Going back to University – again

University is one of those really odd prospects.

When I was younger, I think it was just a given that I would study for a degree.

I don’t think it was as much a given for my older brother but he did, he took the decision to study in England. Now, too many years on, he has built a successful career on the back of his degree, and since he graduated has probably only spent a handful of years living in the UK.
My younger brother didn’t go to uni, and I believe his success outranks mine and that of my older brother. My little brother is a creative, an innovator, and appears to have work life balance completely in control.

I think about my children, and whilst currently there are no university fees in Wales, I can’t help but think this won’t be the case long-term. I consider now that going to university has to completely align to an aspiration of going into a profession, given the debts it is likely attendance will stack up. Compared to a degree-level apprenticeship, where in the right occupation you will earn more and be more credible by gaining employment whilst you earn rather than going to university.

That said, like any amazing parent I don’t practice what I preach.Back to universityI think I was in one of the final years in the UK where a non-profession based degree had currency in employment. In more recent years I have found myself recruiting people with higher academic qualifications to do lower level jobs. There seemed to be a time where academia became overrated.

It would seem for being born at the right time (even as an August baby!) I am grateful.

I graduated from Cardiff University in 1999, in the same year I also graduated from Glamorgan University. The former with a BA (Hons) the latter with a HNC.

In 2001 I started working for the organisation which still employs me- despite everything. My degree was not relevant to my role, but the commitment to achieve it obviously had currency.

And fortunately the organisation invest in its people. In the time I’ve been employed I have added a string of qualifications to my bow which have stood me in good stead.

The one of which I am most proud is my MBA. I am not really sure what inspired me to commit to it, but I gained so much through the achievement.

It saw me through some of my toughest times personally and professionally. It saw me gain a promotion. It allowed me to understand fully the camaraderie of classmates. All of us in jobs trying to get a work-study balance. Many with families, many gaining partners, and families. It also enabled a once-in-a-lifetime study trip (ahem) to Beijing, where I think I spent the first days in complete disbelief of where life had taken me. MBA university students in BeijingIt saw me become pregnant, and trying to balance work and a dissertation with my impending due date. Fortunately CM went overdue which meant I managed to graduate, and graduate with my 4 month old daughter. MBA university graduation with 4mth babyAnd that was it.
My life became absorbed with family.

And whilst I have done a few courses since- and loved them, I have tried to sign up to longer term qualifications and  known at induction that I was not committed to them- you have to want to study, there will be compromises. And up until now I haven’t been able to make them, I haven’t wanted.

But with impending redundancy came reflection.
I remembered that before the dream of a family was the aspiration of a doctorate.
Thoughts cemented around a research area.
With compressed hours, living back in South Wales, and the children now immersed in education. 
Well, it seems the timing is right.

Life Lately #4

I’m not doing any better with my blog. I have grand plans, then life gets in the way.

I started writing this yesterday morning, on a plane. We’ve been running workshops at work, and it seems it’s most convenient for me to cover Scotland as my flight allows me to spend the day there. And it’s more reasonably priced than the train.
I’ve got into a bit of a routine with it.  I have the same taxi driver every time (I’m guessing very few like a 0530 start), pick up a coffee, board, put phone in flight safe mode and start writing a blog post.
On the flight yesterday we were still high up when the plane was due to land, it seems the ‘blustery’ weather described in Edinburgh when we took off was slightly underestimated. 

Worst. Flight. Ever.

I only found out after landing about Storm Gertrude which hit Scotland, I wouldn’t like to say what the wind speeds were as we were trying to land, I think 90mph was cited up in the Shetlands. 
Not knowing this, I questioned why I was feeling so ill on the flight- I still think they had the temperature quite high. But after they announced that, unable to make a decision by circling, we were going to go down to investigate further, and maybe this would result in a diversion, I realised it wasn’t me.
From that point onward I mainly had my eyes shut, and focused on my breathing.
It turned out the rustling paper wasn’t a sound in mind, people felt it a lot worse than me.

I felt exhausted before the day had even begun.
And half way into the workshop, not only did everything go wrong with the content of my presentation, but I started sneezing.
Back at the airport I knew a full cold had taken hold.

And so today I’ve spent the day in pjs, sleeping, watching movies with the little people. Probably reinforcing everything I wrote on the plane. We need to find a slower pace:Life LatelyI shouldn’t be surprised anymore.
I’m not really sure I can remember the last time our life had any sense of a relaxed pace, or routine, so I think it’s time to stop thinking life should be anything other than what it is, and learn to embrace it.

I think it’s because if feels like we’ve lost our weekends. The little people do activities on a Saturday morning, CM also has something on a Sunday afternoon; and between chores and exhaustion it just feels like the weekends are passing us by.
I beat myself up that the children are missing out on all the activities we should be going out to do.
But then I have to keep myself in check. Thanks to some more treats for the boys from their birthday I spent last Sunday building Lego with them, CM had her first sleepover at Grandma’s and they had all gone to a party on Saturday afternoon. It was a jam-packed weekend, but it still grinds at me that we should be doing more.

On the plus side, we’re sticking to our plan to get back to Todmorden more regularly. Mr J and CM are going back in half term. We couldn’t find anywhere to stay as a family, but I think this will be a good adventure for all of us, and I’ll see what fun I can create for the boys and then they’ll stay at my parents for their treat.
And then we’re booked to go back over Easter. And already I am so looking forward to a week away from it all with nothing but family.

Work wise, I’m trying to find my way through stuff. As the New Year dawned I found myself in an odd place, after three months of certainty that I would take redundancy I started to question, and be questioned by friends and family, why I was leaving.
Work have been great, they have been urging me throughout the process to stay, and when I stuck to my convictions we agreed I’d stay either until I found something else or they were ready for me to go.
And I realised there was no sense of urgency on either part. Because with that security blanket I lost any motivation to look for work. And the jobs I did find I weighed up against the one I am doing, and it transpires my job is a good one.

Throughout the process there have been things keeping me going:
They were making me redundant.
They moved me from a job I loved into a new role.
Eight weeks later my substantive role was made redundant.
In my mind I was half way out the door already having given up a job I loved and still finding my feet in the new role.
I had always said if they chose to make me redundant I would respect that view and leave.
And then, yes, there was the redundancy pay. Which, matched with other money, would pay off our mortgage.

And now.
Six months later, I love my job.
It’s exciting, challenging, fast paced, and we’re building a team.
I still work compressed hours and get a day of week to do stuff. I’ve been volunteering at the school on my afternoon off, and yep, it does feel good to give back for all the other times I’ve been working away and reliant on other parents to help out.
I get to meet with mum or friends for coffee and not feel guilt because it’s not time I can be with the children.
I get to manage my diary to some extent. Which means I now make the most of my time in London, meeting friends or going to the theatre.
I get to nip off the train on the way home and catch up with friends for drinks.

Basically I have semblance of a work life balance which I cherish.

I work for a charity which pays well.
I think this is the one thing I never really thought about.
I need to be able to justify to myself why I go to work, why I’m not at home for my children. Knowing, however far removed I am, that we’re working to improve someone’s prospects, help young people in making informed decisions, improve working conditions for all; well, that sort of puts things in a perspective I can rationalise.
Looking around, it’s difficult to find something comparable locally.
And then it’s figuring out whether work-life balance or values is the greater priority.
When there’s a job which fits the bill already.
And I’m doing it.
But if I stay, we won’t be paying off the mortgage.
More reflection needed!

But, before all of this, there’s a little girl who’s going to be 7 soon.
And wants a making Monster High party.
And something tells me I’m going to get very distracted planning this one!