One thing leads to another

Many years ago I started volunteering at a local counselling service. My children were quite small and I remember some people in my family being puzzled about why I would give up my time to volunteer at a not-for-profit welfare agency.

To be honest, I mainly wanted to get out of the house, but I was also interested in learning new skills. They offered an excellent training course with some top notch professionals and it was an offer too good to refuse. On top of that I could choose how many hours I worked and days that suited me. I could also take my toddler with me and she loved playing with the toys and being the centre of attention. All the staff loved her and I thrived in that environment.

One day I saw an ad for a diploma course at the local technical college. I briefly considered enrolling in the course until I realised that since I was already three quarters of the way through a degree in sociology, I was probably qualified enough to teach on the course. I’m still not sure if I was delusional, but I went home and sent off a letter (yes a letter, it was the olden days remember) telling the head teacher that I was available to teach a class at any time! How bold of me!

I heard nothing for six months. Then the head of studies rang and asked me if I could teach a class in social theory starting on the next Tuesday.

Could I? Not sure really, but I said I could. I was probably wildly over-confident and my first lessons were less than fantastic.

That was the start of my teaching career which lasted for ten years. I enjoyed it immensely and when it stopped being fun I left and started a new job. I missed my colleagues who were awesome but it was time for me to explore new territory. More things to learn, more opportunities to expand my horizons.

I often wonder what path my life would have taken if I hadn’t signed up for that volunteer role. I’m pretty certain that I would have missed out on quite a few wonderful opportunities and many great friendships.

So you’re wondering if you should volunteer, just do it. It may lead to something else, or just be a way to give back to the community or meet new people. All of these are good reasons. You won’t regret it.

Learn new skills for next to nothing

English: Writer Emily Gould at the 2009 Brookl...

English: Writer Emily Gould at the 2009 Brooklyn Book Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many places to find inspiration and learn new things that are either free or very inexpensive. If you are interested in digital design, writing, illustration or crafty things, you can sign up for a three month trial at Skillshare for about $2. If you decide that you like it and can afford it, you can sign up for a monthly fee of about $10 US which seems pretty reasonable to me. You get unlimited access to all the courses for the monthly fee so if you have lots of time (which I don’t) you could entertain yourself and learn heaps for a relatively small amount of money. A pretty good deal I think. If only I had more spare time!

Because I’m interested in writing, I’ve enrolled in course about writing personal essays that I’m really enjoying. The classes consist of a series of short videos which are nicely presented and not too didactic. In other words, I don’t feel like I’m back at school. The course leader is Emily Gould and she just sort of chats about different ways to approach writing personal essays, but she also gives some good concrete examples which is helpful. She’s pretty famous apparently but I haven’t been able to track down a copy of her book of personal essays in my local library as yet. I know that I’m a cheapskate, but they do have a copy of her latest book on order which is called Friendship, so I’m looking forward to reading that when it comes in. I’ll let you know what I think when I’ve finished it. Apart from discussing her own approach, she also recommends other writers and in particular another essay called ‘the last photograph of cat‘ which I have every intention of reading, except that it sounds incredibly sad. I’ve got that one on hold for now but I’m hoping to be brave enough to read it soon. Perhaps you could read it for me and let me know what you think? In the meantime I had better start writing my own personal essay and stop putting it off.