Friday, 29 June 2018

You learn something new every... Friday.

The best thing I've done this year, has been going back to college.

In truth, there isn't a September that goes by that I don't wish I was picking stationary, grabbing files and heading off to a new classroom. The last time I was at a Uni was back in 2000 when I studied a film course, for one term - simply to know that bit more about it. Prior to that a I graduated (2:1 oh yes!) in 1994. Jaysus. 1994...

This year I decided I wanted to study again, this time to become a counsellor. Of course I love writing - but I want more feathers in my cap. Plus, I miss people. Living and working in the same small town day after day means my world becomes ever increasingly smaller - and I wanted to broaden it again. I wanted new people, new stories, new ideas, new challenges.

It was better than I ever imagined. Counselling training is as much about getting to know yourself and your reactions to situations as it is about helping others. At times you have to really study yourself - in all your naked glory - and its harder than you'd think. You are vulnerable, exposed and all that dark stuff buried deep within starts to bubble up to surface and come out. You may think you've sorted your shit into perfectly packed boxes - but you soon discover that you need to go back and have a good old clear out.

With my volunteering work, past training in life coaching and general fascination with people - I've loved every minute. There is nothing better than helping someone, help themselves. I've got 4 more years of study to go - but I'm excited. There was a time when 4 years felt like forever, but a year now goes by in a flash. By the time my daughter is ready for big school, I'll be a BACP qualified counsellor. There is a real privilege in hearing people's stories; them opening up and letting you in to their lives. The course has taught me - once again - that no matter how it looks on the outside - everyone has had to wade through the trenches of life, that no one is unscathed.

Today was the last day and it surprised me how sad I was to let them all go. Each week I've so looked forward to seeing the group - checking in, doing trios, getting to know them better. Such a wonderful bunch of people: brave, inspiring, honest, caring and kind. Work dependent I may be on the next stage with some of them - but others may be on different paths... We've promised not to lose touch and I genuinely hope we don't. My town sometimes feels like a big glass box; you don't get to know that much behind most masks - so to truly connect with people, has been a joy. My lecturer was amazing... the kind of person that you feel can see right inside you - knows instantly what makes you tick. Unnerving and thrilling in equal measure.

I'm so glad I took the leap - inspired by a lady in my lane, who is a counsellor still at 80. She told me you are never too old to learn something new - I just never realised I'd learn so much about myself into the bargain.  Roll on September and my new classroom... I can't wait.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The book of the summer.

Sometimes you read a book that touches you in a way no other book has done in a long long time...

Amazing Katy Regan's book is written from the point of view of not one, but 3 characters: There's 10 year old Zac, who is overweight, bullied and desperate to find his Dad Liam, who apparently did a runner just before Zac was born. Then there is Juliet, Zac's Mum, who works in a sandwich makers, struggles with her own weight, her car-crash of a love life and her tense relationship with her Mother. Finally, there's Mick - Juliet's Dad, who dotes on Zac, but has his own demons to contend with.

The story centres on Zac's quest to find his father - one that he plots with his best friend Tegan - noting everything in his 'mission folder.' Aware that his Mum may not exactly be jazzed on him finding his Dad, he keeps his plan a secret. Meanwhile, Juliet keeps a secret of her own: the real reasons why Liam went away.... Mick and his wife are still recovering from the death of their son, Juliet's brother. But the closer Zac gets in his mission, the more likely it is that long buried secrets and lies will float to surface...

This is a charming tale, where you cannot help but root for Zac and his earnest ambition. Regan's ability to write a convincing voice of a ten year old boy is nothing short of miraculous. Zac sweetly begins every chapter with a fact (who knew an Octopus has 3 hearts?) and has us championing his need to make his Mum happy while at the same time, trying to find the missing piece of his life's puzzle.

Set in Grimsby, on a grim estate, is doesn't hold back in showing the difficulty in being a single Mum, living close to the breadline. Juliet only wants the best for her son, even if that means telling him a big fat lie. This is the kind of book, where you want to be alone when you get to the end - or at least with a huge pack of tissues next to you - as if you don't cry, you simply don't have a pulse.

I kept going back over chapters I read, not wanting my time with Zac to end. A hero in every sense of the word, his ability to remain positive in the saddest of circumstances is a life lesson to us all.

Miss it at your peril!

Available here.