Eventually, one is going to say ‘Open Me’. I really believe that for you and I know that’s not easy to keep believing…

The one when I wish I had my own literary apothecary…

Today I finished reading The Little Paris Bookshop. What an incredible piece of literature, how uplifting and not at all surprised that the author gave a wee shout out to Harold Fry in her acknowledgements.

The last few days as I’ve been bored, fed up and just tired of being fed up and terrified that the best years of my life finished at 23 and it’s just going to continue to be this – reflecting on the friendships I used to have, the travelling I once did, the life I used to blog about. Reading the book made me think that actually, I’m most tired of trying to please people and be like everybody else.

My friends are forever saying that they wish I could catch a break, or wondering how I didn’t end up on drink, drugs or hanging from a tree. My whole life has often felt like one long fight, and one wise woman told me that I needed to stop fighting and let others have my back.

During this month as I spend my days wearing one of my three yellow tops (it was only two, thankfully the Myers clan sent me a fantastic t-shirt which I am today wearing proudly, so I’m less likely to be wearing stinky unwashed clothes!) or creatively coming up with ways to sneak in some yellow or gold when I’m working at my paid and unpaid jobs which require uniform, I’m thinking of all the people whose lives have ended prematurely because of cancer. Today, one of my friends, a wonderful woman who is the epitomy of what it means to be an encourager is in hospital isolation and is getting her stem cell transplant in the hope that it will rid her body of cancer once and for all. There are days when I wish I could swap places, because I have survivors guilt. How come these amazing people who do amazing things didn’t get to continue a life here on earth, and I’m still here?

It needs to be for more than just living every day being miserable and purposeless.

It’s two years since I stopped working in the field of non-profit management. I really miss it – not the crappy pay, but the people and the purpose. I honestly don’t know what I’d have done the last two years without having Girlguiding in my life to fill a little of that void. I guess I’m just someone who has to be giving…because I feel like without giving my life is completely worthless. And giving my time to captialism makes me feel icky inside.

There are so many things I’d like to do but at this point do not see a way for any of them to happen. Mostly at the moment I wish with all my heart for a job that enables me to have a car and travel again.

I miss my friends.

But also, I hate not being able to be there for the important stuff.

I want to be able to drive after work to do the barefoot beach cleans, and deliver books to people with no access, I want to go to support fundraisers and rally for childhood cancer research funding. I want to be able to go over to Italy and just wander continental Europe to be inspired to write and perhaps as a side note turn up on a beach in a Burkini to make a point.

I also want to know that I can travel to watch friends get married, or hop in my car and drive to keep a friend company if she ends up having to have emergency dialysis treatment for days on end. I want to go snuggle my friend’s newborn baby. I want to throw my friend the birthday party that I missed.

I don’t want to be sitting at my computer screen angry at people who (seem to) have better lives than me, who are getting to eat meals with the people that I love spending time with as I sit alone choosing between cooking a proper meal or being able to afford to buy a yellow cardigan in a sale. I don’t want to be grouchy with the friend who turned down work because they couldn’t be bothered because last year I chose working over losing a day’s pay to go to a party…and it ended up that I missed out on meeting my friends’ baby before he died a few weeks later as a result. But those are the decisions you have to make when you are on zero hour contracts.

Bottom line is that I’m tempted to one day just leave it all behind like Monsieur Perdu did. Mind you I don’t have a boat full of books to exchange for food so it might be an issue. But either way, I want something to change.

I’m in need of the sunshine, sea, books and an awesome Italian cook…! 🙂

Quote of the Week 32 – Steps of faith

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I really lack faith. I’m full of faith for other people, but when it comes to myself I’m the biggest pessimistic risk assessing all the things that could go wrong.

If faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase, what I fear is that in the darkness there is someone at the top ready to push me right back down. Or there’s one of those child safety gates that are actually Laurie-proof. (Does anyone else find that child-proofing is a barrier to them? Seriously, there should be prizes for successfully putting a toddler in a car seat these days with all the complicated straps and buckles…but I digress).

This last week has been weirdly tough, and I blame the Timehop app. Usually I love it reminding me of fun memories and even sucky moments that I can now laugh at. Last week though, the application has been bringing up the facebook posts from when I had the interview and received the news that I had been successful in my application to work at a pregnancy crisis centre. Before I left Aberdeen I had spent a year training to be a volunteer counselling support worker at a similar centre that was getting ready to open there. I’d also spent my last two years at university focussing my studies on women’s health and maternity care. It had been tough to leave Aberdeen knowing that I was leaving that dream behind. And yet, as it happened, taking that first step was actually leading me to working in the field I had unexpectedly become so passionate about.

In the last year, I watched both the charities that I worked with in that field close down. And then two charities that I had got to know through that work close down as well (one was a sexual health centre for young people, the other was a national organisation that provided support in the field of fostering and adoption). I have faced rejection after rejection, and have gone from eight years of being a boss, to being back in jobs where I’m the bottom of the chain and earning minimum wage. Not to mention a month where I had to ‘sign on’ and live off piddly government benefits and endure weekly humiliation and interrogation. It’s been a humbling experience to say the least. I am super lucky now to be in a job where the staff are friendly and I never dread going into work. Don’t think for a second that I’m not grateful to be in work because I am. But I miss doing what I loved and was (I hope) good at.

And so I need to have faith to take those first steps. It gets harder and harder to fill in and submit job applications, turn up for interviews and put yourself out there. Every time I do I face that fear of someone waiting to stand in my way and send me straight back down again.

But when I don’t take the first step, I may miss a beautiful view from the top that I can’t see yet.

Quote of the Week 28: Make a living or make a life?

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I chose this quote for this week a while ago. Now with our lovely Conservative government’s new budget, I’m finding it a difficult one to write about.

Last year, I was made redundant when my employers decided to close the charity I worked for down due to lack of funding. I’d already spent years working in a job where there was work but frequently not enough funding to pay my wages. I also worked for a national charity (also now closed down due to lack of funding) for free. And in the last four years (and years before that when I was still a teenager) I’ve given a lot of my time, resources and knowledge to a national charity. This is not me going look at me! I’m awesome. I have been volunteering since I was 14 years old – whether it was helping at Brownies or assisting with children’s dance education. I didn’t do it because it was good for my CV. I did it because I loved doing it. Ok. I may have started helping at Brownies because it was earning me a badge too (Service Flash any 90s Guides?). I loved helping at my dance schools – especially when it was taking a little kid struggling with a certain exercise, breaking it down and doing it more slowly until they finally nailed it. I still remember standing with my baby sister in my Dad’s hallway “forward, backward, hop, step” – practice makes progress. And it did.

I’ve served at soup kitchens, led campfires and singing times. I’ve babysat for families for free to enable them to run marriage courses or go on dates. I’ve baked for fundraisers. I’ve done more youth work jobs with no pay than I have been paid.

Yes I have given.

But I’ve also received.

I’ve made friends, had the opportunity to learn new skills, to try things out, and I’ve got to see the difference that money we’ve raised has made. I’ve got to watch my friends’ kids grow up and seen them overcome obstacles, bullies and become awesome people with compassionate hearts. I watched young people try things, learn new skills, build supportive communities and gain confidence that they have something important to contribute to this world.

I don’t make much of a living. I never really have done. The government doesn’t see Community Education as a priority. Never mind that any cities where we’ve seen crime rates massively drop, Community Learning and Development is usually a major factor behind it.

But I do have a life.

All of you who aren’t earning much money (if any at all) – remember you still have the opportunity to make life. For parents and community volunteers this is especially true. You give spaces for learning, community building, creating, support and care. Parents – you are nurses, counsellors, teachers, community builders and engineers (unless you get someone else to build those cots, beds, bookshelves, bikes and bugaboo prams).

You have lives. You make lives better by everything that you give.

I’m back!

So after five days of this

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and this

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(if you are wondering why the laptop is closed, that’s because I kept having to shut it down every 1-2 hours to let it cool down and then start it up again. Not what you want on a deadline!)

I have *hopefully* FINISHED my postgraduate diploma!

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This was me just after submitting my assignment online – unwashed hair tied up and out my face – check. Comfy clothes that kept me cool in my sauna like room with constantly overheating laptop – check. No make up – check. Relief mixed with slight anxiety – check.

I haven’t failed any of my modules so far, and I think at every turn there have been obstacles in my way. Whether it was work deadlines coinciding with uni deadlines, broken laptops, lack of library resources available, deaths and illness…it’s been there over these last 21 months. When I was finishing my undergraduate degree, I lived in my own flat, had a car, lived 15 mins from the medical school I studied in (and had a card that gave me 24hr access to a computer room there) and had a job where I could choose which shifts to take or refuse. Postgraduate life has been very different – less money, no car, living 1hr drive (longer on public transport) away, not being in my own home and many more commitments and responsibilities.

After submitting, I watched some stand up comedy on YouTube to try and get my head out of Community Development, went to sleep and 8 hours later was working in the cafe. It was quiet though, so I finally got to open the big envelope from the Edinburgh Book Festival and started going through the listings over a cup of hot chocolate between the brunch and lunch customers…

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And after work on Sunday, the sunshine had made a brief return and my work colleague got me to come out to Film in the City for a showing of Mean Girls. It’s not my favourite film by a long shot, but it was fun to sit in the sunshine in the middle of St Andrew’s Square and just enjoy it! Plus, we got there early and the Princess Bride had been showing before – so I got to catch the end of that. And join in with my (and my brother’s) favourite line

“Hello my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

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Now it’s tying everything up for the end of term at the 3 Girlguiding units, the continuation of job hunting and reading that big pile of books before the Book Festival. And of course booking my tickets next Tuesday.

Oh yes…and writing things that aren’t going to be marked by university lecturers. 🙂

The difference between living and earning…

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Four months ago, I was made redundant. I had been working as a manager for a local pregnancy resource centre run by a small non-profit organisation. During the seven years I worked there we ran things on a shoestring budget, and struggled to survive. Yet our client base kept growing as the funding pot diminished. It was crazy. So it wasn’t a total shock when our board of trustees told me they were closing the charity – it had been a possibility the whole time I was working there. But after seven years I just never thought it would ever happen. We always made it through.

And then we didn’t.

I’d never struggled to get paid work. I would go around, look for work, apply for something I thought I’d be good at…and if I got the interview I usually got the job. So I naively assumed that with so much more experience, plus now with half a postgraduate degree in the bag (still got the other half to complete this year), I’d be able to find a job fairly easily.

I was wrong.

At first it was fine, I had money to keep me going, but when I went two months with not even an interview despite applying for more jobs than I have fingers to count, I began to get depressed.

Not being able to go on a train to visit friends was hard. Not being able to buy my friends birthday presents when they’d been so generous to me when I entered my thirties this year was horrible. Seeing friends enjoying holidays as they shared photos and videos on social media sites made me jealous. And I began to feel like a big fat failure.

The thing I’ve not taken into account is that I never stopped working. Yes, for sure the working has been less – but since becoming unemployed I’ve been a judge for a writing competition and the trustee of a charity. And I’ve finished my Girlguiding Leadership Qualification and continued to run two Girlguiding units – the second of which has doubled in numbers since we started it two years ago.

I’d put my confidence and identity into the work I do to earn, discounting all the work I do to give.

In two weeks time I will start a temporary job over Christmas for a shop in the city centre. I will be earning again (not much, but better than nothing!). The same week I will be a chaperone for the Edinburgh Gang Show and I’ll be starting my final theory course for my postgraduate qualification.

Of course I hope to be earning in a job with a more permanent contract in the near future, but I need to remember those words. It’s not about what I earn, it is about what I give.

Because in truth, I know which ‘work’ has been the most rewarding and fulfilling!