Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Possible Paths - Day 25

Day 25 (Christmas Day)

25 is the transmission rate of pictures per second (FPS) used for television
anywhere but in the U.S. or Canada (where the power grid does not run at 50hz).
British photographer Eadweard Muybridge created slow motion photography
that enabled "moving pictures" using his zoopraxiscope, after being
 asked to prove that a horse could have 4 feet simultaneously in the air.
His work was published by Stanford but not credited to him.

Credit: Wellcome Library, London, A galloping horse and rider, 1887.

Welcome to Christmas Day - as I am sure you know, a traditional Advent Calendar stops on the 24th December, but there have been so many excellent submissions that this series will continue well into 2015. I am delighted to provide you with some special reading to enjoy today during a moment of calm.

I would like to take the opportunity of wishing you a very happy Christmas, regardless of your faith. May you enjoy a day filled with love and laughter.

Antique postcard
It seems appropriate that today's post is by the lady who founded this series in 2011, Alison Chisnell. Alison is an exceptional HR Director, mum, wife, friend, marathon runner, mental health champion, role model, inspiration, and a host of other things. She was one of the first to warmly welcome me into the Twitter HR community (her handle is @AlisonChisnell) and I responded when she asked for contributors for the first Advent Blogs series in 2012. We are friends and I have huge professional and personal respect for her. If you have not read her blog, I suggest you read this post before galloping on to her comments below.


Thank you to Kate for running the Advent series this year, I'm genuinely honoured and delighted to be peeking out from door number 25, Christmas Day...and am enjoying the series immensely so far.

"The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination" - John H Schaar

It turns out, I rather like certainty, or at least, more accurately, the illusion of certainty. It hasn't always been so, I was never one of those teenagers who knew exactly what they wanted to do - far from it, I was determined to study something I enjoyed and that was intellectually interesting at University, rather than focus on what my career would be at the end of it. I figured it would become clear nearer the time....and, with a few well-chosen summer placements along the way, a bit of help from friends and family and a fair dollop of luck, it did. 

Mist clearing - painting by Lauren Johnson, 2012 

Until recently I've always shuddered at the idea of a 5 year plan, resisted inclinations to impose certainty where there was none, other than a fluid sense of direction and intuitive instinct. Relying on instinct and intuition is fine as far as it goes, but when the when the landscape shifts dramatically, as it did for me earlier this year when I found myself unexpectedly facing redundancy, I rapidly ran out of road on that pathway. Temporarily I floundered, unable to envisage a path different from the one I had been on, in hindsight realising I could have done more to lay the foundations of a potential new path, plan more for where I wanted it to take me, who might help me to get there, how I could create bridges to different paths. 

Foundation stone programme for laying of Foundation Stone of the Victoria & Albert Museum

It takes a surprising amount of energy, patience, determination and resilience to create a new path, as well as the ability to accept and live with the complete lack of certainty....or indeed the removal of the illusion of it. At times it can feel like a game of snakes and ladders, when on a good day I move a few spaces forward with an interesting new opportunity to look at, an interview or a new, promising connection; on a less good day I slide down a slithery snake as potential roles come out of scope. Sometimes, it's a case of chip, chip, chipping away at where I know I want to go and trusting that the path will open up. Trying to be patient and accepting I can't dictate the pace on much of this journey, trying to avoid that fact becoming a source of frustration and irritation. I'm reminded of some yoga classes I did years ago, when the teacher encouraged us to still the monkey in our minds, to visualise training it to climb up and down a very tall tree, to occupy that wildly distracting, disruptive force to enable us to focus better in the here and now. Simply that could easily take a lifetime’s work…!
1930's Brooch of monkey climbing a palm tree

And yet, there are so many new possibilities, so much adventure to brand new paths, so much permission to try different things, to invest in myself in new and different ways. I'm thinking creatively about what I want for a change, where I want to be, how best to get there. I'm forming new, valued connections, stretching and challenging myself more than I have done for ages. I'm learning, I'm planning, I'm exploring and discovering. In the process of reassessing, somehow I emerge stronger, surer, empowered. 

I'm also trying lots of new things outside of work that I have wanted to for ages, but never made time for: learning to swim better so I can attempt my first triathlon next year; one to one pilates coaching so I counterbalance the impact of running and strengthen and improve as I train for next year's London marathon. Planning a memorable family trip to Australia that we have always talked about doing someday and making that someday a reality in early 2015. Seizing the moment, in the realisation that there may never be a better time than now and feeling genuinely excited about what's ahead, treading an unknown path, allowing the exploration and creation of it to change me and my perceptions. 

The illusion of certainty continues, of course it does: I think to all intents and purposes we need at least a little bit of that to function effectively as human beings. My Mum often quotes a lecture she listened to as a young woman, where the speaker proclaimed that “if we knew what lay ahead of us in our lives, none of us would ever have the courage to live them.” Perhaps that’s true, perhaps said gentlemen was simply a "glass half empty" kind of person, given to dramatic statements. What I do know is this: we can’t predict the future, none of us truly know where our paths will lead, which ones will stop abruptly and which ones will lead to unimagined wonders. It’s no life at all to be so caught up in the “what ifs” that we neglect to make the most of the opportunities that come our way and close our minds to the endless possibilities that lay ahead, forget to simply look up and around us.

Sunrise - endless possibilities ahead
So this Advent, I'm thankful for the unpredictability, the preciousness of the pathways that we consciously choose and the life-affirming adventure of those that we find ourselves unexpectedly on. Thankful for courage, for determination, for positivity, for choices, for luck, for new experiences, for friends, for family, for connections, for health, for laughter and support. Thankful even for the uncertainty, that I still occasionally inwardly rail against, which I know holds depths of unexplored possibility and opportunity. It is, after all, a very small price to pay when weighed up against what is at stake.

Wishing you joy, peace and wonder as we move into this festive period, tread familiar pathways of seasonal traditions and make a few new paths too. 

I'll raise a glass of mulled wine and drink to that!

1 comment:

  1. Living in a state of flux is something that can be learned and gets easier with practice. Good wishes with your new paths and stay perceptive to opportunities as they interact with your "plan" Alison.