Hello, welcome to my blog. I started this blog on the first day of my 37th year. My intention was to complete 37 resolutions along the way. I'm now in my 38th year...I am making them up as I go along. There is no real method to my madness, but so far it is going pretty well. Read through my latest blog posts and feel free to comment on them if you like. I'm also up for you suggesting resolutions for me to make. You can also follow me on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/domburch
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When was the last time you wrote a letter? Not an email, or a Facebook post or even a blog. I mean picked up a pen and wrote words down on paper. No spell checker to autocorrect you along the way. Needing to think about each word and each sentence for fear of having to cross something out. There are no drafts, or rewrites, just what comes out in one stream of consciousness.
I’m attempting to write this blog in the same way. In one go, from start to finish. Normally I’ve been mulling over a thought for a little while and the blog just pops out fairly easily, but I always tidy it up, and edit it down.
Yet on Monday evening I picked up a pen for the first time in ages, and I wrote a heart-felt letter to a close friend from school whose mum sadly passed away on Sunday. As I type the words now tears are welling up and streaming down my cheek.
It was my way of showing genuine care for my friend, with words that were more meaningful and sincere in part because they were written, not spoken or typed or tweeted or posted. Handwritten and heart-felt.
His mum was an amazing woman. I can see her beaming round face now, and hear her voice. I needed to grieve for her too I guess, and as I speak to you now I am celebrating her life.
I’m not particularly religious, and therefore not sure what comes next, but I do know that people have the power to inspire others. And through that inspiration their spirit, for want of a better word, lives on. My friend text me to say he appreciated my letter. It was received exactly how I hoped it would be. In a small way I hope I have helped ease his pain, and allowed him to think fondly of his mum through the memories I put to paper.
So to those of you who read this post I make this plea. Find someone in your life you care about, and write to them. Send them a letter that they will cherish and keep. It is a wonderful thing to do.
I've always been a bit of a show off. Never shy at coming forward. At home on stage, albeit never any good at remembering my lines in the school play.
And throw in a microphone and who knows what will come out. As best man to Jamie 12 years ago I ended up doing the entire speech in Rowan Atkinson's vicar voice (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umRRCkspaQU&feature=youtube_gdata_player) having just faked downing a bottle of white wine to spook the mother-in-law.
If you're scratching your head asking why? I don't know. There is no explanation. No forward planning. Yet deep inside I must know what I'm doing.
Oddly I don't like seeing others making an arse out of themselves. I get embarrassed on their behalf. So no doubt when I'm mid-flow people will be looking at me thinking what a prized knobber.
Something inside me clearly drives me to want to be the centre of attention, be that standing up in front of the entire company taking the mick out of one of our directors, presenting at industry conferences, or dressing up as a polar bear at a Hope and Social gig http://instagram.com/p/SLC79zHCy9/.
In fact give me any sort of audience and more often than not I'll put on a show. I'm first on the dancefloor and last off it, and on occasion pretend to be even more camp than I naturally am just for effect.
So what of it? Does all this matter? Is it doing any harm? Perhaps.
My wife Becky knows me better than I know myself it would seem. Not suprising I guess. We met almost exactly 15 years ago at a Christmas party I organised at Leeds Met Uni in 1997. Since then she has had to put up with my exploits at weddings, gigs, big nights out (pre-kids) and more recently 40th birthday parties (I ain't lost it you know).
But it was the Monday after my previously mentioned polar bear exploits when Becky said next time we go to see Hope and Social we should go on our own.
She knew about the polar bear thing in advance this time, but I had reassured her I wouldn't leave her on her tod all night long (as I did last year dressed as a shit Elvis http://www.resolution37.me/?part_id=71704&post_id=8429&action=view_comments.
I was only going to wear the polar bear suit for ten minutes. Two hours later, and a fair few pints to the good, I changed back into my civvies, and saw the last song of the night. A gig I'd been looking forward to for weeks over in a flash, seen from inside a polar bear's head, and heard in a muffled, strangely eerie way. I'd been on stage, run through the audience and posed for various photos. But was it all worth it?
The next day through the hangover I reflected on the night before. The killer question, would I do it all again if given half a chance? And the answer I'm ashamed to say was yes.
So does that make me a bad person? Probably, a little. And if only for not facing up to the truth a little earlier. I love showing off. But to do so on a date night with Becky is not classy. I should save my extreme exploits for those nights when she's happily at home enjoying the peace and quiet of a night in alone. And next time we're out I should savour being out with her, not seeking to entertain strangers dressed up in disguise.
N.B. I have since bought Becky four tickets for her and three friends to go see Hope and Social in Otley on 14th December, I will be at the office Xmas party dressed up as boxing promoter Don King (one of the three kings - don't ask).
Will I never learn?
The term 'mental health' comes loaded with negative connotations. By comparison talking about your physical health is fine. Joining a gym is positively celebrated. The desire to maintain your health within a physical context is held up as a laudable goal - albeit seldom fulfilled for more than a few months at a time.
So when you tell someone you're doing something for 'mental health' reasons, they tend to look at you a bit strange. But that's precisely what I've started saying recently.
It follows a rather hectic period at work. Having returned from my six month career break in January, I'd managed to avoid most of the stressful bits of my old job in PR. Then my boss decided to leave, and I was promoted to his old role, which meant the buck stopped with me. The extra responsibility, and a stressful first week in charge took its toll almost immediately.
My tendency is to internalise my stress. I don't hit out, or get angry with anyone very often. Which means no-one recognises the signs, not even me.
I was on training course when towards the end of the session, and asked a rather innocuous question suddenly my emotions bubbled up to the surface.
It shocked me a little if I'm honest and reminded me why I'd had a career break exactly a year earlier. In part, my decision to take time off was effectively me waving a little white flag in the air. Either I had a career break or something was going to go pop. My former colleague Ed described it as a career break down - he was closer to the bone than he realised.
But as I opened up that day to my unsuspecting fellow trainees, disconcerting as it was for them and me, I also started to feel a degree of control returning again.
I began to appreciate that one of the things keeping me sane was having a life outside of work - one I'd developed while on my sabbatical.
Since January, I'd been leaving work early every other Friday afternoon to co-host Drive on BCB (http://www.bcbradio.co.uk).
I had accrued plenty of holiday despite having just had six months off, so I was taking half days off to cover it. Which was fine at first, until Becky pointed out that over a normal year that would mean half my holiday entitlement would be eaten up, leaving less time for us to spend as a family together. Fair point.
Anyway, putting that to one side for the time being, at the end of that first week in charge I'd had to leave the office in the middle of a mini PR crisis.
On the train to Bradford, and away from the mayhem I actually was able to think more clearly, and rattled off an email to all concerned about the choices we faced.
But walking out as I did was a risk, and could've turned out badly. My previous boss would certainly not have approved, but it felt right to me, even in the midst of all the stress. Something was telling me I needed to go do the show.
After the programme, and sat at home later that night I was buzzing. The natural high was palpable, despite being completely knackered.
Lorna, my co-host, an occupational therapist by trade, later explained that our mini performances, live on the radio, have the benefit of being enjoyed in the moment.
There is no reflection on decisions being made, or wistful daydreaming about what the future holds - you are there in real time, in the middle of it all, gently buzzing from the experience for two hours in a row. A gentle fix of adrenaline as if administered from a drip, rather than the usual shot in the arm of jumping off a bridge.
Being on the radio seemingly allows me to relax, despite being live on air. It enables my brain to think and function in a different way, and it relieves my stress, making my head - my brain - feel healthier.
Armed with this new found perspective I told work that I didn't feel I should have to take every other Friday off as holiday to fulfil my mental health requirements. Perhaps, not surprisingly, when put like that, they agreed.
So now, for my own mental health, and no doubt the benefit of my employer longer term I am able to satisfy my need to let go every two weeks - beaming out as I do to the lovely people of Bradford.
Feel free to listen in if you like, safe in the knowledge that while hopefully mildly entertaining for the listener, the presenter inside the radio is massaging his brain back to full fitness.
On a train journey back from London the other week I finally got round to compiling the remaining six of my 37 resolutions. As usual I just made them up as I went along.
These are they:
Travel to all four corners of the earth before I’m 40 – whatever that means.
Pitch a business idea to a venture capitalist (I have no idea what or to whom)
Don’t allow my stinginess or careful approach to money get in the way of having fun (already put this into practice and bought a fancy mobile phone which I am loving)
Skydive (come on be fair, I’ve only had two out of 37 resolutions that resemble traditional mid-life crisis territory, this one and doing the bungee jump).
Go snorkelling again on the Great Barrier Reef – it blew my mind first time round. Although I hated scuba diving.
Get Hope and Social the gig of all gigs – on the same bill as Bruce Springsteen – I don’t know how, but I know it would make them happy, and they make me happy, so the least I can do is try
Buy my mum an iPad and get her into using it (my dad is trying to convince me otherwise, but I reckon it's worth a shot).
So there you go.
I'm pleased to say I'm also getting stuck back in to writing my book, which is an extended explanation of why I'm doing this thing, and a description of what I've got out of attempting each resolution. I have sent the first 20,000 words to the learned scholar that is Phil Kirby (@philkirby of Culture Vultures fame), and have plans in place to meet over a beer soon to capture his feedback.
I think I'm going to give myself a deadline of 13th September 2012 for its completion - exactly two years after the start of the whole process. If I've learnt nothing else in that time it is that I must set myself a deadline or things drift indefinitely.
Right, that's all for now. I have to go and caress my Samsung Galaxy SIII - hmmmm.
Resolution 18: Appear on a daytime television game show in order to earn a bit of money i.e. Come Dine With Me or Deal Or No Deal.
Tomorrow I have an appointment to call Richard Jobson a researcher at ITV Studios, makers of Come Dine With Me. It turns out my application, which I submitted on a whim last July at the start of my career break, didn't go into a blackhole after all. Now that they're casting for the Bradford area, they've got in touch.
So, the moment has come, but do I actually want to follow through with it? I'm not so sure. I'm going to play it straight tomorrow, not camp it up, or put on a show, or pretend to be more outrageous than I actually am.
If my professional self was advising me I'd probably say steer clear. Is playing a caricature of yourself on a pantomime reality show really how you want people to know you? If your reputation is what people say about you when you leave the room, do you really want the first conversation to be your moment of fame on CDWM?
Or is my forboding simply pre-match nerves, or the fact I've just endured 'We need to talk about Kevin'?
Let's sleep on it shall we and see what the morning brings. After all, I haven't even been to the auditions yet. And based on those who know someone who has previously applied, getting past the audition stage is no formality.
Tune in tomorrow for the next episode...
I haven't blogged for ages and I marvel at those who do more frequently and eloquently than me. I worry that I'm lazy. I'd rather sit in front of the telly box with half an eye on the drivel being broadcast and a full eye on my phone. Flipping between Twitter and Facebook. My own children think my phone is attached to me, and to my shame my five year old told her mum that when daddy takes them to the park he sits looking at his phone all the time.
Anyway, that's that. I'm not going to rehash old blogs again, you can read them yourself if you really feel the need.
Instead I've been reflecting on being back in the rat race, now that I've been back at work three whole months, give or take a week or so. The honeymoon period is over, but I'm still benefitting from a more healthy perspective on my job and where it fits in terms of importance vs the rest of my life. And my life is more interesting now than it was before I ventured off on a career break.
I remain close to loads of the people who I met during my time off, inspirational souls like Sarah Cartin who this weekend pulled off an amazing feat by opening the Picnic Parlour on the first floor of the former Zavvi in the centre of Bradford. Helped in no small part by Gideon Seymour of Fabric Culture http://www.fabricculture.co.uk/, Sarah has created a fun space designed for older people to drop into to meet others, have a spot of lunch, read a book, view the art, surf the web, or simply sit and ponder life. It is an awesome space that is helping breath new life back into the centre of Bradford.
The city, which is often scorned and criticised by its own, let alone outsiders, is having a mini renaissance of sorts. And its rejuvination seems to me to be born out of the pig-headedness and determination of those locals who refuse to give up or give in. As an outsider, a recent 'blow in' as they say in Northern Ireland, my sense is a corner has been turned.
Having spent the last four years living in Shipley, I lived in Pudsey prior to that, I had never really ventured into BD1 much unless I was going to St George's Hall. But my volunteering last year took me to Age UK's pokey little office that backs on City Park (sounds better than it is - it backs onto the back of the restaurants that sit on the edge of the park). Before long I started gaining an affinity with the city. I've always loved its architecture. Waterstones is breathtaking, the buildings in the surrounding streets wouldn't look out of place in Edinburgh, and the area near BCB http://www.bcbradio/co.uk also has an up and coming feel to it. The Sparrow real ale house is thriving, the posh men's clothes shop on the corner whose name escapes me looks the business, and there's a fancy little deli that is always busy as far as I can tell.
So I find myself standing up for my adopted city at every opportunity, challenging colleagues at work to justify their sniggers or snipes. And using my Twitter account to spread the word to those who follow me from further afield. A month or so ago I even flirted with the idea of organising a music festival called Bratfud Rocks, registering the Twitter account www.twitter.com/bratfudrocks and buying the web domain. Alas, being a lazy so and so I've done very little since. Yet others are cracking on. The Bradford Bloggers Club and Bradford Buzz blog http://bradfordbuzz.com/ are doing a far better job than I'd ever get round to doing. There's a momentum building, and it's palpable.
Last night saw the official launch of City Park, ironically I was otherwise engaged in Birmingham of all places - another city that has to fight hard against the rest of the country's in-built prejudices about it - so I had to watch it all unfurl via Twitter. I'd have loved to have been there to feel the positive vibe first-hand, and to have hung around to join the likes of Keith Wildman on the Save The Odeon protest. The Pity Poor Bradford blog is worth a read btw if you haven't already http://www.pitypoorbradford.co.uk/.
Pic stolen from Keith Wildman's instagram - hope he doesn't mind - http://instagr.am/p/IkTGnVDzz_/
The fight to save the Odeon represents more than just campaigning to keep a historical building, it captures the essence of Bradford's recent revival. Ordinary people clubbing together and finding a common cause to unite behind. Why should we just allow another beautiful building to be demolished and replaced with something less interesting? The tide is turning, and not surprisingly all the candidates for the Bradford West by-election have started latching onto the issue in order to garner favour with potential voters. And judging by the number of people who protested last night and the number of supportive car horns a honking, we may just win the fight.
And if we do it'll make every Bradordian who was prepared to stand up to the neysayers, a little prouder as a result. It can then look back at us as a symbol of Bradford - once consigned to the rubbish heap, getting back up on its feet and standing proud, regaining its footing as the great city it truly is. So says a Southerner from Reading.
This is the second blog I penned high above the Atlantic a week or so ago.
The book Bounce really got me thinking. That and I tend to be more emotional when flying. Must be the air pressure or something.
Anyway, I wondered around the following thought - is it better to focus your child's efforts in order to guarantee them the best chance of success. Or give them lots of different experiences, chopping and changing to see what sticks, knowing deep down it is not really them deciding for themselves, but more likely a result of external forces, fickle fashions, chance meetings or coincidences, or teenage obstinacy in my case.
I played football because my dad insisted on taking me to cub scouts. I didn't want to go. He had to goad me onto the pitch. He knew me better than I knew myself. I loved it. In fact I adopted a lead role immediately despite being the youngest, most inexperienced and lacking any real skill.
He also later coaxed a stroppy teenager into learning how to be a qualified football referee with two other dads. I got top marks in the theory test as it happens, but never really took to it in practise. The uniform didn't fit in more ways than one.
My mum encouraged me to be artistic. Falsely praising my supposed talents beyond rhyme or reason. She would over-enthusiastically wow my every attempt. But to some extent the over encouragement worked. For a while they both humoured my attempts at acting, albeit I was too lazy to learn my lines properly for the school play.
It turned out my tendency to wing it was not ideal mid monologue in Charles Dickins' A Christmas Carol.
And then as it turned out, my chosen career was an act of chance. Forced to quickly decide on a course I stumbled upon PR. The choice had been narrowed down by my GCSEs, and no doubt Derrin Brown could've predicted the outcome better than any career's advisor. But ending up in Leeds was not a forgone conclusion.
So how then should I approach my own kids' upbringing. They already conform to many stereotypes. Both attend ballet class on a Saturday morning donning pretty pink tutus. The elder one also now goes to Rainbows (a pre cursor to Brownies). Their mother is an enthusiastic arts and crafter, and happily spends hours with them making toys, or making cards for Granny. She is also a teacher, among other things, and nurtures their reading and writing skills. We are therefore already overtly shaping their destinies, yet they are barely 5 and 3 years old.
They eat healthily. We love them openly and warmly. We celebrate minor successes and encourage the right behaviours so as to allow them to thrive at school or nursery. Yet how much is already beyond our collective control?
At what point does the most prevailing force become one of fate, or of chance?
I think I'm answering my own question to some extent.
In the end I guess you can only do what you can do in order to give your kids everything they need in a loving environment so that when they reach the many crossroads in life, they are best equipped to make the right decisions for themselves.
In the meantime, don't worry too much about tomorrow, just enjoy today, because yesterday is already a long time ago.
Well come on, if I can't be soppy on Valentine's Day, when can I?
I penned a few thoughts this time last week as I headed to San Francisco...
I'm reading a book called Bounce at the moment by Matthew Syed, http://amzn.to/yGmPC4
Anyway, that is by the by.
He describes how many great Olympians feel a sense of loss when they reach their ultimate goal. A gold medal, rather than the icing on the cake, is a bitter pill full of anti-climax.
This morning, on the flight to San Francisco I half watched a comedy called the Big Year. The gooey moral of the story is coming second is really winning if you fall in love or make a new friend along the way.
Perhaps not the best two examples to make my point but consider this. There are lots of people who never quite figure out what it is in life they want. What they really require to feel fulfilled.
How you feel can't be faked. Feelings may be distorted by events, or amplified by emotions, but how you feel is how you feel.
Which is why I'm so chuffed ppl around me at work who haven't seen me for a while keep commenting on how I've changed. I'm more relaxed. I'm more chilled out. More confident. Less full on. No-one can quite put their finger on what it is exactly about me that's different - but it's real, it's noticeable, and it's positive.
I know what it is. I've found my balance. I've been fortunate enough to see me from the outside looking in. I've been blessed with the clarity of thought to know what really motivates me, what matters, and what I truly care about.
That's why I keep challenging people at work to explain to me what motivates them. The answers are often confused. "I love the job I do." But what is it about the job? The competitiveness, the winning? The problem solving? The giving? The taking?
Granted, had I read this post a year ago let alone written it I would probably have scoffed at myself. And a year from now I may still do the same. But I'm not so sure. The honeymoon period since returning to work has lasted a full month so far, and a little bit more.
What's more, opportunities that weren't there before keep presenting themselves to me. Perhaps they were always there but I was looking the wrong way.
For me not being motivated by money, or getting the next promotion for promotion's sake, is a blessing. But you are still forced to answer the 'why' question. Why do you do what you do at the expense of seeing the kids, or relaxing more.
You have to keep asking why until you can ask why no more.So what motivates me in life. I love making new friends and seeing old ones. I love coming up with ideas to solve problems other people can't solve. I love to inspire people to do things. In fact until recently I didn't realise I was even capable of doing this.
And I want to make the world a better place. Ok that last one is a bit Miss World granted, but you know what I mean it. It is as true as the others. Why shouldn't I want this. Is it only world leaders or peace campaigners or hippy do gooders who are allowed to proclaim a desire to do good, to make people happy?
When I left uni I foolishly thought not being able to save the world immediately was a big failure on my part. I was embarrassed to go and do PR for a breakdown company in Leeds. Now 14 years on, and approaching middle age (on average men in the UK die at 74, before you challenge me on this point), I've reached a happy equilibrium many don't reach until they retire, if ever. But having said that I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.
My generation has been blessed with good fortune, good health, good education and good opportunities. Not everyone is as lucky as me I know. But for those who are able to make a choice, I believe in the years to come, many more will. I can feel it in my bones. So dear reader of this blog, are you with me or not?
If not, ask yourself why it is you do what you do, and keep on asking until you can ask it no more.The truth is out there - in fact the truth is in there. Don't wait for it to catch up with you. Go after it now. Seek it out. Time is of the essence my friends. Be inspired to answer why :)
One month back in the saddle
Two radio shows under my belt
One real world meeting with a twitter kindred spirit
An afternoon of homework shenanigans with Hope & Social
A weekend in London at a posh hotel
And four weeks of mentalness at work – an unbelievable and unexpected reception to my return – challenging my previously held cynical view of the depth of workplace relationships
Email gradually ruling my life again though
A jolt mid-week reminded me why I went on a career break in the first place
Must be disciplined retaining best bits of what I discovered about myself and what’s important in life, my life and my family’s.
I currently have 37 resolutions on the go, hence the name of this blog. But had I set them all on New Year’s Day I’d not only have had far fewer, but they’d have also been far more predictable.
Instead I have ended up with a heady mix of the sublime to the ridiculous, tough challenging ones like writing a book, to flippant silly ones like meeting Roland Rat http://www.resolution37.me/all_my_resolutions.html.
What’s more I’ve realised that the journey is more important than the final destination when it comes to attempting to complete a resolution. Some of the most fun I’ve had this year has been on resolutions I haven’t got anywhere near to actually finishing, as they took me off in an interesting direction or led to new friendships that just wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
I chose to set myself 37 resolutions tied to my 37th year. It enabled me to make them up as I went along, and add in a few easy ones near the start to give me a sense of achievement early on.
The whole experience has been liberating. I’ve been motivated to try new things, and to be far less lazy then normal.
This year alone I have taken a six month career break, travelled to South Africa for a month with the wife and kids, and in doing so I got to jump off the world’s highest bungee bridge, walk an elephant, stroke a tiger, and see migrating whales up close.
I’ve fulfilled a childhood dream and hosted my own drivetime radio show and I’ve volunteered with Age UK in Bradford. I’ve also got to know a real life band of musicians (http://www.hopeandsocial.com), not only falling helplessly in love with their music but also being inspired by their entire outlook on life to the point where I have shamelessly attached myself to them, their friends and their families like some sado stalking super fan.
I set out to write a book, which despite many hours of love and labour didn’t really get past the introduction to be honest. Rather than be disheartened by my apparent failure I am happily content that the book I was writing could not be written as its subject matter is still a work in progress. My journal of my midlife has turned into a choose your own adventure book where you get to change direction midway through, and if that particular storyline doesn’t work out, you simply pick another page instead.
So now, with just a few days left to go before I return to work, I am sat here reflecting on the whole crazy experience of Resolution 37. I definitely feel like I’ve had my money’s worth, and have stumbled onto a formula for a happy and fulfilling life. Setting 37 resolutions won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you ask me it beats saying every new year I’m going to join a gym and give up alcohol for a month.
If you'll forgive me, in an Oscar acceptance speech kind of way, there are a few people I’d like to mention and thank for their help, support, and friendship. In no particular order as Dermot says on the X Factor, the roll call is as follows:
Ben Denison – he may not realise it, but our chance meeting on holiday in France in June 2010 cemented a few thoughts in my mind, and our friendship since has become an important factor in so many other things that have happened to me. He is, for want of a better word, a catalyst.
Susan Hinchcliffe – she put me in touch with Jean Walker and set me on the road to Age UK and getting involved with @olderBradford and meeting and working with and for Sarah Cartin.
Jean Walker MBE – an inspirational, feisty older woman who campaigns tirelessly for older people in Bradford. An amazing person, privilege to meet and work with her.
Sarah Cartin – another inspirational person, who welcomed me with open arms and helped me think differently and gain confidence in my own ability outside of doing my day job.
Julie Lintern – at risk of sounding like a broken record, Julie is also another inspirational woman. A proud mum of four, my age, but has achieved so much more. And having proven herself as a brilliant mum and Age Concern project manager, is now going to go to Uni. Fair play.
Mary Dowson for giving me the chance to be a local radio DJ at BCB. Rather than laugh in my face when I told her about my resolution she challenged me to fulfil it before I went back to work.
My boss for being supportive a year ago and allowing me to take six months off.
My mum and dad for helping out when money has been tight and for not tutting or frowning too much when I told them about my midlife shenanigans.
My kids who have made my job of being a part-time house husband not nearly as hard as it could’ve been, although I now know how hard it really is for all the mums who normally do it.
My wife, who has humoured me along the way, and not given me a hard time for sitting at home and ‘writing a book’ when I could’ve been out doing something more productive.
That’ll do for now, apologies if I haven’t name checked you. It doesn’t mean you haven’t helped.
Happy new year when it comes.