A sobering end to 2014.

2014 is ending in a way I never thought possible. My parents are getting divorced, and the circumstances around the divorce make things more difficult. I feel unsteady, my foundations shaken.

People may be surprised to read that being an ‘adult’ living in a different country does not make a divorce any easier. I almost envy my younger brother, who has witnessed the gradual breakdown in my parents’ relationship over time and has been expecting the divorce for a while. The news was ceremoniously dumped on me prior to my flying home for Christmas, so that I wouldn’t be surprised when I got there. I almost didn’t want to go home, but I did, and we managed to survive.

However, I sense that this whole ordeal is going to leave a lasting scar on my heart and mind. I feel myself readjusting my view of my parents, my sense of family and my priorities. I feel a little lost, as I’d grown up with my family unit being the only stable thing in my life (having moved between countries with friends changing year on year). I felt safer launching myself into the world with them as my base. This widening crack in the unit has destabilised the platform, and I no longer feel sure of what I’m doing and what I should be doing.

I’m now sitting in the airport in Frankfurt, waiting for my connecting flight to London (a whopping 5½ hours). I did not want to leave South Africa (as usual). I wanted to stay with my mother, who is now more alone than ever, having seen both her kids off at the airport at the same time. My brother is spending a few weeks in Milan with his friend before returning to South Africa to start university. He’ll be a four-hour drive from where my mom lives. We had to help my dad move out most of his stuff this past weekend, so my mom is going back to a house devoid of her children and her soon-to-be ex-husband.

My dad’s work is what started tearing our family apart, his job in another city meaning he spent less and less time with his family over the past year and a half. After being a part of this, I wonder whether I have put too much stress on my own job, to the disadvantage of my family and my happiness. At what point do you decide that while the work is good in one place, your heart belongs in another?

I’m reaching out now to anyone else who has experienced their parents divorcing in their early adulthood. How were you affected? Did you also find yourself readjusting your worldview? Did you do anything different as a result, and do you regret it? I ask these questions because the reading I’ve found on the subject is limited – only a single book on Amazon about adult children of divorce (ACODs) for a start. Please let me know your thoughts.


My single resolution for 2013.

First off, hello! The internet was set up in the new place today, so we’re once again connected. Of course, I might as well be trying to use my phone’s data connection half the time, as Flan is hogging the connection.

As we can also testify to, the world did not end in 2012, and we are now in 2013. I’ve decided to make a single resolution this year: to figure out what makes me happy.

There are many factors that could influence happiness, including:

  1. Work
  2. Social environment
  3. Home environment
  4. Hobbies
  5. Learning
  6. Achievement of goals

I’m going to be drawing on different sources to research my ideal situation thoroughly. I’ll be drawing on past experiences, trying new experiences, reading, asking others and so on. So let’s look at the above one by one.

1. Work

I’m good at my current job. This is something I’m frequently told by my supervisor, and I also often come home exhausted but with a sense that I’ve made a difference and done something better than the average employee would do. Today, for instance, I discovered an issue with customer orders. The details aren’t important, and it all turned out just fine in the end. What is important is how I handled the issue. It was a busy day, and this could have been a bit of a disaster if what we originally thought was true. Yet, while I was trying to sort it all out, a coworker turned to me and expressed his amazement at how calm I was. This was my first time doing this task on my own, but I discovered, diagnosed and rectified it all on my own while still cheerfully dealing with customers when they came to me. I kept my supervisor updated on the progress of the problem throughout, and I even worked an extra hour to get the job done, as I knew that trying to hand it over to someone else on such a busy day would be too difficult, and, hey, I was on a roll. I actually had my biggest hypothesis just as my shift was supposed to end, and I couldn’t bring myself to leave without testing to see if I was right – I was.

Ok, so I’ve established that I can do my job well. However, doing something well doesn’t mean it’s what you should be doing. I need challenges, learning opportunities and to be on the path to a career suited to my skills and personality. And, quite frankly, I don’t think a career in customer service is for me. I enjoy technology, solving problems and maximising the potential of a situation. That’s why I’m exploring my career options, branching out from occupational therapy, but still determined to bring that background into the mix. Who knows, I might just end up in AT in a few years after all! But in the mean time, on top of searching for OT jobs, I’m also seeking other job opportunities that satisfy my hunger for knowledge and skill. I know a job that lets me be creative and gives me plenty of learning opportunities will help in my quest for increased happiness.

2. Social environment

There are two parts to this area: human and non-human. I want to tap into both for more happiness.

Within the human arena, I’d like to spend more time out of work with one of my coworkers who I bonded with quite dramatically and quickly. And lucky for me, she lives quite close to my new house. In fact, she’s coming round tomorrow for pancakes! But I’d also like to get to know other people in the area more by possibly going to a local club, as well as making more of an effort to get to my knitting group. (It’s hard when the meetings are on Wednesday evenings, starting an hour before my shift ends.)

It’s now been a year since my family moved back to South Africa, and I have to admit that it’s taken a toll. While I regularly chat with my parents on Skype, getting hold of my brother is another issue. (He’s 17, and the most successful place to chat with him is on Steam, a gaming platform.) I’m going to attempt to convince him to Skype with my at least once a month, as I miss him, and I’m really curious to know what high school is like in South Africa.

Lastly, another human I will seek out more this year is one who understands what its like to be a globe wanderer. Clarissa, I’m thinking of you! You will be my first overnight houseguest once I get my guest/arts room set up. I can definitely see the mental health benefits of seeing a friend more often who understands my yearning for South Africa and just so happens to be a mental health OT. You’ll approve of my efforts, I’m sure.

Now, as for non-human, I’m a supporter of animal-assisted therapy. During my mental health placement, I did a report on the subject, as we encouraged the patients to take care of resident guinea pigs and rabbits. I’m going to be applying this idea to myself by acquiring a small pet or two, most likely a couple of hamsters. Growing up, I had many pets, including several hamsters, and I loved all of them. However, a larger pet is a very big commitment, and it makes moving countries difficult. A hamster has a lifespan of a couple of years, and it’s small and easy to care for given how much space and money I actually have.

As for my mental health reasoning, I can say from experience that when you feel down, you can lack motivation to do many things, including care for yourself (e.g. dressing nicely, going out for a walk, etc.). However, having a pet that depends on you for its basic needs can be great motivation to get out of bed and do something. You are responsible for something’s wellbeing, and that can be very empowering when you feel hopeless or out of control.

3. Home environment

The flat Flan and I lived in for 2012 was tiny. So tiny, in fact, that it became almost impossible to clean properly, as everything was crammed into corners and stacked on top of each other. The new place is bigger, and we can actually fit a mop and bucket in it! (Previously, I scrubbed the bathroom and kitchen floors with a sponge.) This year, I will endeavour (along with Flan, of course) to keep this place clean and dust-free, as I was constantly sniffling in the old place. The end of buying tissue boxes every week will make me endlessly happy.

I’m also thinking of using the guest room as a craft/sensory room – that’s the OT in me coming out. I’ll actually have room to paint, and I’ve got a comfy old chair up there for knitting. The chair is sort of shaped like a spinning top, and I like to sit and sway from side to side in it, satisfying my vestibular sense. I’ll also be on the lookout for other sensory stimulants, like fairy lights, and I’ll get some playdough and other squishy things to keep in a box on the shelf when I’m feeling fidgety.

4. Hobbies

I think I’ve sort of covered these, but basically, I want to enjoy my spare time doing things like reading, knitting and painting, all of which can be enjoyed in the guest room quite nicely. I think everyone will agree with me that having hobbies is great for you emotionally and cognitively, keeping your mind active and helping you to de-stress.

5. Learning

There is a particular ‘hobby’ of mine that I want to definitely continue in the new year, as graduating is no excuse to stop, and that is learning. I can’t say enough how much I love Coursera, and I’m going to continue taking a variety of courses this year. On top of that, I want to continue my learning of coding and programming, picking up Javascript and maybe a basic programming language like Ruby or Python.

My brain is insatiable, basically.

6. Achievement

Big or small, we need goals to drive us forward. Preferably, you should have big goals broken down into smaller ones. Not only will achieving goals improve your health or help you acquire new skills, but they’ll come with a little boost of happiness just from accomplishing them, like ticking something off a to-do list. It also helps to record your goals and your achievements, as then you can see your progress and look back to see just how much you’ve accomplished. As you progress with a project or skill, you might forget the little things you tackled in the beginning, and a log of some kind can remind you that you’ve done more than you think. I know this worked well for me in my third placement, when I had a simple table of goals, with the date set and the date accomplished. It wasn’t complicated, and it wasn’t meant to give detail on each achievement. It was a simple record that could spark a desire to look back at a project or reflection. I think that that’s just the kind of thing I’ll try this year: a SMART goal spreadsheet.

I don’t want to set anything grand and specific, as if the goal is too big, it can become overwhelming, and you can become demotivated within weeks. People tend to go overboard with their New Year resolutions, and I think that setting myself a typical resolution could end up being disappointing come December 31st, 2013. Of course, I’ll set myself the smaller goals throughout the year, but a grandiose one rarely goes well for anyone.

Unless you disagree?

Happy Holidays!

How’s everyone doing today, on this merriest of eves? I’m writing this in my new (rented) house and hoping it gets posted, as I’m trying to access the internet via my phone’s limited data connection. (Note to Vodafone: improve your coverage of Oxford and Kidlington!)

My tenancy started on Thursday (20th), and the weekend was spent moving furniture from Newbury (donations from Flan’s dad) and our Oxford storage room (donations from my family). We have yet to move all our clothes, computers, desks and kitchen bits and bobs, but we’ve got what we need to celebrate Christmas. I’m so happy we found a place just before Christmas, as we can actually fit a tree in this house, which would not have been possible in the flat. I snagged one of the sale corner trees from M&S, and we went from shop to shop looking for the last basic decorations that fit our very tight budget. (Deposits are expensive.) I’m quite happy with our red and gold assembly!

I have to say that today is not pure joy… I’m not with my family! (And it’s raining figurative cats and dogs outside.) Christmas should be a family affair, and my family are over in South Africa. They’ve sent me some wonderful presents though to ease my homesickness: two boxes from biltong.co.uk (an UK store specialising in South African food).

My mother remarked last week how grateful she is for modern technology. If this were ten years ago, and my family had left me over here, imagine what keeping in touch would be like? I think I might have given up and moved down with them. That’s how important family is to me. Nowadays, we have Skype –with video– and apps like Viber, so I can regularly see my family and text them whenever I want. We’ll be trying to Skype tonight and tomorrow morning to keep Christmas as normal and wonderful as possible.

Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys the next couple days!