I have been trying to write this blog post for a month.

One of my challenges was to write a blog post every month. I fully intended to do this, which is why I went to my computer in the last week of February every day with the aim of writing a post. I then got distracted, or I couldn’t decide what to write about. For the past month, I’ve been coming up with ideas whilst falling asleep, in the shower or driving to work. They never made their way onto a piece of paper or a computer screen. I find this with a lot of things that I don’t deem as ‘necessary’.

However, I now wonder what I deem necessary. Doing laundry – yes. Making dinner – yes. Doing a little bit of extra work at home on the weekend to keep on top of things – sadly, this seems to come up as a yes a lot too. But many of the things I enjoy get pushed aside because they’re not productive enough. I’ve made barely any progress with the sketchbook (a couple pages), and I haven’t done any swatches for the knitting (though I am knitting a cowl for a colleague in a new stitch – the honeycomb).

Which is why my goal for the Immunity to Change course is to learn how to relax. If there’s anything important to you that you’d like to change about yourself (such as learning how to not procrastinate…), feel free to try out this little experiment with me.

I’m now going to go and be frivolous (i.e. play a computer game with my boyfriend). I don’t do this enough!

Could I have a future in Human Computer Interaction?

Looking back over my experience studying occupational therapy, I’m coming to accept that I am not going to be a standard practicing OT. What I found most interesting were things like assistive technology and educational technology, and I had two placements that encouraged these interests. I also really enjoyed learning and developing new skills in the academic (but ‘practical’) setting. In school, I enjoyed conducting experiments and writing up reports. So it seems fitting for me to combine these interests and work with technology, potentially in a research and development role. It is something I’m repeatedly drawn to, so why fight it?

Something else that comes naturally to me is my ability to spot things that could be better. In my current job, I’m always suggesting improvements to the way my team works and how our environment is set up. In my final placement, I watched a presentation in which one of the OTs demonstrated a new programme to help the students (with dyslexia) construct sentences, and I felt almost disturbed towards the end, as the software was not in any way intuitive. I sat there just thinking about how this or that could be improved, and I even talked to the OT afterwards about her experience trialling it. She had to spend hours exchanging emails and phone calls with their support team just to learn how to use it in the most basic sense! (Apparently, once you know how it works, it’s great.)

I’ve been thinking about where I want to go in life, particularly what to do a Masters in. I know that I’m going to one day get a PhD – this is one of my life goals – but I just don’t know what exactly to focus on, as my interests range from education to AT to virtual reality to anthropology and so on.

And I think I’ve found my Masters area: Human Computer Interaction. The name is pretty self-explanatory – it involves studying how humans interact with technology and designing technology so that it better meets the needs of the intended users. It combines behavioural psychology with computer science, among many other fields. This is where I hope you all go, “But wait, this is totally relevant to occupational therapy!” Don’t occupational therapists also try to match technology (low and high-tech) with the needs and abilities of the user, just on a smaller scale with one person at a time or a very specific population?

I think occupational therapists are entirely qualified to study human computer interaction. We understand people, both psychologically and physically. We have the skills necessary to observe and analyse the behaviour of people in an environment completing a task, and we can modify the task or environment to improve the success rate of the activity. So it seems perfectly natural, if I want to work with technology, to study human computer interaction and apply it to creating and/or improving technologies for education and/or disabilities.

My next step is to continue reading and learning about HCI, as well as looking into the differences of the various universities that offer it as a MSc. I found out that I have two weeks worth of holidays to use before the new fiscal year, as does Flan, so we might take a few day trips to Bath, UCL, Brighton and so on over the coming months. It’s not a cheap venture, so I’ll also be seeing what funding options I have; there may be a companies or organisations out there willing to sponsor a potential HCI expert! Who knows?

The December plan.

I finished off the blog post for November in private posts, as there are naturally things that I want to reflect on but don’t want anyone with an internet connection to read. A few will be in my professional portfolio regarding experiences at work.

Work is… Well, it’s coming up to Christmas, so you can probably guess what working in a major store is like, especially in the customer service area. I am thankful for those customers who come with a smile and a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ – the ones that remember that you are a human being, too.

My plan for December involves reading, knitting and moving. Flan and I are moving from a tiny, one bedroom flat inside the ring road to a three bedroom house in a neighbouring village. The rent isn’t too expensive, but I have to admit that money is a bit tight given that we have to pay for a month of rent in our current flat (contract only ends Jan. 20th) and for the deposit. Oh, and let’s not forget the Christmas presents that need to be sent over to South Africa. But the overlapping rent will be worth it, as we will actually have space for a Christmas tree in the new place! (Especially as it’s unfurnished…and we don’t have a lot of furniture.)

A Christmas tree means Christmas decorations, of which we have none. I know Flan’s father is donating a few for our first Christmas in our own home. We don’t have enough money to waste on stocking up on enough decorations to make our tree look loved, so I’ll be attempting to knit a few. I’ve bought myself some cheap acrylic yarn in the standard Christmas colours (green, red, white, plus a bonus glittery black). I’ll be attempting stars, snowflakes and maybe an reindeer or elf.

I’ll also be trying to wind down from the bustle of work with a simple, reliable relaxation method – getting lost in a good book. Once upon a time, I was the child who could finish a 700-page Harry Potter book in one long 7-hour stretch. Then came high school, though I did manage to juggle homework and reading back then, as homework was a simple issue of finished/unfinished. When I started university, reading became difficult, as reading for pleasure wasn’t relaxing. It was riddled with guilt and worry. Shouldn’t I be studying? With occupational therapy, it’s not finished/unfinished, only don’t know/know a little/know a little more/etc. There’s no endpoint to the knowledge and understanding, and I never knew what was enough to do well in essays and exams. So I kept feeling like I should be studying, reading articles, writing reflections, etc. But now I feel like I should have some work/life balance and get back into reading for pleasure, not just learn learn learn. I do very much enjoy studying and learning new things, but if I binge, then I get exhausted and don’t feel like doing anything.

So I’m going to read this evening, and maybe I’ll even finish a book. Book of choice, What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang, as recommended by @kirtyes.