2016: A Review

Everything changes so quickly these days.

Last year was my most academically challenging, without a doubt, moving into conservation has been gruelling at times. The course is relentless and I had to really fight to keep my head above the water at times. All the struggle aside it was a very successful year. My grades were good. I did some exciting work, I got to work at a couple of fantastic sites and institutions. However, this accomplishment has applied fresh pressure for this year. Not only do I want it, I now know that I can do it. With this will only come more anxiety. I’m afraid I’ll burn out, or burn up.

As part of my conservation training I travelled to Çatalhöyük, Turkey. This was my first time to the country, and I travelled just days after an Istanbul airport was bombed. It was a huge deal for me. I often feel I struggled with the social situations on site more than the work. I’ve always hated breaking into a group and the closeness of the team at Çatalhöyük was intimidating. They are wonderful people, and I am pleased to say I got there in the end. It really was life changing and has left a lasting ‘if I can do that, I can do anything’ impression.

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Awaiting the group photo. Photo courtesy of Scott Haddow.

For the family 2016 was another demanding year. After losing my Grandma the year before we said a sudden goodbye to my Aunt. It was a strain we all felt, but my father felt it the most. I’m very lucky my close family are so wonderful and supportive; we are all there for one another. I know it’s been worrying for my parents to hear of my anxiety and occasional depression, but they should know that it is their love and encouragement that has got me through the year. With the family’s first baby on the way, 2017 is going to finally bring us together after so many years of hardship.

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Kings Affair: budget Sadness and Joy from Inside Out

For the first time ever, dating has had not great impact on my year! What I did do was a waste of time. It can be easy to forget how difficult people can be. All I found was echoes of the disastrous relationships I’ve been in in the past. So: no boys until the dissertation has been submitted.

Academic and social confidence often still alludes me, but I am at peace with myself. I know who I am, and I know what I want. It sounds so corny to say. Since being unattached I have found time to develop my skills and interests; I’ve started this blog! For the first time I really put myself first. For my health, my education.

I’m beginning my applications for future employment and positions. It’s a competitive world, conservation, and that brings concerns. Article 50 is set to be initiated in March. I’m dreading the impact that will have on the, already underfunded, heritage industry. Now is not a good time to be an unemployed twenty-something. These national, and international, issues aside I’m hoping 2017 will be better. A fellowship, or job, a distinction, and a long overdue opportunity to relax. I don’t think I’ve had a good night’s sleep since 2012.

Five Deadlines and an Interview

As most of you will know April and May tends to be a tense time for students. We have deadlines followed by exams and if you’re unlucky other deadlines will follow. My deadlines have included three essays, one lab report, and a project note book (PNB, a long and time consuming summary of all the conservation research, work and thinking you’ve done). I was also offered an interview for a travel grant to help fund my summer placement in Turkey. Wonderful, and unexpected, but it took me back a bit. To cope with the incoming wave of stress I applied for extensions after the Easter holiday, and received them for all the essays and the PNB in the end. Without them I’m not sure I would not have been able to hack it.

For this post I wanted to talk about why some people need extensions. I know it can be frustrating watching people get more time on something that you’re working hard for, especially since everyone has something to worry about. As with everything it’s very personal. We all react differently to our problems and we all work differently.

My anxiety has always had a detrimental affect on my university work. Lack of concentration is my biggest foe. It’s taken me days to get through an article, and I cannot account for how I spent the time. The initial lack of concentration is then paired with a determination to do anything but the essay or research I had planned for the day. I loose days watching endless YouTube videos and turn my attention to more enjoyable projects. By the late evening the regret has started to set in. I write to do lists and think about how I should have done something. This will be followed by an hour or two of trying to work, often to no avail. Then I’ll go to bed. I won’t have achieved anything and I’ll feel awful for it. But that’s not a bad day.

On a bad day it can take me hours to get out of bed. These days aren’t racked by panic or fear; there’s nothing there. On those days I can’t do something I enjoy let alone something I need to do. The few months between Christmas and Easter were full of these days. But I’ve been lucky; spending a week or two at home over the holiday has helped a lot. I was able to keep going, and have largely kept my head above the water.

In the sea of things I needed to do and were worrying about in the run up to May the interview sunk. I did limited preparation and put off booking the train tickets. My train from Cardiff was late and I made it to the interview with seconds to spare. However, the lovely people of the Zibby Garnett Travel Scholarship made me feel very comfortable and I kept my head. Although my lack of prep came through I was able to demonstrate my enthusiasm (which I am not lacking!). I am lucky to say they have elected to provide funding for the trip. It’s a wonderful opportunity! The panic that rose and fell as I travelled was kept under wraps and I was able to be without it.

This is not the first time I’ve had extensions, as I struggled through an exam period during my undergrad. It is, however, the first time I’ve really needed them. It’s like trying to read a book in a language you don’t understand. Like trying to write an essay while someone throws things at you. Like trying to read a book while the words disappear.

I have worked very hard this year and I do not want my grades to suffer because my head has been elsewhere. Attending my classes regularly was a good way to get to me to the university and help retain a sense of order in my life. By using extensions I was able to prevent a disaster and keep my anxiety behind the flood gates.