So, what are you all about?

I met someone today who asked me the question that’s become this post’s title. We were meeting with a view to me becoming their occasional babysitter, which is always an odd mixture of relaxed and casual, and job interview formality. I have profiles on various childcare and tutoring websites which set out the rough details of my work history and current situation, but without exception I have always been asked to tell the prospective client family what I do (which seems only right, if they’re considering entrusting their offspring to my care).

I liked this turn of phrase particularly, though. Not, ‘What do you do?’ or ‘What’s your real job?’ – I was once asked that, immediately after I’d told the questioner what my jobs were; apparently they weren’t real enough for his tastes – but, ‘What are you about?’ It seems to take the focus away from paid employment and onto purpose. For some people they’re one and the same, and that’s great, but for many of us there’s more complexity to it.

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Running out of time

As in, I have no time in which to run! My job this month has very long hours (but since we are incredibly busy, they tend to fly by – I looked up today, saw it was ten to five and genuinely wondered whether the clock was broken because it didn’t feel like seven hours could possibly have passed) and the weather is extremely hot. My working day starts at 8am, when I have to be present for breakfast, and finishes at 7pm at the earliest, sometimes later. It’s too hot to run in the evenings until after dark, so my only option is to get up at dawn and run then before it’s heated up much.

Honestly, I’m sort of feeling like I’m too exhausted to get up at 6.30am and go running before working anything between a 9 and a 14 hour day, but then I think about the fact that if I don’t, I will have lost an entire month from my half marathon training plan and I realise that isn’t an option. I’ve switched my training plan back to the slightly easier level I was initially on, not because I can’t physically manage the demanding level but because I haven’t got time to run for 35-60 minutes, four times a week. I’ll kick it back up a notch in August.

I am really enjoying this job, though. It’s very varied, and so far I haven’t managed to mess anything up too badly. I’ve forgotten a few tiny things, but the permanent staff are very on the ball and usually notice before it’s become a problem. I’m getting into the swing of it and I feel like I’m generally on top of things. Tomorrow, however, the summer school classes start and a whole raft of new tasks materialise. My jobs so far have ranged from stuffing information leaflets into cardboard files and vacuuming up flying ants to meeting with the conference manager to discuss meal bookings and making announcements about fire safety.

I’m now off to bed, at an almost unprecedentedly early hour, and hoping that my phone doesn’t ring in the night. It probably won’t, I am not anticipating any emergencies, but if it does I have to answer. Rather concerningly, my work phone has almost no signal in my room, but there’s not a lot I can do about that!

A Few Updates

I started writing a long post about my weekend a few days ago, but it got too long and convoluted, and even I found it boring to read.

So instead, here is a quick list of what’s going on in my life.

  1. I have applied for a flat! I went to view it on Friday and although it is extremely small, it was recently done up and is in a perfect location two minutes from a train station and ten minutes’ walk from a lovely church, a park and various interesting shops and museums. Assuming all the paperwork is fine, I will be moving in the second week of June.
  2. I have a job interview! Slightly in conflict with the previous point, I am interviewing for a summer job here in Cambridge. It would be either a month or a month and a half, depending on which they offer me, but it pays extremely well and I think I’d really enjoy the work. I’ll probably find out whether or not I’ve got it at the start of next month.
  3. Also at the start of next month, I’ll know about the midwifery course – still no word either way. Hopefully the summer job will give me the flexibility either to find a permanent job or to take a few weeks off before the course starts in September.
  4. I’m over the Easter vacation. Although I still have nearly 4,000 words to write on my dissertation (and two and a half weeks to write them in – I’m not worried, it will be fine, but I’ve dropped my revision timetable in order to concentrate on getting those words out) I have had enough of the endless unstructured days.

And now back to work. I have been sitting on some proofreading for over a month and have promised myself (and my client!) that I will finish it tonight. It has been hanging over my head for weeks but it shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to do. One of these days I’ll learn to just get things done sooner.


Revision Motivation

Term has ended, and in its place revision has started (I’m easing into it gently this week, since I have some 7-10 hour choir days to work around). This year is, at last, my finals year which means that I am a little more interested in getting good grades – not stressing about it, but motivated to work. It helps that of my six papers, I am interested in five of them and only finding one of them impossible to follow… and oddly, those exceptions apply to different papers, which will hopefully help me not to fail either of them.

But wanting to do well this year isn’t sufficient motivation to get me to sit down and concentrate for hours at a time. No, what I’m relying on for serious encouragement is a sticker chart. Yup, I’m six years old again, and I have no shame. I’ve drawn up a fairly ambitious but still achievable schedule that has me focusing on each subject for 24 hours in total over the next six weeks. The plan is to tackle them in two three-hour sessions on rotation, and for every completed hour I can add a new coloured dot to my chart. So far I have four dots and am currently on a tea break mid-way through earning a fifth.

It’s funny how it seems to help. Even when I’m genuinely interested in what I’m doing and even enjoying the process of revisiting and summarising my notes, or researching and writing my dissertation, it can be tempting to get distracted by something else. Having a goal to aim for, even if it’s something as simple as sticking a small coloured sticker onto a piece of paper, helps me to stretch out my attention span for a little longer.

And on that note, time to wash the remaining bowls soaking in the sink, switch off Shirley Bassey and get back down to work.

Ready for the New Year

Term starts in the first week of October, and I’ve been making arrangements for the last few weeks. I had to figure out when I’d be moving back into college (in fact I rather messed up – I’m moving in two days before my rent officially starts, so I have to pay extra) so that I could give notice on my storage unit. Choir starts up tomorrow for one service and then into a busy schedule the following Saturday, and I got my lecture timetable a couple of weeks ago.

This year’s timetable is pretty good. I have one 9am lecture (on a Monday, of course…), one 10am and the rest are between 11 and 4. Nothing that will clash with choir or tutoring, only one slightly inconvenient gap between lectures  and a couple of two-hour lectures which is new for me. Choir is on the same days as before, and I’ve got a new tutoring student for Mondays and Fridays. Somehow I let Louise talk me into going to a dance class on Monday nights, and I’ll be a chapel warden which means an extra service most weeks. So much for doing less this year! But I say that every year.

My research for my dissertation has gone pretty well this summer so far, despite the failed trip to the prison in Wisconsin, and I just downloaded Scrivener to organise it. I spent the evening working through the tutorial and it seems even better than I hoped. Is it a bit sad that I’m looking forwards to organising my notes because of a new piece of software?

Early train tomorrow. I only seem to have been here for five minutes – mum stayed in the hospital overnight yesterday so we went to see her in the late evening after I’d had a nap. I intended to go with John to pick her up this morning, but after waking up naturally at 8 and having  breakfast I fell back to sleep until lunchtime. Hopefully it’s just about the end of the jet lag. It will have to be!

Feng Shui Procrastination

On Thursday afternoon I suddenly was overcome by an irrepressible urge to vacuum my room. This could be because the alternative was reading interminable chapters of a book about prisons, but I prefer to believe it was out of an inherent desire to make things clean and tidy. Ahem.

At any rate, I got stuck in and vacuumed thoroughly. I even moved some of the furniture! It was quite the adventure, particularly considering that I hadn’t cleaned up since early February. I discovered an entire colony of dust bunnies living under the radiator.

Then I realised that the alcove with my window in it is just big enough to fit my table, which doubles as my desk. For several minutes I pondered the possibility of moving my armchair out of the alcove and putting my desk there, and then moving my bureau into the space where the table was so that the chair could go where the bureau sat. The purpose, I think, was to create a second workspace where I could sit and make notes from my textbooks without the distraction of my laptop four inches away. My plan was sadly foiled on two counts: one was that the cables for my study lamp and internet connection are not long enough for the table to move, and anyway my laptop wouldn’t fit into the bureau when it closed which would be annoying, and the second was that I can’t actually move the bureau more than about three millimetres without putting my back out. So that plan was foiled.

However, I did tackle the appalling jumble of papers which I  had been storing under the folding top of the bureau.

Remember this mess? Imagine it twice as bad and then double it.

Remarkably, it didn’t take me very long to sift through the contents, pick out the treasures and discard the rest. I discovered that I apparently am an inveterate collector of empty white envelopes. I get paid each week in cash placed inside a small, otherwise unused envelope, and for some reason I keep them all. Well, not any more! The new improved me will no longer horde unused and unusable envelopes on the off-chance that I might some day buy a small card without its envelope. The new improved me instead has a tidy selection of filing slots, and a clear work surface for her books and papers.

And the new improved me is off to take advantage of exactly that work surface by swivelling 90 degrees to the right. Exciting times.

A Month of Contradictions

The weirdest thing happened on Sunday. It was suddenly summer. The sun was out, the temperature was high, the magnolia tree outside my window began to open its buds. People were sitting on the lawns eating picnics and pretending to work. It felt like mid-June, not early March.

It was particularly weird because the Sunday before, it snowed. The flakes didn’t settle but it was definitely snow – big, fluffy flakes falling in blizzard formation and making it feel like January.

I think the weather lately has been a metaphor for my life at the moment. Some days I feel like I’m on top of the world. I’m earning my own money, I’m keeping myself and my room in order, I’m getting good marks on my essays and I’m on top of my work. I’m exercising regularly and cooking healthy meals every day.  I’m a successful adult.

Other days it all seems to collapse, just like every sponge cake I’ve ever made. I oversleep and have to sprint to lectures without breakfast. I run out of pound coins for the washing machine. I realise I have only got enough time to either finish the reading, or write the essay, but not both. I arrive at a supervision and discover I haven’t actually understood a single thing. I’ve run out of food. I’m a total failure.

Obviously the reality is somewhere in between. My work ethic isn’t perfect and my time management still could use some work, but on the whole I’m working harder and more efficiently than ever before. I’m getting better marks, but I could get even better ones if I spent a bit more time on my work. I’ve talked about this before and I won’t bore you by going over it again.

The end of term is a funny place to be. The vacation is tantalisingly close – technically, term finishes today, at 5pm. In reality as is always the case term actually has spilled over into the next two or even three days: I have a lecture at 11am tomorrow, a supervision at 12, an essay due on Friday and another three due by the end of the month. The choir is embarking on a five day epic of rehearsals, concerts and recordings of possibly the worst music in the world (save me).

I always seem to run out of steam at this point. The amount of work I’ve got left seems so ridiculously overwhelming that I just have to accept that there is no way I’m going to manage it all. The idiocy of running myself into the ground in order to get an essay written by midnight when I can just get up and write it in the morning seems even more marked when I’ve got nothing particular to do for the next five weeks other than write essays and revise. The irony of having six essays set in a fortnight when I’ve only done three all term is no less marked this time than it was before Christmas.

My focus has shifted. Lent term has lost all interest for me. I’m looking ahead to the dinner party I’m hosting at the weekend, the enormous three-person birthday party at the end of the month, the mammoth task of clearing out my bedroom in my dad’s soon-to-be-sold house, and just seeing my family again. Work, at this point, is something that will come in April – three weeks of solid, concentrated revision capped by a weekend on retreat with the Chapel, before exam term grinds into gear. It doesn’t make sense that I’d have to do things now. Term has finished, hasn’t it?

Well, not quite. And on that note, please excuse me. I have half a dozen cases and a textbook chapter to read before 3.30.