This time of isolation and lockdown has been an eye opener where I have re-assessed a lot of things in my life. To be fair however, I think this re-assessment has been happening for quite a while for me, at least the last few years. The pandemic has simply confirmed my actions.
Where in the past I may have thought, “am I really doing the right thing here?” it’s confirmed that I am and I shouldn’t have doubted myself. I was. In my own way.
An example of this is that for me, my focus has always been on pushing my own boundaries when it comes to learning as self-expression and personal growth and reflection.
I remember walking across Pont de l’Alma in Paris a few years back with Andrew, my husband. I wasn’t happy with how things were progressing with my Activate Learning Solutions business. I felt I was always coming across obstacles or not gaining traction with Learning and Development as I felt that no-one understood the value of what I was providing here so I had to make changes. I felt taken advantage of many times and couldn’t reconcile in my head if indeed I was providing anything of value to people and businesses when I struggled to find clients because proposals were consistently knocked back.
I remember turning to him and saying, “I just want to work a few days a week so that I can spend the rest of the time immersing myself into my own personal learning experiences.”
He said to me, “well maybe that’s what you need to do? You need to do things that make you feel and be like yourself.”
And there, by the Seine on a grey winter day in Paris, I decided to switch my mindset and do things differently.
I wasn’t going to be a slave trying to fight it all anymore. I wasn’t going to ‘hustle’ for profit anymore because it didn’t fit with my idea of a life I wanted. Of course, it went against what others were saying to do on the internet and in business!
So I was going to put it out to the universe and see what happened.
Imagine my surprise that some time later, I was approached by Adopt & Embrace to join their team. It seemed to be a dream that was realised because I could work three days a week, in a job where I’m constantly learning something new (in fact, I’d say I’m learning most of the day versus working) because my work means that I’m constantly applying what I’m learning about communities, Microsoft and technology and even the programs I’m using to my day-to-day work. On the days off, I am free to explore my own passions and interests that invariably also help and feed back into Adopt & Embrace in some way anyway.
So why was this important to me?
I’ve always valued certain things ABOVE business. Money has never been a personal driver for me; learning has.
What I have always valued in myself – and others were:
- A focus on creative exploration through crafts and manual endeavours and personal projects
- An understanding and appreciation of our history to understand and anticipate our future
- An appreciation of language and culture of my background (Greek philosophy, history, hellenism)
- Learning ‘otherness’ – learning and immersing into a new language, culture of others to understand different viewpoints and perspectives
- Considering broader perspectives and insights through travelling and getting out of your comfort zone (I hope to do more of it once COVID ends)
- A focus on community and/or service to the community (through my volunteering roles for many years across different service and NFP organisations)
- A focus more on friendships and family connections
- Sharing my projects online (“working out loud”) despite risk, fear and vulnerability of being made to look like a fool
If I could find work that would incorporate elements of the above into it – then fine! If not, it was up to me to reduce workdays to build all the above into my week.
Sometimes though I had to fight this external pressure of having to monetise my interests because that’s what was accepted or the done thing.
People would question why I was knitting when I could have created an online course of it, create classes or build a business from it?
They would ask why I would even bother learning a new language when English was widely spoken?
They would advise that why travel when you can just do online meetings?
I accept that yes, I could have done all those things but I guess they missed the point entirely.
The point was not never to make these experiences into business opportunities. They were there to just do, to learn from, to jump into, to be free to explore without an end outcome of some business goal to it.
To just do things for the sake of doing them.
Without a to-do item attached to them.
Without an end goal.
Without a timeline.
Without any expectation.
To enjoy the moments.
To never feel guilty you were “wasting time”.
In other words, to do the total opposite of what everyone was doing and recommending.
This time of isolation and lockdown has made me realise I had my priorities right from the start that in the grand scheme of things, it’s these that stay with us and nurture us when times are tough. It’s the friendships, the community and how you choose to use the time available to you to do things that help you mentally, spiritually and emotionally – whatever they may be.