Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Beginning is the End is the Beginning 2 of 3: 2011

Part Two of the Trilogy...


6. House
We moved in 2011. It was stressful and wonderful in equal measure (but probably more wonderful). Our house is now our home and I'm so grateful for all the help we had. Especially from Them and Them. I can't imagine going back to a one-bedroom flat.

We've hardly needed/ wanted to do anything to the place and we're discovering all the wonderful maintenance issues that go with house ownership - but more than that - our house is becoming a home because we welcomed so many people into it.

I think that's been one of the coolest things: having the room to take care of people, creating a space for people to come together and enjoy themselves. We know it's entirely because of how we are together that people like being here - in our space.

7. Writing (and Reading)
The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book (Calvin and Hobbes Series)
Through 2011 I found my voice. This is no mean feat for someone who writes. One of my colleagues has referred to me as a writer too! Another one of Her friends (the wildly impressive and creative Sloppy Dog) thinks I write very well.

2011 also saw me publish my first guest blog post - all about my Urban Krav Maga experiences. You can see it here. I'm quite proud of it, as someone I know has now attended a few classes and says that his experience matched what I described in my guest blog post which is very gratifying for me! This of course means you should click the link and then come to a class...just to see how my writing stacks up!

All this feeds into the ongoing idea in the back of my head for a book. In fact, I've talked about writing a book since I was about 19. I've had many different ideas for structure, thoughts for topics and musings for what should and shouldn't be in it.

But - I've finally settled on the short-story as my chosen format. It'll be a series of them. Connected and yet not. I've shared the first two with various people in my life and had some very good feedback. Apparently the short story is difficult form to get into but writing a blog lends itself very well to the short story style.

The discipline of a diarised monthly blogpost is great - it forces my creativity. It's kinda crazy to think that I now have two years worth of Daily Insights on my blog! Writing keeps me going, keeps me reflective and ultimately keeps me sane.

8. On Being Goan
There's actually enough on this one for a standalone blogpost; or a book; or perhaps a PhD into Weird-Mixed-Up-People-Originating-From-Western-India-and-Migrating-Across-The-Planet. I intended to write a post all about the 2011 Global Goans Convention - but I never did.

2011 actually saw me bring into the open some of my ongoing issues about my culture and identity (or cultural identity...or identified culture). One of my biggest frustrations with my community is that everyone finds it difficult to speak the truth. It's as if there's some congenital disease amongst the Goan Disapora* that prevents people from actually being open, honest and above all *real* about their experiences. Instead of continually moaning about it, I organised an event called 'Filling In The Cracks' the purpose of which to was to celebrate Goan culture - but with a twist. I had three different generations of Goan share their experience of what their cultural community means to them. This meant three very different perspectives about the same thing.

Tasting Goa in London
I organised it in a restaurant that sells Goan food (the Palms of Goa) and there were about forty people. I called it Filling In The Cracks because too often my experience of growing up has never been shared. The Goan experience often 'falls through the cracks' in multi-cultural London. London is an amazing city - a true melting-pot of influences around the world. Each community has managed to establish its own distinct cultural identity. People have heard of and experienced Jewish, Irish, Sikh, Gujarati, and Italian communities - and there are many more examples in London. However, mention Goan and people either don't know or the word evokes images of holidays, hotels and hedonism - which is kind of annoying.

Equally, Goans themselves are so backward and insular they're too busy focusing on either themselves or their past to actually understand what's happening *now*. I've blogged about all this before in a previous post here. Reading that post again, I can see the energy that went into that frustration and anger finally found positive expression in 2011** - in fact that's what happened through organising 'Filling In The Cracks' - some space opened up. Hearing three generations of Goan openly and honestly sharing their experience: the growing up; the changing country; the cold; the uncertainty of being Indian and yet not; the problems of where one identifies oneself; the lack of community. For the first time in my life, I was amongst a group of Goans who were being honest about the issues that from our past we're dealing with, and the issues that face us as a 'hidden minority'.

A special point was that there were movers-and-shakers within the Goan community who came along. They sat. They listened. And they were inwardly shocked. Here I was articulating what they found so difficult (I was a kind of compere to the event).

What made it extra *extra* special (and particularly moving) was They came - and They loved it. I even got an email praising me for putting it together! All I can say is - They did a good job with me and Her.

I'm proud of this contribution I made to my community. From there it was obvious for me to attend the Goan Convention - which I actually found enjoyable and frustrating in equal measure. I met some great people (including Jason K. Fernandes - who was as offensive, cheeky and polemic as me!) What was most refreshing was that a group of Goans were collected together to actually Discuss Interesting Topics instead of getting drunk, dancing and arguing. It was revelatory - the thought that a Goan Intelligentsia existed across the diaspora (there's that word again!)

The future of my contribution is getting clearer. I'm going to participate in an oral histories project during 2012 - so I'll be discovering, opening up and letting go of even more this year.

9. School: Colleagues and Pupils
2011 saw me work with some great colleagues and some not so great colleagues. That's natural and part of every workplace across the planet. I've also had great pupils and not so great pupils. That's natural as a teacher.

I suppose what's also natural as a teacher is to stumble across times of reflection. We're taught to be 'reflective practioners'. What this means in practice (for me anyway) is to go through periods of complete (but not quite debilitating) doubt in my ability as a teacher and frequent bouts of frustration with not being able to put things across effectively - despite turning myself inside out to create interesting lessons.

Such is the 'Year 11 Effect'.

I learned from it.
2011 did actually see me go back to the drawing board. I stumbled across a brilliantly irreverent but profound book about teaching (simply called How to teach). Completely not aimed at someone as (supposedly) experienced as me. It was written in such a brilliant and hilarious way I could not but helped be taken in by it. I mentioned my experiences with it in October and November. It was so excellent I keep talking about it because from that I've added in liberal doses of creativity and taken out the Sound Of My Own Voice.

It's also rekindled The Fear that every trainee and new teacher experiences when they embark on this wonderful career. The tense pre-lesson feeling; the rising sense of panic as certain pupils enter the room; managing to stifle your own fight-or-flight response as the first (of several) paper aeroplanes flies across the room; the burning sensation on the back of one's neck and ears as the class refuses to get quiet...etc.

It does beg the question why I'd do this - but really - it comes back to the fact that I love people and want to contribute to the planet.

I've gone back to the drawing board with a wonderful sense of excitement and fear. I'm sure I read somewhere that they're actually the same...

Aside from my own practice, I moved rooms in 2011 - twice. I now share an office (yay) which means I have all my stuff in one place...although I am nomadic...and teach in eleven different rooms scattered across the school (no - there is no designated area for Business Studies, Psychology, Economics or PSHE).

Rooms are a very precious thing for teachers. If we have our own room it becomes part of us. It's our identity and our special little area. A bit like a dog with his territory we must mark it. In our own special way.

Of course I've marked lots of areas across the school...

I *do* feel like I've gone up in the world.

10. Community
2011 saw me complete my civic duty. In the summer I completed jury service. What a fascinating thing to be part of! I was pleasantly surprised by the other jurors. They reflected the diversity of background, culture, class, opinion and gender that I love about London and its suburbs. Admittedly, there were three secondary school teachers (including myself) and one primary school teacher...but it was great being with them.

I also learned how important it really is for the functioning of society.

Apart from this community service, I took part in something else that started and gradually stopped. It was one (of two) of those things where 'good intentions' were driving me - but saw little return - and that's the local Neighbourhood Watch.

When we moved in, I went to a local community meeting with the main police representatives for the ward. I got to see some of the local faces (and they got to see me). Another neighbour was there who volunteered to be the representative for our road.

I said I'd give her a hand. We spent one morning going round and meeting all the people on our road (a cul-de-sac). I did get to chat with a lot of the neighbours and I've established some kind of relationship with them...

...but done nothing with it since...

Perhaps that's all I need to do. If there's an emergency I know I could speak with someone.

But part of me feels like there's more I could bring...I'm just not quite sure what yet...

Since then - two more families have moved in on the road. Both really nice groups of people. They've established themselves on our road.

We all know each other...and yet we don't. We're all in close proximity to each other...and yet we're not. It's the paradox of the city suburb. It's made me think a lot about our isolation from the people around us and how it contributes to a lot of the problems we experience every day. But this is the topic for another post. Suffice to say 2011 made me think a lot about it...but do little.

11. Creating and Earning
Starting at the end of 2010 actually and through 2011 I began to explore the idea of creating more money. Specifically, looking at ways I could earn more. What's driving this, is the Very Male Thing to take care of one's family. I'm not one for massively getting into one's gender role but in discussions with Her, I can see that would like to be the Provider as she starts to evolve into the role of Carer.

But - 2011 saw me come up against my limiting beliefs about money. Thoughts like "the only way you can make money is with a job" or "it's not possible to make a living doing something you enjoy" and even "I could never run my own business" (oh the irony!)

Deeper than these - the truth is - I sometimes feel I don't deserve an abundance of money. Like it's bad for me to have lots of it, to earn lots of it and to enjoy having lots of it.

Too challenging to read?
Over the years, I've dealt with so many of my own opinions and truths about so many aspects of my life. Even with money, my world has shifted hugely. It's mainly due to discovering a hugely interesting and challenging blog ostensibly about money but *really* about psychology. I've implemented some of the stuff and moved forward - but then get stopped. I'm delving into but haven't resolved my blind spots...yet.


What I'm discovering is that as well as putting myself under pressure - it's *really* about creativity, having a systematic approach and understanding how irrational I can be - and anticipating it.

Recommended but not read...
I've been frustrated and surprised in equal measure. The truth is in 2011 I discovered (and I write this with not an insignificant amount of trepidation - because I've never really let this out) - I'd *love* to set up and run my own business (not completely sure what); I'd *love* to earn enough money to create and provide for my own family so She can focus on other stuff; I'd *love* to take care of Them and Her to support them as they move on in their lives; I'd *love* to challenge the conventional paradigm most people find themselves in and create my life how *I* want it.


But a different kind of Fear kicks in and stops me. As it did in 2011. I wonder what 2012 will be about?

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So that's it. Eleven from Eleven. My highlights and lowlights. My examples of, struggles with and learnings about Creativity, Contribution and Mastery.

Part two is over. 2011 is complete.

Now, what about 2012?

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*God I love that word - when I found out its meaning, I really see how it relates to my community.
** Don't worry - I haven't mellowed a fucking bit