Week

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Today is my two year anniversary as a member of staff in University of Brighton! My team celebrated yesterday with a mini-fun fair in the office. It was a great end to a tiring week. It was made even better by my finishing my March backlog on Thursday. Yes! I’m doing OK.

April has been the most up-and-down month so far this year. That’s saying something. I’d been feeling run down for quite a while. I picked up a cold/bug a few weeks ago and just when I thought I had shook it off, it came back last weekend. At the time I was visiting family back in Dorset. I spent that weekend sweating and coughing.

I travelled back to Brighton on Sunday and then I had to get up early on Monday morning to get to the British Museum for Objectively Speaking. Even though I felt like a steamed dumpling, I had the best time! I particularly enjoyed meeting the staff and seeing the activities in the Samsung Centre (I bet you knew I’d say that).

The day felt really surreal. Part of it was my ill head, but another part is that I still cannot believe I get to do fun things and spend time in museums. It feels too good to be true.

Mental

My depression and/or anxiety (I can’t seem to distinguish) has been giving me a kicking lately. I had planned to apply for my previous job in my office. The role has been regraded and now encompasses more challenging data-y tasks. In short, it would’ve been varied and rewarding. But my depression thought that I just don’t deserve the role. My anxiety thought that I’d be rubbish in the role.

Edge

As a result, I have been feeling a bit on edge. The job application procedure was making me tearful and jittery. I retracted my application and just focused on getting by day-to-day. My coping mechanism, in times like these, is to run away. If I feel afraid of failing, I quit – I just get a sense of jump before you fall. I know it’s not the best coping mechanism and I’ve sure some of you would argue that it’s not coping at all. But my mental is trying to protect itself in some weird way and I’m thankful for that.

University

Thoughts of going back to university have been going through my head. I think it’s just because deadlines are coming up and I’m getting emails about museum-related courses. I still need to research so I am pretty certain I won’t be applying any time soon. But it’s there in the back of my head, lurking behind the projects I keep throwing myself into.

Digital

Last week I discovered digital.unison.org.uk – I’m happy because I had been wanting a resource like this for months. My dream is to meet other members who like experimenting with digital technology and share skills. I already contacted other HE branches who have access to Mahara – so far none of them are using it, but I’m testing it and Kent said they’d be interested in my feedback.

Talking

Two events are coming up this month where I’ll be talking to a group of people about something I’m supposed to know stuff about. Both events are informal and my role is primarily to encourage interest, rather than teach. Nevertheless I’m incredibly nervous.

 

 

Easter

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I’m enjoying my last evening of quiet before another action packed week. I say action packed, but I mean busy. I am reluctant to use the term busy as I am aware I am always talking about how busy I am and I feel like I bore or annoy people with my constant claims to busyness. I tell people I’m busy mainly to explain my disorganisation and/or lack of focus. My I’m busy is shorthand for Please forgive me, I’m all over the place right now.

Learning

I actually feel like I’m learning a lot this month. As someone who is not very confident, I struggle with communication. But I met up with a museum colleague this week and we were chatting about the school system. I spoke about my experiences but as I was doing so I began to have flashbacks of a bad time in my life. I remembered a schoolfriend’s father who made fun of me regularly because I was doing a GNVQ in something media-ish (the course was later cancelled, as my school realised the students on the course were doing well and all likely to get C or above if the course was changed to GCSE Graphics). I don’t want to criticise him because life is hard and I’d rather focus on the positive. But I remember caring more about whether people thought of me as clever or successful than I did about doing something that made me happy.

My favourite early memory was visiting the Tate on a school trip. I was thirteen and my family were worried because it was the first time a member of our family had been to London for decades. I’ve loved museums ever since. A year afterwards my class visited Arts University Bournemouth and I remember wishing I could study there. I still feel a sense of excitement when I see printmaking equipment. I briefly did a college art course but I had to drop out because of expenses and deteriorating relationships at home.

Anyway, this is just a ranting way of saying that I always was steered away from doing things I love. In later years, external pressure was replaced by internal pressure. I felt like the struggles I had in the workplace were a result of my lack of formal educational qualifications (which illustrated my being thick). And I remember just feeling like I missed out on the rite of passage that is student life; that university was a doorway into a better life for myself.

ppI had all these thoughts and memories swishing around in my head that I had to let something out. I was afraid of talking about this because I thought I’d sound like a bitter drop-out (believe me, I’m not – dropping out was very good for me).

After I started talking to people I found my friends, and people they know, had similar experiences. And it felt good to know I wasn’t alone.

Now I feel like my thickness is irrelevant. You know, I excel at what I love and fail at things I find boring? Academia isn’t for me. Maybe I’ll never understand the readings I’m given about the intersection between art and politics, but I’m in a museum working with a team who are finding practical ways to make art accessible to all. So aren’t we all just fighting the same battle? Except I’m using my favourite tools.

Unknown skills

Do you ever have those moments when you overhear someone struggling with something and you think you know the answer but it seems rude to interrupt? Or you want to suggest something but it seems like you’re stating the obvious? Or when faced with a challenge you visualise multiple possible consequences and imagine ways to tackle/avoid/reduce the challenge? Well, this month I’ve found out I’m good at creative problem-solving. I didn’t even know that was a thing. And the only reason I found out is because three people gave me positive feedback in one week. Weird, because I thought my creative problem-solving with a result of my anxiety trying to organise my experiences into manageable scenarios. My mental health is a funny thing sometimes; it closes doors to normal life but it rips open walls to new worlds. Celebrate your weirdness, folks.

Mental health

I touch on mental health in this blog. It’s something that I may go into in more detail in the future. But if you know me in person you’ve probably noticed I talk about it more than I used to. Talking about it has been a key part of my healing process. I was chatting to my friend who was telling me that she finds it difficult to talk about depression because she knows people who have faced more hardship than her. I understand. I felt the same way for a long time.

After going to a UNISON Disabled Members (also known as UNISON Members with Disabilities) conference I met with people who were more vocal than I was about mental health. And I really felt, for the first time in my life, that is was OK to say I’m not OK. Incidentally Brighton Student Union have an It’s OK Not To Be OK campaign and I think it’s brilliant. Since then I have made a conscious effort to check in my mental health status to friends, colleagues and family. I have taken TOIL when I am really unwell, I have asked for space when I need it and I have refused to let people police my feelings.

So goodnight everyone. I’m doing OK.

Backlog

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So I’m actually managing two posts in one month. I can hardly believe it!

In true Nina-style, life has been throwing more opportunities and challenges my way. I didn’t have a chance to acknowledge them until today. Because at 17:23 this afternoon I tackled the last of my February backlog. It feels great. Admittedly, my March backlog is looking pretty hefty but I’m in the mood for celebrating small victories.

I’ve had some mental health blips this week. I shouldn’t really call them blips but I don’t really know how to describe them. I had been feeling quite restless despite my body’s obvious exhaustion so I got up in the early hours of Thursday morning and sorted through everything I own. I ended up giving a quarter of my clothes to charity, I threw out all paper related to my previous course and I created a mini-jumble sale in my office with a bunch of my unused toiletries. Last week, or maybe the week before, I gave most of my politics books to the Pavilion Parade common room. I’m reducing the amount of things I own. I didn’t plan to get rid of these things but sometimes they feel like they are weighing me down. Or creating a wall of junk I can’t climb over.

I plan to spend some of tomorrow at the library. I’m making a page and forum in Mahara. I ♥️ Mahara so it’s going to be fun. When I did my Award in Education and Training at CCB I used Mahara in my microteach and I haven’t used it since. I’m looking forward to getting reacquainted with it.

I spent my day off this week populating a calendar in Sharepoint. Which, I know, sounds boring but it felt so good to have it completed and have all the information I need in one place (I just wish I was this organised in my personal life).

I’m also going to look at #4brightideas again. I’m going to see if I can rehash some of my old engagement/participation ideas into something new. I created a scheme a couple of years ago designed to find mentors for widening participation applicants – I never launched it because I wasn’t quite sure how to categorise it. Maybe it’s time to have another look at it.

 

I’ll end the day with some toy research for the museum and then do some preparation for a job I am applying for in my old team.

Busy bee strikes again!

Withdrawn

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Last month I said goodbye to student life. I left PPA and my role on the Campus Action Team. In the previous month I have been incredibly busy (I still volunteer at Brighton Museum and work in the alumni office. I am also the UNISON Women’s Officer and do a lot of stuff with the blog).

I can’t quite believe I am no longer a student. I had been looking forward to being a university student for years and I had a lot of hopes/dreams tied up in my degree. Also, it feels a bit weird because everyone was expecting me to do great. I loved student life but I never felt like I truly fit in (which is totally to do with my mental health issues, rather than the university). Plus, being a part-time mature student is tough and balancing work, study, volunteering, family and other ad hoc union duties was too difficult for me.

At first I thought admitting my failure would be difficult. But I am actually feeling OK. Though, maybe if I get some free time in the future I might start to feel regret. I’ve often told people that getting to university was an achievement for me. Yes, I am one of those people who come from a background where I was taught to believe university was not for the likes of me. People didn’t think I could make it, I didn’t feel like I could make it, but I made it. I just made it, then I left.

I am also lucky enough to work with a really supportive teams (in the university and the museum) so I know that I’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn and develop in the future. University life has shown me that feeling cared for is important to my learning journey. I feel valued and I know that people I work with trust my abilities (even when I don’t).

Since leaving my course I have done some Early Years training at Brighton Museum. The training was delivered my Octopus Inc and it really tied together my interests in learning, accessibility, inclusion and art. I had never considered working with Early Years before but I actually found that I could apply a lot of my knowledge and experience into these sessions. It felt really exciting and rewarding to find out I wasn’t as clueless as I expected.

I also booked a spontaneous weekend trip to St Ives. It was beautiful and people there were lovely (especially the people who kept giving me free fudge and liqueur – you made my journey home much more enjoyable). The trip also gave me time to think about what to do with free time. On a train to Plymouth I sat opposite a lady (I wish I could remember her name, company or job role) who spoke about her role using art to work with people with disabilities. I also visited RAAR Emporium and spoke to the staff about using art to engage. St Ives was well worth the visit and I came home feeling reinvigorated.

I’ll leave this post here and write some more later on. I know I could easily end up writing about everything I’ve done in the past month and that would be boring to read (why have you come this far anyway?).