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Journalism, Just stuff, Life in general, Marriage, Media, Motherhood, Online journalism

2016: It’s all about me

2016, it’s all about me. Sound a bit selfish? Abso-fucking-lutely. But there’s more to it than that; it’s about looking at things from a different perspective, making the most of the year ahead and doing things that make me happy, and that I enjoy. Not because I feel obliged. Life is too short to make other people happy by making yourself unhappy and I must accept that I can’t do everything.

For me, 2016 is about being honest, liberating myself from the constraints of the ‘must do because you should do’ and being mindful. A happy me, generally, means the people around me are happy too. That all sounds a bit gushy and deep, but I’m keen to tackle this year in a different way; I’m bored with the same old shit approach. So… I’m writing my New Year blog post in February…

Collapsed gingerbread house

This year I’ll say no to the kids if they ask to build a gingerbread house. Here’s why.

1) I’m saying no and I won’t feel bad about it

I’m actually pretty good at this anyway, but this year I’ll be better. No more agreeing to go to works dos/family parties/events if I won’t enjoy them/don’t have time/can’t afford it/or just don’t feel up for it. After reading this Guardian article, it reinforced something I already knew: it’s okay to say no to things and not feel bad about it. I can’t make that leaving do but best of luck in your new venture. I can’t make the family party but send love and hugs to Uncle Bob. I can’t make training tonight but I’ll see you at the game tomorrow. I’m not up for that cinema trip, but maybe next time. And you don’t even need to give a reason, just saying no is fine. I’m saying goodbye to obligation and it feels liberating.

 2) Only working for me, myself and I

No more crappy freelance. I’m being harsh here, freelance isn’t crappy but helping other people out leaves no time for me. It means that my notepad full of ideas and personal projects get left right there in the notepad and never put into practice. Whenever I get a surge of motivation I’d think ‘Gah, I don’t have time, I need to finish something for someone else.’ As 2016 is all about me, not taking on anything outside of my day job (apart from point number 4 below) frees up time to focus on these projects. No more displacement activities, or whatever you want to call them, means I can crack on with my ‘me’ projects.

Robyn Bateman3) Making an effort

Last year was about family really and I think, like a lot of parents, I let a little bit of me go. This year, while time is and always will be an issue, I want to make the effort to wear earrings, paint nails, buy boots with heels instead of flats and trainers, and occasionally pop on some red lipstick (thanks to my Secret Santa!). They’re small things but they make a difference. I’m currently writing this post in knee-high boots… (not JUST boots, you sickos, I’m fully dressed!).

4) Return of the MA
The year I fell pregnant, I was part-way through an MA in Online Journalism with Birmingham City University. I was awarded a scholarship and supported by my employer; opportunities like that don’t come around every day to degree-less, non-academic bods like me.

I decided to interrupt study to enjoy the last months of pregnancy and birth of ‘Bean Child’. And I use the term ‘enjoy’ loosely.  I then popped out the Boy Child, endured a period of mania, lack of sleep and resettling into work. Now is my last chance to get on and finish the MA and I’d be an absolute idiot to ditch it now. Hard work is ahead but it’ll be so rewarding and challenging. I know I’ll love it, moan about it, get excited, swear a lot and other contradictions but it has to be done. I work at The Open University and see, firsthand, the amazing educational achievements of our students who complete qualifications while spinning many plates. And I see their proud families, their new careers, their sense of self-achievement and I want me a slice of that. Distance learning makes it possible and BCU have been really accommodating, putting more flex into flexible so I can work at my own pace. When I get my arse in gear, you can read about my progress here.

Cocker Spaniel Ralphie in trainers5) Pass the endorphins
I’ve started running. It should be noted that I am not a runner, and I don’t really like it that much. However, given time and budget constraints lack of time and cold, hard cash (MUST shake off the work jargon!), running can be done anywhere, at anytime and is completely free. I walk the dog every other evening anyway (me and hubby take turns) so I might as well run a bit, even though Ralphie’s not so keen because he likes to stop and sniff. I now say I’m taking him for a drag, not a walk.

Also, and this is important, I’m setting limited expectations (there I go with the work jargon again). What I mean is, just doing it is enough – the time/distance/pace/calorie burn etc doesn’t matter. I’m not working my way up to run 5km and I’m fully accepting of my run/walk/run/walk approach. I can only run in short bursts and that’s okay because it’s better than nothing. And if it gets easier and I can go for longer, great. But if it doesn’t and I can’t then that’s okay too. Secretly, I’m kind of enjoying it. I feel great and smug that I’m excercising beyond my weekly netball match and thanks to my new running trainers (Christmas motivational present from hubby, modelled by Ralphie over here ——->), I’m positively bouncing off those pavements. Well, almost.

6) Recognising those who support me
Being truly selfish requires help. And there are lots of people I could mention, I thank them all, but there’s one who needs naming. Richard Bateman. Our time together has been a whirlwind of romance, marriage, kids and juggling all the things we love to do. And it’s because we’re really good at the sharing, supporting, balancing act of being responsible adults that I’m able to do all of the above as well as raise two children and get to work on time Richard and Robyn Bateman(dressed and washed, too). For me, the juggling of our family life is split between us and I recognise this is not the norm: mums often play the lead role and make more personal sacrifices when it comes to raising a family. We are not traditional in that sense and take an equal role in family, work and social stuff. And it’s not easy. It’s not easy for me that the kids often run to their dad when they’re ill, instead of me, or for him to manage running a business when he’s expected to be flexible. Yay for us!

So, here’s to tackling 2016 in a different way. But I’m not totally selfish… if you’re stuck in a rut, I can offer you this: read Thrive. It’s an eye-opener (how to reprioritise and emasure success in different ways) and this book by Sarah Knight, if for nothing more than the fact is has a swear word in the title.

Books, Food, Just stuff, Life in general, Motherhood

What I’m doing now…

It’s been a while since I blogged, and even longer since I blogged regularly. Somehow, having kids and all that that entails, has seen my writing slip to one side and I fear I’m not as good at it as I once was. I’m out of practice. So, stealing inspiration from this post, here’s one to ease myself back in…

Reading: Well, I’m not actually reading anything at the moment, in anticipation of the publication of The Atlas of Us – tomorrow! It’s author, my good friend Tracy Buchanan, had two dreams: to have a baby and to get a UK publishing deal. Typically, both arrived at the same time but she’s so super talented (and a bit bonkers) that she’s managed to write a book and raise a lovely little girl all at the same time. Hats off to Buchy! The last book I read was The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult and it’s utterly amazing. I urge anyone to read it and not want to change their life for the better afterwards. It’s just fantastic. Continue Reading

Journalism, Life in general, Serious stuff, topical, what I think, work

Graduates not getting the job they want straight away? Ah, diddums…

Pens in hair by Evil Erin via FlickrWhile the UK trend towards rising unemployment for young people has been building since 2000, I have to confess to being a tad unsympathetic.

“Lots of young people are downgrading their aspirations and taking second best. We’re seeing graduates who take on possibly not the job they hope to achieve,” says Paul Brown, director at the Princes Trust, in this article.

And when I left college I wanted to be editor of the New York Times, live in Manhattan and sip cocktails after an exciting day on the news desk. It was never going to happen.

So young people shouldn’t be defeated when they don’t get the job they aspire to straight away or if they have to settle for second best; we all have to start somewhere and that’s usually at the bottom. That’s certainly how it was for me.

What’s missing in this day an age – a time where school sports days are seen as stressful and unnecessarily competitive – is the sense of reality, the bigger picture. That if you want to become a fashion designer, a corporate director, a banker, then you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. And you have to start early.

Walking out of university with an English Literature degree and saying “hey job market, I’m reading for that career in publishing now” isn’t going to work. What experience do you have? What qualifications do you have? And best of all, have you got a combination of experience and qualifications that absolutely support the path you’re choosing to take?

I’ve read CVs from people who say they’re desperate for a career in media, yet their qualifications and experience say they’re more interested in marketing and sales. The two need to tie up.

And experience is a must. 14-year-olds should be working in some capacity, whether it’s sweeping up hair in a local salon, serving customers in the mini market or waitressing in a café; it adds to your perception of the world of work and teaches you valuable skills, whatever profession you choose to go in at a later date. And it teaches you the value of money, that sometimes you have to work quite hard for not very much.

Yes, it’s potentially stressful to think about a career when you’re just 14 but if getting onto the job market is becoming increasingly competitive – and figures seem to suggest that’s the case – then it’s so important to make sure you stand out.

This isn’t a an attempt to blow my own trumpet but read my CV and you’ll see that all I ever wanted to be was a journalist. From work experience on the Kidderminster Shuttle when I was 14, to the subjects I studied at A Level and to the trainee reporter job I started out in when I was 19, and everything I did in between to support that ambition. No one reading my CV could misinterpret that I wanted to be anything else – so not only is it about qualifications and experience but there needs to be an element of passion there too.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I knew I wanted to be a journalist from very early on – after dismissing the idea of being an FBI agent and then an Olympic runner, of course – and did everything possible to make that happen. And I didn’t see it as stressful at the time, or pressured, or even unrealistic – not even when the careers advisor almost fell off her chair laughing at the fact I thought I could become a journalist, rather than the dog groomer role a useless careers-type survey had predicted for me.

So, I made sure I did my work experience (arranged via school) at two local newspapers and, despite being painfully shy at 14 I asked the reporters there what to study at college, whether to go to university or not, and the best options for getting a job. And that’s what I did.

I also whittled off letters to lots of local newspaper editors and asked them the best way to get into journalism. And I got lots of feedback, from the people who knew, the people who’d already been in my position and were now doing the job. You can’t get any better advice than that! And I’ve been working as a journalist since I was 19 – so it worked.

It’s tough out there, no doubt about it, and I’m not suggesting every case is as cut and dried as I’m making it sound, but there are things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance and that means making connections, creating opportunities and gaining experience as early as possible. And social media is a great enabler.

PS I know this doesn’t apply to all graduates and that there are some super talented folk out there who can’t get a job and it utterly sucks. And I’m only referring to journalism here because that’s the career path I chose. It’s tough deciding what you want to spend the rest of your life doing and I am lucky, I knew from an early age and followed a path. For those who don’t know what they want to do, it’s even tougher.  So maybe the title of this blog is harsh; my lack of sympathy is only towards those who expect the world for very little effort. If only.

Picture by Evil Erin via Flickr under Creative Commons licence

PS Be grateful for opportunities presented to you, make the most of them and be prepared to start at the bottom. And NEVER get your mum to write your work experience letters for you!

Journalism, Life in general, Serious stuff, topical, what I think, work

Graduates not getting the job they want straight away? Ah, diddums…

Pens in hair by Evil Erin via FlickrWhile the UK trend towards rising unemployment for young people has been building since 2000, I have to confess to being a tad unsympathetic.

“Lots of young people are downgrading their aspirations and taking second best. We’re seeing graduates who take on possibly not the job they hope to achieve,” says Paul Brown, director at the Princes Trust, in this article.

And when I left college I wanted to be editor of the New York Times, live in Manhattan and sip cocktails after an exciting day on the news desk. It was never going to happen.

So young people shouldn’t be defeated when they don’t get the job they aspire to straight away or if they have to settle for second best; we all have to start somewhere and that’s usually at the bottom. That’s certainly how it was for me.

What’s missing in this day an age – a time where school sports days are seen as stressful and unnecessarily competitive – is the sense of reality, the bigger picture. That if you want to become a fashion designer, a corporate director, a banker, then you have to start at the bottom and work your way up. And you have to start early.

Walking out of university with an English Literature degree and saying “hey job market, I’m reading for that career in publishing now” isn’t going to work. What experience do you have? What qualifications do you have? And best of all, have you got a combination of experience and qualifications that absolutely support the path you’re choosing to take?

I’ve read CVs from people who say they’re desperate for a career in media, yet their qualifications and experience say they’re more interested in marketing and sales. The two need to tie up.

And experience is a must. 14-year-olds should be working in some capacity, whether it’s sweeping up hair in a local salon, serving customers in the mini market or waitressing in a café; it adds to your perception of the world of work and teaches you valuable skills, whatever profession you choose to go in at a later date. And it teaches you the value of money, that sometimes you have to work quite hard for not very much.

Yes, it’s potentially stressful to think about a career when you’re just 14 but if getting onto the job market is becoming increasingly competitive – and figures seem to suggest that’s the case – then it’s so important to make sure you stand out.

This isn’t a an attempt to blow my own trumpet but read my CV and you’ll see that all I ever wanted to be was a journalist. From work experience on the Kidderminster Shuttle when I was 14, to the subjects I studied at A Level and to the trainee reporter job I started out in when I was 19, and everything I did in between to support that ambition. No one reading my CV could misinterpret that I wanted to be anything else – so not only is it about qualifications and experience but there needs to be an element of passion there too.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I knew I wanted to be a journalist from very early on – after dismissing the idea of being an FBI agent and then an Olympic runner, of course – and did everything possible to make that happen. And I didn’t see it as stressful at the time, or pressured, or even unrealistic – not even when the careers advisor almost fell off her chair laughing at the fact I thought I could become a journalist, rather than the dog groomer role a useless careers-type survey had predicted for me.

So, I made sure I did my work experience (arranged via school) at two local newspapers and, despite being painfully shy at 14 I asked the reporters there what to study at college, whether to go to university or not, and the best options for getting a job. And that’s what I did.

I also whittled off letters to lots of local newspaper editors and asked them the best way to get into journalism. And I got lots of feedback, from the people who knew, the people who’d already been in my position and were now doing the job. You can’t get any better advice than that! And I’ve been working as a journalist since I was 19 – so it worked.

It’s tough out there, no doubt about it, and I’m not suggesting every case is as cut and dried as I’m making it sound, but there are things you can do to give yourself the best possible chance and that means making connections, creating opportunities and gaining experience as early as possible. And social media is a great enabler.

PS I know this doesn’t apply to all graduates and that there are some super talented folk out there who can’t get a job and it utterly sucks. And I’m only referring to journalism here because that’s the career path I chose. It’s tough deciding what you want to spend the rest of your life doing and I am lucky, I knew from an early age and followed a path. For those who don’t know what they want to do, it’s even tougher.  So maybe the title of this blog is harsh; my lack of sympathy is only towards those who expect the world for very little effort. If only.

Picture by Evil Erin via Flickr under Creative Commons licence

PS Be grateful for opportunities presented to you, make the most of them and be prepared to start at the bottom. And NEVER get your mum to write your work experience letters for you!

Just stuff, Life in general, Six for Saturday, what I think, work

Six for Saturday: ways to shake off 'office aches'

Man stretching at deskAs those of you who spend your time chained to a desk will know, it’s not terribly good for you. Human bodies weren’t designed to sit down all day, in front of computer screens and with tensions building up in necks and shoulders. We were meant to run free, extend our limbs and relax. But in the real world that’s not always possible.

As someone with bad posture, this applies to me more than most; my body works against me most of the time, just because of the way I hold myself.  I spend all day at a computer; most evenings involve the laptop and inbetween I’m on the iPhone, texting, calling, checking emails or fiddling with apps. And it’s not healthy.

So my six for Saturday are tips to survive the ‘office ache’, the uncomfortable feeling you get from spending too much time at a desk.

1) Get in position. This is the most obvious, but if you have a desk job, make sure you’re sitting properly. Your eyes should meet the top of your computer screen, your chair should be straight backed and high enough so your arms sit comfortably on the desk. Don’t cross your legs under the desk and domake sure everything you need and use regularly is within easy reach, no stretching. And if you’re not sure if you’re in the right position, get an occupational health bod in to tell you.

2) Be smart when using the smartphone. Next time you’re texting from your phone, stop, hold your position and take stock. Are you hunched over, shoulders forward, eyes straining to see the screen? Bad, bad, bad. Think of your posture at all times, sit and stand up straight when you can and if you get numbness in your hand from texting, work harder on your posture and try to limit it.

3) Stretch and be limber. Get outside and get some air. Walk tall, open your chest, hold your head high and breathe in the air. Relax your limbs, stretch yourself out and try and ease away some of the tensions of the day. I take my dog for a walk every lunch time – not always convenient on busy days when I have loads to do but it forces me to take a break, get some exercise and unwind. Think of your body as one of those slinkies (the toys you used to get in your Christmas stockings as kids, that cleverly slink down the stairs). Your body is supposed to move fluidly, be light and not stiff and clunky. Take some time to stretch out, roll your neck from side to side, roll your shoulder blades and loosen up.

4) Massage and/or reflexology are often seen as luxury treatments. For me, they’re essential. Years ago, job stress manifested itself in the form of neck and shoulder pain and the only way I could get rid of it was through massage or reflexology, the latter being the most relaxing treatment ever! If the desk job causes you tension – through the nature of your job and the position – physically – you find yourself in for most of the day – then get a massage, once a month, every other month or as often as you need. It’ll help, promise. I use someone who comes to the house, which is more convenient and less time-consuming for me, and means I can chill out at home straight after, rather than undo the therapist’s good work by driving home in traffic.

5) Take time out. The best way to avoid office ache, is not to sit at a desk all day and give yourself time off from computers, smartphones and laptops. It’s not always possible but try and take one weekend a month off – no technology, just relaxation, books, walks and whatever else you enjoy. Leave the computers, phones and emails on  Friday night and ignore them until Monday morning. It’s hard to do, but good for you. To really break the habit, head somewhere with no internet access or phone signal so you have no choice but to be offline for a while.

 

Picture by Chirag D. Shah via Flickr under Creative Commons licence