It’s amazing the toll that stress can take on your body. It’s also amazing how your body can adapt to previously unheard of regimes (such as fresh lemon and hot water – a bitter but effective detox – in the morning) in order to restore it to its proper balance.

I’ve had almost seven weeks out of an office environment and in the last two I have finally, thankfully, begun to feel like me again and my body is singing thankfulness to me for giving it a much needed rest. A new job, a new routine, new challenges and new opportunities await and I’m so looking forward to it all. My mind is back to a place where it has room to process, my body has energy with little pain and I have established a set of eating and daily habits that will hopefully serve me well.

So… things I’m looking forward to:

  • That Friday feeling. When you haven’t had to work during the week, the weekend blurs into just another day and you lose its value. You need to work hard to be able to understand that kind of relaxation and I’m looking forward to getting back to working hard.
  • Listening to Radio 4 in the morning. Being in touch with the world beyond your own bubble is great for perspective. My commute has become significantly longer with my new job so I’ll be tuning in in the earlier hours and getting my global news fix.
  • Managing a team. I’ve seen some outstanding examples of how NOT to manage people in the last few years and I’m so grateful I have an opportunity to manage a team in a way that inspires them and enables them to excel. I hope and pray I do it well!
  • Incorporating my rest habits into my new work routine. My skin is glowing, my stomach is happy and my energy levels are restored. There are ways I can continue this even with early mornings and I have every intention of doing so! The hot lemon is a great way to start but so is the significantly reduced sugar intake, the decent amount of rest, the flexible time and prioritising my time with God, husband, family and friends without trying to please and look after everybody.

Hubby and I are marching into an exciting new season. Onwards!

Following in the footsteps

My childhood was peppered with events, communication and travel. It is my father’s profession and it has become mine – out of my own choice I hasten to add. From the first moment I was given a small responsibility at a conference in Africa, the adrenalin of production filled my being, the rush of effective communication flooded my soul and I knew that one day, when I was grown up, I would follow in my father’s footsteps.

Through events and communication, I have an inroad to making an impact. There are so many channels that this career path can be funnelled into and I love the variety and potential it holds. The opportunities it presents are numerous and the idealist in me hopes that one day, I can use it to make a real difference in the world.

So it was with great joy that I got a chance to work with my father again this past week. He was running an event and needed a couple of extra hands on the night with production and hosting. The event was effortless, relaxing, slick and perfectly executed – a testament to his decades of experience in the sector. But it also served as  a reminder to me of all that he has taught me over the years. From small nuggets of practical advice (always hold the wire down when you pull gaffa up) to more technical instruction about AV equipment, I was finally useful to him in my own right. All that he has passed onto me has become part of my knowledge and it was so wonderful to be able to work with him as a professional not just as his daughter.

I know that I am not my father and I don’t aspire to be. I don’t have his experience yet and we both have our own ways of working. But following in his footsteps doesn’t mean I have to be a mini-him. He didn’t want to recreate his own dreams in me, he just walked with me to discover my own way of doing things and gave me some great advice along the way.

I’m proud to share the same profession as my father. His footsteps are worth treading in.

Work like the ant

I’ve found that when I have a productive day at work, I enjoy my leisure time immeasurably more. When I have been fruitful in my day’s work, my rest is the more refreshing for it.

Proverbs 6:6

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
    officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
    and gathers her food in harvest.

When I’ve had a lethargic day in the office, I am restless in the evenings, slow to settle and quick to fidget. The opposite is true if my day’s labour has been rewarding – I am quick to unwind and enjoy the pleasure of a job well done.

Don’t get me wrong, a frustrating day at work will keep me wound like a coil for a long time after I get home and I am then equally slow to unwind as if I’d had a day that yielded little or nothing. But somehow, it is a different kind of relaxing that is slow to be forthcoming as it is then my mind, not my body, that demands time to relax.

The latter, however, is something I have less control over than the former. I have only myself to blame if I haven’t geared myself up to produce something worthy of the time given to me in my day. Frustrations are inherent in the workplace and come from a combination of sources, most of which I have little or no control or influence over, so those days I simply accept that my mind will take a while to relax. But where possible, I would like to learn from the ant, working hard when I have the energy and motivation to do so and revelling in the rewarding relaxation that ensues.

An immigrant’s story

I had lunch today with three lovely colleagues and somewhere in the middle of our conversation I realised that all three of them would be classed as immigrants. To me, they are my colleagues, highly capable in their fields and settled (for the most part) in their lives in England. One is Nigerian, one is Polish and the other is American. The Nigerian has been here 8 years, as has the Polish colleague, but my American colleague only moved here 6 months ago.

I find it fascinating that something happened in all of their lives to uproot them and move them to a new country to start over. Interestingly, all three of them said they wouldn’t choose to do it again and yet, it is part of their story. It is part of where they are today.

We got to talking about the classic ‘immigrant’s story’ of moving with the hope of a better life – dreams of a good job, a beautiful house, a healthy family and no worries. But of course, the grass is not always greener on the other side. As a wonderful friend of mine put it to me earlier this week “the grass is only greener on the other side until you walk up to it”. So I continued asking these colleagues questions, about how they each found their new lives.

The Nigerian moved his family away from something he felt would suffocate them and potentially put them in danger. He had reached a stage of his career where he had nowhere to go except start his own company and become his own MD. He has been very successful and is very happy in his new life but still, when I asked him, he said that one day, he will move home and “finish his life where he started it.”

The Polish colleague moved here to be with a girlfriend. She was French, he was Polish, they met in Denmark and when they finished their studies they wanted a new country to call their own. They broke up not long after moving to England but both stayed in the country and he has now made a life for himself here. When I asked him whether he would consider moving back to Poland, his response was simply “I have nothing there for me now, it would be just as hard to move back as it was to move here.”

The American colleague moved here with her new husband because of his work. She was blessed to find work fairly quickly but she is still in those initial overwhelming stages of her new life. She hasn’t met very many people yet and work has been tough on her until our recent move. She was the only one who, when I asked, said, almost blinking back tears, “yes, I would move back home in an instant.” She misses her friends, her family and her old life. I asked her if the positives outweighed the negatives of being here and without a moment’s hesitation she said, “He makes everyone worthwhile.” Completely as it should be, her love for her husband trumps everything.

Three completely separate reasons and yet three very similar stories.

What made me sad was when we realised that a lot of homeless people in the UK are immigrants and they are not homeless for lack of trying. Perhaps they were a little naïve in believing that their dream job, house and relationships would materialise within weeks of arriving in this new and exciting country but the thing that stops them from returning home is rarely the failure itself, it is the shame. Our society is so conditioned to believe that a good job, money, a big house and a perfect relationship are what define success that we unwittingly force others to believe they are unworthy if they do not achieve their initial plan. Without realising it, we stifle dreams, shatter hope and clothe others in shame instead of lifting them up, walking them through and encouraging a new dream.

Even though my three colleagues have escaped the all too familiar immigrant’s tale, they are so aware of what they have achieved. They don’t measure their success by the fact that they have secured stable work. Their success is what they achieved in overcoming the loneliness, the challenges and the risks that are involved in beginning again.

I want to live counter-culturally, without judging those who don’t always live up to the established definition of success, because I myself am one of them. We all are. None of us have a perfect job, a perfect home and a perfect relationship. But we do have each other and in a culture that is so defined by loneliness in a crowd, I want to make sure that my eyes are open, my conversations are real, my dreams are unending and my encouragement of others is genuine. One day at a time, we make one another’s lives worthwhile.