Wow, been a while since I’ve been on here… Excuse me while I dust of the cobwebs, and begin again with a bit of a rant.
Okay, rapid catch-up: A few months ago, The Organisation went through a bit of a restructure, from Counties to Regions. The basic idea (as far as I can see) was to save some money, by cutting back on some of the admin staff and other things that could be merged and getting rid of things we don’t really need, and to help standardise things across the country. The former is a very laudable goal, if a bit distant from much of the membership, who never really saw the extent of the financial trouble we were in. The latter I think is almost essential. As an organisation, we have had one qualification meaning a hundred different things across the county (sometimes from one unit to another), and that’s just not good enough.
As part of the first goal, budgets were centralised and management of money has moved up a level or two in the leadership structure, and this has caused my first rant. Let me get this clear, I’m not particularly in favour of this change, but I can see how, with a bit of shift in the way we think about things, it could be a good thing. There is no way we could carry on with people spending more money than they were bringing in, and some people refused to take responsibility for their own budgets. Now they don’t have to. The idea is that, if there is a legitimate need for something, and the money to afford it, the Region will pay for it. I can see how this could go wrong, but properly dealt with (from all levels), this could be a good thing.
Now here’s the bit that bugs me: we have had a rash of people crying ‘they’re taking away our money!’ and ‘now we’ll do all the work and they’ll get all the benefit!’ I could understand it a little from of the members who haven’t had things explained to them very well, but from some of the leaders, who I swear are just refusing to understand, this isn’t good enough. It was never ‘our money’ or ‘your money’ or ‘my money’. It is the Organisation’s money. It is charitable funds that have we have to use to pursue our charitable goals. End. Of. Story.
Now, foolishly, in the past, I’ve tried to explain to people how the ‘them doing all the work’ business probably won’t happen. After all, the people doing all the first aid, and bringing in all the money from events, they will be the people who need the uniforms, the consumables and access to vehicles. If people aren’t going out to events, what are they going to use the money on? Of cause, they don’t listen, and I’m beginning to think this is because they’ve got their heart set on being annoyed by the changes.
Which brings me on to my next point. This is a significant change in the way we work and the way we will have to approach practically everything we do. Change will always meet resistance, and it will always upset people. This isn’t an excuse to treat people badly, and it’s quite possible that some people have been treated less than ideally. There have also been some controversial decisions made by many people (past and present), and someone will always take these personally, whatever the intentions behind them. If you’re unhappy, that’s fine (er… you know what I mean…). I’ll quite happily sit down with you, let you rant away to a listening ear sympathetic ear if you think it will help you. (I’m getting good at letting such things wash over me…) I just don’t think that mouthing off about each other in public is helpful. Especially given that it looks so one-sided (the ‘bad-guys’, so to speak, are being quite reserved in public). All you’re achieving is winding some people up (which I’m beginning to think is your intention) and alienating others, and the last thing we need right now is division. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that perhaps, if we tried to pull together, to change things and allow ourselves to change, maybe things would start working a little sooner.
Maybe I’m hopelessly idealistic or naïve. Perhaps this is all a disaster waiting to happen and I just can’t see it. Or perhaps it’s just another challenge, and we’ll come out stronger on the other side. More importantly we’re only just three months into this new structure. We can’t expect everything to fall into place straight away. And it won’t be perfect, because nothing is, and that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth working for.
Just because there’s no light at the end of the tunnel yet, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Nearly three years ago now, I responded to a plea for help from Mrs BigPara to help her get the local Youth Unit back on its feet again after their last leader abruptly left. I was a unit leader, disillusioned by the constant battles to get things done at my unit, looking for something new to do, but stuck in my role until Easter.
About four months later, after stepping down from my leader role, I transferred to the Youth Unit, and took on the secretary role. I learnt how to march, how to parade, how to stand up and hold the attention of ten to twenty 10-18 year olds. I built up my confidence, going from the timid helper with no clue about teaching, to a confident (ish) leader.
A year down the line I became the Leader, and worked hard to make the unit my own. It took time and energy, perhaps more than I should have spared from my degree, but it paid off. I had a full unit with young people who always made me proud.
And then I graduated from university, and got a real job as an engineer. Out of necessity, I moved from UniTown to BigCity, and the far side at that. Suddenly the unit I could get to without a problem became an hour’s train journey from home. And the easy cycle home became the risky game of ‘catch the last train’. I never got caught out, but some nights it got mighty close. I’ve had more than one mad rush from platform to platform to make my connection.
I stuck with it. I didn’t want to let the unit down.
A couple of months of this wore me out. Too many late nights and sleepy days at work. I still didn’t want to let them down, but I couldn’t carry on.
A little over a month ago, with lots of deliberation, and more than a little upset, I put in my notice. The end of the year, I said, and then no more.
It felt like a dive off a cliff. A load of stressing and building up courage, and then nothing. Free fall.
A month passed, making plans for the future. Doing my best to keep things going till I left, then smoothing over the join. Business as usual, to a point.
Then, all of a sudden, it was our last night. Our Christmas party. An excuse to do not a lot, and to socialize. I spent a lot of time getting the next leader sorted, then went to chat to the kids. I didn’t spend as much time with them as I should have, but I got a lot done. I hope that my work will have smoothed over the transfer.
And now I have a little work left over, and then done. A youth leader no more.
And it’s a bit strange. I fully expected a lurch as it all finished, a final thud as I hit the ground. Instead it just feels, well, finished, I suppose. After all the stress of handover, I’m done, and while I’m sad, it still feels almost right. I’ve played my part, built it up, and now it’s time to let someone else take it further.
And now I need to find something else to do. I’ve still got all the clinical work I do, the service delivery as it’s now named. I’ve become increasingly active as an ambulance crew. Also, part of me itches to take on a new management role. There is the rumor that there is a cycle response leadership role coming up, which has captured my attention. It’s still only a rumour, but if it does materialise, I am definitely going to think users about applying. After all I have grumbled about our past leadership, I think it’s time I put my money where my mouth is and actually put into practice what I have been preaching over the last 18 months.
I’ve also got a hundred other things I want to do, now I’ve hopefully got a little more flexibility in my schedule. I’ve not been able to get back into my music since I started being a leader in the Organisation. I’ve got my eye on a local wind band that may take me on, but I need to get back into practice first. I’ve got a year until I can properly settle back into something like that, so plenty of time to do some work…
I’m also looking into starting at the gym. I’m not in too bad shape, but I am now doing a desk job and don’t have a twenty-minute cycle commute anymore. I want to work on my strength a bit (I can’t really avoid lifting when doing ambulance work) and my general fitness, and this seems the best way for the moment.
How long it will all last remains to be seen, but it looks like a lot of new things for the New Year. These could be interesting times…
And, for no other reason than because I’m listening to it right now, I’ll leave you with Snow Patrol:
I know I said I would do a series of posts on observations, and I still intend to, but at the moment real life is just getting in the way. This is just a quick update of what’s happening, and the next post will be about something I really need to get off of my chest.
So, I am rapidly approaching the end of my degree. My final report is due next Tuesday, and after the Thursday after that, I am done. Finished. Leaving my university and likely not coming back (except for graduation based stuff).
I’m not going to lie, it’s a scary prospect. Not accounting for my work placement, I’ve been in full-time education for 19 years. It is literally the only thing I can remember doing. As of September, I start on the beginning of what (at the moment, at least) will be a career in Engineering. Real engineering (it doesn’t get any more real than jet engines…), where the work I do actually has a real purpose.
I will be leaving behind what I know and am comfortable with, a huge number of my friends, and all the other benefits of student life. This is scary beyond belief…
In other news, I am currently bike-less again, as some idiot drove over the front wheel of my bike (fortunately while I wasn’t on it). Needless to say, this is very annoying, not least because I am currently sat on a bus that takes the most roundabout route home possible.
This year I am not going to the graduation ball. In fact, this is the first time since starting university that I’ve not been there in some kind of first aid capacity, and I have zero interest in going as a punter. I had intended to go as first aid, but I haven’t been asked yet, and the unit has upset one of my good friends, so we’ve decided to go on duty the next morning instead. The person who did the upsetting is now also not going, but I have managed to persuade my friend that it isn’t her problem any more (and so she doesn’t need to pick up the pieces after the very likely meltdown).
Speaking of meltdowns, the local adult division is currently having a very slow one. Three of the more progressive members have been made to feel very unwelcome, and so have walked away. As a result, their training program is steadily going down the pan, morale is going to drop (as people realise what they’ve lost), and its all going to go to hell. Of the units six-ish active ambulance qualified volunteers, they now have two actively refusing to do events, two prioritising county level events (me and CycleGuy), leaving two to (fail to) meet the units commitments (meaning other units have to help out).
On the bright side, my unit of young people is going strong. We have just had a very successful sponsored walk (where I got to legitimately play tag for the first time since I left junior school), and have half a dozen things planned for the near future.
Work is still being its normal irritating self (but that’s retail for you), and I’m doing far too many hours for the Organisation (no change there, then), and for the most part I’m enjoying myself.
When things start settling down, I will try to post more frequency. For now, I will get on when I can, and I’m still on Twitter (my lifeline when drowning in my project).
Now, to finish, another musical interlude. Enjoy 🙂
Not long after writing about my incident a few days back, I found myself walking up that same hill, past that same step.
Almost as soon as I realised, all my memories of that day came flooding back. I could still vividly remember the pram and the little girl sat in the middle of that road while her mother and I (also in the road) argued just a couple of meters away. I could picture that little girls face as she peered suspiciously at me from around the pram, and the younger girls shy smile when I checked up on her before it all kicked off.
I suppose it was probably because it was fresh in my mind, after writing that post, but it still struck me as unusual how detailed my memory of the incident was. With most of my patients, I can only remember vague details, or specific moments, if that, but almost every minute of this incident.
It must have made more than an impact than I had ever suspected.
Inspired by a post by the awe-inspiring Epijunky – It Gets Better . It has taken me a while to write, and so doesn’t quite fit in with other things that I have said recently, but it was important to me to get it right.
I’ve never made a secret of my sexuality on this blog. In fact, only a few of months ago I explicitly came out to anyone who happened to pass by this blog. But let’s be honest, this is a pseudo-anonymous blog and the odds of anyone I know actually reading it are minimal.
It’s not the same in the real world, at least, not all of it. At University, and in the Organisation (at least in my ‘home’ county), it’s not a secret, but I’ve hardly announced it from the rooftops. Some people I’ve told, others have worked it out for themselves, or have heard from others. I’ve not so much come out of the closest, more like drifted. I am forever grateful to my friends here that they have all taken it well, and I am glad that I have only once experienced a problem, and that was of the ‘no longer talking to you’ sort (which is fine, I don’t want to talk to you either…)
In my home town, it’s different again. There, all of this is a closely guarded secret. I’ve told three of my friends from school. They were the closest friends I had at school. One of them and I have both agreed that if one of us murders someone, they’ll be the first to back them up (and cover for them: she’s training as a forensic expert). She is the sort of friend who’ll have your back, right up until the last. One is my one and only ex-girlfriend, who I would trust with my life, my fortune, and everything (well, except my chocolate…). With a lot of badgering from the last two, I let the first one tell the last of the three (alright, yes, I chickened out…). I can’t say I regret it. She has turned in to one of the easiest people to talk to that I know.
The rest of it has been harder. My school was a local state comprehensive, and while it was the best school in the area, and generally fine, there was also quite a lot of intolerance. Aside from everything bad being called ‘gay’, which I just ignore, there were quite a few really hard-line Christians1 who seemed to have missed the bit on loving thy neighbour. During a rather relevant discussion, I made some bitter remark of something like ‘so much for a tolerant society’, and promptly got the reply of ‘why should we be tolerant?’ There wasn’t much I could say to that, I was rather stunned.
Of cause, it wasn’t all massive comments like that. They were relatively easy to dismiss. It was the little things that tended to get to me. Like one my friends describing homosexuality as ‘just wrong’. Like the little jokes that many think are harmless. Like the disgusted reaction my mum made to the first gay kiss on Casualty (I would link to it, but I can’t find any stories that aren’t trying to stir trouble…). Like my dad’s less than impressed reaction to the news that civil partnerships between two men or two women were to be legalised. Things that aren’t directly abusive, or violent, or necessarily with any particular malice, but which wear you down through pure attrition…
The net result was hiding myself for my entire career at that school. I’m not camp (or at least, not as far as I’m concerned), which helped, but I took it even further. As far as pretend girlfriends that nobody could ever meet, and then the extremely short-lived relationship with my friend (which I will always regret, not least because of the pain I caused her).
It all sound pretty harmless taken individually. A few lies here, a few secrets there, but, recently, I can see in myself a lot more problems.
I don’t drink alcohol. At all. This is mainly out of habit, and too many first hand encounters with the results of too much alcohol. I can see now, however, that one of the original reasons was that, when I was first old enough to start drinking, I had a few too many secrets to hide to risk losing any control. What if I started blabbering about who I fancied, or how I had a secret nobody would ever know. No, it was too chancy.
I am painfully self-inhibited. It takes a lot to pull me out of my very comfortable comfort zone, the one a few miles away from the centre of attention. It took a huge step for me to audition for the school musical while in sixth form. I loved it, and by the end was jumping in to things feet first, but I’ve never pulled together the confidence to do it all again.
The lack of self-confidence then extends itself to arguments, disagreements and conflicts in general. Even when I’m right, or the one in charge, I fold far too quickly. It doesn’t help that I have so little faith in my decisions that people jump on it if they disagree.
But it’s getting better. I joined the Organisation. I learned skills. I proved to myself that I could use these skills. Time and time again. Slowly, I stopped pestering people with ‘is this okay?’, and gained the confidence that I do actually know the right thing to do for my patient, within my limits. I now lead others to do the same. I’m not the world’s best leader, or the most assertive, but nine times out of ten, I get the job done.
Behind my uniform, I’ve done things I never thought I’d be capable of. I’ve cleared rooms full of strangers when someone has fallen ill. I’ve made important people clear off when they’re in my way, and nearly had the headline act of a university show forcibly removed from my first aid post when he was harassing my staff.
I’ve done things that deliberately make me the center of attention, and put me in a position where I had to convince some very antagonistic people that my way was the only way that would work. Things that I’d never thought I could do before. It’s become almost instinctive now that if someone is ill and I have ‘seniority’, I’ll jump straight in and start handing out orders (even to people who I probably shouldn’t be ordering around).
It’s not perfect. As soon as the uniform comes off I crumple back in on myself again. But it’s a start, and I have to start somewhere. And it’s getting better. Slowly, yes, but at least I’m not going backwards.
If I could give one piece of advice to people in this position, it would be this: Find something you can put your all in to. It doesn’t have to be first aid, or volunteering. It could be sport, if that’s what you prefer, or anything. Make it something that you enjoy, something that’ll make you better, someone to be proud of. Something that you want to get out of bed in the morning for. On the really bad days, it’ll be something to live for.
Don’t let other people tell you that you can’t do it. Don’t listen to them when they tell you it’ll end badly, or that what you’re doing is a waste of time. You don’t have to make them happy, or convince them that it’s right. As long as you believe in it, and enjoy it, that’s all that’s important. The people who matter will believe in you, no matter what.
Let it stretch you, pull you beyond the limits that are so easy for you to put in your way. Put everything you have in to it, and take everything it has to offer. Focus on everything you get out of it. Every little thing that makes life a little better. That makes you a little better in your eyes (not in the eyes of society, or your peers).
It isn’t easy. I won’t say it is because I know it isn’t. For me, it still isn’t. And it might not be quick or dramatic. It could be so slow or subtle that you don’t notice until it hits you all in one go. But you’ll get there, when you are ready.
And please, no matter what happens, if you are having trouble, reach out for help. You are not alone. You are worth helping. Someone will stop to help you, and those who don’t, well, you don’t need them around…
Every time this world loses someone because they feel it is the only way out, it becomes a little poorer. Let’s not lose anyone else.
1 I don’t have a problem with Christians. A lot of my friends are Christian. (Err, cliché much?) But they actually follow most of the ideas, not just the ones about there only being one God, etc.
It’s easy to make New Years Resolutions. Not so easy to keep them. I could make the usual ones:
- Exercise more
- Eat better
- Keep up with my studies better
The list goes on. Add in my particular circumstances and I could add:
- Come out to my parents
- Blog more regularly
Again, the list could be a mile long.
I’ll say right away, the first item in the second list isn’t likely to happen any time this decade, and the latter really depends on how much inspiration I have.
However, the first list shows some potential.
If I want to get anywhere in my ambulance work without damaging myself, I need to get fit, and I need to get stronger. I noticed that my fitness was going down when I stopped cycling to work. Suddenly, the cycle to uni, which used to be pretty average, is a nightmare. Well, the few times I’ve tried it before the snow got bad. In short, more exercise is needed. I’m at a uni that has amazing sports facilities. Shouldn’t be too hard, as long as I stick with it… That, unfortunately, will be the problem.
As a student, the eating properly think is always a problem. Hopefully that’ll get better as I get a bit more free time. More importantly on the health front, I think I need to see a Doctor.
I should explain more thoroughly… A few months ago, I had a chat with a GP about my mental health. To cut a long story short, I’ve been self-harming for quite a long time, now. In fact, I can’t really remember when I started, it was so long ago. At first I just saw it as a bad habit, but looking back, at my behaviour, my feelings, everything, I got a bit concerned.
Now don’t misunderstand. I have never done myself lasting damage. Never anything that risked my life, and I’ve never considered suicide. I have no visible scars (at least, none that were deliberately self-inflicted), and nothing that you’d see in everyday life.
I had a feeling that something wasn’t right, and when I went to the Doctor, she agreed that something was wrong, possibly depression, or it could be anxiety. She gave me a questionnaire to fill out, and told me to see her in a week.
I missed the appointment. Not intentionally. I honestly thought she had said two weeks, not one. More importantly, though, I didn’t set a new date for the appointment. I could have done. I have thought about doing it, more than once, and have seen a GP about other things since. It’s just never happened. If I’m honest, it’s probably because I’ve never worked up the courage to do it again. It was hard enough having the conversation the first time around, why would I want to do all that again…
Except I need to, because the harm hasn’t stopped, and I’ve not miraculously started feeling better. I would be lying to myself if I said I was. I have trouble sleeping, I am still harming myself (even as I write this post, and that scares me because I know what I’m doing, but still do it), I always feel run down, and am always feeling generally ‘low’.
So my New Years Resolution is simple. Look after myself better. And I can achieve it. I have to believe I can achieve it. Because if I don’t, I’ve already lost the battle.
And I can’t let this get any worse…
Whenever I’m writing after about 19:00 (when BBC Radio 1, my preferred radio station, gets a bit rubbish) I tend to have the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack playing in the background. As I have yet to summon the money to get all the CDs, this means I have to have YouTube open in another tab, but that’s hardly a problem as I’m usually writing online. (If anyone’s interested, this is my playlist: http://bit.ly/bBWsfP . It’s basically all five soundtracks combined in to a single playlist.)
As I was writing my last post, I noticed that the soundtrack brings up it’s own memories from the past, and I found myself choking up just a little. Now some of this is down to the music itself. The soundtrack is indescribably beautiful, and a good number of the tracks are sad. After all, the series is quite literally about the near end of humanity (if you haven’t seen this new series, you are seriously missing out. Go buy the miniseries… now!). But, that wasn’t all of it.
When the series started, nearly six years ago (oh crap! That long!), I was still at school. For the first three series, before I started at University, my friends and I would obsess over this program during most of our breaks. We were forever trying to tease out some hint from some half-imagined clue, or decipher some additional meaning out of some possibly prophetic line. It was the most involving series we had all come across, and we threw ourselves in to it.
I worked out, as I type this post at my room in an otherwise empty house, this is what I miss. I haven’t lived full-time in my home time for three years now, while most of my friends never really left, instead going to the local University for their studies. In the last six months, or so, I’ve spent a whole two days in their company, probably not much more than 18 hours in total.
And, as time passes, this is very likely to get less. Most of these friends have graduated already, and will be going on to work, or PGCEs, or other things like that. At this moment, I have two more years of this degree, and it’s likely I’ll be moving on to do another one soon after. And while I’ve got new friends, both in the Organisation, in my Uni department (though not really on my course…) and in my shared house, it’s just not really the same. Some of us had spent years as friends. One in particular I have known since we were both about five (and it’s a scary thought quite how long a period of time that is…) Everyone up here I’ve only met in the last couple of years, and, in most cases, we don’t have nearly as much in common.
For all the stress and problems of the time, I sometimes wish I could go back to those years.
Woah, am I on a downer…
Recently, I seem to have spent a lot of time looking back at my past. I don’t really know why, but I’ve found myself wanting to revisit things that I’ve done, sometimes going back many (for me) years.
One thing I keep finding really weird, and rather sad, I suppose, is noticing how much has changed over that time.
Six years ago, I was a member in a Play by Email role-playing game. They sent out a lot of emails, so I had a separate email account to keep the rush separate. I was quite active for a time, but eventually other things took over and I started to lose some of interest in the books that it was based around (The Dragonriders of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey, if anyone is interested. They are good books, but there are ones I’m more interested in now). Eventually I fell completely out of the loop, and I drifted to the wayside. Technically I didn’t leave the group until I failed to reply to a role-call a couple of years ago, but I had been inactive for a long time by then.
I re-opened that email account today. I had to get a password reset, it had been so long since I last used it, and the inbox contained a couple of thousand unread emails, which I didn’t even consider giving more than a cursory look through.
It was a bit of surprise to find that, nearly a year after I stopped posting, there was some big leadership row, which was beginning to spill over on to the main mailing lists. The fact that there was an argument didn’t surprise me, as everyone involved was human, and so disagreements were nearly inevitable. What caught me was that a group which, as far as I could tell, had been running for nearly ten years, a couple of which I had been involved in, and which appeared to be going from strength to strength, appears to have collapsed. The website is still around, but it hasn’t been updated for nearly two years, and as far as I can tell the web-page that managed the email lists is now off-line.
Now, some of you might tell me I’m being a bit naïve, assuming the group would still be around today. And on some level I think I realised that it was unlikely. Sure I entertained the idea, from time to time, that I would rejoin, resume my old characters and slot back in, but I never really followed through. Now, looking through these last few emails, it seems like I will never have the chance. And what really got me is, it’s much more of a blow than I ever expected, possibly because of quite how long ago it was.
I never thought I could genuinely miss a something like a website, but it looks like I can.