December reflections Day 14 – 10 years ago

10 years ago I was 45 and a mature student in 3rd year at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, studying for a BSc in Mathematics with Teaching.

Anyone who knows me was astonished that I was studying Maths. At school I had favoured Arts subjects like English, French, German, History, Music. But, in 2004 my daughter was studying Higher Maths at school and I was unable to help her with her homework, not having studied to that level myself.

At a parents’ meeting, I expressed my disappointment at this to the teacher and he suggested I could go to the school as an adult returner and study the course in a different class to my daughter.

I discovered that I loved Maths and soon I was helping the kids in the class with their homework too. The teacher of the class suggested to me that I study Maths at university and become a teacher.

As I had only been working part-time after recovering from my first burnout, I thought this was an excellent idea and based on my school qualifications and a pass in Higher Maths I was given a place at Strathclyde.

I loved being a student again. I had gone to St Andrew’s University to study French and German when I was 18, but had dropped out after one term. I was delighted to have a second chance at a university education. There was a small group of mature students on the course who became great friends and the younger students were friendly and welcoming of us “oldies”. I have many happy memories of the Student Union!

Although I had a flat in Glasgow during the week for most of my course, in 3rd year I travelled  by train, as for some of the year I was doing teaching practice in local schools.  I have fond memories of the 06.30 train , it took 2 hours 20 mins to get to Glasgow, calling at every whistlestop along the way. I had the best marks of my university career that year as I studied all the way there and all the way back!

I wrote this memory recently:

“I am sitting in the Barony Hall with the class of 2009. I am 47 years old and about to graduate with a BSc in Mathematics with Teaching with First Class Honours. Only 6 years earlier I had been almost completely bed bound, felled by both CFS and a painful back problem that would require surgery. I rarely ventured out and then only with the help of Oramorph and my husband pushing me in a wheelchair. The sense of pride in my recovery and achievements brought tears to my eyes. I was starting work as a Probationer Teacher in my local high school, 5 minutes from my home. I was filled with excitement at the possibilities that lay ahead. The future was bright.

Little did I know that only 7 years later, I would be back where I started, in bed, exhausted, frightened and alone.”

December Reflections – Day 13- 5 things about me

  1. I am a left-handed Gemini.  When I was young, I wanted to start a club. I was going to invite Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan!
  2. I have a borderline obsession with cashmere. My idea of a perfect outfit is pyjamas that can double as outdoor wear, cashmere socks and a cashmere sweater!
  3. I have been a waitress, a bartender, a receptionist, a civil servant, a conveyancer, a wedding celebrant at Gretna Green, a library assistant, a mature student at university, a course leader, a psychotherapy trainee, a teacher, a writer, but I really, really wanted to be an opera singer. In my next life, I want to be an Italian soprano!
  4. I am a highly sensitive person, extremely intuitive, bordering on psychic! I thought I was an extrovert, but discovered during my recovery that I am an introvert who needs lots of time alone.
  5. I LOVE eggs! If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life it would be eggs, particularly brought to me on a breakfast tray by my lovely husband, with a greedy cat grudging me every bite!

December Reflections- Day 12 Reflection

So I had the idea to go for a walk this afternoon when it got dark, to take photographs of Christmas lights reflected in windows.

What I hadn’t factored in was that it had rained earlier, then the temperature had dropped below freezing so the pavements were like glass.

Add in a puppy excited to be outside and my walk was more like being pulled on water skis!

I got some (rather shaky) reflections but was very glad to get home and get the kettle on!

 

December Reflections – Day 11 I discovered that……….

I discovered that I don’t need to hide.

So much of me was hidden. I was taught to fit in. I learned to hide my light, I learned to be good. I tried so hard to please that I almost forgot who I am.

Almost.

The dreams I had were buried under the frantic pace of my life and the roles I chose to play. They came tapping on the window of my soul, but I didn’t listen so they had to knock the house down.

The longing for something more, something I could not name was rising. In the moments before sleep, I imagined lives I might have lived. But the alarm was set for 5, there was no time for dreams.

The longing persisted, the tiredness increased, the world faded to black and white.

I wondered why doing what was expected, getting what I was supposed to want, felt so incomplete. I called myself ungrateful, decided to focus on gratitude for everything I had.

The longing persisted.

The search continued, the world is full of ways to be content. I wondered if it was too late for me, I was so tired, so busy, so taken up with the needs of others. I scribbled in journals, words full of longing and despair, words I thought I would show no one.

The longing persisted, telling me that share I must.

But I felt as though I was lumbering through the world, barely keeping up with all that had to be done. How could I share? Others have done it better, more eloquently than me. What could I add?

But it would not let me go.

It is not too late and nothing is wasted.

Everything awaits us in this moment. The dishes, the screaming child, the poetry, the imagination, the stillness beneath it all.

The longing cannot be fulfilled in some far off future.

The longing is calling me to THIS moment.

The world needs my voice. The world needs your voice. It needs to hear about our love, our pain, our loneliness, our belonging, our joy, our sorrow, the light in our eyes, the tears streaming down our faces. The whole damn catastrophe.

We need all of it. We need to come out of hiding, we need our light to remind us of the truth.

I discovered that I don’t need to hide.

Neither do you.

December Reflections – Day 9 Biggest Change in 2017

Photo credit : Stacey Maisch

I have cheated a bit today as I didn’t have a photograph of my own to illustrate my biggest change.

In March this year, I retired from teaching on the grounds of ill-health.

To say I was devastated is an understatement.

I had gone back to university at the age of 43, graduated with a degree in Maths and Teaching when I was 47 and worked as a Maths teacher and Principal Teacher of Pupil Support for 7 years. I loved my job, but the stress and long hours led to burnout.

Knowing what I know now, there is much I would do differently, if I could go back and do it all again.

I mourned the loss of my career but in August when my teacher friends were posting on Facebook that the summer holidays were over for them, I realised that, not only had I recovered from my burnout, but I was happy I was not joining them at the chalkface!

In order to regain my health, I had to question my part in my burnout. This was humbling, painful and ultimately liberating.

Who knows what the future hold for me. It is full of as yet unknown opportunities.

What I know for sure is that no experience is ever wasted. I have learned so much. It seems it is often the most painful experiences that teach us the most.

I loved being a teacher.

I love not being a teacher.

Perhaps acceptance of what is, is the biggest change of all!