I have a job. Now I need a mission

After the last couple of weeks hiatus (though I did go for a little walk), here I am back with a new blog about the changes taking place in my life.

This week I finally started my new job. To recap on what this is, after some false starts and random applications, I decided what I wanted was:

  • a job that I could do well without re-training, but that wouldn’t be deadly dull
  • for an organisation doing good work in the local community
  • something low-stress and less intense than my previous job
  • A job which didn’t pay loads, but covered my bills, with a little bit every month left over for hobbies
  • A part-time post, which I could leave on time every day- to leave space for my other goals. (That’s the important bit we’ll come back to!)

Having worked my first week at the new job, I’m feeling encouraged that I’ve found the right thing. The workplace seems friendly and not obviously a toxic workplace or sick system (see Issendai’s interesting blog post on sick systems  which has rang true for me several times, over my years in non-profits!). I’m also really moved and motivated by the results I see coming in from the colleagues working on the ground. They are doing good work, with people who really need it.

So no major red flags, and I can turn my attention to what’s next.

Why don’t I have a mission yet?

What I’ve realised now: I’ve completely re-calibrated my life to have more space for my other goals. This is good!

The tiny snag is, I don’t …actually… totally know what all those goals are yet.

Specifically, I don’t know what I should be doing with my life. I don’t even have a clear idea of how to identify and clarify my mission- as opposed to finding a job or establishing a career. (Hat tip to my friend Emma who put me onto this concept- check out her awesome blog.)

When you start rethinking your relationship with work, and reading about approaches to progressing in your career, you come across a lot of people telling you ‘how to achieve your goals’ or ‘how to focus on your passion’. But what if you don’t know what that passion is? Where do you even start? This has struck me lately as a bit of a surprise. I thought I was pretty far ahead with this life change stuff. Actually, I’m only just rounding the first bend of a track that’s scaling a huge mountain, and I’m not entirely sure I’m trained for it.

mountain in scottish highlands

The mountain looks bigger the closer you get.

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Wanders near Bristol: Rowberrow and Dolebury Warren (Part 2)

(For part 1, see here.)

When I read the word ‘fort’ on a map, despite knowing that this is never going to be the case, a little part of me always hopes for (and maybe still actually expects) an enormous, forbidding stone tower with turrets and ramparts- perhaps with Game of Thrones characters wearing furs, striding around, shading their eyes from the sun and looking majestic.

Of course, this is never the case, and it wasn’t at Dolebury Warren. The fort was constructed in the Iron Age. This is quite a long time ago; so, even though it’s what the archaeologists call ‘very well preserved’, to an untrained casual observer like me, all there is to actually see at Dolebury Warren is a large grass-covered lump- or rather, two large grass-covered lumps (with some piled stones in the surrounds-I assume the stone piles are a more recent addition, though I’m not sure why they’re there).

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Wanders near Bristol: Rowberrow and Dolebury Warren (part 1)

I’m a huge fan of good travel writing. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about travel writing, and what makes travel writing enjoyable to read. (More musings on that at some point, probably).

In the process of that, I started thinking about how I feel when I travel, and explore a new place, and record the details in writing. It’s something that gives me a lot of joy. And yet, I don’t think I need to be anywhere special to have that feeling. A lot of travelling, let’s be honest, is about wandering around an unknown city centre looking for coffee or a toilet-  or else walking through outdoor spaces that nine times out of ten are beautiful, but not necessarily unique.

What makes travelling special, for me, is probably the sense that I am actively involved in my surroundings. I’m somewhere I might only be for a few hours and then never see again, so the experience of being there is something to treasure and experience fully.

When I thought about it that way, I realised there was no real reason not to make more effort to explore and write about my local neighbourhood a bit more. I often go for hikes and trips around Bristol, but it’s never occurred to me to document them. Yet the area in which I live has just as much to be seen and worthwhile to record as anywhere else I’ve travelled.

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Next steps.

I have been writing today while listening to music, something I haven’t done for a while. While unemployed, I’ve cut back on luxuries, which included streaming subscriptions, so it’s been less enjoyable to listen to music as it’s interrupted by adverts. However, I now put up with them as a necessary evil.

So I was writing and stopping to stare out of our skylight, kind of vacantly. Suddenly an airplane appeared between two black phone wires and hung there as if suspended. It moved slowly across my eyeline and I felt like there was an invisible thread, connecting me directly to all those people far away in that tiny plane. It was strange how a two-dimensional view suddenly became so layered. The plane traveled along the wires and then it was gone, past the windowsill and out of my sight and the view was flat again.

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My journals, revisited

I’ve gotten into the habit of writing a journal, which I began when travelling and after some encouragement from my Dad (who is always right about such things).

Often, what I write is basically a stream of consciousness. Sometimes the words veer abruptly from wittering about pancakes into blasts of worried sentences that seem to come out of nowhere, stuff I’m clearly anxious about, but didn’t know I was until it poured out. I also often write down quotes from books or people that strike me as interesting, or inspirational.

I find I usually have no recollection of the words when I go back and read them again- it’s like it pours out of the brain and onto the page. This is probably why I find writing a journal helpful; it’s like the mental equivalent of unclogging a blocked sink.

However, it also means that revisiting the journal becomes strangely enjoyable. I rediscover whole parts of my life I literally forgot I lived through, and it feels like my life as a whole gets bigger and fuller as a result of refreshing those memories. I can’t believe how many trips I’ve been on when I wasn’t journaling that have almost totally disappeared from my mind. I spent an entire year living in Thailand once, and my recollections are pretty limited to vague impressions of yellow t-shirts, shopping malls, children with identical haircuts, brightly lit beach parties, and myself wandering around some empty streets drinking iced coffee out of a plastic bag. It makes me sad to think about what I’ve lost.

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Women on their own don’t necessarily need company. But how angry should I be about this?

I was reminded of this topic by writing in my last post about the fact that I now (unlike younger me), have no problem telling people who get in my personal space when I’m on my own in a public place to please leave me alone, if needed.

There’s an experience I recently had that has stuck with me. I was in a Spanish airport last Autumn, returning from a holiday.  Opposite me in the airport lounge was a young woman, about 17. She was sitting quietly minding her own business with earphones in, when Sportsbag Guy (circa: 35) sidled up to her- from the other side of the airport- clearly on a pretext.

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