A family welcome
The next day
Back to work
The Lares Trek in Peru was both the hardest thing I’ve done, and the best thing I’ve done in my life. The Lares Trek is a 33 kilometre (or 34, or 35, depending on who you speak to) hike over three days (two nights) and reaches an altitude of 4900m above sea level. The hike begins near Lares town and finishes in Ollantaytambo, before taking a train to Agnes Calientes for the night and seeing Macchu Pichu. My experience of the Lares Trek, 22 months post hip replacement, is a personal feat I’ll never forget.
Goodness me! It feels good to be back at the laptop writing again! I haven’t posted in what, two months?! To be honest, it’s not like I haven’t been writing at all. Over the last couple of months on our traveling sabbatical, I’ve been quite content writing in the pages of my journal. I intentionally didn’t place pressure on myself to blog and after a break, I’m happy to be here. Documenting my experience doing the Lares Trek was a ‘must do’ for the sabbatical, so here goes….
Like many others who do the Lares Trek, the Inca Trail or any other hike that pushes personal capabilities and boundaries, this feat had its own significance for me. I wanted to challenge myself and re-gain belief in myself and what what I’m physically and mentally capable of these days.
The journey for me, started years ago. At the time of the Lares Trek earlier this month, I was 22 months post hip replacement. My post-op recovery of hiking whenever we had the time, pilates, yoga and barre classes, plus the previous five months working with an exercise physiologist worked together in preparation.
At 14 years of age, I was diagnosed with Perthes Disease in my left hip. I was a competitive, national level gymnast at the time, and back then, Perthes Disease and even hip disorders generally, were largely unknown nor understood. There wasn’t much that could be done by the way of treatment at such an age, so I had to just ‘live with it’. I carried on with life as normally as I could, even doing a three month overseas trip at 22. From here though, my hip – movement and flexibility, declined more and more rapidly, until I had enough. The pain in my hip would wake me up at night and I couldn’t enjoy a night out, or even a walk around the local markets. My hip was a constant source of pain, not only in the joint itself, but in my lower back and right knee too. I managed to hide most of it at work and from those not within my circle of family and close friends. I still had much to be grateful for, don’t get me wrong, but doing something became a matter of quality of life. I wanted my active lifestyle back and I knew that one day, I wanted to be an active Mum and have active pregnancies. I knew something could be done, so I sought it out. In 2014, I saw my surgeon in tears. Three years later, I’m a brand new woman. But coupled with my losing Mum 2 1/2 years ago, I had a way to go in regaining some self-belief.
I started the Lares Trek optimistic. A slight incline for most of an afternoon. I replayed my exercise physiologist’s voice over and over again in my head- engage through the core, push through the heel. I was tracking towards the back of the group (of 18 year old whipper-snappers with too much energy), but I didn’t mind too much at that stage, enjoying the scenery and visits through the local villages.
We could take about 6kgs of gear in duffle bags, in addition to our day packs, and these were loaded onto mules and horses. Porters are generally not used on the Lares Trek. We packed minimal clothes, basic toiletries and our sleeping bags.
The food was absolutely amazing. I couldn’t believe the creations the cooks came up with in the middle of nowhere! We didn’t go hungry. Soups, pancakes and local dishes. And I fell in love with muña tea, an Andean mint tea that assists with digestion and coping with altitude.
We slept in tents at community campsites run by G Adventures. We rented small air mattresses and used our packing cubes filled with clothes as pillows. Though relatively comfortable for where we were and tired, for the life of me I could not sleep.
I knew Day 2 was going to be brutal. After the briefing, I felt even more nervous and scared. I guess my mindset wasn’t the greatest from here. The plan was, starting at 7.15am and 3900m:
3 hours uphill to reach a lagoon
2 hours uphill to reach the summit at 4900m
1 1/2 hours downhill to lunch at approximately 2pm
2 1/2 hours downhill to camp
I’ll note here that I started the Lares Trek after two weeks with a cold and taking cold and flu tablets. The altitude played havoc with my sinuses and within an hour, I struggled to breathe but I was managing.
I went slow, tried to find my own pace between keeping moving and enjoying the scenery around me. The aforementioned ‘whipper snappers’ almost ran up the mountain and set a ridiculously fast pace. Because I wasn’t keeping up with them, despite my own limitations and setbacks, I felt like I was failing. I began to think I wasn’t good enough to be there and that I hadn’t done enough to prepare for the challenge. The guides would frequently ask me if I was ok, which added to my frustration. (though I understand it’s their job) I still found some determination. Whether this was out of mental toughness or an inability to ask for help, I couldn’t say. All I needed was to go slow. The guides reassured me that going slow and to enjoy was the way to do the Lares Trek, but each time they asked me if I was ok seemed to go against this. I felt like something was wrong with me.
What surprised me wasn’t that I felt this way, but that I was quick to believe all these things about myself.
The altitude took effect near the rest point at the lagoon at around 10.30am. My glutes had fatigued beyond reckoning. And I knew I was compensating with my quads and lower back. This ‘less than perfect’ scenario, falling short of my high expectations of performance wasn’t good enough. I had pushed and pushed but my head got the better of me.
I thought I was tougher. My husband thought I was tougher. The truth was, I felt the enormous weight of everything I’d been through over the last 2 1/2 years on my shoulders. I was ready to curl up behind a rock somewhere and cry.
In my slightly dazed, frustrated and fatigued state, I agreed to be put on a horse to the summit. I didn’t want to let the group down, despite letting myself down in doing so. I took the horse on and off for the remaining 1 1/2 hours to the summit. (Yes, the estimate was 2 hours but the whipper-snappers took less time.) I had to walk when the way was too steep and too dangerous for me to be on the horse. On the horse, I was first in our group’s procession and often alone with the spanish speaking horseman who led me. The horseman was a sweet and gentle soul, aged in his fifties and wore sandals. His hands were calloused but I took his hand each time I climbed on and off the horse. And each time, he’d put my feet in and out of the stirrups.
After everyone reached the top, we did an offering to Mother Earth, or Pachamama with coca leaves, managed a group photo before the hail and snow storm battered us.
The downhill trek to lunch and the campsite passed relatively uneventfully, apart from my stunning tuck-and-roll down the mud in the forest. No video, sorry. Luckily, I still had my poncho over me from the snow storm, so minimal damage was done.
That evening I beat myself up. I failed. I cheated. I didn’t complete the trek.
An easy day, all downhill. A day for reconciliation and making peace with myself. My mind was left to wonder about, and conclude a couple of things.
I may not have been a strong as I thought I was, but I am stronger for having gone through it.
I thought about the horseman and wondered, ‘what if he was sent by Mum?’ As a kid, my Mum would saddle her horse and lead me and my sister out for rides at her Dad’s property. She’d place our feet in the stirrups, ensured we were sat properly, holding on. In some way, I thought perhaps the horseman was Mum lending me a helping hand. Maybe she thought it was something she could do, being so far away. I hoped she was proud of me.
After lunch on the third day and before we all left for town and the train up to Agnes Calientes, my husband gave the horseman our remaining bag of coca leaves for looking after me. Locals chew coca leaves for extra energy. He took the bag gratefully.
I’d like say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone – family, friends, colleagues, for encouraging me on this journey and inspiring me to keep going. I wouldn’t have achieved this much without you all.
I’d also like to give a shout out to physio, Chris Brady, for referring me to the fabulous Dr Malisano; Stephen Boyd Physiotherapy, and exercise physiologist Rachel Evans and physio Flick at Inspire Health Services. Go team! Thanks so much.
Thank you to my husband for allowing me to use his photos in this post. 🙂
I’m writing this on a Saturday morning. I did half an hour of yoga earlier. Part of me was screaming, ‘What?! You have no time for yoga! There’s too much to do!’ The other part of me, fortunately, won by reasoning with this madwoman that I really needed to move, stretch a bit and put my mind together to calmly face my ‘to do’ list.
There is a lot to do. I haven’t done a ‘over a cuppa’ for February because there’s just been too much on mind. But be rest assured, I’ve had a cuppa beside while I wrote this post. 😉
My departure marks a deadline for a research output. I need to write one more literature review and these bad boys aren’t easy. Literature reviews never seem to get any easier, no matter how many I do. A literature review is a piece of writing that identifies key studies, discussion points and developments within a field of study. Literature reviews tells a story of what’s been done to reveal the gaps where the current or future studies will fit. Enough about literature reviews.
Some will know I am chair of an advisory committee to the board of my professional association. My vice-chair and the other committee members will no doubt be fine without me. I’ll be on email, though sporadically. But there’s the 2016 annual report and a review of the committee’s manual, and an update to be provided to the board before I leave. I also need to brief my vice-chair on the duties I can and can’t do while away.
A presentation proposal I submitted to a conference in the UK earlier this year has been accepted. Another task added to the list, as I need to have the presentation almost done so there this not much to do on the road before submission in June. This is a very exciting opportunity to make my first international speaking appearance and hopefully make some new connections. I will be presenting on behalf of the advisory committee and the professional association (Australian Library and Information Association) about the issues around engaging the new generation of library and information professionals into conversation about our practice and contribution to the research literature. What’s perhaps even more exciting is that *the* Librarian of Congress is the opening keynote. I will be in such awe!
Then there’s the bits and pieces of travel planning and preparation, like
…and all this in addition to the full time job. Phew!
All this past week I’ve felt I needed a paper bag to breathe into every time I looked at my ‘to do’ list. I haven’t felt this overwhelmed in a long time – too much to do, so little time. And I’m known as a productivity ninja. But over the years, I’ve come to recognise this pattern of overwhelm, or train of thought that happens when I reach this point.
Feeling overwhelmed starts with ‘OMG’, followed by procrastination and distracting myself (cue Instagram, Twitter or anything else that’s shiny and has caught my eye) because I can hardly believe I’ll either 1) get on top of it all, and 2) make a deadline.
The biggest reason why I feel overwhelmed is because I don’t believe. This, together with my insanely high expectations of myself that I can’t see a way to scale them back to a normal and healthy level and focus on the ‘done’. Even ‘done’ takes time to achieve.
Here’s an example – literature reviews. I have a love/hate relationship with the little ba*tards. I hate research when I find myself in tears on the floor of my study because I fear I can’t do the task. I’m frustrated that I haven’t broken through the muddiness of theory and data and nothing makes sense. This is similar to how I feel when I’m overwhelmed.
I’ve come to recognise overwhelm as a break through point. This point is when I’m about to hit my stride. I finally stop with the snow balling thoughts and pull my head in. When I feel overwhelmed, I try a few different things.
When we become anxious or overwhelmed, our minds can start believing our thoughts, and these thoughts, when given more and more attention, can snowball out of control. We start to believe those thoughts. Our thoughts are not facts. So the next time you feel overwhelmed, have a cuppa, think about what’s on your plate with a more rational mind and then proceed with a plan of action to tackle that list.
How I’d been feeling these last couple of weeks has been unexpected. I started my new job at another university. A full-time, continuing (permanent) appointment, which is becoming increasingly rare in library world. Contrary to common belief or perception, this profession is seriously competitive. More often than not these days, a masters degree is just one pre-requisite. Especially when we’re starting out, those who really want this as a career and be successful (whatever that means to each of us) we work our butts off, in and out of the workplace to get where we want to be.
This new job is a BIG DEAL. Not only because this is my first permanent position in 10 years, but also because all my professional experience and academic research to date has led me here. And I was the chosen one to establish a brand new role in the university, and perhaps even the profession. No pressure! Towards the end of my first week I felt a resurgence of love, passion and belonging in this profession. I didn’t realise until then just how lost I was about where my career was going. Suddenly I felt I have so much to give to this profession, and I have so much yet to learn. I realised I have to go deeper with my subject knowledge and build my area of expertise. Research projects and blog post topics were coming out everywhere!
That is the question. I’ve been thinking to and fro, trying to come up with a solution. I think I have, but there are a few considerations I need to make some sense out of first.
I love having my own space on the internet. A space where I can capture thoughts and travels, share what I know, (hopefully) inspire, and invite connection and conversation. I starting blogging outside my profession because I felt I needed this space to write about all my other stuff. Notebook + Tea is a creative outlet, somewhere away from my professional work where I can pursue and develop my writing.
On the other hand, do I really need to put my thoughts out there in the world? Won’t a regular journal suffice?
One of the reasons to let go of Notebook + Tea is simplicity and give more focus to the professional issues and topics I’m yet to explore. I need the brain space to think deeply, consider things from all angles, if I’m to make an impact and continue to demonstrate I know sh*t. My job is not just a job. At the moment, I feel a bit scattered and divided because I’m writing and publishing in two different worlds. Discontinuing Notebook + Tea would give me one less thing to worry about. Lots of effort goes into drafting, researching, writing, editing photos, publishing and sharing my posts. Most posts take me over two hours to write and edit. But, if I let go of Notebook + Tea, I fear imbalance….again.
I’ve come full circle. I gave everything I had in establishing myself in the profession in my early years. I paid dearly for it, burning out. In those early years, I lost a sense of self. I hardly knew myself outside of my work. I put all my emotional eggs in one basket and allowed my work determine my worth and how I felt every day. Then after I burned out, I started to build strategies and habits to create a sense of balance and give myself space to breathe. I started to meditate, journal regularly, explore new hobbies and say ‘yes’ to beach time instead of working. Now after a disorienting couple of years dealing with ‘Mum stuff’ (her passing), I feel ‘back’, not floating or just keeping things ticking over. I feel more equipped to handle more professional work and dedication. I have a better understanding of my limits, which has actually brought me to this conundrum.
If I let go of Notebook + Tea, it’s not like I won’t keep writing or keep myself well, or suddenly stop drinking tea. But I do wonder whether I can give my all to both – professional work and writing here.
Last week I shared my (then) decision with my husband to discontinue Notebook + Tea. His reaction surprised me – ‘but I like your writing!’ This was immediately followed up with ‘you’ve just put all that effort into re-launching it!’ Yes, this is true. But just because I put hours into re-launching, doesn’t mean I have to spend hours keeping it going. I also noted that so far my audience is very small, and wondered, would anyone notice this blog gone? But then I realised it’s not the size of the audience that’s important. It’s the value I give to the people who do read Notebook + Tea. For example, my husband won’t read my professional and academic work, and for good reason! And so reading Notebook + Tea is his way of seeing and appreciating my writing. I’m sure there are other reasons why people read Notebook + Tea!
Later that evening I thought, maybe this uncertainty is the biggest reason why I SHOULD KEEP GOING. Yes? This conundrum is one stepping stone on the path. The career path of juggling and managing focus, time and capacity. So hence the reason why I’m writing and sharing this.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about whether I should or shouldn’t keep going with Notebook + Tea. Any advice?
A new year brings optimism, opportunity and a fresh start. I’ve been looking forward to 2017. Excited, yet overwhelmed by what’s in store. Keeping well and achieving goals will look like challenging my self-belief (and growing some), balancing and managing my energy across all I have planned, committed to and want to do, and generally, smashing some goals.
After spending the better part of last year wondering about my next career step, next fitness goals and patiently awaiting for 2017, a couple of big, big things came together in 2016’s final weeks.
The first thing is a new job which I start next week. Unexpected opportunity, but awesome.
The second thing is having made the first travel bookings of what will be a sabbatical.
Yes. A sabbatical. A career break. Overseas.
Well, the two coincided. The sabbatical has been in the works for over 18 months or so. But I couldn’t, not have applied for this job. The job description could have been written for me, if the comments from colleagues and peers were to go by. And I really hope it is. I feel like this job is an indication of having ‘arrived’ in my career and profession, stepping into ‘big girl shoes’. I no longer feel like an early career professional. I’m now a professional who is hired not only to experience and grow but also to impart my knowledge and expertise and make an impact.
I was up front with my plans in the interview, and was prepared for my plans to be a deal breaker. All I could do was be honest and put my plans on the table, out in the open. I was fine with not getting the job because 1) I knew the sabbatical is absolutely the right thing to do for me and my husband and I’s relationship, and 2) if I didn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be. Turns out, one of the interview panel had taken six months off in the past and she described it as the best thing she’d done for her career. I was not expecting that!
I’ll explain more about the sabbatical in another post, but for now, I’ll just say I’m terrified of this trip, which is all the more reason to break out of the comfort zone and the ‘every day’ routine, to just ‘be’ for a while and come out the other side a better person and a more effective professional.
This year is full steam ahead and is about enjoying the jigsaw puzzle pieces that have finally fallen into place. My word for 2017 is ‘oomph’.
It’s time to embrace and enjoy, be present and commit to all that is important to me. This includes bringing out my best self when it comes to my new job and facing challenges during the travel adventures. I’m ready to give my all.
By living with this word, I hope that by the end of 2017 I will have:
My 2017 would be awesome if I make strides in the new job, make the most of the sabbatical by letting adventures unfold, love each day, keep a journal (and this blog) and still have energy leftover at the end of the year for all the homely things I like to do for Christmas such as baking, decorating and hosting family and friends.
If you haven’t set a direction for 2017 or set some goals, I recommend setting yourself up somewhere quiet for half an hour with a cup of tea, or other beverage of your choosing (mine was a glass of red 🙂 ). Try not to think too hard as this is more about taking a pause to consider your intentions for this year – the ‘what’, not the ‘how’. Consider what might be different for you if you embraced your word; what might stop you and how you can overcome obstacles such as bad habits or patterns of thinking.
I wish you all the very best for 2017.
What do you hope to achieve? Are there any changes you’re looking to make? What new habits will you develop to better take care of yourself?
I haven’t written in a while. When this happens, I feel some part of me is missing or not functioning. ….something to focus more next year perhaps. But for now, while I recover from a cold and generally feeling run down and spent, I’d like to take some time to reflect on what’s been a massive 2016. I can’t believe it’s nearly over!
For the most part of this year I was riddled with self-doubt and a lack of faith in myself. Self-doubt isn’t an easy thing to get past or around. I’ve felt a bit lost in what my work was amounting up to, whether my work was going to amount to anything at all, and what my next step was going to be. I pulled myself in all sorts of directions, even the possibility of moving away from libraries and the information profession completely. Crazy, huh? The after-math of losing a loved one should not be underestimated. The loss is enough to knock anyone around. It’s been over two years since Mum’s passing and only now do I feel I’m beginning to emotionally stabilise.
Ugly, emotional stuff aside, I started the year with a part-time project contract and a casual research contract and have finished 2016 with a permanent job offer (which I’ve accepted) for a role that could’ve been written for me. Suddenly I felt, ‘yes, I can do this’. Work isn’t all that I am, but the fact that my personal side had also rattled my professional side, was quite alarming for me.
One of my goals for 2016 was to create a relaxing celebration of my husband and I’s marriage for our nearest and dearest. By all reports and feedback, we achieved this. *tick*
Our wedding day was incredible. We enjoyed and loved every moment. From the cup of tea on the back deck of my cottage at 6am, right through to saying farewell to our guests to the song, ‘The Power of Love’.
Following my hip replacement in July 2015, I started attending barre classes in January. I absolutely love it and will continue to try and catch two, or even three classes a week in 2017. Before my hip condition, back in my teens, I was a very active person, a gymnast. Reviving and starting to see that old self again was something like total elation.
At the end of November this year, I turned 30. I don’t feel much older and wiser, I can be such a big kid at heart. But over the last decade, I’ve learned a great deal about myself. The hubby and I marked the occasion with a trip to Fiji – another tick off the ‘ol travel list.
I got my first research assistant contract last year, contributing to the write up of a study’s findings with literature reviews. (A literature review is essentially the story so far in an academic sense that provides context for the area of study.) The first of these academic journal articles has been published. This isn’t the first time I’ve had research published, but it was the first time, 1) as part of a research team and 2) being paid for it. One of the things I love about the library and information profession is the ability to be a part of both worlds, as practitioner (disseminating knowledge) and researcher (generating knowledge). This year I’ve contributed to two studies and will likely see more publications out of these in 2017…..now if only I could apply the same productivity to my other writing….??
This year was the second year I did ‘The Good Things Jar’. Inspired by Cest Christine and in an attempt to help get through ‘Mum stuff’, ‘The Good Things Jar’ is about capturing the smaller bits and pieces in every day life. These things could be as simple as a lazy Saturday morning with tea and a book. Here are some of the smaller things that made 2016 awesome.
If we look around and pay attention, this life is pretty great. With every small thing captured, the jar fills pretty quickly! Why not start your own Good Things Jar for 2017? All you need is:
This lesson came to me late in the year, but totally makes sense of the inner conflict I’ve experienced regularly. I’m usually more rational than emotional and so when I’ve felt like crap, I’d tell myself I was being silly. Feelings of self-doubt or moments of low self-worth might creep in, then quickly dismissed because, what have I got to feel low about? Knowing what you should be feeling and how you actually feel are two different things. Feel all the feels. Don’t dismiss them. They’re there for a reason. And it’s okay.
This should go without saying, but since I’ve really got into learning about blogging, comparing what I write with a successful, established blogger really has got me down some days. What I try to keep telling myself is that, and this goes for anything in life, you can’t compare your chapter one with someone else’s chapter eight. Nor can you compare your life with someone’s ‘highlights reel’ on social media. You have no idea what’s happening underneath.
Write your own story. Because no one tells your story like you.
I think we multi-task to try alleviate our anxiety about all the things we have on our ‘to do’ list. But multi-tasking in my experience, only leads to a more scattered brain and more stress. Our lives are too full or we have so much to do because we don’t have a clear idea of priorities. This is something I’d like to delve into further in 2017.
There have been positive, and negative moments. 2016 was an emotional rollercoaster and probably one of my most difficult years of personal growth and self-discovery. I seem to have started to come through the other side which is a good sign, because I’ll need all the energy I can muster to tackle 2017. Definitely more cups of tea then….
Have you taken time out to reflect on 2016? What milestones have you achieved? What lessons have you learned?