While the many goodbyes in 2019 have been difficult, fortunately I have learnt that I can always balance these with thankfulness. Looking back I can see both risk and courage through many of my activities. There has had to be an element of admission and acceptance, as without either, it becomes particularly hard to take the steps through any transition and face the resulting challenges. On occasion, these challenges have been far from easy and have offered me nothing but discomfort; however alongside this comes a powerful realisation that I CAN and from this, excitement, anticipation and further adventures develop…
All those bold factors listed above have been woven into my 2019, to create a colourful fabric that has matured into a product of interest, expectancy and opportunity. What an exciting metaphorical cloth to carry with me into 2020 and I hope it will continue to be hardy enough to survive the coming decade and beyond.
Building My Pillars
On talking to Sarah Williams of Tough Girl Challenges at the beginning of the year, she advised me to figure out what my ‘pillars’ were for HeadRightOut. These should be the focal points that form the basis of my new venture. I see them as the strength and passion powering the HeadRightOut engine.
My pillars then… what did I come up with?
- Empower others to seek challenge, using a positive mindset.
- Share with all; teach those who ask; learn, often from the least likely.
- Use and promote outdoor medicine – it’s the best remedy and it’s free!
- Do something that scares me every day – these can be micro bravery fears or terrifying blood drainers. Facing them regularly WILL nurture resilience, confidence, self efficacy and empathy for others
- Stay curious – ask lots, seek more and never stop wondering. It is what makes us interesting, fulfilled and mentally happy and healthy.
- Honesty and authenticity – remain true to who I am, particularly when sharing on social media, without sugar-coating my life. I cannot inspire others to be something I am not. An honest capture of a real human being, documenting real-life stuff is all that is needed.
Revisiting these pillars regularly will help me to monitor my progress and ensure I am maintaining my values and ethos of HeadRightOut.
Changes – good move or mistake?
The decision to leave my teaching job of thirteen years was probably the single most fear-provoking thing I had to do this year. It took months to reach a firm decision and then from the point of resignation in February to leaving in mid-July, I can honestly admit that my head crashed and creaked around with panic about how I would manage financially, mentally and emotionally. As it turns out and in line with what many people advised me during this time, I need not have been so concerned. Planning ahead as a teacher and knowing what I am doing as much as a year in advance, was so entrenched into my routine that the concept of stepping into the unknown seemed alien and frightening to me.
With hindsight, I now realise this move has been of great benefit to me. The weight of planning, preparation, marking, data analysis and after school meetings have all been lifted from my shoulders, although I am still working as a supply teacher. This has now given me the freedom to explore and be curious about a multitude of possibilities and future opportunities opening up around me.
Nine highlights of 2019
We all have notable points throughout the year but I find I can easily forget them too. Reflecting on what has been important to me is essential to learning and benefitting from the resulting experiences.
My best nine of 2019 are:
- Making the leap of faith by handing in my resignation, despite having no job to go to
- Learning to ski (despite needing piste rescue!) and standing at 2505 metres above sea level – the highest level on which I have ever set foot
- Launching my new website, HeadRightOut
- Being interviewed for the Tough Girl Extra podcast and the Successful Women in Business video podcast
- Completing the Wainwright’s Coast to Coast trail, just five months post ski-knee, including climbing up Lining Crag in shocking weather conditions
- Sharing moments with some amazing new people – fellow walkers, entrepreneurs, trail angels, students and colleagues
- Hearing a student recite from memory over fifty percent of a poem from which he had been asked to learn only two lines – it reduced me to tears!
- Having an article written about my solo walking and published in Woman&Home
- Facing some deep-seated fears, such as putting my head underwater, climbing a scaffolding ladder, achieving the Crow yoga pose and venturing out onto Bat’s Head – a thin, pointed, coastal headland
What have I learnt from 2019?
My biggest lesson learnt was realising my body’s amazing ability to heal, as long as I remain committed to a strict exercise regime. In April, following my skiing accident, if anyone had told me that I would still be able to walk 190 miles along rough and steep terrain, carrying all my own gear in a few month’s time, I would have laughed at them, probably hobbling away on my crutches, muttering at how crazy I thought they were. But belief in my own strength and the notion that physiotherapy really does work was key to the successful conclusion of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast trail in mid-September.
The power of self-talk is totally underestimated. I have been self-coaching for many years, without realising. As I consciously faced new and sometimes terrifying experiences throughout this year, I stepped up the encouragement with myself through repetitive mantras and positive thinking. The words “scary is good” featured quite heavily on some tough sections of the Coast to Coast and the ladder climb. I have deliberately increased the level at which I am now facing my fears and discomfort. This has not been without stress or emotion and has not always come to me easily. I have however, surprised myself in my improved ability to walk into situations of mental obstacles and, well, just deal with them.
Supply teaching was a big concern when I left my permanent teaching position. I was of the belief that I was likely to be ‘eaten alive’ by each of the new classes I met along the way. As it happens, it has led me to become even more creative and clever in my approach to these young people, who I actually find to be interesting and full of humour. I have learnt that rather than presenting yourself as a controlling adult, ready for battle, if you treat them with respect, one generally earns respect.
In dealing with a new class, my very first task then is to learn their names. Not one class has believed that I would be able to do this, let alone bother. But learn them, I do; within the hour… because I can. It also catches the wonderful blighters off-guard when I instruct them to remove their mobile phone from their lap or put themselves back into their seat, by name. We are then on a level playing field and we can communicate properly – they know my name and I know theirs. This is my little ‘card-up-the-sleeve’ and it works superbly.
A Glimpse of The Future
There is much to look forward to in the coming year, five years and even onwards into the full decade to follow.
In the immediate future, Mike and I are looking forward to a well-deserved holiday to New York City and upstate New York. We will then have just a matter of a few weeks before we make the acute transition from our three-bedroomed house to a 40ft narrowboat. While there will be upheaval in the first instance, I anticipate the simplicity of this new life being of huge benefit to us both. Walking, writing, art and music will become a bigger part of my life, surrounded by hills, mountains, water and wildlife. I will still keep my supply teaching as a means to earn, however over time I hope that my motivational speaking and writing will form a larger part of my weekly activities.
February (or Fearbruary) as I have renamed it, will also be the month I undertake a tandem skydive. This will be at my own expense however I have pledged to raise money for Jo Bradshaw’s cause – Place2Be and Jo’s Mighty 90. The skydive will be a massive feat of scariness but additionally the funds as I well know, will also prove to be difficult to raise.
HeadRightOut Moving Forward
While HeadRightOut currently remains as a blog and a means to promote wellbeing and resilience through embarking on new (and sometimes scary) opportunities, I hope that the future of HeadRightOut will see it develop into much more. I have ideas and plans for the growth of a community that enables a safe space to discuss and share how women are facing their fears and stepping out of their comfort zones. It has been suggested on more than one occasion I should consider starting a podcast – this little seed of an idea has grown into a potential plan, which I hope to explore and launch later in 2020. Other areas for expansion on the website are gear reviews, How-To guides and advice on long distance walking, wild camping, solo walking and how to go about facing fears in general.
In February 2020, I will be attending the Explorers Connect Conference, ‘Adventure Mind’. While part of me is petrified about being amongst such high quality ambassadors for adventure, I am excited about having the opportunity to share the HeadRightOut ideas and message with the people I network with.
Ordnance Survey – GetOutside Champions
After a two-year wait, I decided to apply again to become an OS GetOutside Champion. Following an unsuccessful application in 2017, I realised on reflection that it was not the right time for me. There were aspects of my application that needed greater thought and adaptation and my social media presence was not strong enough at that time. I will learn in February if I have been successful and while I do not have everything hanging on the result, it would certainly be a huge boost to my outdoor life and my belief in the significance of HeadRightOut.
Southern Uplands Way, Walking it AND Racing it!
April 2020 will see me set off along the Scottish Southern Uplands Way with two female friends. Neither have ever walked a long distance trail or wild camped. They are both experienced runners however and we are all doing the trail with the purpose of conducting a recce of the path, prior to us all returning to Scotland in August, when Philippa participates in the brutal Race Across Scotland Ultra. Anita and I will act as her support crew, so I look forward to us spending time together, sharing some of my trail and backpacking knowledge and learning much from them too in readiness for the August challenge. We seem to have an understanding already of each other’s emotional needs. I anticipate we will be a great team, both walking with and supporting one another.
While mildly dangerous from my point of view in some respects, this goal-setting is also great at giving me some accountability to work towards a focus.
My goals then are to:
- Increase the level of valuable content on the HeadRightOut website and to continue with my commitment of a published blog every Monday evening at 8pm
- Learn how to edit video efficiently and effectively; upload C2C content from September
- Start up a HeadRightOut community: the ‘HeadRightOut Hub’. This would complement, not compete with other similar groups
- Teach myself audio editing and any other requirements for ‘publishing’ a podcast
- Prepare for the new HeadRightOut podcast, with a view to first airing by January 2021
- Continue with research and discipline to write first book, with at least a completed draft by December 2020
- Maintain focus on facing my fears and document, in order to inspire others and work on building my own resilience
I wish everyone a truly happy, healthy and fulfilling new year and hope that all your dreams, adventures and plans to HeadRightOut into an exciting 2020 come to life.
Thankyou Zoe I have really enjoyed reading your new blogs… all sounds amazing and Thankyou for sharing your thoughts/plans and ideas… I have just moved to hebden bridge and feeling rather lost! So reading your blog has been really good.
Oh wow, Lynn – that is a big move but I hope it will prove to be so refreshing and beneficial to you in the long-run. Hebden Bridge is such a lovely town I’m told. We only skirted it on the Pennine Way. Thank you for letting me know you are enjoying the blogs. That means a lot! Hope you’re making the most of the amazing walking country you have up there too. Stay in touch, Z x