Disaster Management

Overcoming Shame by Owning My Decisions

In preparation for having to find a new job after 3.5 years in the same place (a personal best), I am working on my CV and have recently re-joined LinkedIn to help with the job search and see what skills I should be emphasising.

Going through my contacts sync on LinkedIn has turned up lots of people that I’ve lost touch with, mostly people I went to Northumbria University with while studying for my Master’s degree almost 10 years ago. A lot of them are working in jobs related to our studies (disaster management) or something similar and have worked their way up to senior roles. I’m really pleased for them, partly because we were told almost on our first day that “there were no jobs in this”, which was somewhat disheartening for me at least.

Where does the shame fit in?

Simply because I’m not doing anything similar. The focus on ‘resilience’ slowly seeped into conversations in my most recent job, but mostly by those wanting to deal a softer blow to communities that would have some sort of services cut due to austerity and would have to fend for themselves. I was able to make some attempts to talk about what resilience really was about, but that is about the extent of the connection between my “career” and my MSc.

Spending the time and money on my MSc and not doing anything with it is a source of shame for me, but I’m fighting the small part of me that wants to say anything about my classmates having it easy, or me having it so hard. I don’t know what they’ve been through or had to overcome in the last 10 years. I’m not jealous or envious: I’m using their success as a reason to believe that the door is also open for me, should I choose to walk through.

What do my decisions have to do with this?

In order to fight the part of me that wants to say, “well that could be me if only X didn’t happen, or Y did happen”, I have to be honest about my decisions and what power I have had over my own life.

The key decision-making time was when Dad died. My brother and I were left with some cash, a fully-owned house, a chunk of farmland, and horses. My brother lives abroad so I dealt with probate and everything else pretty much on my own, which took a really long time. Everyone tells you to hold on to farmland: it’s valuable. I’m not sure if we ever really considered selling it anyway, so I don’t know how much that affected us.

Lots of people asked what I would do with the horses. To me, it was a no-brainer: of course I would keep them because that was what Dad would want, and what I wanted. And it wasn’t like I had a field of champion racehorses that people would be breaking the door down for. Even though I felt like that wasn’t a decision, it was, and has continued to be. The problem with that was that, even if we sold the farmland, it seriously limited where I could move to and thus what work I could do. So I didn’t move anywhere.

The next few years were really hard: I moved between jobs that I didn’t really want, and when I finally found one that was better, I lost my dogs and some of the horses, and made some bad decisions that I won’t go into here. All of which led to me feeling low, apathetic, and worthless.

I still feel pretty crappy, but a while ago I realised that there were some things I could change. I had been to a conference and was walking on the beach just outside the hotel where I stayed with my Mum. It occurred to me that it would be pretty awesome to be able to wake up any morning and just take a walk on the beach. It took me a while to come back to this, but eventually I started looking at my options for buying a house and moving the horses. I was under redundancy notice from July 2019, so it seemed like a perfect chance to put things into action and relocate. Which is what I was doing when COVID happened…

So there are obviously things that have happened out of my control, but I controlled how I responded, even if the decisions I made didn’t feel like decisions.

I also completely avoided some decisions. At no point have I seriously networked with people working in the field to find out what I need to do, or had a professional look over my CV or help with job applications. I have rarely asked people who know me to look over job applications before I send them. I have never asked or paid anyone to look after the horses and cats while I do something to improve my career prospects. I have let my shyness, introversion, low self-confidence and fear of failure hold me back.

And now?

Even now, the decision to relocate is more about lifestyle rather than career progression. I’m unlikely to find disaster management work in my new location, but I want to go there because of the beaches, countryside, and my values like veganism and the environment. And it’s big enough to have stuff going on, but not too big. I don’t want to move to somewhere that would be better for my career (read: London), and am unlikely to be able to afford to even get very close, with the horses to think of too.

I’ve also changed in the past 10 years. I’m interested in different things and feel like I’m wired differently. When I applied for the MSc, I pictured myself working in poor countries or refugee camps, responding to some sort of crisis: something which would now fall into the “white saviour” category. During the course I came to realise that wasn’t what was needed or wanted, but then I felt a bit directionless. At the moment I’m very interested in food, nutrition and permaculture; as well climate change, plastic pollution, and human rights especially considering things like racism, gender and sexuality.

Maybe I’ll change my mind in a few years, and once I’ve relocated once, it won’t feel like such a big deal to do it again. I’m fortunate that I have very little else tying me down.

Travel Wales

Zip World Velocity 2

Last year, while my brother and his family were visiting, we went on Velocity 2, the fastest zip line in the world. It is based at Penrhyn Quarry, Bethesda, Gwynedd, and is the longest zip line in Europe (1555 metres – I’m not sure if this is the total, including the little zip too). Depending on how much you weigh, you could reach 100mph as you fly down the wire.

I would definitely recommend the experience: it is exhilarating and an adrenaline rush. There is a smaller zip to get you started, then you get in the red truck to go up to the start of the big zip. The views from the top are fantastic: the North Wales coastline and Snowdonia mountains; then you fly over the beautiful blue Penrhyn Quarry lake.

You ‘zip’ lying on your front, with all limbs tucked in and if necessary, you’re also given a sail to slow you down. Velocity used to be for one person at a time, but now 4 people can zip alongside each other, and it’s a bit like a production line.

You cannot take your own camera – they provide REVL head cams – but don’t have to pay up front (like I did). They attach them to everyone at the top and you can decide at the end if you want the video and stills. The video is great quality but I would’ve preferred a video from my point of view rather than my reaction. I think it’s a real shame they don’t have cameras that can provide that option.

Travel Wales

Zip World Titan

Back in 2017 my family and I went on Europe’s first 4-person zip lining experience. I took my head cam and put together a video of it, which was very long and not very exciting. I have now shortened the video to mostly just keep the zip lining and not the in-between bits.

Zip World Titan: the first 4-person zip line in Europe

Zip World Titan is part of Zip World Slate Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog, North Wales. Because you ride in a sitting position, you can look at the views all around you, of the Snowdonia mountains and the slate mines.

You can reach a maximum speed of 70mph, but this depends on weather conditions and your weight. Mum and I were nowhere near that speed! You can also increase your speed by tucking your knees up and leaning backwards.

We have also been on Velocity 2 – Titan’s big brother – in Penrhyn Quarry. This used to be a single zip but is now also a 4-person zip. This is the fastest zip line in the world, with speeds up to 100mph.

Unfortunately you can no longer take your own cameras on either of these zips: instead you can use their REVL camera and get a video and stills of your reaction, rather than the views. I’d recommend the experience and the picture quality is great, but I’m disappointed with my Velocity 2 video, which is basically my face, with a bit of the quarry and lake around the edges.

I’m never sure if it’s Zip World or ZipWorld, but either way, at the Slate Caverns you can also do a zip-lining course in the caverns and Bounce Below, which is trampolining inside the caverns. There is also a nice cafe on site. And if you’re interested in the slate mines, there are Slate Mountain tours where you can learn more about it and go into the Deep Mine.

Film

Just Mercy

Just, wow.

I didn’t watch the trailers for the film: knowing Michael B Jordan was in it was enough of a reason for me to want to see it. Learning that it was about someone wrongly being on death row meant I would also be interested in the subject. And the fact that Mum wanted to see it too meant I didn’t have to go alone.

In many ways the plot of Just Mercy was what I expected: the main characters meeting and getting to know each other, a bit of digging to find out what went wrong, and scenes in court to set it all right. Some of this didn’t have as much weight as I expected though. There was much less time spent in court than I expected, and the ‘speeches’ weren’t as powerful as you come to expect from watching lots of Law & Order and The Good Wife.

I was amazed at how quickly the time passed. About 5 minutes from the end, I thought, “this can’t be the end, there’s still loads of time to go”, and then it finished. Although there are a few captioned scenes interspersed with the credits, which are worth sticking around for.

There were bits that felt unresolved, namely, the reason that Walter McMillian was charged/framed when there was no evidence; the prison guard who was softening; and obviously the murder itself. But as the story is from the perspective of Bryan Stevenson, I suppose it makes sense that he wouldn’t know more about these things. I also haven’t read the book so I don’t know how true it is, and how much poetic licence has been used.

What surprised me most though was that the film was about more than Walter McMillian, and this is the reason it was such a good film. In fact, as good as Michael B Jordan and Jamie Foxx were, the story was completely stolen by Rob Morgan, playing Herbert Richardson. It was heartbreaking but handled so well. His story is the reason I cried so much during the film, on the way home, and every time I have thought about it since.

As we were leaving, I said that the scary thing about the film is that Walter is in the minority because he was exonerated, not because he was falsely accused and jailed. Listening to the Undisclosed podcast has left me with little faith in the justice system, especially where the death penalty is concerned.

More than anything, the film has made me question what right I have to squander my skills, intelligence and time when there is such injustice in the world. To look at my CV you might say that I do help people and tackle injustice in small ways; but it doesn’t feel like that from where I sit. It feels like a waste; like too much time spent on nonsense and almost no time making a difference to anyone.

Photography

A Decade in Pictures

I did the Instagram #10yearchallenge in a family Whatsapp group because I haven’t changed very much in 10 years. So I thought it would be a little bit more interesting to put photos from each year, to show that I have at least changed my hairstyle once or twice in that time! I’ve actually had an undercut for about a year, but that’s obviously difficult to tell with long hair.

And my first photo in 2020…

On a tea break up at the field on New Year’s Day, 2020
Other

Safe Space

Merry Christmas. It’s been a weird one this year: definitely the least prepared, most disorganised I’ve been for a while. I’ve had other things on my mind like leaving my job and uprooting my life so I’m a tad preoccupied.

But it has also just been a strange day. I haven’t felt very ‘up’. Of course, having a melt down about the dogs just before I went to bed last night wasn’t helpful. I cried really hard. I blame it on the gin. Then there’s the videos I’ve been watching about Asperger’s in girls, hitting very close to home, making me wonder if that’s why I often feel so awkward and out of place.

I don’t know if they are the reasons I’ve been so quiet and distant today because I’ve been like this for a while. I had a great summer with my nephew: we had loads of fun doing loads of activities, and I haven’t done a whole lot since. I’ve spent almost every weekend alone and at home for 4 months. I’ve kicked myself for a lot of that because if I don’t make plans, I waste my time and then I get angry with myself for it. But I haven’t really wanted to spend that time with anyone: just not doing nothing.

How I’ve been today and in the last few months leads me to today’s post title. I feel so different from everyone I know that my safe space is alone (or alone with kitties or horses). I have so little in common with the people I know, not just different, but at odds with them: like I’m a vegan in the middle of farming country. I’ve lost touch with anyone with a similar taste in music. I have maybe two friends with similar taste in films, and they’re both married with babies. I’m trying to avoid social media in a world that seemingly lives there. I’m not even going to start on politics.

I feel like I have to bite my tongue all the time, because when I don’t, I piss people off, I hurt their feelings, and often I end up feeling even more isolated. Quite often I feel lonely just being me, and that can be made worse when I’m surrounded by people who are so different from me. At least if it’s just me and the kitties or me and the horses, I can freely be myself, in my safe space.

I’d like to have friends with similar values: that feels like the best starting point. That’s why it’s quite high on my list for when I move: find the places and join the groups based on values first, then worry about interests later. I think the rest would be easier to handle then.

I don’t feel like I should be that weird or unique that it’s hard to find more people like me. I just don’t think it’s that easy around here.

Depression

Procrastination

I’m putting off loads of stuff, in my work and personal lives. Some of it just because it isn’t urgent, it would just be nice to do. I often have too many ideas and then overwhelm myself with possibilities and find myself unable to make a decision. But there are things I should be doing on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis that I’m not getting done.

I think this is what has the biggest effect on my mental health. I feel so guilty and ashamed of the things I let slip, I beat myself up about it, I tell myself I need to do better. Sometimes it works for a few days but I never seem to sustain it until it becomes habit.

I tell myself I’ve never been a ‘get up and go’ sort of person, which in one way excuses me, but in another way makes it seem like a much bigger thing to overcome, because now I have to change something fundamental, something enduring.

The more I put off, the more things pile up, the longer the list gets, the bigger the mountain is, the more impossible it seems…

Grief

Afterlife

I’m finding the idea of an afterlife quite comforting at the moment. I haven’t believed in it for a very long time – certainly since primary school – and haven’t felt the need for it. When Dad died and lots of people said “he’s in a better place now” or something similar, I was never bothered that, as far as I was concerned, he was only in two places: his grave and our memories.

But it’s different with the girls gone. I want it to be true that they’re somewhere doing all their favourite things without a care in the world. Five years of life wasn’t enough for them. They should’ve had at least another 10. There was lots more for them to do and experience. I want it to be true that they’re able to still do that, albeit in a different way than I had planned.

I don’t know why I want them to have an afterlife. Maybe because they were so young. Maybe because of how they died. Maybe because they both went together. Or maybe it is simply because we were so bonded: living together and without anyone else, sleeping in the same bed; spending my evenings and weekends with them. They were basically my 4-legged children.

Three years with them wasn’t enough for me. I just want to be with them. I want to believe that we’ll be together again someday.

Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

Depression Grief Other

5 years

I wish I could go back in time 5 years. There are so many things that I wish I could have a second chance with. So many things I could’ve done better or prevented.

Helping Dad more while he was ill. Spending more time with him. Making sure things were sorted properly before he died. Getting James to visit.

Potentially finding better jobs than the ones I ended up with. Jobs that energized me and developed me.

Making an effort to have a decent social life instead of wallowing and waiting for others.

Dealing with Pop’s alzheimer’s better. Starting reminiscence therapy sooner. Spending more time with them. Keeping him active for longer.

Looking after the horses better. Making sure I knew what to do, rather than just guessing based on the bits of knowledge I had. Asking for help when I needed it.

Protecting the dogs. Tying them up at the farm or not taking them at all. Getting GPS trackers for them. Hell, even just not being careless or looking harder for them that day.

Less than 12 months ago, 14 lives depended on me. Now only 7 lives do. I need to learn from my mistakes. I need to take things seriously and act, rather than just thinking and procrastinating.

Other

Work

I’ve been in my new job for just over 4 months and I feel like I’m not doing anything. I don’t think I even know what my job is. I’m trying to put together a work plan which will hopefully help, but in the meantime my self-esteem is in the toilet and my mood is quite dark.

I’m also quite pissed off about how the 2 organisations I work for have welcomed me. In one I’ve been waiting for a phone basically since I started and my induction wasn’t great. In the other I feel like no-one really knows I’m there. I also can’t access the printer and I don’t think anyone cares, mostly because no-one has even checked that I can do such mundane things.

Activism Environment

Buy Nothing New for a Year

A few days ago I was looking through online January sales for DVDs, and I wondered about how much more happy and fulfilled I feel when I add more material things to my life. Not much, if at all. And this reminded me of Robert Llewellyn buying nothing for a year (about 3/4 down in this article). So I googled it and found a different website all about ‘the movement’, and this has helped me develop my own guidelines for the project:

  1. Stick to the essentials: I will obviously continue to buy food, toiletries and other essentials. But I will make an effort to keep this to a minimum. I don’t buy a lot of toiletries anyway, and rarely waste food so this shouldn’t be too difficult. But I do want to make an effort to cut out excessive packaging, reducing food miles, and possibly growing my own. I’m not very green-fingered though so I don’t want to commit to this.
  2. Support local: I will try to support locally grown food, locally made toiletries, local suppliers, and small businesses.
  3. Carry reusable products: I will keep shopping bags and a travel mug in the car, so I’m not caught short when I’m out and about.
  4. Buy services and experiences: I will continue to spend money on enrichment and entertainment, but be aware of how much ‘new’ stuff they use to provide that service and their impact on the environment. Anything that makes use of local community spaces is OK. Haircuts are OK but not too often. Concerts, museums, etc. are all OK.
  5. Buy used: I want to keep what I buy to a minimum, but if there is anything I have to buy I will try to get it used instead. I’m already pretty good at this – love charity shops and ebay – but I could be better.
  6. Borrow or share: I will check if I can borrow items that I need in the short term, and also have items available for others to borrow.

Saying this, I do have a few conditions to attach:

  • Bathroom: I have bought everything except the bath and tiles, and it would life much easier to have a shower installed and have the extra space in the spare room. The cheapest bath I can find is a new one, and this has been on my list for a year. So if I have the money I am OK with getting this sorted out.
  • Shed: Another thing that has been on my list for a long while, and it is for the wellbeing of the horses. It also has the added benefits of not using bale wrap, saving money, and generating electricity.
  • Gifts: I will try to stick to experiences instead of buying new material stuff for people, but I’ll just have to see how this goes.
  • Christmas vouchers: I still have some vouchers to spend from Christmas and if they’ll expire I will spend them within the year.
  • Amazon Prime: I haven’t decided yet whether this is classed as material stuff or a service. I don’t own the films and TV shows in my playlist, and I watch this more than my TV.

I will also use this time to try to get rid of stuff I don’t need, use or want. I’ve already turned my clothes hangers around so that I can really see what I don’t wear (and make an effort to go places in order to wear any favourites that are in danger of not being kept!). I’m going to get rid of gifts I’ve received once I’ve kept them for an appropriate length of time, which I guess is about 12 months, depending on who the gifter was. I’m going to go through all the stuff I hang on to and decide if I really need to keep it, if it is improving my life in any way. And I’m going to need to be quite ruthless as far as sentimental value goes.

Hopefully I will also use this time to get crafty again, with all the craft stuff, beads and material that is taking up space in the house.

And as a reminder of what our consumerist lifestyles lead to, here are some none-too-heart-warming photos. None of dead, suffering or misshapen animals though.

ocean tyres
Source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/269723465160278765/
Activism Disaster Management Environment First Time Farmer Photography

Resolutions 2016

I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since I last did a post about resolutions. And FYI, the last lot didn’t go that well, apart from getting a Distinction in my Masters.

So this year’s resolutions are:

  1. Clear the fields: I’m getting really fed up of all the mess taking over the hedge lines, and it will need to go if I’m going to get a shed built. Yes, the bigger stuff will need more effort and a big skip delivered, but I want to make a real effort to take at least one box of smaller crap to the town skip every week. I don’t need to get the car onto the field: I can just carry the box up to the gate. And there’s plenty of small stuff to go too.
  2. Pull ups: my general fitness has declined recently, and I would like to be stronger especially if I plan to do mounted games and want to be able to vault. So I want to be able to do pull ups. I’m pretty sure I can’t even do one at the moment. I don’t really have a goal as to how many – I’ll just see how it goes and count every extra one as a positive.
  3. Use my cameras: I have a moderately expensive DSLR camera and accessories, and now an action camera. I would very much like to make more use of them, whether that’s going out and photographing fun stuff I’m doing or just improving my skills.
  4. Get back into disasters/development: I know the chances of me getting a decent job in the field in my current situation are minute, but it is still something I’m very interested in. I spent a lot of money and time developing my knowledge and skills and it would be nice to put that to good use again. So I intend to start writing blog posts and LinkedIn posts to prove my continued interest and knowledge.
  5. Rekindle friendships: I’ve written another ‘motivational presentation’ and in it I have listed people I would consider friends, as well as close family. And I see maybe about 10% of those people on a regular basis. Which is crap. I’m always down about not having people to spend time with and friends getting coupled off; and yes, it sucks, but there are still plenty of people on that list who I could make an effort to see and I don’t.
  6. Be more positive: about 18 months ago – during one of my lethargic, apathetic, miserable periods – I started a mantra of “Woo hoo! Yeah!” for everything I did, to try to inject some enthusiasm and positivity into my life. I mean everything: vacuuming, ironing, dog walking in the rain. And it worked. Yet for some reason I stopped. So this time I’m going to make a real effort, because quite frankly, there’s a lot about my life that I would like to change, but focusing on the negative is what makes me miserable. So if I can do something simple to feel positive and enthusiastic, maybe I can find the energy to change the negatives, or at least learn to live with them a little easier.
  7. Buy nothing new for a year: I’m going to write a longer separate post on this, but basically I have a lot of stuff, it doesn’t really make me happy, and I have to pack it up and move it every time I move house, and find somewhere to put it. It’s also bad from an environmental point of view. So barring essentials, I am going to try to buy nothing new for a year.

I started well last night: I forced myself to go out, saw some friends I hadn’t seen for a while, chatted to strangers, and had a good time. And considering I flaked on climbing twice this week, I think that’s pretty positive.

But I was really hoping not to start the year fancying someone else’s boyfriend. I should find someone else to be the object of my affection. Not something that comes easily to me in my current situation.

Depression Horses Other

168 Hours

168 hours in a week.

  • 56 hours sleeping.
  • 10 hours commuting.
  • 43 hours in work.
  • 14 hours walking dogs.
  • 10 hours bathing, showering, doing hair, make up.
  • 12 hours eating.
  • 3 hours checking horses.

Leaving 20 hours. I’ll admit, I thought I had more time left. But still, what do I do with it? Mostly Facebook, Pinterest, TV. Occasionally see friends and family.

However, I think I need to make a real effort to put some of those 20 hours to good use, to be productive.

Music

Playlist of the Week #5: Coachella – The Music

Ok, so I’ve missed a few weeks… But to be honest, I’ve probably listened to the same guilty pleasures over and over in that time. I can’t wait until I get a new job: I’ll spend so much money on new music, it’ll be like the HMV sale on student loan day!

Now back to this week. After a conversation with my mother about a friend of hers packing her daughter off to her first festival, it occurred to both of us that the music seems to be less important these days. Said daughter was wearing flowers in her hair and it was unclear if she knew of or listened to any of the bands on the Leeds line-up. Admittedly the Leeds line-up has changed somewhat into a more mainstream one since the days I used to go, so maybe I’m the one who wouldn’t have heard of anyone!

But basically this got me thinking: I’d seen a bunch of articles about which celebrities went to Coachella this year, who wore what, street styles, and masses more about what people looked like; but I didn’t see anything about who actually played sets at Coachella! I’ve looked up the set times and it’s all brand new information. Granted, this is the first I’ve actively looked for information about the music at Coachella, but neither did I look for information about clothing at Coachella. When did the clothes and image get more important than the music at music festivals?!

With that in mind, this week’s playlist is dedicated to artists who played at Coachella 2015.

  1. Bad Religion – Sorrow
  1. Tame Impala – Elephant
  1. Royal Blood – Come On Over

And finally – to hammer the point home – when I searched for an image for this post, this was what Google’s search came up with: music is the 5th most interesting part of the festival.

coachella search