Hello dear readers!
Welcome to my latest blog post and what will probably be the last installment of 2017! It's been an exciting year with many ups and downs, trials and tribulations. Mostly it has been a year of successes and positive developments, there's a sense that things are finally moving in the right direction after a few years fraught with difficulties and setbacks. Many of my goals have yet to reach their endpoints, but I have made good progress this year and am optimistic that they will be accomplished in the new year. So without further ado, here is what I have achieved in 2017:
This year my driving has improved a great deal, I feel so much more confident behind the wheel and in my last few lessons there has been very little for my driving instructor to correct me on. This year I succeeded in passing my theory test with good marks, practised driving in my Mum's car (i.e. with no instructor, second set of pedals or other person to take over if I mess up), gained experience of driving in a petrol car (my instructor's car is a diesel one), memorised the notorious Pork Pie roundabout and became fully confident at driving at speed and on county roads. I have yet to pass the final finish line and pass my practical test (having attempted it twice) but considering how well things are going I have a feeling that a pass is just on the horizon. The only challenge to this is that as of the 4th December 2017 the content of the practical test changed, so I'm going to have to learn some new things before I can put in for my test again.
I've made some dramatic improvements to my health in 2017, the journey towards which began in January when I was referred by my GP to a programme run by the NHS called Lifestyle, Eating, Activity Programme (LEAP). This consisted of 12 sessions run weekly during which we were weighed, then had an hour of diet/food education followed by an hour of exercise in the form of circuit training. At the beginning of the programme we were given a diet regimen tailored to our measurements and activity levels to follow, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was all very common sense (moderate portions of carbohydrates and lean protein, plenty of fruit and vegetables and as little fat and sugar as you can manage to do without) and that there was no mention of all the nonsense you see in the national press about eating macca powder, chia seeds and other quack 'super foods'. My apologies, but I don't have the patience to make smoothies and Buddha bowls! A great thing about the diet (or rather, 'lifestyle change') is that it's very easy to stick to, flexible and doesn't restrict whole food groups. And even better - it works! By April I had lost 9.5kg (1.5 stone) and by the end of this year I have lost 25kg (about 4 stone). By the end of next year I hope to lose another 25kg and reach my goal weight of 60kg (about 9.5 stone).
Alongside watching what I eat, I have also increased my exercise which has the dual benefit of helping with my weight loss as well as improving my physical fitness. Earlier in the year I was doing Aquafit class, yoga and a gym session each week, which were good fun but the classes tended to finish later than I would have liked and were difficult to fit around my schedule. Plus, to get home from the gym I had a 40 minute walk - fine on balmy summer evenings but not a pleasant prospect in the cold and dark of winter! So I recently swapped gyms for one in the city centre that I can go to directly after work, do a full hour session and then catch a bus home. I'm finding this routine pretty easy to stick to (goals need to be achievable, after all) and in a few weeks time have seen a marked improvement in my stamina and strength. I also succeeded in completing two walks lasting about six hours across challenging terrain in the Peak District this year, which was testament to how far I'd come and how much my fitness has improved.
I don't think I've stated it explicitly anywhere but as you may have guessed I decided in 2015 to cease pursuing a career as an Illustrator and instead find a more 'normal' job. In August that year I secured a role as Administration and Finance Officer for an arts education charity in Leicester called Pedestrian. It plays to my good organisational skills, and I'm lucky that I still get to work in the creative sphere and for a worthy cause. This year I've been focusing a lot on the marketing side of things, and in October took on the role of PR and Communications Coordinator for a project we're involved with called Moneywise Plus. This was a really positive development as I'm interested in progressing into this area and it gives me opportunities to use my written and design skills in creating posters, invitations, flyers, blog/social posts and press releases. I gained some valuable experience with using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system and am looking to improve my knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite by working through some books I bought called 'Adobe Creative Cloud Classroom in a Book' for Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign. I have them ready and waiting for the new year! I've also started learning HTML and CSS coding through Code Academy this year.
Probably one of the things I'm most nervous about is public speaking, so in a bid to improve my skills and gain some confidence I stepped forward to do some small speaking roles at a group I attend called Sunday Assembly Leicester. These are gatherings that happen on Sundays once a month at Leicester Secular Hall, the idea being that these are fun non-religious events that anyone of any belief system is welcome to attend. It involves singing songs, listening to talks and readings and then having a vegetarian lunch together. This year I did three readings (including an excerpt from a story by Isaac Asimov) and filled a slot we have called 'Doing Their best' in which we talk about our successes and failures (much like this post!) I was pleased that I managed to get a few laughs from the audience and was praised afterwards by one of the attendees for being brave enough to talk about my weight loss goals and struggles. It was a really positive experience and definitely an area that I'd like to continue developing in 2018.
Oh dear, there's always going to be one area you end up neglecting! Unfortunately this year I've been so busy pursuing other goals I've not had much time and head-space for creative activity, I always find I need a decent block of time and some physical space to relax and settle in to making artwork and I've not had a vast amount of either recently. This is definitely something I need to improve on next year! I also failed to achieve my aim of updating my blog with a new post every month, by the end of this year I'll have done 5-6 posts (including this one) so updating my blog bi-monthly looks like a more reasonable target. I have however been very active on Twitter and have been pleased with some of the photographs and posts I've shared on there. I'm by no means a professional photographer but a fun snap on the fly is always satisfying! Chatting and sharing with others is such an enjoyable activity and there's been steady growth in my followers on that platform, so this is an activity I'll be continuing.
That's all for now folks, as always thank you for reading! Join me closer to the new year when I'll be setting and sharing goals for 2018. It promises to be an exciting year!