Sunday, 20 May 2012

Just keep running...

Hi everyone.

Sorry about the delay in posting, but I’ve been feeling a bit de-motivated recently.  I finished my internship at the NSPCC at the beginning of May, and have had quite a few interviews in the past few months, all of which I've had rejections from. This isn't because I'm not capable of doing the job, but because I don’t quite have enough relevant experience, or more to the point, they've had other people apply who have more relevant experience.

Unfortunately, in today’s climate, you don’t get paid to learn on the job any more; everyone I've applied to and been rejected from have said I've performed very well in the interviews, but I need to volunteer a bit more in order to gain the relevant experience. Now, like most people, I simply cannot afford to volunteer anymore. I've done nothing but for the year since I've graduated, and did a huge amount of voluntary work when I was at University, and it’s still not enough. I'm now completely skint, sick to the back teeth of not actually being able to do anything with my life (including seeing my friends), and just want to earn some money.

I know that I’ll probably have no problem getting a job in retail, but until now I’ve been loath to apply. Not because I’m getting ideas above my station, or because I think I’m too good for a job in retail – I’m not, and I do enjoy the work to some extent – but because I’ve worked so hard for the past four years and I can’t bear to think that it’s all been a waste of time. If I take a job in retail, I’ll be back to where I was when I was 17 – probably earning less money into the bargain – and if I’m going to do that then I may as well have skipped going to University altogether.

 I know that’s not true; I met some fantastic people at University and had some amazing experiences and I’m glad I went, but it just doesn’t seem to have done me much good career-wise. My degree was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and to feel that in some way it might be pointless hurts.

It feels a bit like I’m stuck in limbo – I’m overqualified for some things (I know of people who’ve had to take their degree off their CV in order to get a job in retail) and people in that environment are less likely to employ me because they know it’s just a stop-gap measure for me, and they’ll pick someone who’s looking at doing it long-term.

On the other hand, I'm not qualified enough to do the career that I actually want. So where the hell does that leave me? The problem is not the lack of jobs, but the fact that there are now far more people competing for the same job, and they happen to have more experience, or other redeemable qualities. Employers are now able to totally cherry-pick their employees because they have such a huge amount of people applying.

There are currently two sides of my brain warring with each other; there’s one which opposes everything I'm being told by well-meaning family members; that any job is good because at least I'm earning some money and I’ll be able to have a life again. That part of me really rankles at the fact that I have to have a job for the sake of a job, rather than a career I’ll enjoy which is what I've always worked towards.

I've seen far too many people miserable because they hate their jobs, yet stuck in a rut and unable to afford to quit and do something they really enjoy, and I've always sworn I’d rather be happy and poor than miserable in a job I hate. The other half though, is the common sense half of me. The half that says that I'm about to sign a contract on a house in Leeds starting in September and I need to start earning money asap. The half that wants to start having a social life again, to be able to afford new clothes and books and trips out; to do the things I actually enjoy in life. Unfortunately, this half is likely to win out, and I imagine you’ll find me in the next few weeks working unspeakable hours in a cafe somewhere for minimum wage. 

I know on some level that it’s a good thing; it’ll get me out of the house and earning money, but part of me really rebels at this. I've worked in retail since I was 15 – I missed so many parties with my friends during school and Sixth Form because I worked every weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The same happened at University – partly my own fault because I wanted do things like go to Africa and climb Kilimanjaro – but I ended up working full-time for most of my second and third years, and missed out on a lot socially, but it also compromised my University work and thus my degree.

I almost feel as if I've put in the hours for so long, that surely it’s my turn now to be able to work 9-5 for a decent salary? I know this sounds pathetic – that there are many people out there worse than me, and I would much rather be working than stuck in the house, claiming off the government. I despise being on Job Seekers’ Allowance, and cannot wait for the day when I never have to step in the job centre again, and so will do all the necessary evils to avoid that. 

Anyway, enough whinging – I’ve decided that no matter what happens I need to start earning some money, because I need to go on another adventure. I’ve already promised my friend Mel that I’ll go to Florida with her as soon as I can afford to (we want to visit Harry Potter World before we really are too old – yes I know we’re sad), but what I really want to do is travel/go on adventures as a career.

 I want to organise Challenge Events for charities as my main career goal, and if I can’t get experience in the charity sector then I'm going to go the other route and get experience in the adventure travel sector. I've already done Kilimanjaro, and plan to do Everest Base Camp and the Inca Trail as soon as I can afford them. I want to spend some time in France and get my French really up to standard, but before I do any of that, I really want to get fit again.

I've therefore signed up to do the Race for Life on 22nd July in Halifax. I've never, ever been a runner – I can walk for miles without complaint, but can barely run for the bus, and turn into a sweaty, tomato faced mess when I do. I decided I needed a focus in life however, something that I could actually take control of, and so I've signed up to do the 5k race, and I'm going to run all of it.

Now when I say I've never been a runner, I mean it. Even when I was younger, fit and slim, I could never run long distances – I’m just not built for running. So therefore I’ve never run 5k before ever. I know it doesn’t sound a lot compared to marathons (and indeed it isn’t), but to me it’s huge and terrifying. (5k is 3 miles for those, like me, who don’t normally work in kilometres).

To help me in my goal, I’m working to the Couch to 5k plan. For those who haven’t heard of it, visit their website because it’s amazing. It does exactly what it says on the tin – starts you off from doing absolutely no running at all, to running 5k in just 9 weeks! I'm currently due to start week 3 of the programme and have been pleasantly surprised so far. For a clue as to what it entails, the plan for Week 2 is:

·         Walk 5mins (Warm-Up)
·         Jog 90 secs
·         Walk 90 secs
·         Jog 90 secs
·         Walk 2 mins
(Repeat 3 times then walk 5 mins to cool down) The workout takes just over half an hour.

The plan is to do this every other day three times, then move onto Week Three. I started Week Two on Tuesday, and initially found it really hard. I live in quite a hilly area, and even on the flattest strip of road I could find, I still have to go uphill for the first half of the workout. On my first try of this, I found it truly awful. When I got half way, I had to cut 30 seconds off the run, and sit down for a minute as I had a stitch. I made up for it by running an extra three minutes on my way home, but still felt a bit of a failure.

On Thursday, I did Day 2 of the week, and found it easier already. I didn't have to stop at all and obviously increased my pace as I went further than I did on the first try (overall it covers just over 2 miles, though this will obviously increase as the running time does). I found it much easier, and although I was glad to break into a walk a few times, I didn't cut any of the jogging short; I did extra on the way back again, as it’s much easier on the flat/slight decline, and I want to build up as much as possible.

Yesterday (Saturday), I did Day 3 of the week, and found it almost as hard as the first time. I think this is because I was running quite a bit faster, as I went further again, but I must remember to pace myself otherwise I’ll burn myself out and find an excuse to give up. I have to take water with me, not because I get dehydrated but because I get loads of phlegm in my throat (disgusting I know, sorry), and I think this was a major mistake that I made on Tuesday in not bringing one, and feel it has helped loads. I have the App on my phone, and it plays music from my iTunes, interrupting when necessary to tell me when to run or walk, and it works really, really well. I love it.

Tomorrow I move onto Week 3, which I'm a bit nervous about but also kind of looking forward to. It’s quite a leap (in my mind anyway), as it involves:

·         Walk 5 minutes (warm-up)
·         Jog 2 minutes
·         Walk 2 minutes
·         Jog 3 minutes
·         Walk 2 minutes
·         Repeat
·         Walk 5 minutes (cool-down)

I know this doesn't seem like much to you seasoned joggers out there, and if it was on a treadmill it wouldn't be, as I've run further than that on there before, but I've always found running outside much harder anyway as you have to regulate your own pace, and the first bit is majorly uphill. I have to do this three days again this week (with rest days in between), so will be moving onto Week 4 (hopefully) next Sunday.

As I’m doing this for the Cancer Research Race for Life, I'm raising money as I'm going. I have a JustGiving Page here: and really appreciate it, and would find it much easier to keep going if people were to sponsor me. I can feel this is going to get much harder before I’m running the whole 5k and any motivation to keep going would be amazing, even if it’s just encouraging comments. I’m going to start doing a small blog (or maybe just a longer weekly one) after each run, so I can document how hard I actually found it, with the hope that putting it out on the internet will force me to carry on, even if I’m finding it really hard. Also, if anyone has any advice it will be much appreciated.

I’m hoping that, as well as building up my fitness and raising some much needed funds for Cancer Research (who have a website here, it will all add to my love of doing charity events for charities, and who knows what it might lead to in the future?

For the moment though, it provides a much needed distraction from my career and money issues, and as I keep telling myself on my runs, in the words of Dorie from ‘Finding Nemo’: “Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running, running, running...” 

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