On seams, songs and serial studenting

Everyone needs a hobby. I have some which have endured for decades – singing, reading, getting excited whenever I see a dog, a cat or a baby – and some which are more recently acquired – sewing, accidentally trespassing in pursuit of public footpaths, putting little jumpers onto the dog. And, it would appear, studying.

It’s taking Naomi and me a while to get settled in our new town. It’s hillier than Naomi anticipated, the public transport is less frequent than I expected, and there don’t seem to be (m)any people near our age. There are things which are lovely about it, such as the quirky independent shops, the forests and fields where Benny can run off-lead and play with other dogs, the beautiful seafront just a few minutes’ drive away, the friendly acquaintances we’re starting to make. I wouldn’t say we’ve made any friends exactly, but there are people who we see quite often, either because they work in shops we visit, live nearby or also have dogs, and for me at least that goes a long way towards satisfying my admittedly low need for in-person socialising. Naomi, of course, goes out to work and to the Quaker Meeting, so her extroverted little heart gets a better fill of people than it would if she stayed at home with me.

I did start to feel that I needed something to do other than tutoring, babysitting and cleaning the house, so I’ve taken up two new hobbies: attending a local sewing class, where an experienced seamstress helps her students (mostly middle-aged and retired women) with their projects. I’ve made Naomi a skirt and just started on a dress for me, both of which I bought fabric and patterns for months ago but never got round to. It’s fun and I get far more done than I would if I relied on ever being motivated enough to carve out time to sew at home.

naomi-clock-skirt
I made Naomi a new work skirt, complete with penny farthing-riding hares in bowler hats (totes legit office wear)

I’m also intending to audition for the local light operatic society’s spring production which will be a Gilbert and Sullivan show. I’m quite looking forward to having a reason to sing regularly again, although a trifle nervous of joining what is probably quite a tight-knit community. Then again, it’ll be nice to be part of said community, which probably has a lower average age than the sewing class!

I’ve been struggling a little with a sense of purpose, which is an ongoing process of restructuring my concept of what is worthwhile, what is work, what is contributing. In coming to terms with my choice not to pursue a “conventional” career (whatever that is), I’ve returned to a long-term aspiration: to be a foster carer. Right now we’re not in a position to start the process of being approved, since we plan to move in three years or so, but with that as a goal, I have decided to go back to studying.

From January I’ll be doing a MSc in Child Welfare and Wellbeing. It’s a distance-learning, part-time online course with Oxford Brookes University, and I’m really excited about it! I started looking into the same course about a year ago, while I was still working as a Family Worker, but the timing wasn’t quite right then. It is now, and to my delight they accepted me, subject to receiving two suitable references.

It will be interesting to see how it works out, having a Doctoral student and a Masters student in the family at the same time. The MSc involves a research dissertation and a module on research methods, which are totally alien concepts to me, so I’m fortunate that Naomi will be able to help me there! It’s also handy that our fields overlap; Naomi’s Doctoral research project is going to be on paediatric psychology, so we can chatter excitedly about our work to each other and actually understand the discussion (thank heavens she isn’t studying astrophysics).

Over Christmas I plan to have a careful think about how I will fit studying around my other commitments, and whether I need to, and can afford to, cut down on my paid work a bit. I feel like I’ve got the balance right in terms of tutoring and babysitting, but it might be prudent to return to only occasionally taking on audio transcription work when I have time for it, so that my current two days a week allocated to typing can be repurposed for studying.

Plus, I really need to organise the office! It’s the one room in the house that I don’t consider “finished”, meaning that there are still boxes that haven’t been unpacked and I’m not happy with the layout of the things that are in there. It’s tricky to get it sorted because Benny whines and barks if he’s left downstairs alone, and if I bring him up with me, I have to spend all my time policing him or Paige’s food gets eaten and they have a vicious, hissing standoff. We’re still working on that particular relationship!

Wish me luck, everyone. It’s been over 18 months since I last studied. That’s the longest I have gone without being a student since I was four years old. That’s kind of ridiculous, actually. Ooh, and I just realised something: back to school means STATIONERY SHOPPING. Fab!

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