In 9 days time my beautiful baby boy celebrates his 12th birthday… how on earth did that happen? I pop out to the kitchen to make some supper and when I come back through to the living room my toddler has gone and has been replaced with this almost gangly, handsome (yes, I know I’m biased), opinionated, funny young man who gels his hair and knows more about European football than I’ll ever know thanks to the FIFA game franchise!! The reason I refer to his birthday is because the date will resonate with me this year for entirely different reasons than those of the last 11 birthdays. Last year it proved to be a turning point in what had been an otherwise normal and on reflection quite mundane existence. Let me qualify ‘mundane’ before those who know me well start judging…. by mundane I mean it mas MY rut, MY treadmill, MY cycle of tedium. MY choice.
The joke among ex-colleagues was that I was a bit of a control freak… my desk items were all named in case someone decided they preferred my nice pink ergonomically designed stapler to their dull black standard issue version! My stash of extra strong poly pockets was stowed away out of sight in case someone decided to help themselves. I kept my lessons plans tucked away in a different location, along with the teaching resources to go with it. Latterly, as a manager, I needed to be all over certain things, certain people, certain situations. I needed to know, I needed to be in the know. I worked on the basis that if I knew everything I needed to, then I wouldn’t be caught on the back foot – no surprises. Ultimately, it’s what was expected and if you weren’t doing it then there was definitely a view that you weren’t up to the job.
On October 15th last year a chain of events began which finally gave me the courage to call a halt to that mundane existence. A chain of events which allowed me to open my eyes to the endless possibilities which face all of us and yet which we so often brush past, ignore or allow to slip out of our subconscious without further thought or consideration. It wasn’t easy, believe me and part of the reason for that was that some people didn’t want to make it easy. At the time I couldn’t understand why…. why, when you’ve had a relationship with people for x years can they not support your choices/refuse to accept your choices/behave indifferently*?? (*Delete as appropriate!)
In fact the answer didn’t really occur to me until I was driving home yesterday. Now, my commute isn’t 10 minutes round the corner anymore, it’s 63 miles and a minimum 1hr 10min drive. Woooaahhhh…. now that’s a challenge! But actually, it’s lovely, it’s peaceful and it gives me great reflection time. I also create stories (still) and am loving the seasonal changes along the route – quite something this time of year with the leaves on the turn! So, back to yesterday…. I’m in a totally new area of work…. teacher turned trainee sports journalist! Yep, never done things lightly, me! And the learning curve has been steeeeep. One minute I’m sitting in an interview thinking I’m going to extend my writing skills and the next I’m off on my own to football fixtures sending back LIVE match reports every Saturday! And for the last few weeks we can add live sports news (or ‘nearly live’ on some occasions when the situation has required it!) to the list of new skills. At my interview I was asked if I’d ever considered ‘broadcast journalism’… I didn’t even know what that meant… I DO NOW! I’m not great at it, but I want to be and most importantly the people around me do too (I think!) and I really don’t want to let them down. The last couple of weeks have been challenging, trying to find that extra ‘something’ needed to move the performance on to the next level. But they’ve been blighted by issues, some of which have been out of my control…. and then there’s that word again… control. But you know, the solution came out of a situation I could have been in charge of. One bulletin didn’t go well at all and I had a choice, I could go home (as planned) and let others carry on (as planned), or I could get back on the bike and rather than have someone else apply the brakes for me, I could take the stabilisers off, apply the brakes AND change gear. So… that’s what I did! I went back into the studio, put on my smiley voice and did my best to really nail it.
The drive home was a tough and long one – crappy weather and a series of earlier accidents clogged up the roads. But the time in the car allowed me to give myself a jolly good talking to! It also provided a small Eureka moment. Yesterday I learned a valuable lesson in control….. the message I took away was that you can’t blame someone else for something going wrong if you should have had control of it in the first place. That doesn’t make me a control freak! I didn’t think I had the skills to be fully in charge… but as it turns out… you know what, I blooming well did and you know what’s more… it felt goooood!! And the second valuable lesson was in stark contrast to that which I’d been experiencing a year ago…. when someone believes you can do something, you actually start to believe it yourself! I’ve a lovely mentor – she’s awesome at what she does (and so bloody young!), but her most recent piece of advice to me was to believe in yourself – ‘find your confidence – because it IS there’.
So this year, when the cards are up and gift wrap is in the recycling box I might take a moment to indulge in a brief reflection on the journey travelled in the last 12 months. The old me would have panicked about not knowing what’s round the next corner, when the pay cheque will be cashed. The old me would have been content to bumble along with things as they were. The old me was just a little bit selfish. But not now…. This week I am having dinner with Rio 2016 rowers in Henley on Thames, I’m working at the Oxford Half Marathon and next week I will no doubt take a huge amount of (friendly) flack about my football allegiances – after that, I’ll make a birthday cake! It’s control of a very different kind…. and I LOVE IT!