academics, Self-reflection

What will you take with you?

Almost exactly 2 years ago I had probably the only truly “good” ending I have had in my life when I left my university job after 26 years. Why was it good? I think that’s a combination of having been able to plan it and be in control of much of it, leaving myself time to enjoy the bits of it I was going to miss, and the sheer physical task of clearing an office after that long meant that it was all very real. Sometimes I spend so much time in my head that physical cues and meaning are especially meaningful. And yes, work did throw me two send-offs where they said nice things, and I hosted one myself – all pre-pandemic – which definitely helped.

A great friend and former colleague of mine is leaving his role this week after a similar length of time. These would be my tips for him and anyone else making this kind of move:

  • Accept that you will never finish everything as neat and tidily as you would like. Pick the three things that are most important for you to leave well and sort those. Then make time for conversations with the people you will miss, and for processing your own thoughts and emotions.
  • All the nice things that people say in the next few weeks and genuine, authentic and true. Practice receiving them generously and don’t downplay your contribution. It might get overwhelming. Truth be told, I can’t remember the details of everything lovely that was said at my leaving do’s, but I do remember a general feeling of warmth, appreciation and love in it’s broadest sense. In both directions! My oh-so-wise research group made sure that I had copies of the presentations and the videos that my former students had made as I definitely couldn’t take them in at the time.
  • Just like you choose what to take with you from your office (in this case this is relevant but it may not be for those working from home or with a different working environment), you can choose what to take with you in your head and your heart. What will you take, and what will you leave behind?

Starting a new role or adventure is a great opportunity to make changes. I’m not saying you should feel that you have to reinvent yourself, but you can choose how you want to start out (and if you feel you can’t because you feel you have to behave in a certain way to fit in, then we need to have a chat about where you are moving to and why!).

coaching topics, Self-reflection

Woman, Interrupted… constantly!

Self-care. Love or hate the phrase, it’s pretty much impossible to avoid at the moment. Personally there are some days I don’t mind it, and other days when it really makes me groan. I’m not sure why to be honest.

However, I belong to a number of social media groups around being a freelancer. One of those groups is having a themed month around self-care, so to join in, I’ve been reflecting on “What self-care means for me?”

Many of the suggestions you usually find in articles about self-care (journaling, long baths, meditation etc) don’t really do it for me I’m afraid, but alongside some very practical things like keeping on track with health checks of all sorts, and trying to find some space in every day where I am alone and there is NO NOISE, I have realised that being able to finish things is a form of self-care for me.

To do list with a green pen tick in the first box

I have SOOOOO many things that are half-started. This is not surprising in the work context and absolutely fine unless I’ve said “yes” to too many things. But it’s more about the rest of life. I’ve got several books that I am part way through (shudder), we’ve got doors that have had one coat of paint on for months but need two to be finished, and almost everything I sit down to do at the weekend gets interrupted. I love my family but they aren’t always good at recognising when I am in the middle of something, even if it’s cleaning a particular room.

If I’m really going to practice self-care, I am going to need to finish some of these things. Now if everyone could just go away for a bit then that would be great. (Or more likely I’ll realise it’s not them stopping me finishing things, it’s me – but at least I would know that!)

Wish me luck!


Quotes about endings and beginnings

There are lots and lots of quotes out there about endings and beginnings. Many use books and chapters as metaphors, and there are also a lot about journeys and paths. Or maybe those are the ones I find because I like books and walking (and algorithms are clever and scary)?

The thing with quotes is that sometimes they resonate with you and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it’s the words themselves, or sometimes it’s the words and image together. Many involve sunsets or sunrises. The same quote and image can feel cliched and trite on one day and powerful the next. So if these don’t work for you today, I am sure there will be one somewhere that will. Or maybe make your own with your own thoughts on endings and beginnings and a picture that’s meaningful for you. This could be a great coaching activity



Sometimes you know the end is coming. For example, I know that Covid bubbles permitting, I now have just 9 mornings of walking my son to primary school left. Nine mornings of seeing where the baby sparrows have gone today, nine mornings of counting cats (if there is one he wins, zero I win, two his Dad wins… record is five…) and nine mornings of my hand being dropped at a certain point as he whispers “School Zone now Mum”.

Parent and child holding hands

Other times you don’t know it’s the end until after it happens! Who knew that the sports day we attended two years ago that we knew was the last one we would attend with our older son would actually also be the last one we attended with our younger one. Obviously the pandemic has brought many unexpected endings for many people – and missing out on sports day is relatively minor compared to losing loved ones, or your own physical and mental health.

But endings big or small are important. We need to be able to have an end before moving on to the next thing. Sometimes they are clear, sometimes they are blurry, sometimes we only recognise them after the event, but what I’ve learnt recently is that without some sort of recognition of that ending (even after the event), the next stages are much harder. It doesn’t have to be a party or big deal (though if that’s your thing, go for it – safely of course) but acknowledging a change or transition, remembering the good things, and learning from the experience definitely allows me to move on in a more positive frame of mind. There have been a number of endings in my life that I haven’t really dealt with in that way, and I need to work my way through those to free up some mental space and find some peace. I am determined not to add another less-than-dealt-with ending to the list, even though it’s hard to think about and feels like it will take time that I just don’t have right now.

What’s making these last two weeks of primary school harder for all of us is that for obvious reasons, those staging points aren’t as we’d expected them to be. School is doing a fantastic job of helping the Year 6s move on given the circumstances but for us as parents leaving a school we’ve been with for 9 years, we’re missing out on our “proper” goodbyes. No sports day or summer fair, the Year 6 production is being filmed instead of us being there, and we are encouraged to pick up away from the playground so we might not even get to see them all say goodbye, shirts covered in ink.

So what to do? Well, I’m planning on writing a letter to the school saying thank you obviously, and making a donation to be spent on something to improve the facilities for staff. I’ve been collecting science and diversity books to give to the library and there will be the usual farewell present for the teacher. The emotional side is harder. I know I’m going to be a mass of emotions on the last day (I already have a lump in my throat writing this). What I learnt from two years ago when my older son left, is that sharing a bit of this with him, rather than being endlessly positive, was helpful all round. So we’ll probably end up laughing and crying as we remember the fantastic time he’s had there and the brilliant things he’s learned. I’ll try to get him to write them down (though realistically it will be me doing that), to keep as he goes on his next adventure. We’ll have a family meal out at some point in the next week or so, as we do at the end of every school year. And then we’ll be looking forward and moving on. After all, it’s only a chapter that’s ending, the book continues.