Snow days

Across most parts of the UK, we’ve been having snow. Lots of it.

When I was 26 and starting out as a lawyer, I was keen to impress and afraid of messing up. No matter how long it took, I would skate to work in my car, fearful for myself and others. Later, when I worked in London, I would stand for hours on cold train platforms or crowded bus stops, waiting for public transport that would take me somewhere near the office and home. Sometimes, I walked for miles and took hours to get to my desk, only to leave it a few hours later to repeat the process, in reverse.

I wish I’d known then that one day, the technology would be available to allow me to work as well from home, as from the office. I wish I’d known that it would become much more acceptable, if not advisable, to take a “snow day” and work from home in warmth and safety.  I wish I’d listened to that inner voice that told me I probably wouldn’t get the recognition I anticipated for my herculean efforts in trekking to work, expedition-style.

Back in the day, there was a kind of macho competitiveness about battling into work in adverse circumstances, including bad weather. I wish I’d known that it can be damaging to push yourself too hard for too long. When my partner and I walked to the supermarket yesterday, with our dog, we saw many more people around than usual. Although it was bitterly cold, the sun was shining out of a cloudless blue sky. With schools closed and non-functioning road and transport networks, families were playing together in the snow, and having fun, as they found themselves with some unexpected and unplanned time at home. Good for them! I’m sure they’ll make up the work and school time, if, indeed, any was lost. I’m also sure they’ll have some great memories of that time spent together.

I wish I’d known the value of work/life balance when I was 26.

 

 

Future blog features

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I have finished my wordpress tutorials and I’m keen to develop my blog and connect with others. My intention is to blog on a weekly basis, if possible. I envisage that my topics will centre around self-knowledge, work, retirement, age, mental and physical health, all within my theme of “at 26 – what I wish I ‘d known”. At the moment, I’m thinking that I will blog for a year and then stop or, perhaps, change theme. I’ll see where my writing and connections take me. Thanks, in advance, to those of you who will read my blogs. I have already enjoyed and learned from some really professional and interesting blogs out there and I look forward to reading many more. Happy reading everyone!

It builds character

pexels-photo-220237.jpeg“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

So said the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, or at least, the saying has been attributed to him.

I think  Nietzsche’s general drift was – any adversity which you manage to overcome makes you a stronger person in the long run.  Put another way, the fact of living through adversity builds strength of character.

I wish I had read Nietzsche when I was 26, or even earlier. A good friend of mine studied Nietzsche for her philosophy degree, as I recall. I wish she had referred this buzzy little quote to me back then, when I was an undergraduate with her. It took me a long time to work it out for myself.

When I look back now, I see that many of the things which knocked me back and made me doubt myself were nothing more than life’s up and downs. Back then, if I failed or did badly in a test or exam, I thought my life was over. If, as regularly happened, the guy of my dreams barely registered my existence or, worse still, fancied one of my friends, I thought I would be on my own forever. When I didn’t get the job I really wanted or the role I coveted, I thought my efforts were worthless.

I wish I had known that getting through to the day after the adverse event, and then finding my equilibrium again, would, one day, make me a stronger person; that I would eventually learn to reason with and pacify myself. Of course, that process of managing myself is still very much a work in progress. What I would like to have known, though, back then, was that many years of picking yourself up and dusting yourself off do have an effect. That effect is to prepare you and give you strength to bear some of the harder knocks, when they come, as they do to all of us. Back when I was sweating some of the smaller stuff, albeit important to me at the time, I wish I’d known that I would have time to build defences and protection against some of life’s crueller vicissitudes. I would like to have known that.

Mind matters

pexels-photo-416696.jpegToday, I had a read of John Sutherland’s post, “Silver Linings”. He was a high-ranking police officer in the Metropolitan police who had to leave the force when he became mentally unwell. The stress of the job caught up with him.

I wish I had known, when I was 26, that we would one day talk more openly about issues of mental health. Thirty years ago, when I entered the legal profession, that didn’t happen. In the ’80s, there was a “macho” culture, across many professions and jobs, in which strength was exemplified and perceived weakness was scorned. At least, that’s how it felt to me. Certainly, I did not feel that there was a safe space for me to speak honestly about my fears, anxiety and lack of confidence in my ability to do the job. Unspoken, I think such feelings can build to unbearable stress, which can cause people to be ill and/or to leave their jobs. At least, now, there seems to be greater recognition of the need to devote as much attention to mental as to physical health.

I was cheered to see a news piece about teenagers in a UK school, who were being taught how to maintain mental well being and to support their peers to have good mental health. The earlier in life people recognise the need to focus attention on mental, as well as physical health, the better, I say. When those kids are 26, I hope they are better equipped than generations before them, to deal with the many and varied challenges that life inevitably will throw out to them. I also hope there is no slippage on this mental health focus. There is a lot of work still to be done.

Me and my dog

I wish I’d known, when I was 26, how much I could love a dog. If I had, then I wouldn’t have waited 30 years to get my first one. I have a lovely partner, friends and relatives; but in all of these years, I have never experienced the non-judgemental, unconditional connection I have with my beautiful dog, River. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all sweetness and light. Picking up poo, going out in bitterly cold weather when the wind is driving into my face and slipping through gloopy mud – well, just let’s say, I could do without all of those and not miss for a second. Far outweighing all of those, however, is the deep and soulful look I get from her if I am down or scratchy, the way she sticks by my side when someone approaches, whom she doesn’t trust for me, and the innocent joy and happiness she displays every day in play, when she is fed and on her walks. Thank goodness I ticked this box.