Introverts Are People Too

Type “introvert meme” into a search engine and you’ll find a million and one results. This is good for those of us of the internal variety not only to realise we’re not in there alone but they provide some handy resources to circulate in an effort to help the extrovert world understand our weirdness.

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There’s a common misconception that introverts are anti-social. We’re not. It’s just that being social can be exhausting for an introvert. Some people (extroverts) are energised by being around lots of people and talking. Introverts get their energy from spending time in their own heads.

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Does this mean we don’t enjoy being with other people? Of course not. Admittedly, we’re not always good conversationalists. We don’t do small talk. And for those of us with the double whammy of introversion and shyness, maintaining a conversation, especially with someone we don’t know well, can be agony. On the plus side, we make great listeners.

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Introverts can do social. We can even like it. It’s just that we prefer meaningful conversation with one or two people we know well. In a large social gathering, you’re more likely to find us clearing the table or in the kitchen doing the dishes. We like a large gathering if we have the option of moving in and out of social interaction with a job to do.

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Unfortunately, introverts – along with those ubiquitous memes about us – can sometimes be our own worst enemies. A plethora of memes about how we’d rather stay home or how social occasions cause us anxiety can have unintended consequences. Often it means that other people hesitate to invite introverts out for a social date. Let’s face it, an introvert will never be the life of the party (although personally I kill it with the Under 5 crowd) and rarely tops an invitation list. People think we’d prefer not to go, that we’re happiest at home alone.

Okay, yes, we are.

Just not all the time.

Introverts are people too and people need people (cue Barbara Streisand…). We can do alone but we also do lonely.

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So, if you’re not an introvert yourself but you’re lucky enough to be friends with one, don’t forget your homebody friend may be getting too much of a good thing. Ask them out for dinner or a drink or to see a movie. They’ll welcome it. Just don’t bring ten people with you.

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Actually, given it’s from an introvert, this has been a Privately Expressed Suggestion.

 

Another year over

A new one just begun… (almost)

I believe it is customary at this time of year to make resolutions for the year ahead. I’ve never been a fan of New Year Resolutions. It always feels like setting yourself up for failure.

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But I’ve been reviewing my resistance to resolutions.

Common areas for improvement have traditionally been based around losing weight, getting fit and giving up some vice or other.

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I don’t need to lose weight. Even with a chocolate-laden diet. Lucky me.

I already belong to a gym and have control over my fitness. It’s what allows me to have my chocolate-fuelled diet. It’s all about motivation.

I don’t smoke and I don’t….oh. Well, okay, I could probably make alterations in my imbibing rates at times. I like wine. And beer. And gin. That’s grapes, wholegrains and berries. I’m pretty sure all of those appear in the healthy section of the food pyramid, right? So I’m all good there, then.

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So I have been musing about resolutions and their purpose and have concluded that they are about improvement of oneself and benefit to others. In which case, I’ve come up with the following resolutions for 2019:

1. I will politely decline whenever anyone asks me to take a photo of them. I am a shocking photographer. This will reduce disappointment in the world.

2. I will perfect the politician’s skill of answering a question with a question thus avoiding talking about myself. This will reduce eyestrain in the community as people are no longer required to dart their eyes to the side looking for a way out whenever I am speaking, especially after a couple of glasses of wine.

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3. I will write all emails and messages based on the competition standard of 25 words or less. Then I will delete them. Only if I can be bothered rewriting them will I send them. This will increase productivity across the land.

4. I will limit my consumption of American late night talk show host monologues to once a week. This is for my own general wellbeing and mental health. It will also reduce boredom in those less obsessed with US politics.

5. I will utilise the gym more regularly but will not talk about it on social media. (Okay, so I lied about having control over my fitness. Seriously, who doesn’t drop the ball over Christmas/New Year?)

In the tradition of New Year Resolutions, I expect to have broken every one of these by the end of January.

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Sorry.

 

Got some New Year Resolutions of your own? How do you think you’ll go?

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When The Universe Cares

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What’s your relationship with the universe? Is it friend or foe? Or is it more like an annoying parent doing things you don’t like for your own good?

I joke a lot about the universe having a sick sense of humour. Like when I decide the universe is telling me not to do something because nothing is working out and then suddenly everything falls into place.

Today the universe decided to show me kindness.

As I approach the worst day of the year, anxiety is high and tears are close. I’m not sleeping or eating properly and everything feels difficult.

Today the universe chose to tell me I am needed, I am useful, I am loved and I am worthy.

After two failed past attempts and an almost third, I was able to successfully complete a plasma donation and know I have saved lives.

Chance sent me a stranger I could help with a meal and a train ticket.

A friend reached out, unwilling to let me slip away into social solitude.

I won a pair of trail runners because of something I wrote about running.

A day that began with stress ended with peace and happiness.

It’s still a tricky week but I’m grateful for the small things that help me keep going.

Desiderata Universe quote

 

 

 

How Do You Explain?

How do you explain a grief that never really goes away? How do you explain to those who’ve never experienced the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one why the grief still lingers after decades?

I’ve written before about losing my sister and niece in a car crash in 1993. (In fact, I can’t believe it’s already been nearly five years since I wrote about it.) It’s an experience that has become woven into the very fabric of who I am and the anniversary of their deaths is a day to be endured even so many years later.

Yesterday would have been my sister’s 60th birthday. I always find her birthday difficult, coming soon after mine, but the significant birthdays are the hardest.

I had to work. I am lucky to work with a very caring colleague and I had wisely already discussed what was coming up. So when I disappeared into the toilets not long after arriving at work and reappeared some time later red-eyed and subdued, she was attentive and protective.

The day was exhausting. While I was teaching, things were fine. I have a lovely class and they fill me with joy every day (okay, yes, also frustration at times but that’s teaching, right?) and they gave me bright moments in my day. It was just the ‘down’ times that were hard. And so, when the music played for the end of recess, I suddenly lost it and had to pull myself together in the kitchen before the kids came in. (To be fair, they’d chosen that day to play “You Are The Reason” by Calum Scott. Seriously. Luckily, for lunchtime, they switched to “Nutbush”.)

I made it through the day but I was pretty exhausted by the end. I was fortunate to have a community singing session that night so even though I was tempted to stay home and go to bed, I went and it lifted my soul as it always does.

Today, I got to work and my colleague asked how I was after yesterday.

“Okay,” I said. “But a bit embarrassed about yesterday.”

Because here’s the thing. There’s a part of you that wonders if others think it’s ludicrous that you’ll still burst into tears at the memory of someone gone for 25 years.

How do you explain?

How do you explain that the years don’t matter?

How do you explain that the pain never goes away?

How do you explain that you never really get over it? You learn to live with it and you learn to find joy and happiness in your life again but you never, ever get over it.

How do you explain that the sudden and unexpected death of someone so young leaves a lasting scar that tears open again at every birthday, every anniversary, every family celebration (births, marriages) that highlight their missing presence?

You can’t.

I’m lucky. I work with someone who is sensitive and understanding and she made it clear that I had nothing to be embarrassed about.

I hope, if you’ve experienced the same devastating loss, that you are also surrounded by people who understand.

The grief never really goes away.

It’s hard to explain.

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Magic Kitchen Fairy

We have a Magic Kitchen Fairy.

It’s true.

She’s amazing.

For example:

If you spill something on the bench, you can just leave it and the Magic Kitchen Fairy will wipe it up.

If you pull the inner seal off a bottle of milk, just leave it on the bench. The Magic Kitchen Fairy will pop it in the bin for you. The same goes for empty packets and wrappers.

Dirty plate or cup? Just put it down wherever you’re sitting. The Magic Kitchen Fairy will be along soon to collect it for you.

Whenever you make a sandwich, don’t worry about the cutting board, knife and crumbs and stuff. The Magic Kitchen Fairy will clean that up for you.

Oops. Had an overflow in the microwave? Not a problem! Just go about your business and the Magic Kitchen Fairy will wash the tray and make that microwave sparkling clean again.

If you forget to put that box of cereal back in the pantry, not to worry. The Magic Kitchen Fairy put it away for you.

See? She’s amazing!

She hates me.

No, listen, she really hates me. I’ve tried doing those things and she never cleans things up for me.

And I swear when others leave a mess and I’m around, she hides and leaves me to do it.

She hates me.

You don’t think she exists, do you? But she does. I know.

How do I know she exists?

Because I know my husband and children definitely believe in the Magic Kitchen Fairy.  They trust her completely to clean things up for them. Surely four people can’t be that badly mistaken, can they?

I mean, if they don’t believe in the Magic Kitchen Fairy, then they must be leaving those messes for me to clean up. And that can’t be right, can it?

We have a Magic Kitchen Fairy.

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Streaking Out

Have you ever had rock candy? Hey, I’m talking about lollies not some euphemism for crack cocaine. This is a family-friendly blog. You know, that hard sweetie they roll into long tubes of sugary, colourful fun and then slice up like some sweet tooth’s version of kabana.

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Fruit salad rock candy from Red Balloon Candy

I remember standing at the window of more than one confectionary establishment watching the candy man or candy woman rolling out the soft and pliable candy dough and wondering what the end product would look like – would it be a rainbow of colours, an interior designer’s dream of colour scheming or, if they were really clever, would there be a word or picture through that sugar rope?

I wonder what you would look like as a piece of rock candy? What runs through the middle of you? (That’s not a literal question. I don’t need to see what a dissection of a human body would look like, thank you very much.)

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase that someone may have a “streak of madness”. What’s your streak? Maybe you have more than one. Maybe you’d be a rainbow of streakiness if you turned into rock candy.

I’ve spoken before about my inherent streak of stubbornness. It’s what got me through training for and completing my first marathon. Despite the voices telling me I’d never make it, that stubborn streak just wouldn’t let me give up. That streak took over again recently when I put myself through a process I’d sworn I’d never do again because my first experience had crushed my self-confidence. But when the opportunity arose, that stubborn part of me just wouldn’t let it beat me and I felt compelled to give it another shot. That stubborn streak is so hard, I reckon it would rival an Everlasting Gobstopper.

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You mean one of these?

However, if you sliced me up, it wouldn’t just be the word “stubborn” through the middle. I can be pretty streaky.

There’s the Freak Streak for starters. The one that makes middle-aged me go out in public in fluoro orange sneakers and a hoodie saying “I am a Whovian Mum. Just like a normal mum except much cooler.” The one that dresses up in a nerd costume for a trivia night even though it’s not a dress up event.

Then there’s definitely a stereotypical streak of madness. What else would make me take on a marathon at age 50? Or decide I could put together my own she-shed with no building skills whatsoever?

There’s a wobbly and uneven streak we’ll call a combination of over-thinking and lack of self-confidence. Sometimes it’s a thick streak and sometimes you can hardly see it.

A crafty/arty streak definitely flows through me. It’s not a particularly refined one and is probably a bit lumpy with undissolved sugar but it goes through my core.

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I want this shirt. (© Teeturtle.com)

 

I’m not sure the MOSY Rock Candy would be a bestseller and it certainly wouldn’t appear in any of your exclusive confectionery establishments. It’s more likely to be in the clearance bin in amongst the other imperfect packages. But it’s definitely a limited edition.

So, what would your rock candy look like?

Postscript: The day after I wrote the first draft of this post, the most famous rock candy manufacturer in Australia, Castlemaine Rock, announced they were closing their doors. Tapping into the zeitgeist…

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Vale Castlemaine Rock 😦

All That Glitters

I ran another marathon.

I know, I know.

Last year’s marathon was supposed to be the once-only, tick-it-off-the-bucket-list means of avoiding a significant birthday party.

And right up until I ran it, I was definitely only doing one. But then I crossed the finish line in a not-embarrassing time and then I got handed a big shiny medal. Ooh. Hard to resist a repeat of that experience.

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There’s more to it, though. Unbeknownst to me, I’d signed up to run the 40th Edition of the Melbourne Marathon. You realise what that means? The medal I was handed at that finish line was a medal only those who completed that particular marathon will ever possess because it has “40 Years” on it.

All together now: Ooooh.

So when Facebook, in its infinite wisdom, decided to float into my news stream the news that the Gold Coast Marathon was celebrating 40 Years in 2018, what was a now-marathon-runner supposed to do?

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I signed up.

My family sighed.

I sold it to them on the basis that we’d get a family holiday out of it at a warm Northern place in the cold Southern winter.

Okay.

And I spent the following training months vowing I’d never do another one. I mean, who really has time for all that training?

That training was less than optimal. I pretty much dropped the ball between February and April. I kept finding excuses not to go to the gym to do my strength training or to cut short a difficult interval training run or to swap a run for a gym session because it was cold and dark outside and I didn’t wanna. I “didn’t wanna” quite a bit too much.

Because of this or maybe not because of this, maybe because I’m older or maybe just because life can be like that, I was also battling a bit of knee and hip annoyance in the weeks leading up the marathon. Well, that’s not good.

So, I shrugged and figured “all I have to do is cross the finish line”. After all, it’s the same medal whether you come 100th or 1000th. Even if I had to walk the last 10kms I’d make it. Damn, I’d crawl if I had to.

The upshot of this approach is that I rather enjoyed the marathon. I didn’t push hard, I took the time to have a proper drink at every station (although, over hydrating at the start meant a 3 minute layover at the 5km mark when I decided a use of facilities might be a good idea before my bladder burst) and I just tried to enjoy the experience and the scenery.

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Nice scenery

Okay, I didn’t enjoy all of it. I mean, it’s a marathon. Nobody enjoys all of it. There was a 6km section from about the 31km mark when we’d just passed the entrance into the park where the finish line is and we had to keep going before we could loop back for the final leg that seemed interminable. I’ve never known 6km to be so loooooong.

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Yeah, not enjoying this bit

It was also a bit warm for my liking. I’ve mentioned before that I prefer to run in the cold. It wasn’t Commonwealth-Games-collapse-on-the-side-of-the-road level heat but it was too warm for this woman from the Victorian wintry lands.

In the end, I ran a similar time to last year, just a few minutes over my previous time. To have enjoyed the race and finished well (and no trouble with the cramping I had last time) was worth a few extra minutes.

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The organisers of the Gold Coast Marathon claim 60% of participants achieve a personal best time in this event. That makes the sneaky voices whisper “if only”s in your ear when you don’t achieve one. But here’s the thing about that statistic. I’ve just filled out a survey about the event and one of the questions was “Did you make a personal best time?” for which you can answer “Yes” or “No”. Here’s what I also know: according to the announcer at the finish line, 30% of participants were running their first marathon. If it’s your first marathon, it’s a given that you’re going to answer “Yes” to that question. Right? Plus, if you ran a shocker and didn’t beat a previous time, perhaps you’d be disinclined to fill out a survey and answer such a question. So it puts that 60% figure in a dodgy light, I reckon.

Damn statistics.

In the end, all that mattered was crossing that finish line and collecting another big shiny medal. It’s always about the bling for me.

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Shiny!

All that glitters is on the Gold Coast.

 

Postscript: A friend texted today to ask how the marathon went. I told her it went well and I enjoyed it. Then I said:

“Unfortunately, that probably means I’ll do another one. LOL”

🙄

Lament of the Lonely Runner

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She runs alone

with no partner, friend, coach or team

to while away the hours

as the kilometres plod by

 

Time in her head

her own company she keeps

She sings to herself

to keep the rhythm in her feet

and silently screams at the voices

that tell her to stop

that she can’t do it

that she shouldn’t be there

 

She revisits past troubles

and reviews ones yet to come

She rewrites past conversations

and rehearses ones that have to come

 

It has always been thus

and she has met the challenges

she has set for herself

and overcome them

Alone

 

And she has not minded

the time alone

She is alone

but not lonely

 

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Until today

 

Today the loneliness strikes hard

Even the usual fleeting connections

with strangers on the track

a smile, a wave, a breathless ‘Hello’

are rare on this cold and blustery winter day

as sensible people stay indoors

curled up on the couch

watching their footy team play

 

Perhaps, in these days of reduced social interaction

this introvert has had too much of a good thing

like an overly restrictive diet

As coffee dates and drinks and dinners out

have all but disappeared

perhaps loneliness has put a foot in the door

 

The loneliness in her life

finds its way onto the track

 

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As the kilometres of bitumen

pass endlessly by

under her pounding feet

she questions this life choice

this pursuit of isolation

And she knows

 

Because loneliness is hard

but also all too easy

 

She questions her value as a friend

to all but a tiny few

Reaching out is easy when one feels

one’s value to the other

 

She knows she is appreciated

for her willingness to help

and her acts of generosity

She knows she is respected

for her tenacity in the face of challenge

and her passion for justice

 

But she longs to be loved

for her sense of humour

and her addiction to American late night talk shows

for her innate childish silliness

and her ridiculous dance moves

for her love of cosplay

and musicals and themed birthday parties

 

She wishes her annoying traits

that keep her from friendship

could be softened and understood

couched in an understanding

of her shyness and social awkwardness

her need for order

and her belief that life should be fair and just

 

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As she reaches the end

the thoughts ease for now

and she knows

tomorrow she will lace these shoes again

and run

alone again

 

Always alone

but not always lonely

 

 

Running On THE Road

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The Great Ocean Road is one of the most iconic stretches of tarmac in the world.

Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932, it is both a testament to human endeavour and a striking memorial to those who lost their lives in the First World War.

The Road is featured in many a Top 10 traveller list and thousands of tourists traverse it every day in buses, cars, campervans and motorcycles.

What they can’t do, if they value their lives, is travel the road on foot.

Except for one special day in the year.

The Great Ocean Road Running Festival is a two day event in May incorporating races for everyone from the 1.5km Kids’ Gallop to the 60km Ultra Marathon. There are also multiple distances for walkers.

The shorter races are held around the township of Lorne on the Saturday and has quite the party atmosphere.

But it’s the Sunday that is special. On Sunday, the Great Ocean Road is closed to traffic between Lorne and Apollo Bay and thousands of runners and walkers line up to complete the 23km Half Marathon, the 44km Marathon or the 60km Ultra Marathon. (Yes, they run the Half and Full Marathons hard here, tacking on an extra couple of kilometres.)

With a 24km run on the training schedule, it seemed logical to run the GOR Half Marathon instead. Run much the same distance and gain some bling at the end? Easy decision.

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Very nice bling it is, too.

I think because I only saw it as a training run, I didn’t really take the run all that seriously. I didn’t chase up accommodation, choosing instead to travel from home on the morning. The night before, I was wondering about the wisdom of that decision as I was facing a 5am departure. Meh. Who sleeps before a race anyway?

The Marathon and Ultra Marathon both kick off from Lorne and finish in Apollo Bay (the Ultra taking a detour or two off the road to add the extra distance). The Half Marathon starts (predictably) half way at Kennett River. Shuttle buses run from both Lorne and Apollo Bay to the start line.

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Kennett River – Not a bad place to start a race

For some, this is not the optimum start to a race. The Great Ocean Road is a very windy road and those of a travel sickness disposition can find the bus ride to the start a bit unsettling. Hard to face 23km of running when you feel like you’re going to throw up at the start line.

We’ve been having some unseasonably warm and sunny days this Autumn but typically, Mother Nature decided to pull out a cold, misty and windy day for Race Day.

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I loved it. I am most definitely a cold weather runner. I am also a winter beach person. I would much rather a walk beside a wintry, wild ocean than a warm, crystal blue lagoon.

I had registered in the 2.5 hours plus group since I’ve only just got back into a proper training program and it being a bit further than a normal half marathon.

I surprised myself and finished in 2:15:17. I had a great run. So much so, that I actually got a bit of a shock when I reached the 18km aid station. I was beginning to wonder if I’d miscounted the stops until I saw a walking track sign saying “5km to Apollo Bay”. Only 5km to go? Sweet!

Now, that time of 2:15:17 is the actual time it took from the start line to the finish – my “net time”. My “official” time is more than two minutes longer than that.

Results

This is the injustice of the humble runner. You put yourself at the back of the group and then it takes you several minutes to reach the start line when the gun goes off. I noticed a runner on the list who crossed the finish line a few minutes after I did but her official time was almost the same as her net time. This means she stood right on the line at the start but took longer to run the race than I did. Sometimes I wish I had that level of nerve. You can see the difference the time makes in the rankings between the two times.

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Feels like a half marathon just to get to the start line

Of course, it must be confessed that as a white-bibbed more-than-2.5-hour runner, there was some measure of psychological boost whenever I overtook a red-bibbed less-than-2.5-hour runner who got to start closer to the line than I did. There’s always a silver lining.

The Great Ocean Road Marathon is included in the book “50 Place to Run Before You Die” and I can definitely say it’s a run to be experienced. Of course, the great thing is that you don’t even have to run it. With the option to walk 5km, 10km or the Half Marathon (or, if you’re a bit sneaky and can walk fast, even the full Marathon), it’s an experience open to more than marathoners. Put it on your bucket list.

 

 

 

Now, what else is in that book….?

A Master of What?

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This blog began some three and a half years ago and at the time I couldn’t really put a finger on what I was good at and hence the title.

Over these past years, kindly folk have suggested various masteries I could claim as my own but I’ve usually shrugged them off.

I’ve always struggled to say “I am good at…” and always wondered why.

Recently, I realised that perhaps it is because I possess no socially acceptable standard that I am a master of anything. It is hard to claim something for which you have no proof.

If you can say in society, “I have a degree in Literature/Creative Writing/Journalism. I am a good writer”, everyone around you will nod their heads, admire you and agree “You are a good writer.”

If you can say in society, “I have a Masters of Education from [name your own prestigious university]. I am a good teacher”, you will be regarded as an asset to any classroom.

If, however, you possess a degree in Mathematics but do not work in the field, what is it worth?

If you are qualified to teach science and mathematics but teach in an area where those skills are irrelevant, what good are you really?

And yet, I know I am a good writer. I know I am a good teacher. But my evidence for such claims is circumstantial and personal.

It is the people who tell me, “Write more blog posts, we love your writing”. It is the staff who smile happily when they realise you will be teaching in their classroom.

Fine for me.

Not so much for society.

One of my (pathetically) prized possessions is a photocopy of the front page of a training manual I once wrote which was reviewed by the upper management Training Manager (for some reason that I do not recall).

On the page, he had written “This is the best training material I have ever read in my 13+ years of training”.

Like all positions of employment I’ve ever held in my life, I had neither the qualifications nor experience to be employed as a training developer but for some reason they gave me the job anyway and I got this review within my first year on the job.

But it doesn’t look as significant hung on the wall as a Bachelor’s degree.

I’ve never even sat a music exam. So I have no proof that I can sing, play piano or guitar or write music. Well, I do have a school report from Year 9 Music that says, “She has a good working knowledge of music theory at this level and in the end-of-year examination scored an impressive 100%” so there’s that, I guess but I’m not sure how that would play out.

“So, what Grade level did you reach?”

“Me? Oh, well, none. But I have this great report from my Year 9 music teacher. Want to read it?”

“Probably not.”

The prompt for this post was a comment that found me consumed with jealousy for those who can claim a qualification to legitimise their obvious skills. I’d offered some assistance with a task on the basis of believing I possessed some relevant skill but was countered with the explanation that the other person possessed a high level qualification in the area in question and would therefore not require my unqualified help.

I can’t argue with that.

Of course, if it concerns me so much, why don’t I go out and gain such qualifications? Because I’m a Jack of ALL Trades. Which qualification would I pick?? I’m not sure I’ve got enough time or energy (or money!) to pursue a degree in literature, journalism, music, fine arts, computer programming, IT support or a Masters/PhD in Education, Science, Mathematics or a trade qualification in building, carpentry, painting, textiles, electronics, costume design, cake decorating or car maintenance.

So I think I’ll just go on as before, having a stab at anything that takes my fancy whether qualified to do so or not, and live the life of a Jack of All Trades.

And hope that someday someone introduces a Master of All Trades qualification.

I’d like to hang that on my wall.

MofAT certificate