Sunday, 3 December 2017

The darkest hour is just before the dawn… Day 4

Day 4 (Monday 4th December 2017)

Four toes on each turkey's foot - three in front with a shorter rear-facing one 
at the back. Prior to the turkey traditional Christmas fare included roast swan, 
pheasants and peacocks. An old favourite was a roast boar's head decorated with holly 
and fruit. Henry VIII was the first English king to enjoy turkey. 
It was Edward VII made eating turkey fashionable at Christmas.
Welcome to a new working week (or at least the earlier part of it, if you work in the Middle East and certain other parts of the world). I am constantly amazed at the global reach of the Advent Blog series. 

Today's post is a very personal piece by a becoming much-loved regular contributor, Gary Cookson. Gary is a respected HR professional with a flair for development. His first post for this series was on Boxing Day in 2015 and expressed his experiences of job interviews, Turn Down the Light. Last year's was also candid, shining a light into his family life in (Your love keeps lifting me) Higher and Higher  and which explained the transformation in his life after finding true love. This year's takes us on a further step along his journey of work and his wider life.

Gary is a natural networker and a popular contributor to many social media groups, he is also an accomplished speaker (as demonstrated at the CIPD's conference in November). His Twitter handle is @Gary_Cookson. He is crams a lot into life, he is a triathlete and also a prolific blogger - yso perhaps the title of his personal blog should not surprise you, HR Triathlete.


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I’m really pleased to be able to contribute again to this Advent series and grateful to Kate for giving me the opportunity. This year’s theme is Darkness and Dawn, and if ever a theme has immediately encapsulated my entire year, it’s that. 

Let me explain. 

I once saw an article that said that 42 is the peak age in men for depression, as it tends to be the age when all the responsibilities of family, work/career, financial commitments and other things all combine to reach a potentially terrifying peak. 



I turned 42 this year. 

And although I’ve not been depressed, I can see the point the article is trying to make. It’s been a tough year for me, both personally and professionally, and one I’m in no hurry to repeat. 

There’s been darkness. 


Darkness by Mikko Lagerstedt 
From a professional perspective I’ve had two main jobs this year. For the first six months of the year I was professionally very very frustrated, doing a job where I wasn’t challenged and I wasn’t doing anything I particularly got satisfaction from. I didn’t feel I was respected as a professional, or used to my full capacity. However, my work life balance was absolutely superb and I was able to manage this well. 

But overall, the first half of the year was difficult from a professional perspective. 


Dull job, by Duke, 1979

And then I moved jobs. 

All of a sudden I had a job where I was challenged professionally, where I was used to my full capacity, and was respected as a professional. However, my work life balance became awful because of the commute and amount of in job travel, and I became unable to manage this at all. 

So the second half of the year became difficult from a personal perspective. 



And this in turn made me start to wonder what I wanted from both, and how I could get balance. 

To add to my darkness, a number of factors combined. We fell out with my parents around this time too, and whilst that’s no doubt a temporary situation it still isn’t pleasant as they were a good source of support and advice. 


Falling out with parents
a temporary situation
Then my mum became very ill and was diagnosed with cancer. My son is in his GCSE year and under a lot of pressure at school, and that shows at home too - he’s bright, but struggling in some subjects and unfortunately ones where I feel unable to help and that makes me feel powerless. My eldest daughter is transitioning into her teenage years and is having difficulty redefining who she is. It means we often clash and she’s unable to explain why, and this causes a lot of family stress too. 



And my wife has been very ill for the last few months too, and has been unable to play a full part in family life, adding more pressure on me to step up. More on that later though. 

And in all of this darkness I’ve had to try to maintain a strong professional focus. To try to figure out what contribution I can make to the profession, whilst still keeping my family happy and healthy. 

But they say the darkest hour is just before the dawn, and how true that may prove to be. 

I’ve recently re-evaluated my priorities in life and realise it’s more important to keep my family happy. That’s my focus. And in doing that my professional needs need to fit around me doing that. 

So I’ve left the job that was causing my family pain. And I’m exploring self employed, associate and interim opportunities that will allow me to be as flexible as I can to support my family in such an important time for us all. 


And we are having another baby in May. (Hence why my wife has been very unwell.) 



And so there’s the dawn. A new life, a new professional focus, and a renewed focus on what’s important in life. 

I’m really excited by what the next year will bring. I aim to look back on it as a watershed year in which I finally balanced things. 

After a year of darkness, comes the dawn. 

And with it, hope.


Daybreak, the Old Forest (2007) by Tom Dubbeldam



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