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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.

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.

Disaster Management Environment

Global Carbon Footprint

This is an interesting graphic I re-posted on my tumblr site a couple of weeks ago. Admittedly it is limited in that it doesn’t show emissions against population, but just a quick glance shows that the USA emits about as much as China, and the UK about as much as Brazil. While I don’t know the populations of each of those countries off hand, I know that they are vastly different.

The graphic is originally from here.

Disaster Management Other

MSc Update

So the teaching side is all finished, and I’m happy to say that I am above 70% and therefore on track for a 1st. Yey! I’m going to Japan to do dissertation research: should have been in August but will now be September. I’ve never really been that bothered about visiting Japan, but I am looking forward to it.

Unfortunately the Japan trip is making job-hunting harder. I have had a few interviews but all unsuccessful, even though some went very well. I’m now on the dole and having to look for temporary work for the rest of the summer, because who is going to want to hire me when I need to take a month off almost straight away?!

Disaster Management

Degrees

So I’ve been thinking recently, about education and work and stuff, and come to an interesting conclusion. If I were to do it all over again, I might not have gone to university first time around. I think I probably would have worked to raise money to travel and volunteer abroad. And maybe carried on doing that, and doing courses like PADI and Mountain Leader and languages and whatever.

At the moment I feel like I’m the most educated, the most in debt, but the least qualified I’ve ever been. I know this obviously isn’t the case, but when I’m applying for jobs and getting no response, and getting further into debt, I can’t really help but feel that way.

I feel like my next step is to work and do courses like search and rescue, and then probably volunteer abroad again. And I could easily have done that without either degree! So really, where have they got me? I honestly think I would’ve just been better off going for experience.

So anyone reading this who’s still in school or considering university, think long and hard about it. And don’t do it just because it’s expected or just because you’re intelligent. Don’t assume it’s the only option. Obviously there are some jobs you need a degree for, like medicine or law. And if you know that you want that, then by all means do it.

But don’t be afraid to take a bit longer deciding what you want.

Disaster Management

24 hours to go…

… or maybe a little more, until I get to Newcastle to move into my new student house, in preparation for starting my masters degree on Monday.

I’ve been quite calm and relaxed about this until now: the reality doesn’t usually set in until quite late with me. I packed up a lot of stuff a couple of weeks ago and all was fine. But earlier, I was packing up food and started to feel nervous!

I’ve been settled for quite a while now: I came home from my last trip 3 years ago, I’ve been living at home since then, and I was in the same job for almost 2 years. I’ve had a nice life here: an income, family, friends, hobbies, and a place I know.

But now it’s time for the unknown. Moving in with 5 people I don’t know, in a place I don’t know. Leaving my friends, family, and horses behind. I’m really going to miss them all. But I’ve moved in with people I don’t know before and it was fine. And I’ve visited Newcastle and I like it. It’s only for a year and I’ll be home every couple of months.

So the only really scary part is the money. I’ll have to live on a lot less than I’ve been used to so I’ll have to adjust my lifestyle accordingly. But worse than that, I haven’t had confirmation of my loan through yet. It’s been delayed and I won’t find out until next week whether I’ve got the money or not.

I can’t afford to do the degree without it. If I get turned down, I’ll have to apply for another loan. And if that happens, I think I’ll have to put my tuition fees on my credit card.

Disaster Management Justice

Ministry of Defence budget & Pakistan floods

On my facebook news feed today, one of my friends has posted a message on their wall, essentially saying the UK government has pledged £60 million in aid to Pakistan, when we have soldiers with poor equipment; and that shouldn’t be the case. Checking comments left at the bottom of news articles online, this seems to be a recurring theme.

I’ve been carrying around a postcard I bought in an Oxfam shop for about a year, which reads the following:

The money required to eradicate hunger for everyone in the world has been estimated at $30 billion a year. IT IS A HUGE SUM OF MONEY …about as much as the world spends on the military every eight days.

Postcard from Oxfam shop

So armed with these two snippets of information, I thought I’d do a bit of research. It was easier to find out how much the UK military spends than I expected: it’s posted on the website. Basically the UK military budget is £36.9 billion in 2010/11. On top of that the Treasury Reserve has given £9.5 billion since 2001, to cover operational costs. The UK has the second highest military spending in the world, behind the USA.

The UK takes approximately 1.5 days to spend £60 million in the military.

It’s no secret that I’m a pacifist and that I believe the wars we’re currently fighting are not for the purposes we’re being told. But even if you’re pro-war, there’s no denying that the money being donated to Pakistan is small fry to the military.

It also doesn’t take much to consider the strategic angle. Pakistan was already a terrorist concern, especially with it’s proximity to Afghanistan and the war. Extremists have been using this as a way to recruit terrorists for years, and now a terror group is providing aid, competing against countries such as the UK and USA, no doubt with the aim of spreading their propaganda. It is only natural for the UK and USA to then increase their efforts: what message would it send otherwise? That we don’t give a damn, which will fuel the propaganda. And finally, just about all aid these days is conditional: it has to be spent on specified things, and sometimes using specified suppliers. The perfect opportunity for the UK government to ‘encourage’ Pakistan to use UK businesses in the reconstruction effort.

And last but not least, 17 million people have been affected by this disaster: losing everything they have. So far only about 1200 people are known to have died, but this figure will rise due to disease and those that just haven’t been found yet. We have an obligation to help if we claim to care about humanity at all.

Disaster Management

Postgraduate

I finally got round to submitting my application to Northumbria University about 4 weeks ago. I got my reply last Friday: they have accepted my application and made me an unconditional offer. Which I have just now accepted.

So I’m off to Newcastle in September. And before then I have to ask the bank for some money, find a place to live, and make sure I’m fully prepared. First step was buying laptop, which I am now typing this blog post on.

Aside from making sure that I work hard on this course and really make the most of it, to set myself up on a career path; I also want to make sure that I make the most of the university experience. There’s a lot I regret about Leeds, and I think (and hope) I’ve matured since then. I don’t want to be miserable, or just spend the year working. I want to join clubs, make friends, go out, and look back on the whole thing positively.

Disaster Management

Postgrad

I went up to Newcastle on Wednesday this week to the PG open day at Northumbria University. Four and a half hours on the train! Only two changes though so it wasn’t that bad. Newcastle was cold and damp like most of the country. The city wasn’t as big as I’d expected, not that I spent very long looking around it.

The uni seemed fine. It’s a city campus, right on the edge of the main shopping street. There is a mix of old and new buildings, and it’s really compact.

The open day stuff was good: I spoke to course people, sports, housing, etc. and I got the chance to meet the course director and ask questions. And after all that I left with very positive feelings, especially as they said I shouldn’t have any problems being accepted if I meet the minimum requirements. It sounds like a fantastic jumping off point – just hope I can make the most of it. After all, this is what I want to do with my life, right?