38 Things

January means renewal, of course. For me it also means having an unfortunately timed birthday. To mark my 38th year on the big blue marble, here’s 38 things I’ve learned over the past year.

38 things 

Go on walks as much as possible

The sounds of nature are really calming (real or Calm app)

Taking short cuts mean you learn less

Do at least 10 mins of yoga every day 

Eternally grateful to my yoga pals Adriene and Benji

Some routines are really good 

Listen to whatever music you want to 

Read a bit of poetry before reading whatever else you’re reading 

If you know what you want, look for it on ebay 

Trust yer gut 

Boundaries, always and forever! 

Take lots of pics of things on your phone and look back through them regularly 

Come on, less social media time 

Podcasts make cleaning enjoyable 

The hours I’ve spent cleaning and cooking with these lovely folk in my ears!

When you’re walking in the woods take your headphones out 

Treat all shop, cafe, delivery driver, call centre, staff with kindness, understanding and patience  

Small talk with strangers is actually alright sometimes 

It is nice to have physical things and that’s okay 

Lamps off, candles on every night 

Crying is great for you 

Playing vinyl records is lovely 

Yes I bought this album in 2022 and it’s FANTABULOSA!

Bring a card game for a longer train journey

Duolingo is fun and good for your brain 

You can write anywhere if you have your phone

The Gratitude journal has been a brilliant practice, but it needs to be maintained each day

You grow where you go, if you follow a negative path, guess what, you become more negative. 

Give yourself a break from yourself 

Plants on every windowsill 

Once your house starts to resemble a small Garden Centre, maybe you have enough houseplants though?

Talking is great but sometimes being quiet is THE THING 

That feeling of being obsessed with a new game and wanting to play it lots is nice 

You’re always going to have lots of ideas, sometimes they’ll just fizzle away sometimes they’ll stay

If you have an inkling of a thought about maybe drinking water, drink some 

If you have a fancy Cath Kidston water bottle like this, don’t forget to refill it

Follow your creative curiosity 

There will always be unwanted gifts 

Getting out and about suits you

Keep yourself in the now as much as you can, it’s rarely helpful to rehearse various disasters that might happen in the future

Listen to the birdsong and watch the birds as much as you can 

There is no great rush 

Balance is the key, in everything

I hope you enjoyed this article, my books are open for new coaching clients! Have a look on my website for more details. I’m also free to write articles about coaching, wellbeing, poetry and LGBTQ+ life. Get in touch here: hello@edgarveylong.com

Networking without looking like a selfish maniac

When meeting new people, remember to blink

Networking is much maligned. People find it awkward, weird, boring, intense. But I think it can be a great thing. I just think that a lot of people go into it with the wrong mindset. If you walk into a room of people thinking “well, who can I use as a stepping stone in my career?” you might come off as a pretty unpleasant person.

Opportunities that have come up for me have come from just getting to know new people, often in non-work settings like evening classes or much less formal work things like Christmas parties. Even just chatting with people in the work kitchen and getting to know people there has served me very well in my career. It’s also made working much nicer in general. Maybe you bond with someone over the type of coffee you like, you say hello to each other in the lift and corridor. It just makes your day a bit more pleasant. Getting to know people is good, whether it leads to a new job or project is irrelevant, it’s just always good to talk to people. We are social animals after all!

I’ve been to networking events where I’ve spoken to people and watched as they slowly realise that I am of no value to them in terms of advancing their career. I’ve seen them slightly trail off, their attention turns to who else is in the room, they start looking over my shoulder and at the first chance they get, they stop talking and walk off to try someone else. If you don’t take it personally, this is really quite funny to witness.

When networking, don’t just see other people as opportunities you can seize

Bond with folks over the food or drink in the venue, talk about the weather, talk about the room they’ve put you in (often a dank basement if you work in Higher Education!) there is nothing wrong with small talk in these situations! Small talk is important in all social settings and not something to be skipped over.  Small talk is how you can strike up a rapport with someone, which makes the often nerve-wracking situation easier to navigate.

If you meet people on a human level you’ll be remembered later as that person who talked about how unexpectedly nice the vegetarian quiches were. This is much better than being remembered as the intense weirdo who came right up to them without introduction and immediately started talking about how perfect they’d be for their new project.

Networking is work, sure, but it’s also a break from it where you can talk about the latest news in the company, or what’s going on with the roadworks across the road from your office. It doesn’t have to be business all the time. Be careful with gossip though, you never know who might be around and there’s a chance you’ll put your foot in it!

I know it can be annoying, awkward, anxiety inducing, but you if you go into a networking opportunity with the mindset of keeping the chat light, this will serve you so much better. You’ll find people to talk to and who knows, maybe you’ll meet a new work friend to go for coffee with. These real connections have so many more benefits than just advancing your career sometime in the future, they’ll make your working life more pleasant right now.

Playing Wellbeing

You might remember in the very early days of the pandemic that lots of people started playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Me very much included:

The wholesome atmosphere of the island where you could get to know your neighbours, decorate your house, go have a mooch around the shops to see what’s new in was a safe approximation of a life that had been taken away from us incredibly quickly. Having a new daily routine of playing some Animal Crossing before work and then again in the evening after work was one way I coped with those early, honestly scary days.

Hanging out at the Longvey Museum, in lieu of getting to visit any real ones

Video games have not always had the best reputation, in the 90s Mortal Kombat and Night Trap were both the principal subjects of a US Senate committee hearing about violent video games. Games have changed and developed since the huge boom in the industry in the 90s. Not all games these days are about rearranging someone’s spine. Especially over the past decade the idea of calming, relaxing, even mindful games have been on the rise.

Playing games has been a life-long coping strategy for me when I’ve been going through difficult times in my life. Not just the pandemic, but unemployment, depression, grief and anxiety, a lot of these really hard times have been assisted by being given the focus of a game to play, another little world to explore and focus on for a little while. This sense of being lost in another world is called being in a flow state. It’s something that many people experience when reading, running, painting, absorbing activities that challenge the person doing them but not too much to the point where the person is frustrated or physically exhausted.

In Psychology Today, Marc Wittmann Ph.D. writes about flow state and how it can work to cancel out the negative affects of depression and anxiety:  

One of the defining characteristics of [flow] state is the loss of the sense of self and time…psychiatric syndromes such as depression, anxiety, and substance dependence are characterized by negatively felt hyper-awareness of the self and of time. Self and time are overly represented in individuals with anxiety and depression, who are stuck with themselves in time and experience states that are the complete opposite of flow (for results from our study partners in Cologne, see: Vogel et al., 2018). Core features of flow states are thus antithetical to these psychiatric symptoms; they lead to less awareness of the self and time.

Time Speeds Up in Flow States When Playing Video Games | Psychology Today

Being given a break from this over-awareness of time and oneself is clearly a great way of aiding us when we are coping with stress, depression, and anxiety. Focusing and enjoying playing a game gives us a much-needed reprieve from these thoughts and feelings. Like everything though, it cannot act as the sole solution. There’s also that saying: everything in moderation. If you spend all your time ploughing hundreds of hours into a game in a short space of time, sure you might feel better for a while, but you might start feeling depressed again because you’ve not been outside enough (Vit D is KEY!), not seen your friends, not participated in the outside world enough. Bringing in games as another string to your wellbeing bow, another little thing to do to spend some time in that flow state is a good thing.

As an easy entry point to a new gamer, have a look at the app store on your phone or tablet and see if anything takes your fancy. The next step is getting yourself a Nintendo Switch, so you can play a (responsible) amount of time in some of the most beautiful games I’ve played like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, where you can go on a hike up a mountain and hang glide off the summit at sunset. Super Mario Odyssey where you run around as the iconic plumber exploring some incredible landscapes solving puzzles and jumping on aggressive mushrooms as you go. Stardew Valley, where you can spend time tending to your digital farm of animals and grow your own bumper crops of pumpkins (whilst also romancing a number of Batchelor/bachelorette villagers). Alternatively, you can go back to your island in Animal Crossing (I’m assuming you had one back in 2020 as well) and catch up with the gang. See what new dresses are in the shop, do some fishing, and maybe visit the museum.

I hope you enjoyed this article, my books are open for new coaching clients! Have a look on my website for more details. I’m also free to write articles about coaching, wellbeing, poetry and LGBTQ+ life. Get in touch here: hello@edgarveylong.com

Mind Yer Language

I’ve been reading the brilliant collection of essays Why I Write Poetry edited by Ian Humphreys from Nine Arches press. In his essay Zaffar Kunial spoke about getting a word cloud from the text of his collection Us. This is a collection of all the most common words to appear in the text (aside from obvious ones like “the”, “and”, and “a”) The word that came out as largest for him was “first”. This was a surprise to Kunial but also seemed to give him a sense of what was working underneath his work

“This wasn’t planned or a consciously repeated usage of the word “first”. I think it reflects an inner obsession that comes to the surface during composition to source an origin, or even asl whether a beginning in space or time is possible to locate. Where do I begin?”  

Being very curious about my own pamphlet and the common words I used in it, I decided to make a word cloud from the text of “The Living Museum”

I was really shocked to see “always” as the largest word. But it also makes a lot of sense. In a way, this is telling me something I know deep down but hadn’t realised, my poetry is about longing, hope and this dream of constancy in love, this always. Note also that we don’t have the word “love”, but we do have “loved” a much more complex expression of that emotion. I think this speaks a lot to the place where these poems came from in my life. Bridging the processing of past heartbreaks whilst enjoying an exciting and safe life in a stable and meaningful relationship with my husband.

I’m so glad I did this. I would recommend you do this to, after you have written something, not during the process of writing it. As Kunial says it gives you a window into these unconscious preoccupations during the writing process. Knowing too much during that process might put you on a different path and also make you self-conscious of using those words too much.

I used Free Word Cloud Generator for this and you can juzzh up your word cloud by changing the colours you use as well.

This doesn’t just apply to poets. I think it’s useful for everyone to have this sense of reflection on the language we use. Language is powerful and being conscious of how we express ourselves can be valuable in lots of settings. If you email your colleagues and tend to use pessimistic and negative language a lot without realising, maybe this is something to be aware of and reflect on. If you did a grant application or a report that you had negative feedback on, maybe try doing a word cloud for the text and see what words rise to the top. That might be the key to why an audience react to something in the way they do, it’s not always the big things the writer signposts that stick, like the title, it’s often the subtle things that underpin everything else. Just like my always.

I hope you enjoyed this article, my books are open for new coaching clients! Have a look on my website for more details. I’m also free to write articles about poetry, creativity, coaching, wellbeing, and LGBTQ+ life. Get in touch here: hello@edgarveylong.com

A story about empathy, as told by Rick and Morty

MINOR SPOILERS For the Season 6 Rick and Morty Episode “Rick: A Mort Well Lived”

Rick (left) a bit of a bad role model tbh

If you know Rick and Morty you’ll know the show has a bit of a difficult relationship with its fans, itself, and it’s creators. For me, Rick is one of those characters, such as Walter White or Don Draper that straight men idolize for being rebellious lone wolf heroes without taking a step back and really looking at the character’s behaviour and reflecting on why they tend to be drawn to characters who are objectively pretty awful people.

All this being said, I do enjoy the show. It’s humour and surreal space high jinks is a perfect Saturday morning cartoon for grownups. A recent episode caused me to suddenly reach for my metaphorical coaching hat and caused me to start ponderously stroking my beard.

The plot revolved around Morty being stuck inside a video game. Morty’s consciousness was split across the millions of non-player characters (NPCs) in the computer game and over the episode we saw how each character Women, Men, Children, everyone from the President to the Postman (all voiced by Justin Roiland) grappled with this idea that they were in fact all part of the same being. For some this caused immediate empathy to break out, they saw that they were all part of the same greater whole and didn’t want to harm each other. For others it was a struggle to recognise something that we as viewers could see was very obvious. This being Rick and Morty, a utopia fueled by empathy did not last long and the video game world quickly spiraled into a divisive religion, and then into a grizzly war.

I thought this was a great accessible example of what empathy is. These characters were saying over and over again, we are the same, we’re all parts of the same greater being, so let’s treat each other with respect.

This is of course true for us out here in reality, we’re all humans, we’re all part of this species together. Empathy is sometimes a tough thing when it is tested by other’s violence or ignorance, by all types of conflict on a micro to a macro scale. If we all take a step back and remind ourselves that we’re all part of the same human family, hopefully that will inform our choices and we’ll decide to be a bit kinder.

I won’t spoil the ending of the episode, but let’s just say I was impressed with the emotional awareness on display in what is often a rather crude, violent, and entertaining show.

I hope you enjoyed this article, my books are open for new coaching clients! Have a look on my website for more details. I’m also free to write articles about coaching, wellbeing, poetry and LGBTQ+ life. Get in touch here: hello@edgarveylong.com

Coaching is not just for Senior Leadership

Despite what we might think from LinkedIn, coaching is not that well known outside of HR and leadership circles. I predict this will change massively over the next decade, but we’re not there quite yet… I’ve worked in Higher Education for a decade and not one of my managers mentioned coaching, it was never an option for my training or personal development. It was actually through my work as a careers advisor that I even discovered coaching at all. This feels like a shame as I know I would have benefitted hugely from coaching when I was in those stressful, busy, chaotic roles that caused me to eventually burn out and leave.

I have noticed there are a few companies asking for new coaches to provide their services for free in exchange for helping to top up that golden 100 hours new coaches need in order to apply for further accreditation through the ICF (still working on mine!) Descriptions of these roles often say that the coaching will be for senior leadership and high-flying management only.

It strikes me as a little odd that we should only offer coaching to colleagues who have already had opportunities to achieve these high paid positions, when colleagues who have less experience, potentially of different generations, would benefit from coaching too.

I’m not saying I don’t ever want to work with senior leadership, everyone can benefit from coaching, but I do sort of feel like people of that level should be actively engaging coaches as and when they need them and most importantly paying for their coaching instead of seeking free coaching.

Colleagues who have not yet climbed up the ladder to a managerial role would benefit hugely from coaching. The support a coach can give will help these colleagues to develop and grow. And guess what, they will be more invested in the organisation because they have been given this support so early in their career.

It just seems to me that we have our engagement with coaching topsy turvy. Senior management can definitely develop through coaching and these positive changes will filter down through the organization through their leadership. There are also many colleagues with incredible potential who might be one or two jobs into their careers who need coaching to work out where they want to go with their careers. Organisations should be supporting these colleagues through coaching too. Who knows if I had had coaching years ago maybe I would have stayed at the University I worked at previously and maybe I would have found my calling as a coach much sooner!

I hope you enjoyed this article, my books are open for new coaching clients! You can book an intro session here. I’m also free to write articles about coaching, wellbeing, poetry and LGBTQ+ life. Get in touch here: hello@edgarveylong.com

All Being Well… Talking about “Just”

Just

This time we’re talking about a word that from my own past that revealed quite a lot to me about how I viewed myself and my work. All thanks to a chance encounter at a work event. The word is just but it’s in the context of “I’m just an admin guy”.

I remember very clearly when I said this to someone, and their reaction really shifted how I saw things. Years and years ago I was “just” an Administration and Projects Officer, I was at a work event I had helped to organise and run. I got chatting with a delegate and he asked me what I did and I said “I’m just the admin guy” he looked at me a little sadly and said “You know this is exactly why I do what I do, so that colleagues like you can learn to value the work you do” The man I was chatting to was a Rep for the Association for University Administrators (AUA). We spoke a bit more and he encouraged me to look into joining the union to access training, networking and advocacy that they provide.

He was right, I was selling myself short and it came down to how I viewed myself and my work. In answer to that question I could have said “I’m the administration and projects officer, I helped organise this event.” But instead, I spoke from a place of defeat and undermined my own hard work by modifying it with that “just”.

There’s a larger point here which I think needs to be explored elsewhere, even now work that is seen as basic administration is belittled within the office environment and employees are often seen as unskilled or unambitious.

When I was working as a temp I was referred to as “just the temp” more than a few times, to my face. I was “just answering the phones” or “just buying in the refreshments and setting up the tables for meetings” if I didn’t do those things the phones would bother everyone to the point they couldn’t work, if I didn’t provide the refreshments and set up for the meeting, some important people would be annoyed, hungry, and standing around not knowing what to do with themselves without tables and chairs.  

It’s important to examine how you refer to yourself. If you sell yourself short, if you belittle yourself guess what, you’ll feel sold short and belittled. It’s sad to say but you can’t stop other people doing that to you. When I was a temp, I couldn’t stop the boss telling people I was “Just doing the admin…” when he was showing visitors around the office. But I could control what I said about myself to other people.

This is exactly the sort of thing that comes up during coaching sessions, the way you speak about yourself is often so automatic that you don’t fully register what you’re saying, but a coach is listening, and a coach will probably ask you to pause and reflect on what you’ve said if you downplay your work by sating you “just” do something.  

I hope you enjoyed my article, my books are open for new coaching clients! Have a look here for more details. I’m also free to write articles about coaching, wellbeing, poetry and LGBTQ+ life. Get in touch here: hello@edgarveylong.com

All Being Well…Talking about “Could”

Could

Could is the cool younger sibling of Should (have a read of my write up of should here). Could is full of options and possibility without any sense of commitment or responsibility.

For me could feels like standing in front of a ploughed field with a variety of seeds in your satchel and you’re assessing which is the best to sow right now. Maybe I’ve played too much Stardew Valley, but that’s how it feels to me.

Could is open and limitless.

Could can also be absurd, you could hop on a flight to Tokyo or sell all of your possessions on ebay. There is no judgment of a could statement in a coaching session. Clients in a coaching session can explore all of the options they can think of, even the stupidest option, even the option that is effectively not doing anything at all and each option is respected and discussed without judgment.

This is helpful when you’re mulling things over because often you might know which is the right option for you, but you might doubt yourself too much or you might worry that your partner/parents/friends would not agree with the decision. Coaching is a safe place to try on these ideas without someone immediately shooting them down.

I say there’s no judgment, and that’s true so long what is discussed does not break any of the confidentiality agreements made at the beginning, i.e. if the client is seriously considering murdering someone and wants to discuss options in a session “I could use this poison or this sword…” that’s when we might have to stop the session and inform a third party with the client’s knowledge.

Could is a good helpful word, embrace the could!

If you enjoyed this, please consider booking a coaching session with me. My books are open for new clients at the moment. I’m also free to be commissioned to write articles, send me an email: hello@edgarveylong.com

All Being Well… Talking about “Should”

One thing I love about coaching is picking up on certain words clients say that hold a lot of meaning. A word or phrase can hold a lot of power over us and we can use it so often we just don’t see how its affecting us.

Should is one of the words that comes up a lot. I am constantly surprised by how people’s body language changes when they start talking about things they should be doing. People’s faces drop, they turn their heads down, they break eye contact.

Should and it’s fancier sibling ought are words we use every day and do have their uses in language, but when we talk about ourselves or to ourselves about things we want to do, things we could do, things we will do we sometimes start saying should instead. Why is that?

Looking up the definition of should is pretty funny as it contains lots of things we are taught in coaching NOT to do with clients. Some choice quotes are:

“[should is] used to instruct…used to give advice…expresses unfulfilled expectation…obligation”

As a life and career coach, I’m not here to instruct you, advise you or hold a deadline above your head and say ‘well by next week you should do this’ and I don’t want you to say things like that to yourself either. I get it, when we all have things we know we need to do, but we haven’t done them yet that’s when the word tends to come in.

As a coach I’m here to stop you and ask questions around that. When you stop and reflect you might be surprised at what comes up. Sometimes there’s a complex reason, sometimes it’s as simple as “I just don’t want to do it” This is great, then we can talk about what this task is, we can talk about what would happen if you didn’t do it, what would happen if you did it first thing tomorrow, all in a space free from judgment. Maybe the reason you don’t want to do it is because you don’t have the confidence to do it, or you don’t have all the information you need in order to do it well. This is helpful to realise, you might not finish the conversation ready to do that one annoying should thing on your to do list, but you might know what you need to do next to get to that thing later on.

Should isn’t a bad word in itself. It’s useful “you should eat your breakfast” is a good one. But should like all words, is a tool which can be helpful or harmful depending on how you use it.  

All Being Well…#1 “Trust Yer Gut”

All Being Well…#1 “Trust Yer Gut”

I was interviewing for a job a few years ago, it was a pretty basic admin job at a sixth form college. When I turned up I immediately KNEW it was wrong for me. I’ll let you pick up on all the red flags as we go…

There were five candidates interviewing for the job, I know that because we were all held together in a meeting room, with teas, coffees and biscuits. Each of us were given a printed timetable for the morning. We had a tour of the school with the headmaster, then we had an interview with the deputy headmaster, then an interview with the headmaster. The job didn’t entail working directly with either of these people. We did the tour all together right at the beginning of the morning so people felt like they had to strike up a rapport with the headmaster during the tour, I cringed at it all, I felt like I was on the Apprentice or something.

Because we all had different schedules, we took part in the different interviews in different orders. Hence all the waiting around together and the Headmaster’s Exec Assistant ferrying us back and forth between the waiting room and the interview rooms. The other candidates were all really nice and we did chat quite a lot, being left to get along in that room.

The interview with the deputy was fine, the usual sorts of questions. I noticed that she had a water bottle on the windowsill behind her that had green gunk floating on top of it. I hoped it was some sort of science experiment and not just a bottle of water that had been left in the sun for several years. I guess I’ll never know.

The interview with the headmaster was simply everything I hate about interviews all in one. As I entered the fusty office I noticed he had drawn the curtains so it was uncomfortably dark, he sat at a grand desk with an oil painting of himself on the wall behind him. I’m not making this up.

Firstly he asked me why I had applied for this job because the salary was clearly too low compared to my previous one (I wanted to go from a full time role to a part time) He then said he would have to think about whether it would be ethical for him to agree to give me this job, when the salary was so low compared to my previous job. He then asked me to explain my work history since I took my GCSEs. At the time I was in my early 30s. So I had to go through 16 years of my life and work history, including answering follow up questions about why I moved to and then left Peterborough (relationship, then a break up) and why I moved to London (getting over same break up).After I explained my entire working life, he then asked me to explain my work as a poet, this was not something at all relevant to the role I was interviewing for. He then tried to impress me with his knowledge of some almost-contemporary poets. If you’ve been in this situation, you know to just nod along and act impressed that they’ve heard of Seamus Heaney. He said he wanted to get a proper understanding of me as a person as working here was like joining a family.

The call telling me I didn’t get the job came that afternoon, from the headmaster himself, repeating that he wouldn’t have felt morally right causing such a pay drop to “a man like me”, but he was pleased to have met me and he wished me best of luck.

Even before the last, humiliating interview, I knew knew KNEW I didn’t want the job. But I felt like I had to go through with it all anyway, just in case my mind changed. My mind may have been undecided, but my gut was 100% sure already. If I’d trusted my gut I might have left early, maybe that would have been rude, but it would have been the right decision.

I’m not saying we should all be following our guts and cutting and running out of situations all the time, but listening to your instincts is really important. That first thought is usually the truest one. If it means you don’t have to sit through a morning of awful interviewing, it’s probably worth it.