I love this poem about finding yourself again – probably after failed love, but I think it can equally apply to any hard time or trauma.
As far back as I can recall, I have always strived for ‘perfection’. I was raised in a single parent household; my mother abandoned our home when I was aged 9 and my brother, Tom, aged 3. Our father was a hardworking executive who always put his children first, and I always wanted to show him that we would be alright without Mum. When Mum first left us, I used to hear him crying in his bedroom, though he never openly shared his pain with us. I, too, cried every night for many months, but I did not want Dad to know how much we missed Mum.
I took on the role of mother in our home, preparing meals for Dad and Tom and somehow still managing to get top marks at school. Every day was a struggle for me in adolescence and I felt that although my teachers always told me I was an excellent student, inside, I was not worth half as much as they thought. I felt like I had to work harder than anyone in my class to do well, for I wasn’t an intellectual by nature and what I really wanted to do, was be an artist. Summer in Leeds was always one of my happiest times, for I could set the books aside, pull out my canvass and head for Middleton or Chevin Forest Park, painting the beautiful natural landscapes which surrounded me and eased my pain. When I painted, I could finally be myself and that felt very liberating.
It wasn’t until I was at Uni that my drinking problem began. I started drinking at parties in my first year of Law, but soon, alcohol became part of my routine wind-down every evening after attending lectures and studying. It didn’t help that my flatmate, Martha, commonly downed at least a bottle of wine every night.
At first it was fun to get wasted and lose ourselves in the haze that is the party lifestyle but I soon got a warning from one of my favourite Professors, that the last written assessment I had handed in was way below my usual standard. She said she had noticed that I wasn’t showing up for lectures or tutorials either, and asked if I had a problem. I denied it, of course, but after hitting rock bottom a couple of times, I spoke with my Dad and decided to go to rehab. The following summer I completed a six-week stay at an inpatient centre, and continued to seek outpatient care when Uni began.
The ‘gold standard’ rehabilitation programmes often require that recovering addicts quit alcohol or drugs altogether, but somehow, I found that the ‘cold turkey’ approach didn’t work for me. I worked alongside my therapist on a ‘harm reduction’ programme, meaning I gradually began reducing my alcohol consumption. From a bottle a day, I was soon content with just enjoying a glass or two in the evening, and upon my therapist’s suggestion, I joined the University art club, meeting with other painters every weekend and heading for lovely areas to paint, sculpt and share our views on the current art scene. It was there that I met my good friend, Laurie. She introduced me to yoga, something that has become an important part of my life. Yoga helps me disconnect from stress and find the acceptance I think I had always struggled to find.
I received a mixed reaction from my friends when I told them about ‘harm reduction’. ‘Shouldn’t recovering alcoholics completely abstain from drinking?’ they asked. Of course abstinence is ideal, though sometimes drinkers just don’t have the strength to quit all at once; I will admit to having had two ‘relapses’ during which I binged on alcohol. One binge occurred when my father passed away eight years ago; the other on the first year anniversary of his death.
These days, I have completely stopped drinking. The yoga lifestyle has saved me, I often say, and I tend to seek my ‘highs’ in my legal practice (I specialise in Intellectual Property), in exercise, and in painting. To this day, I still spend any free time I have in my favourite park, capturing some of the most beautiful moments in the beautiful landscapes of Leeds.
Further reading: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB12994/drug-misu-eng-2013-rep.pdf http://www.rehabs.com/pro-talk-articles/exploring-the-impact-of-trauma-culture-and-policy-on-womens-health/ http://www.ihra.net/files/2010/05/31/HIVTop50Documents11.pdf http://www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/nta_review_of_the_effectiveness_of_treatment_for_alcohol_problems_fullreport_2006_alcohol2.pdf http://www.ihra.net/what-is-harm-reduction
None of us are ever really through with learning. Even though some may leave school early, and others might feel Higher Education really isn’t for them. It’s a fact of whatever this “life” is that we’re all living, that information never becomes that definitive word “obsolete”.
The internet is now a major learning resource, and is home to many informative articles such as the one below. The following loosely explores the educative function of the internet, through looking at FutureLearn; one of many websites which provides Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). A MOOC is defined as “a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people: ‘anyone who decides to take a MOOC simply logs on to the website and signs up’ ” (Oxford Dictionaries:Language Matters*). Please see a MOOCs illustration here.
Given the above, it might not be surprising that FutureLearn is essentially a vast knowledge-base where new ideas are found in abundance. Indeed, a browse through its course catalogue will testify to this.
I personally like FutureLearn courses for many reasons, though a couple stand out…
At it’s essence FutureLearn offers users the chance to gain the building blocks to develop further insight into a topic of interest. Indeed I myself am interested in marketing and branding. I therefore took two FutureLearn courses, in order to further my knowledge in these areas. In addition FutureLearn is also a useful tool, with which one can possess a greater understanding of topics that may be useful for work.
Something else… participants who sign up to FutureLearn courses before these are “closed” by the facilitators, have a year to complete them. This means one can fit courses around other commitments. In addition, the online nature of learning material on FutureLearn means that this organisation often repeats courses for those who may have missed them the first time round. Speaking personally I can say that this has been a particularly beneficial feature. Indeed I have learnt a great deal from all the courses I’ve worked through. I feel I would not have learnt quite as much, had some of these not been repeated.
FutureLearn is a highly interactive website. During the weeks that the courses are initially running, each one is “started” by FutureLearn at a particular time, participants work through these at the same time as each other. In addition they also have access to mentors. Participants are able to leave messages for these above groups. This is a great way of checking an understanding of topics, as well as gaining help and clarity. Further, students can provide advice themselves. On a closing note, interaction also results from the requirements of the exercise. What I mean by this is that students are sometimes asked about their opinions, in response to a given article, as part of the course tasks.
Lastly I also like the satisfaction, and sense of achievement, I feel after I have completed a FutureLearn course. Part of the sense of fulfillment comes from the fact that the material on the courses, provided by departments in Universities across the UK, is of a good quality. In addition the FutureLearn material, which is written in a way that aims to be accessible and approachable to learners from various backgrounds, covers topics in thorough detail. The above all ultimately means that participants on FutureLearn courses can come away knowing more than they did when they started. So students can prove this new knowledge, and also so they can feel proud of their accomplishments, a “Certificate of Completion” can be obtained from FutureLearn once a course has been finished.
If I could issue a word of warning about FutureLearn, it would only be a small one to say that it is easy to be too enthusiastic and “click-happy” when signing up for courses. Indeed if you’re not careful you may find you’ve signed up to too many. Whilst this is undoubtedly not a bad thing in itself, and to the contrary is actually really good, it does mean you may not have time to complete all the courses you’ve chosen. – Though having said this completing courses on FutureLearn is by no means obligatory. If needed you can stop a course at anytime, no questions asked-.
In conclusion each person who does a FutureLearn course, may do so for their own reasons. If you feel you would like to do something new that will develop your knowledge, then a FutureLearn course is certainly worth doing. You can register and sign up to courses any time you wish, if and when it suits. Or you can follow FutureLearn on Facebook and Twitter, to hear about news and receive various other updates from them.
*Oxford Dictionaries: Language Matters – http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/MOOC – accessed 11.7.2015
1.Online Test = Open CHEAT!:Cheating Cheaters and the Cheaters Who Love Them (Photos of my IDS team members by Travis Begay for our Cheatability presentation) – Mr Stein – Taken on March 18th 2008 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/5tein/2348649408/ -accessed 12.7.2015
2. Global Open Educational Resources Logo.svg – by Jonathansmello (own work), uploaded by AnonMoos – created on February 22nd 2012 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_educational_resources#/media/File:Global_Open_Educational_Resources_Logo.svg – accessed 12.7.2015
3. Path Path Path – by hockadilly – Taken on May 21st 2011 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/hockadilly/5744624394/ – accessed 12.7.2015
4. Colorful worlds…just about to explode !! – by AlmaArte Photography – Taken on August 12th 2012 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/almaarte_photography/7816346874/ – accessed 12.7.2015
5. IMG_4338 (Tom Lee Yamaha Music Course Certificate Concert) – by Dennis Wong – Taken on March 22nd 2008 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/denniswong/2406135310/ – accessed 12.7.2015
Another day, another rummage down the back of the benefits sofa to find a spare £12bn. This week: changing Employment Support Allowance to incentivise ill people to get back to work.
One problem: I already have the best incentive to stop being ill and get back to work. It’s called “being ill”.
I would love to go back to work because if I were able to work, I would no longer be sick. Long-term illness nibbles away at your identity from the edges, taking out chunks of the things that make you you: the friends you meet, the shops you wander into, the job you do. I would love to work, if only because it would give me something to use in small talk, a context in which to place myself, the grit around which an imperfect pearl of who I am can begin to re-form.
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