How I left my job and changed career

DollyParton-9to5

A year ago today, I resigned from my ten-year teaching career. I remember it well, mainly because it was the day of Trump’s inauguration and I’d had no sleep the night before. I’d been planning on resigning later in the term (Benn and I had talked about me resigning the year before and agreed that the best time would be when D started school- no more nursery fees), but for some reason I found myself pouring out my thoughts to my line manager, who was amazingly supportive. I wrote my letter there and then, although I decided I would stay til the end of the year: this would give me time to sort myself out, but also I wanted to see my students through the year.

I then began to plan. I saved as much money (read: not much) as I could every month and joined agencies specialising in helping parents find work (spoiler: they were crap.) I spoke to people who could help me- one friend gave me really good advice about CVs. I researched, planned and saved. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was pretty terrified- I was leaving a job I’d done since I was 23, with relatively good money for the days I was in work (but not those I was working outside of school hours) and school holidays guaranteed. I had never looked for a job as a parent. Hell, I hadn’t seriously looked for a new job in eight years.

The time went REALLY fast. I took the summer off and started looking for work the week after D started school. I wrote a skills-based CV, which showed what I could do (and is easier to adapt for the skills required by each job description.) I also narrowed down the sort of places I wanted to work- charities, public sector- and signed up for job alerts. I scoured job boards for the NHS, the council, universities and the civil service. I applied for three jobs and was offered interviews for them all (I accepted the second job and got excellent feedback from the first. I didn’t attend the third interview.) I bought a basic black dress in the summer sales, which I wore with a plain cardigan (I felt like a younger Miss Marple, tbh), but it looked smart and presentable.

I was lucky in that I got a temp job for a few weeks, which brought in a bit of money, but I budgeted HARD. I cut all non-essential costs and used the library. During times when I wasn’t working, I kept myself busy: looking after the sheep, learning French, going to a free weekly knitting group.

I started my job in the public sector in December and it’s very different. I’m also working five days a week until the end of next month, which has brought a temporary boost in money but headaches with childcare. I’ll be a lot less well-off once I go down to three days, but better in terms of health. I sleep better, I’m happier and Benn and D have noticed a huge difference.

I have had to deal with an odd side-effect though: losing a sense of identity that was tied up with my job. It’s liberating and less scary now, but it’s definitely taken a while.

For anyone looking to change lanes, I will tell you it’s potentially hard- I was lucky that Benn was happy to pick up the slack, even if it means a change in lifestyle for us for a while- but the rewards can be utterly worth it.

Looking forward, looking back

20161230_150620 This year… well. It’s been a tricky one and, I’ll admit, that sometimes it’s been hard to rationalise what’s been happening in the world. It’s been a confusing, sad year and there have been times when it’s seemed scary and unknowable. I’m not sure if 2017 will be any better in that respect, but I have to believe that there will be hope. Otherwise, what’s the point?

From a personal perspective, 2016 was OK; I navigated the world the best I could. One of my highlights was talking to Lauren Laverne on her radio show about my experiences with postnatal depression. After that conversation, one of my friends opened up to me about her experiences. It felt good to help someone and for me to acknowledge what I’d gone through (which I hadn’t done hugely openly before) and to know that I was helping someone else. I want to keep having these conversations, to keep helping others where I can. Mental health issues will continue to be important and as anxiety about the world increases, we need to support each other as best we can. We need to help each other. I want to be kind in 2017; goodness knows, it feels like we’re going to need it. I also need to help D understand about kindness to others. It’s never too early!

2017 will also mean changes: D will start school in September (which I cannot quite believe), but this poses questions for me. I always knew I wasn’t going to have another child, so this period means that I can start to look at my career- I’ve been working three days a week for the last three years. Do I increase my hours? Stay the same, but pick up more freelance work? Study? I don’t know yet. It’s quite thrilling but also terrifying. I’ve never really been good with change; my life has been pretty risk-averse! But I want to start exploring avenues and options that I’ve never been confident enough to try. I want to embody the fearlessness of Carrie Fisher (whose novels I would like to read in 2017- as well as finally getting round to seeing Star Wars!)

stay-afraid-but-do-it-any-way-what-s-important-10041241My new years resolutions are simple: sort out my passport (it’s due to expire this year- and it’s still in my maiden name, despite the fact that I’ve been married for nearly six years!); bake something sweet and vegan so that my boss can eat some of the cake I take into work; write to three people I admire (after Victoria Wood died, I sorely regretted never having written to her. I might start with Alan Bennett. After all, it worked with Angela Lansbury!); and to grow red sweet peas, even though I’ve heard they don’t smell much. But it’d be wrong to not grow my favourite flower in my favourite colour, even if I only do it once.

Other than this, it’ll just be business as usual- trying to keep my anxiety about the world in check, being kind to others where I can and trying to sleep well (insomnia is an unwelcome friend at the moment.) I just want to try my best in 2017.

I wish you and yours a happy, peaceful 2017.

Beating tiredness one step at a time

I’m tired.

Like, really tired. It’s always stressful at work at this time of year, but I’ve never had a toddler in tow. At the moment, I’m counting down the minutes til Easter break. And that when I’m going to make some lifestyle tweaks to try and increase my energy.

Food

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I’m using birthday money to buy a food processor (how exciting! How GLAMOROUS!) and I’ve been religiously reading cookbooks, looking for interesting and healthy recipes, with an aim of increasing my veggie intake- and boosting my energy levels.

I bought the Wahaca cookbook recently and I’m looking forward to trying to cook some spicy, summery Mexican food. I already I have my eye on healthy hot chocolate and breakfast smoothies.

I borrowed Jack Monroe’s new book on a whim from the library and I love it- her style isn’t pretentious, the ingredients are sensible and the instructions are straightforward. I already made the spring veg risotto and it went down brilliantly with D especially (Benn would have liked meat, but that can be added another time.)

My friend Jeni bought me the Deliciously Ella cookbook and now all I want is the food processor, a spiraliser and my courgette seeds to grow so I can make courgetti with pesto! It’s not normally the sort of cookbook I’d think I’d like, but there are some really good ideas in here.

Running

1607067_10152692223017267_7743578639046493132_nLook at my new running shoes! Aren’t they pretty? But also: STURDY. And you can see them from space, which is super important. I’ve been neglecting my running so I’m taking it pretty slowly at the moment, mainly because I can’t go much faster (despite the woman laughing and pointing at me yesterday. Which was classy of her.) However, physical activity is going to help me sleep better and, ergo, be less tired.

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In theory, anyway.

New garden, lots of plans!

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I’m pretty preoccupied with the new house and, specifically, the garden. It’s HUGE and I have loads of ideas and plans for it. (I’m so serious, I bought Gardener’s World magazine.) I thought I’d give you a visual tour and let you know what I have in mind for each area…

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This is the view from the dining room back door. That wild lavender plant will be trimmed back this weekend and I was pleasantly surprised to find a healthy rosemary plant too. Every garden I’ve had while living in Brighton has had loads of rosemary and I’ve always thought I’d miss it if I didn’t have it. It’s one of my favourite garden smells, especially if it’s alongside lavender.

Next to the steps, just out of frame, is what used to be a rockery. It’s overgrown, but there are evergreens in there. This weekend, I’m hoping to clear it and assess what’s there. Then I’m hoping to stock it with heathers and unleash my inner Emily Bronte and capture the feel of the moors.

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This is the view at the top of the steps. You can see how far the garden goes back. The seller of the house left loads of mature plants and trees- there’s an apple tree, a holly bush and I think the tree in the big pot is possibly a cherry tree. There’s also what we think is a fig tree further down.

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This is the patio in more detail; we inherited the table and chairs with the house. You can see my tomato plants just to one side; I think they’re on their last legs! There’s a little trench behind where they are. I’m thinking I might ‘build’ a sort of screen with pea and bean plants and bamboo in the summer. The alternative is a bank of lavender. I haven’t decided yet. I’m also thinking that next summer there will be lots of pots here- it’s a definite sun trap and I think there will be tomatoes, courgettes and other vegetables.

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This is the grass bit that will probably mostly be given over to D. I don’t have massive plans for this; maybe a bit of TLC. I do want to tidy up the borders, as they’re clogged with ivy and weeds. I’ll probably use wildflower seeds along here. My parents bought me a little bug house and, as D seems to think he’s Mr bloody Bloom, I think he would enjoy having lots of creepy crawlies to look at!

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This area will just be tidied up a bit. You can see the ramshackle greenhouse in the background that has lots of tools inside. I’ll fill the pots with lovely things. I’m not sure what yet, so there’s some research to do.

The bit just past the greenhouse is the bit that I’m most excited about. There are GRAPES growing up there, overhanging from next door. I’m thinking that if they can grow there, then there’s potential for me to grow other things. So I’m planning on getting rid of the gravel in that part of the garden and planting some veggie beds. I have no idea what I will plant there, although I fancy onions, potatoes and garlic. If I get really cocky, I might even chuck a bit of rhubarb somewhere.

It’s VERY exciting.

 

 

 

Ah, moving

I hate moving. A couple of years ago, I wrote about my life-long hatred of moving and after the palaver of the last few months (seriously, ten months to buy a house. Seriously), I’m not sure I ever want to do it AGAIN. EVER.

However, there are some good bits about moving… yesterday my friend Charlotte and I (and her delightful hearing dog, Scout) went into the wilds of rural Sussex to sell a load of tat in a car boot sale. I’m seeing the selling of stuff as an activity with two benefits: 1) getting rid of stuff I’ve probably held onto for far too long and b) the money I make is going towards D’s new bedroom. I’m planning to live vicariously through my son- he’s getting a pirate themed room.

Image: Next

Image: Next

Although this is a bit TOO full on, I’m planning on taking certain elements of this. He loves pirates (his grandparents have just taught him to say ‘shiver me timbers’) and I figure that pirates have a greater lifespan than, say, a certain blue engine whose merchandise we appear to have acquired at an alarmingly fast rate of late.

The other thing I’m planning is the garden. Now, I haven’t seen this garden since November, so I can’t get into too much forward planning. I do know that after the success of this year’s tomatoes, I want to grow more vegetables and some fruits, but maybe not this scary variety of onion that looks like it was plucked fresh from a serial killer’s garden:

Onion (Salad) North Holland Blood Red Redmate

Image: Suttons

There is actually a perfectly good reason why I’m plunging myself into planning for the new house: denial. I don’t want to pack and I don’t want to unpack. Basically, I want the entire contents of my house to be transported- teleported, in fact- to the new house. Does anyone know if the TARDIS is available for house moves?

 

Setting myself a clothing goal

As you are probably aware, I am currently teaching myself to sew. I am also knitting a cardigan. The other day I had a bright idea: what if, by the end of 2015, the bulk of my wardrobe was either handmade or bought secondhand? Could I do it? Or does that way madness lie?

I’m currently knitting a Miette in navy:

 

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and I plan to use either red or yellow and white polka dot buttons when it’s done:

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Eventually, it should look like this:

I also have it in mind to make one of the new Colette dress patterns, Moneta. I saw it on some plus-sized sewing blogs lately and fell in love it. It’s the kind of style that I like and that suits me, plus it has so many options. I think I have to make it!

Image: Collette

Image: Collette

As for my Miette skirt, designed by Tilly and the Buttons, that is going slowly. Not because of the pattern, but because I lost all confidence in myself. Plus a lack of space is getting frustrating. Sigh. I hope to have it finished soon though, so I can show you!

So, my goal: to knit and sew clothes so that by the end of next year I have at least something resembling a wardrobe made by moi. What do you think?

 

In ten years’ time…

A couple of weeks ago, I published a post looking at how my life had changed since a certain photo was taken.

So, let’s take stock of where I am now. This is me (in a not brilliant selfie- I put it in black and white to make it more presentable!):

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Where am I, at this point in time?

Well:

-I am 29 (six months until I’m 30- strangely not bothered by this.)

– I have a husband and a son who is about to turn one. We also have a maniacal cat.

– I have a good job, although I am cutting my hours in order to spend more time with my family.

– We rent a little house that I love, but that is too small for three humans and aforementioned maniacal cat to co-exist in long-term.

-I live in a city that I love, but that can be a bit overwhelming at times.

-I am usually very tired.

Where would I like to be in ten years’ time?

-I will be nearly 40 and D will be nearly ten.. eek! So, alive, with most of my teeth left would be a good start! (Now I have a half decent dentist, this is a distinct possibility.)

-I would, of course, like the family situation to be the same! Maybe the cat will have calmed down.

-I’d like us to own our own house somewhere quiet. (I keep suggesting Greendale, but Benn’s having none of it. Spoilsport.) As long as I have decent internet access/postal service, I’m good to go.

-I’d like to be my own boss, either through owning a small business or by freelancing as a writer, the latter being more likely, if I’m honest. I also wouldn’t grumble about being a best-selling author. I can dream!

-I’d like to have been on at least one holiday that involves a plane journey!

I don’t think that this is wishing my life away, but is a list of fairly achievable goals. I have a friend who firmly believes the universe provides when you need it. Not sure I’d go that far, but I do think that I can work towards all of these over the next decade. I’m not wishing to be a millionaire with a menagerie of… llamas or something.

I’m going to try going down the route of positive thinking. Just got to get my confidence in gear now!

New Year’s Resolutions

I know, I know, TOTAL cliché  but 2012 has been an interesting year and I think that some resolutions will stand me in good stead. However, I’m not a complete fool; I’m only going to set resolutions that I can actually keep… so, y’know, giving up chocolate is a bit of a stupid one to set myself.

I hate New Year’s Eve, so I’m hoping that we have a fairly quiet one, baby permitting! I do like looking forward a little bit though and wondering what next year might bring. Who would’ve thought last year that I would have a baby a year later? It still seems a bit surreal, really, especially when I consider that I’M SOMEONE’S MUM. Last New Year’s, all I was bothered about was the fact that I wasn’t as fit as I was normally and dreading going back to work. Now, I’m all like “Oh, I hope that this colic goes/I’d really like some sleep.” I’ve changed, maaaaaaaaaaan.

Funny New Year's Ecard: This year I resolve to be less sarcastic. Yeah right.

Learn to bake– Brilliantly, you can join me on this epic journey, which I’ve written about here.

Use stuff up- I am a hoarder, although I will never admit it when Benn says it. My worst area seems to be toiletries and skincare- lip balms, body lotion and facial moisturisers. Maybe 2013 will see the start of me doing ’empties’ posts. I’m not allowed to buy any more products in these categories until I have used some of them up! I’ve been giving stuff away that I don’t think I’ll use and I feel lighter already. I just have to walk on by exciting offers in Boots. IcandoitIcandoit.

Do some fun exercise- Last year, I started jive and yoga classes (before I found out I was pregnant!) and I would like to do something along these lines now that D is here. At the moment, I’m thinking lindyhop classes and yoga at home on DVD…

Not need any more dental work- My teeth are rubbish; they always have been.  I needed a tooth out just before Christmas. I am never, ever doing that again. I need another filling next week (joy- most of my mouth will be metal) and I’ve bought a whizzy toothbrush. Cutting down on fizzy drinks (I was terrible, especially in pregnancy when I used them as alcohol substitutes.) I’ll do everything I can on this one!

Take the baby to some mum and baby things- I’m not sure which ones though, but I do need to be brave with this sort of thing so that he socialises with other children. I can’t imagine having a shy child, really. Might as well start him young.

Drink more water– I just need to do this!

What are your new year’s resolutions?

Holidays!

So, I’m on holiday for six weeks. Usually, the long holidays are fun, with a bit of work thrown in (don’t believe what you read about teachers in the papers!), but as I will only be back in school for four weeks, I won’t be teaching. Ergo, no planning. Hurrah!  So, what are my plans for this long stretch of loveliness?

Well, although my initial plans are to slob around in my pyjamas watching DVD boxsets (I have missed so much pop culture in the last couple of years; I have The WireMad Men and Downton Abbey to watch), I do think I should use this time wisely. After all, this time next year I’ll have a small child to look after. I won’t get the same opportunities to lounge around, reading and eating biscuits at will. It’ll be all feeding and naptime. Which I’m sure* will be a different kind of fun in itself.

Anyway, I reckon when setting goals and targets, you should really make something that’s a) easy to achieve and b) enjoyable. No point putting pressure on yourself unnecessarily. These are not groundbreaking, nor will they change the world, but they are simple!

1) I am going to wash my makeup brushes. They are horrid and I’m probably wise not to think about what’s on them. I will also, finally, purchase a kabuki brush. I will also chuck out any makeup that’s past its best. Ugh.

2) I will not complain about the weather. If it’s sunny, I’ll go for a walk or sit in the garden. If it’s raining, I’ll stay inside and do something productive or fun.

3) I will blog loads. I’ve got quite attached to my blog (even if people don’t read it, I enjoy writing it!)

4) Stay positive, especially with the house move. No need to dwell and get upset about something that is stressful anyway.

5) Knit the things on my list from a few weeks ago.

6) Get some new music on my iPod. I get bored easily!

7) Sort out the photos for Ladies in Monochrome. It’s a massive undertaking and the blog itself will be a year old in a couple of weeks. So a few hours in front of a hot scanner won’t be too arduous in the long-term.

8) Finally get round to reading the rest of the Hunger Games trilogy! I’ve been putting it off for months, but now’s the time I bite the bullet!

Do you have anything you want achieve before September?

 

*I’m not entirely sure that this is an accurate statement

Spring Goals

I figured, as it’s nearly the end of February and we’re predicted a really warm end of the week, I thought I would look ahead and set myself some goals for the next few months; the period between now and June is busy at work and I need to make sure that I’m not just doing work stuff. So, with that in mind, I’m going to set some goals for the time period until June 1st.

1) Read more fiction- and enjoy it! I’ve written about this and I’m determined to continue with it. I’m slowly getting to grips with the problems I’ve had. Maybe I read a few rum books, but it’s getting better. I am currently loving Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Vile Bodies’, so I will read more of his books in the coming weeks.

2) Be positive- it’s really easy for me to get bogged down in my job, so I’m going to try and take everything as it comes. This target also means I need to not allow stress to envelope me. Which leads me to…

3) Get into exercising- I started both jive and yoga this weekend and I really want them to become things I really, really enjoy, even when the novelty has worn off. I’ve started to read up on the history of both and this is really helping me get my head around what I’m doing.

4) Do more writing- and be brave about it! I need to make sure that I start work on the ‘novel’ and maybe put myself forward for writing competitions, solicit some work (perhaps) and really get going with the work. Writing is the thing I love doing more than anything. I should do more of what I enjoy.

5) Knit some yoga socks!

6) Make something with my sewing machine.

7) Buy some utterly brilliant shoes that I will actually wear.

I think that’s a pretty comprehensive and achievable list… Do you have any goals for spring?