Planes, Trains and Automobiles – work travel

It’s been fifteen years. Fifteen years of intensive work travel.

When I started, I was presented with six A to Z’s. I covered the East of England. My Welsh mentality of all roads leading to the M25 was quickly disproven on a long journey from Luton to Cambridge.

From there I learned the geography of England, covering the country I became familiar with the service stations which had McDonald’s and a map of Tesco petrol stations. I was still at the age where McDonald’s didn’t hit the scales.

From days of racking up over 40,000 miles per year to now, life has changed immensely.Paddington station - Work travelI now drive as a last resort. My preference now is to travel by train. I’ve learned the art of packing an overnight bag. Luggage dependent on how many days I’m working way. Preferred clothes for lightweight packing. 

I’ve perfected the knack of getting through customs on flights to and from Scotland. Fuss-free clothes and shoes for a quick walk-through, not having to be asked to separate electronics and make-up.

Driving now is such a chore, of time wasted. I have timings as to what can be achieved on trains and planes down to a tee. Procrastinating doesn’t seem an option when you’re on fixed time.

I’ve learned to value the time I spend away, rather than begrudging the nights I don’t spend with my family. Remembering to take my camera with me from time to time. Getting to see great theatre.Tower Bridge - Work TravelThere are the journeys I would rather have not taken. The round trip to London for a meeting where the attendee didn’t show. A train destination not reached, left to find our own way from an outer London station, arriving ridiculously late for a workshop. Sat on runways because no-one is available to help us disembark, as the minutes eat away into a meeting I’m supposed to be attending.

Then there are the journeys which affect you, and it takes a little longer to regain your karma.

I’ve written on my Facebook page about my thought that I had developed a fear of flying.
It didn’t make sense, how could I have taken so many long and short-haul flights that now, taking flights to Scotland, I had found a fear of flying.

I rationalised. I’m a weak swimmer. All the airports I use (Cardiff, Edinburgh, London City) all seem close to a large expanse of water.

I found that if I sat in an aisle seat it was fine. If you can’t see it’s not actually happening.

But as I passed my phone to the gentleman sitting next to me on a recent flight to ask him to capture the beautiful pink sunset I realised I had to get to the crux of the problem.The view - work travelAll things said I can’t miss out on the beauty of the world because I don’t want to look out of a window.

As I pondered, I remembered, my worst flight, from where it had all escalated.

29th January 2016. The usual. Taxi pick up 0530, Flight departure 0630.  On take off we were told conditions in Edinburgh were “blustery”. Ten minutes before we were due to land we were informed “options were being assessed. We’re going to go down to investigate. We may divert.” I don’t think I’ve been on a flight where so many white paper bags were opened. Maybe I should just commend myself on using my birthing techniques to breathe through it.

These weather conditions were brought by Storm Gertrude.

And therein lies the problem of flying, the weather isn’t gradual, you can leave one location in perfect conditions and put your faith in someone that you’ll arrive safely at your destination in less than desirable weather.

But you know, that was January. I’ve probably done the journey ten times since then. And yes, there’s a niggle, but it’s not insurmountable. 

Because, if nothing else, when your flying, you have to enjoy the view.The world - Work travel

Going back to University – a Professional Doctorate

Once I had decided that I wanted to pursue a professional doctorate, I admit to taking the easy option in assessing the ‘how’.

In 2008 (pre-pregnancy) I had begun talking to Salford Uni about doing a doctorate at Salford Uni once I’d completed my MBA. It was an easy option: I lived locally, and had been working closely with them on a couple of work-based projects, it was easy to make enquiries. Professional DoctorateIn 2015 my first option was to approach my nearest university- Cardiff. I had approached them last July, before all the redundancy stuff became real, thinking the time would soon be right with the boys starting school in September. The university was really responsive in what was possible. And it was positive. This university offer four options in the school of social sciences, two of which offered possibilities for me. But life got in the way, I started a new role at the end of August and found my substantive role was to be made redundant in October.

In February of this year I started exploring with my organisation the possibility of applying to stay. This included what was important to them and what was important to me.

Fortunately they agreed that my desire to undertake a research project was beneficial to both the organisation and me. And alongside my application for a job I also started building my thought process around a research project at Cardiff, and undertaking a doctorate.

Once again, the university was quick to support me. Helping me understand the commitment expected, the work that had to be undertaken to be accepted onto the programme, and my options now and moving forward. The school also worked with me to understand what I wanted to achieve within my research proposal. I was surprised by the work I needed to undertake for my application, especially being outside of academia with limited access to journals and papers. But I needed to demonstrate why my research proposal would add value, and also allow the university to assess whether they were best placed to support me. Fortunately a supervisor came forward and it looks like my research is really possible.

Being successful in my application to stay at work happened quickly, the process of gaining relevant permissions to undertake study not so much. 

Again, the university was understanding. Typically I worked literally to the deadline to submit my application on July 15th.

Which meant – fortunately- there wasn’t so much of a wait to find out if my application had been successful.

On August 4th an email popped into my inbox- an unconditional offer to undertake a Professional Doctorate in Social and Public Policy at Cardiff University.

I may have celebrated with a bottle of Prosecco.

I realise now that unconditional is logical, I’m not undertaking any current study to make it conditional. But wow, do I remember how envious I was who anyone who received an unconditional offer back in the day.

Then the hangover and reality dawned.

Five years of reality.

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 #6

It was as if I’d been waiting for a perfect time. There wasn’t going to be another Life Lately update until a few things had happened, the planets had aligned.

It’s been taking more than a while for the planets to align. It still hasn’t happened.

And so many times I have wanted to write stuff, but have been put off, “you could, but wait for that one more thing first.” – until you just have to stop.

Because in the last month things are back on course.

The last few weeks I have hated my job with a passion. 

And oddly, I have come to appreciate that this in itself is good.Life LatelyEarlier this year I made a list. I made a list of everything I wanted in a job, realistically. And it turned out the job most closely aligned to it was the one I was doing.

What a wally.

After telling everyone I was taking redundancy, after more than three months of conviction that I was leaving, I had to admit to my boss that actually, if it’s ok really, I’d like to apply for my job.

And it was odd, because the job I then had to apply for was the job I had spent the last six months doing, but not the job from which I was being made redundant.

I placated myself that no-one had got the job in the first round of interviews, no-one who wanted it had been offered it, so I wasn’t taking it from anyone. But how odd would it be that after six months of doing a job that it would come to be that I wasn’t considered able to do the role permanently. Thankfully it turned out ok.

And I truly don’t regret staying.

My job offers so much: personally, professionally, financially.

It offers a work-life balance, and allows one of us to be a stay-at-home parent.

It allows me to be the person I want to be, to not compromise on ethics and values.

But I’ve spent so long hoping that I wouldn’t come to regret my decision, not wanting to admit I had made it,

That I was completely floored a fortnight ago when I became despondent about my job.

I can cope with resistance and negativity, within the organisation or outside the organisation. In fact, I sort of thrive on it, for the best conversations about why and how what we do will make a difference.

It turns out I can only handle one at a time.

And so when faced with both I hibernated.

I began to question things, including my decision.

Opening my daily ‘Guardian Jobs’ emails again.

And then it occurred to me.

I love my job.

But really?

What kind of job exists that you didn’t hate it every now and again?

What kind of perfect was I building myself up to?

How do you build up resistance if your job doesn’t challenge you?

And the truth of it is, in the face of challenge,

My work-life balance has been restored.

We’ve managed to get back to Church.

I look at my lounge and love it again, for it is tidy.

I’ve finally managed to box up all the baby clothes to go up to the attic.

And I’ve spent time with my children.

Life is as is, and we’re living it, with little steps, that sometimes, every now and again, has rhythm. 

Life Lately #2

I think I may need to do more of these type of posts.

Sometimes I scan through the posts I’m writing, and it’s all happening but nothing is said.
Life is moving far too fast at the moment, and I’m remembering to take the moments. It’s just they rarely translate onto my blog.Life LatelyIn work terms, the 30th came and went. The 30th was the deadline to submit my preferences document. I didn’t. I got a gentle email me yesterday letting me know. I sent a gentle email back.
I am opting out of employment.
I am not taking voluntary redundancy. This is being made very clear to me. I am voluntarily opting for compulsory redundancy.
It seems surreal typing it. It feels like a grown up choice when I feel so far from this status.
When I’m questioned I feel even more uneasy.
I know our lifestyle is solely based on my income.
I know that without my income our life will change. Completely.
But for the first time ever, I’m considering that life must be about more.
Without explaining my long story, I accidentally sold my car at the end of August. 
We’ve had two months ‘coping’ with only one car.
I have a feeling of achievement. 
The only time we struggle is at weekends, when the children’s conflicting social arrangements get in the way.
Some news last weekend meant I honestly thought of buying a ‘runaround’ just to accommodate the children.
If I lose my job and don’t find gainful employment, life will have to change.
But why is that such a problem.
That I might have to keep my children busy rather than rely on a runaround car to get my children to their various after school commitments?
The children are of any age now that they can walk to and from school. 
The school which wasn’t selected solely on the premise that it is within walking distance but usually we are so poorly timed we drive half way. (It’s probably walking distance for 7-year-olds but with 4-year-olds it’s a slow amble).
I digress.

Leaving work.
In many ways this choice is making work easier.
The concept of what we are doing I am 100% in support, in execution I am struggling. 
Beyond struggling.
It has kept me awake at night when there is an early train to catch.
And tiredness is stopping me looking elsewhere.
Which simply can’t be the case.
A job popped into my inbox this week, 
A job beyond my capability and within my aspirations.
I need to find the time to find my mindset and apply.
I just need sleep first.

And I’m standing firm on my need to sleep.
After too many weeks of deadlines and travel I am having a whole week working from home.
I stood on protest.
And I was heard.
And I am grateful.

My children are learning to pull my strings.
They don’t like the idea of me working away.
They’re absolutely fine, and talk to me ten to the dozen, when I’m away.
But they do the whole “I don’t want you to go to London.” “Can you take us with you?”. And I wilt.
And yes, when I offer to come home with Kinder Eggs suddenly me being away is welcomed.
And I am loving the way my children are growing up.

CM is becoming more manipulative, which sounds so harsh, but she is becoming more aware of the need to balance more people’s emotions in this act. Mummy is getting as much attention as daddy. Of course, the bursts of emotion when she’s caught out are still prevalent. And it is an absolute (silent) joy to catch her bossing her brothers around and getting caught.

B is becoming more like me than ever.
He was poorly, and whilst it was a disturbed sleep, he fell asleep on Thursday night at 6.30 and woke at 1 the next afternoon.
Definitely my child.
And yet baffled me with his refusal to eat chocolate whilst he was poorly.
And agreed he should go back to school on Monday lunchtime because he was better.

In E I am becoming so proud. For all the wrong reasons.
E has always been the poorliest of my children, for so many reasons.
And I have accommodated and pandered to this.
Maybe, or not, consequentially he has had the slowest speech development of all three.
But oddly, so oddly,
When he is cross, and when he is outraged,
He is the most articulate child that ever there was.
And I have to hold back my pride, and laughter.
He’s not like CM who bursts into tears.
He’s not like B who points and splutters.
He is E.
Who explains why he is hard done to.
And recalls every piece of evidence to support this fact.
And then gives you the look.
Yes, I need to provide my defence.
Of course, I succumb, and face my sentencing.
And see a glimpse of his pride in return.

For all of life lately,
For the things I have and haven’t done.
The things I’ve forgotten,
The things I ought to have done.
I have kept my family.
I have laughed, I have cried.
I have questioned, I have resolved.
And I have come home to love and to be loved.
What more needs to be said.

Life Lately

Lately it seems life is moving far too fast.

I cancelled three of my four days leave this week to accommodate ‘work stuff’.
I didn’t mind so much, I’ve kept the two days I had family stuff planned, and my parents want time with the little people, and hubby I’m sure would like some time too.
And the selfish side is, with redundancy looming closer, it seems an ok choice- I might have all the time in the world for family stuff next year.Happy office prints

Because that’s the thing, I usually ‘reveal all’ in my Word of the Week posts, but then I got sick of myself going on about work. 
So, and please check it out (and even subscribe [please!]), I started vlogging. Vlogging seems a great way to say lots of words quickly, and what started and has become my Redundancy Diaries has also led to me attempting, and loving, putting together our ‘A week in our life’.

And back to the self-obsession, I’ve decided to accept redundancy.
OMG… except it’s not so much, it just feels right… even though there’s a fourteen year history.
And it’s not the ray of sunshine I’d envisaged. 
Two of the jobs I’ve applied for I’ve not been shortlisted.
And that’s been a bit rubbish.
And there’s been the thought… I can apply for any of the jobs which have been made available at work before the 30th.
But no, despite not coping well with rejection, 
Leaving is just the right thing.
And I really do have a while to find an alternative before the sirens, and bank balance negativity, start.
Trying to put focus into leaving work whilst going through a really busy period at work is really tough.

And then there’s all the other family stuff.
Parents evening.
The boys and their boisterousness.
Volunteering at the school and becoming “Mrs Johnson” and struggling with the responsibility.
CM riding her bike and wanting to learn to play rugby.
And going back to Tod for the New Year.

Maybe more updates are needed…