Wednesday, 2 January 2013

New beginnings

A very Happy New Year!

It's fair to say that 2012 isn't a year that I'll look back on with great fondness. Turning thirty brought along with it a lot of soul searching, and wondering about whether I'd achieved everything that I'd intended to in my twenties. That said, I have a habit of dwelling on the things I'm less pleased with than I do on those that I am proud of. So I wanted to take a moment to remember what was great in 2012. Not least of all because I am incredibly thankful for all these experiences, but also because this gives me a chance to consider how to keep - and to mobilise - all that was good in what I hope will be a wonderful 2013.
  1. Getting back into reading. At the start of last year, one goal I set myself was to read more, and that included stretching myself, reading outside of my comfort zone and being open to new genres. This has truly been a pleasure. Buying the iPad back in 2011 played a significant factor in enabling me to constantly have a book (or more than one) on the go at any time. I have forced myself to read in genres I wouldn't otherwise have considered, and as a result have enjoyed amazingly rich experiences. Notably I have really enjoyed reading about personal experiences in Marketing, and that's an area I'd look to find more good titles in. Access to Audible through 2012 was another really rich experience, which I had been very sceptical about when I first got started. Here, what I've found especially interesting are stories told by the author themselves. So biography is a genre I'm really beginning to enjoy more. One thing I didn't do enough of is write short reviews on every title. I have a small regret about that and it's something I'd like to get better at in 2013. 
  2. Self-improvement. A key part of the above was focusing on developing my personal skills - about a fifth of the books I read this year I selected to challenge me to think about my communication, management and leadership. From Covey's seven habits, to selected psychology, to transactional analysis, these all provided ample food for thought. I'm including a full list of my reading from the year here
  3. Curtains. This Kander and Ebb show was without a doubt one of the most exciting I've ever worked on. As joint choreographer for the Wimbledon Light Opera Society's production back in May, I was so proud of the team and cast - it's a wonderful show that I thoroughly loved being a part of. With the new year I'll be starting rehearsals for our next production: Anything Goes. I'm already looking forward to this so much.
  4. Granada. For my birthday I planned an escape to a city I have longed to visit since I first read about the beautiful moorish palace, the Alhambra, a few years ago. The trip was brief, but felt like a few days in paradise nonetheless. Advice to anyone considering it: stay in the old quarter, it still has that charm and sense of being lost in time. Leave a whole day for exploring the Alhambra. It's enormous, and beautiful. Make the most of the fabulous and inexpensive Cava.
  5. Podcasting. For SAGE, there was certainly a lot about podcasting this year! Although not recording them myself, it was great to learn a lot about the process, the hosting, and the promotion for two new series. As with audio books, podcasting really isn't something I'd had much previous interest in. Learning about what's available was eye-opening.
  6. Blogging. Getting back into blogging regularly isn't easy when there's always something else that needs to get done. But the impetus of being listed by the Guardian late in the year was the kick I needed to make this high on the priority list. I've also committed to taking on the CIPR Education and Skills group blog and website for 2013. That's a challenge that I anticipate will keep me focused on what's important for Public Relations in HE in a much deeper way, and help my development as much as it provides a service for the wider PR community!
  7. Eating! Dan and I enjoyed some intense culinary adventures in 2012, not least of all our summer vacation in the Lake District, where we sampled three Michelin-starred restaurants over the course of our five nights in Windermere. Cooking and eating great food is a luxury but provides a lot of enjoyment, and I'm very fortunate to have been able to do so much of it this last year.
  8. Zumba. I have to admit, I was really not looking forward to starting a generic exercise class, but in the absence of a show to work on in the second half of the year I took up Zumba, and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I've been lazy and undisciplined at the end of the year, but will be doing my best to get to a class a week whenever I can, outside of the rehearsal schedule for Anything Goes.
  9. Networking. Both for work directly and for professional PR networking, there have been some fantastic opportunities during 2012 to meet like-minded contacts, building existing connections and establishing new ones. It's such an important way to stay on top of trends, ensure best practice, and importantly just to remind yourself that you are not alone! I've been grateful for the many self-affirming conversations I've had through these events over the year.
  10. Turning thirty. So I did start the post by commenting on the dissatisfaction I felt at turning Thirty in 2012. But it was also a year of many 30th birthdays, a lot of celebrating and seeing good friends. It's good to step back and evaluate from time to time, but not to dwell. This has been a hugely positive time for me, and if anything it's made me determined to take risks, do new things, be more confident, say yes more!
I'll start the new year by looking back at just one more 'new thing' from 2012: my first (probably last too) flash mob, helping a complete stranger propose to his girlfriend. A friend received an email out of the blue, asking for singers to help him propose by singing 'their song' to his girlfriend while he proposed. Ever suckers for romance, we got together, rehearsed this number. We posed as tourists in Trafalgar Square on a cold October evening, springing on the couple as they returned from a trip to the theatre. You can see from the video the genuine surprise and delight! I can honestly say it will go down as one of the nicest things I've ever had the chance to do for someone else and reminded me how lucky I am to have someone to love too. Disgustingly soppy I know, but I've a lot to be thankful for. Enjoy:

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