Category Archives: Career

Tomahawks and Giddy Up

‘If we wonder often, the gift of knowledge will come’ ~ Arapaho

Hay bales line the streets. Restaurants and bars take on a saloon-like appearance. The crowds, a sea of cowboy hats. Dusty boots, clicking spurs and faded-worn jeans walk the streets. I never realised what a big deal Stampede would be to Calgary, not only is the city transformed into a metropolitan version of the Wild West for the tourist invasion but I got a real sense of genuine local pride for the cow-herding, gun-slinging heritage of the province.

On Friday I went to the Stampede Parade, spectators lined the streets awaiting parade floats in the 31ºC heat. I love parades and festivals, on the condition I get a decent standing place in the crowd (I’m a little 5’3”) to watch the colourful celebrations. I love how the music fills the air and everyone is in high spirits and there to enjoy themselves. I love the dancers, the marching bands, flag wavers, balloons, bejeweled costumes, the horses. Maybe I’m just a really excitable person? Here’s a few of my favorite images from the day:

Perhaps this is the appropriate time to tell you that back in the deep dark dawn of time I bought Horse & Pony magazine and replaced my Transformers wallpaper with my Little Pony. Even now I have to say, horses are quite beautiful animals especially when they’re in motion cantering and galloping.

The parade lasted for about 2 hours, so I was shifting between standing and sitting, doing a little jig on the spot to keep my legs awake. I finally got to see the Chinese Cultural Society do their lion and dragon dances which was worth waiting for. Now cowboys are rootin’ tootin’ and all, but Native Americans are pretty awesome. Totem poles, tomahawks, dreamcatchers, battle cries, potlatches and pow-wows. Brave warriors and hunters of the old West.

So what else has been going on?

  • I have caught up with snail mail, so instead of online activity I’ve put pen to very pretty paper, mailing postcards and dusting off those air mail envelopes. I love the thought of my friends’ faces lighting up when something drops into their mailbox and they know I’ve thought of them. Now to tackle that scary looking pile of emails.

  • Uploaded nearly 1000 Banff photos, intrepid traveler tales will follow.
  • World Cup withdrawal. I get sucked in by world sporting events – the passion, the frantic flag waving, crowd eruptions and goal celebrations. I had backed Spain since England came crashing out, the final was very physical and tense. But I did cheer when Spain won especially after the Dutch ninja-kick foul that never got red carded. Must add to Bucketlist – Will attend one World Cup in my lifetime.

  • Becoming more and more demoralised by the job (or lack of) situation. I’m trying not to question my achievement and self-worth, but I see so many things I lack the requirements and experience for. Applications I’ve made (via job sites and speculatively) are hardly setting the place alight.  Should I reassess my career dreams? Should I go to graduate school? I’m really asking myself these things. If I don’t find employers willing to sponsor me to stay in Canada I will need to return to the UK by March. I graduated almost 1 year ago and it’s really denting my confidence that nothing has worked out. I don’t know how to sum up this year with a positive tone that recruiters will drool over. I have really been trying but it feels like I’m running out of steam. Limiting my job search to Calgary is really frustrating, maybe going back to England wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The term double-dip recession scares me, but maybe we’ll be out of it by then. It’s so tough. Especially when David has got a nicely paying jobs here.
  • Volunteering – been enquiring about tutoring in homework clubs for Grades 1-12, an internship at Shaw TV (something a bit different!), becoming a member of Big Sisters and having conversation meet-ups with Korean students wanting to get to grips with English. Not exactly career-related but I’m not one to sit around and do absolutely nothing.
  • Getting excited about Shark Week on Discovery next month. My first ever science career dream was shark and marine mammal research.


Filed under Building my CV, Calgary, Canada, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, Nature and Planet Earth

Not Great Expectations

‘I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.’ ~ Fritz Perls.

Panicked. Anxious. Questioning what I should doing and where I am now. There was I hoping my twenties would be a carefree existence with the distinct joy of finding myself and my place in the world. The moment the pressure lifts from academics, then the job search/be successful pressure hits full throttle. I feel guilty not knowing what I should do with my life with absolute 100% certainty, I’m chasing ideas and running with them (stong pull:fertility lab). But if something isn’t happening, when do I decide to give up and try another avenue.

The Daily Mail released an article today. It’s crazy how many of us fledgling adults are slumping into a ‘quarter-life crisis’, and sad that the pressure of life are getting to us at a time in our lives when we should be enjoying our newly found freedom and be full of hope for our futures. Instead many of us are directionless and uncertain. I remember a few months after I graduated feeling this way, I read the quarter-life crisis section of the forum and was shocked at how low some people felt. I remember one girl who had graduated in 2007, had been working temp jobs and just felt like a robot, sick of living with her parents still and wondered how long it would be til something came her way that was even loosely related to her degree. One guy shockingly felt so down that he had contemplated jumping in front of the train as his life felt so static, lacked meaning and had spent so much time unemployed and feeling useless that he thought he would never get employed. My heart broke for these people, would I feel the same if nothing had worked out for me years in the future? A shade of failure and inadequacy.

As the article suggested – take a break from the rat race and do something meaningful to lift your spirits. Which is precisely why I’m in Canada – avoiding stewing in my anxiousness and an unstable economy (plus the small matter of love). I have dipped my toe into the volunteer realm, the thoughts of making a difference at the dog shelter and getting started in a new project freed my mind from the worries of what I should be doing, but happy to do something I wanted to do. If it takes me longer to find my calling (scientific journalism? creative writing?) or be given a chance in the working world (Health Service hire me!) then so be it. It’s hard to say that and I do worry, especially when I see the busy streets and roads at 7am of people making their way to work and thinking ‘Shouldn’t this be me?’. What if my untapped potential fades away? What if no opportunity presents itself even though I keep my ears a-prick? What if I’m out of employment too long, does that make me a loser? Should I go to graduate school?

Something that always hurts when reading these articles is the insensitivity of some of the comments. Claiming Gen Y are a bunch of whiners and feel we are ‘entitled’. I certainly worked hard to get my degree but I never feel like I was owed anything. I think if it was known how many resumes some graduates have sent out to secure a single interview, the number of young people working for free just to get experience for the hope of an entry-level job in the future, the competition, the moments of feeling worthless. The vicious cycle of ‘needing experience, but needing some experience to compete for the experience opportunity’ plus the curse of student loans, maybe they could understand the upset.

The authors touch on pressures from the celebrity lifestyle. This certainly isn’t me, I love a new pair of shoes and something sparkly to add to my accessories carousel  as much as the next girl but if need be I can live minimally and on a budget. I think we’re bombarded with images of what ‘success’ is and by some mystical osmosis we start to absorb these projections. Which is the source of unhappiness. Success is purely subjective, it’s where you want to be. Expecting something unrealistic is only going to lead to heartbreak and stress. I’m still trying to figure out my definition of success (with happiness leading the list) but it certainly won’t be shaped by anything other than my wants and desires.


Filed under Building my CV, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development

Stranger things have happened

‘Enthusiasm is the best protection in any situation’ ~ David Seabury.

One thing I’ve found Canadians assume about me is – I’m British and therefore I must love football. When someone picks up on my accent, there is a great chance if I’m in male company I will be asked which football team I support, shortly followed by whether I have seen an ice hockey game yet. Now I’m not the biggest footie fanatic, I don’t have a team I hold a season ticket for but I do love the World Cup. More the spirit of the World Cup, watching others parade their country’s colours, their national flags streaming in the breeze from car windows. Painted faces in pubs experiencing the suspense of the game, biting their lips with every near miss to a goal. My photo was taken outside an Irish pub, and these places are packed during games. To the rafters.

The game has just heated up and somehow, somehow, England made it out of the group alive. I didn’t even watch the game vs. Slovenia as I had an awful feeling we would be pummeled seeing as we had failed to win against the other (British media so-called) ‘easier’ teams in our group. One thing I noticed from our games was how slow the play was (in comparison to Brazil vs. Ivory Coast which was so nimble) and how disconnected the players seemed to be from each other. It doesn’t take a genius to realise teams of any sort are non-operational if that happens. Next up, we are facing Germany apparently. Given the traditional football rivalry between the countries I think it will be pretty tense and if it ends in penalties I can barely watch. I think we might be waving goodbye to our South African World Cup campaign by the end of that ninety minutes, but stranger things have happened right?

In other news:

  • I went for a short meeting at the Clinic to speak to one of the doctors. His quirky and bizarre humor aside (and his ability to make me feel very uncomfortable), I think the main problem they see is waiting for medical test results as it would mean I couldn’t begin training immediately. So looks like I will be kissing this job goodbye. I feel like I’m riding highs and lows being a foreigner here, moments of enjoying myself followed by grim disappointment and worry about the future. Seeing the doggies yesterday got me out of that cycle  –> feeling like a go-getter. Gotta keep those positive vibes floating about.
  • Tomorrow is finally a day without appointments or plans, and I intend to keep it that way. So maybe I’ll actually get around to doing something.
  • We have a new digital SLR. So David has been toying with that; photo editing (read: stealing computer, sulky panda face of sadness), doing nightshots and slow-shutter sky shots. Basically taking photos all around the apartment and being an annoying paparazzo. Still haven’t had my turn on it yet.
  • 6 days away from completing NABLOPOMO. It’s been great, letting the ideas out my mind and not sitting stewing in them. Blogging is cheap therapy. Forcing myself to come up with ideas or revisit old ones daily. I cannot believe I’ve managed to last this long and actually be enjoying it, have something to say. Julie encouraged me to do it, and I’m passing on the encouragement to anybody who is feeling daring. My aim is to do NABLOPOMO three times in 1001 days (maybe/undecided). I’m also finishing the challenge just in time to go to Banff next Thursday. With that 30 posts in 30 days achievement high.
  • Some pieces from the Terracotta army are coming to the Glenbow Museum at the end of July. Psyched!


Filed under Calgary, Canada, Career, Life, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development

Creative Mind Never Sleeps

‘Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.’ ~ Edward de Bono.

Last night as I was staring into the darkness my mind was busy assembling a scene. It was raining heavily, smog encircling a lone figure and there was an immense feeling of loss and regret hanging in the air. Normally I’m busy untangling thoughts that have seeped into my unconscious during the day, rerunning a conversation or telling my mind to dump because its constant babble is keeping me from sleep. But last night it was weaving a creative piece and I couldn’t stop it. I promised to write it down when I woke up but upon the sunlight creeping through the window it had slipped away with the night. I was pretty frustrated as it was really going somewhere, or at least it was a starting point.

Science has been at the forefront of my mind, everything from critiquing research to coming up with investigative questions and experiments to lead to some answers. Trying to piece together concepts to get a full story, thinking of possibilities and applying research to the real world. This was something I found difficult at first but my brain slipped into these thinking patterns and being able to think for itself in a scientific way. I felt more like a scientist and less of an imposter playing pretend. I always got the feeling professors and teaching assistants  knew who was just winging it. It started to be natural and not forced, to an extent I had to think out the box and be creative, but it involves a lot of being able to think critically, with a splatter of abstract thought and logical inquiry.

Creativity keeps the world interesting

With my mind having been conditioned to focus more on the science-y stuff I thought other subjects may have got lost on the way. I got back into languages after graduation, what’s stopping me from getting back into writing creatively? Something I haven’t really done since I was in English Language classes – age 16. Something I don’t think I was really encouraged to do since primary school, I would write short stories with some really unbelievable and zany goings-on that my favorite primary school teacher Mrs De Val would coo over and tell me I would be a fledgling author. Then again when I performed in a theatre group (age 11, no teenage confidence dive yet) I was written a thank you letter from the producer/writer lady telling me an Oscar lay in my future, no gold statuettes thus far. Miss Bell, a maiden of physics, said a Nobel Prize could be in my future (I got the feeling she said this to every student pursuing science in higher education). So I don’t expect prophecies of greatness to come true when my name is involved, I just assume people are being encouraging to reach for your dreams and giving you hope and fire inside that you might achieve what you strive to be  – which is nice all the same.

Four things put me off a little from writing:

  1. I’m pretty conscious of the public reading. The main reason I took my journal public was because I was secretly reading many blogs and wanted to see if I could do it too, I have met some wonderful people blogging and love reading about their lives, that is enough to keep me going. I don’t want an earthquake of traffic but I love having those bloggers that matter and are genuine, I’m less wary of posting what I think here because I want people to know the real me. Isn’t it always pointless to not be the real you?
  2. I find it hard to take a leap from the diving board, not scared to commit or lacking determination, but I often feel that when I don’t instantly feel a small victory or I falter in my attempts I can get very defeatist and feel like giving up a little before I’ve begun. This is something I desperately want to overcome, I will write more about this and endeavor to change this attitude as I think it could stump any talents I try to develop. If I hadn’t neglected girls football, netball, kayaking, cartoon drawing, electric guitar and bass (some as I sucked, others due to costs or time) who knows where I would be now. I would love to feel passion for these things again.
  3. I don’t know if I have what it takes to piece together a story, develop characters and have all the glue needed to hold a novel in place. I’m not even sure this is something that can be taught. I suppose I don’t think I will have the continuity of ideas or a strong enough idea to carry through. I think I’m more a ‘moment person’, if I transport myself to a place in my mind, I can imagine the dialogue and the setting but lack the follow through to make it anything more than a moment.
  4. It’s too late to start. Though my rational minds say it’s never to late to start anything. Ever. Period.

Life is about applying what you know and learning some. Maybe I need to act on this.

Given the blessing/curse of having some time on my hands. I was tempted to try my hand at a children’s book, my boyfriend even offered to illustrate! We’ll see, I have a ridiculous mental list of stuff I want to do in my life and so many interests I would love to delve deeper into – maybe being an expert in certain fields someday!

This daily blog post challenge has certainly kept my journaling in shape. Sometimes I get to 11 pm and I’m still wondering what topic or thoughts to reveal to the world. But so far I’m managing, I’ve discovered daily blogging is exhausting but satisfying. I will probably do small posts over the weekend as I really want to catch up with everything online and off. This past week has been so energy-draining – Worry? Stress? Dull skies and rain? Silly insomnia? Maybe a case of all the above.

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Filed under Arts & Culture, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development, Science

Keep Moving

‘Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach’ ~ Tom Robbins

Thank you from the bottom of the heart for all who gave me their 2 cents with the decision issue. It caught me very off guard and I appreciate the encouragement. My main problem is making up my mind and not staying static and just blindly worrying. So after a weekend of not assaulting my brain with options it seemed to come almost to its own conclusion. Which seems to be how my brain works, if I take some pressure off, get outside and away from the computer it seems to work its neural magic and get me back on track. Like when you forget a name or the vital part of a fact, and somehow it will come to you in the shower and it’s a ‘A ha!’ moment. What precious grey matter! I am back.

Just making a decision is important. The very ability to be able to come to a decision and a calculated one at that is a skill in itself. The ability not to over think, stress and wrestle with a decision but to stay cool, collected and confident in your choice.

The scariest thing is facing the unknown, wondering how another choice would have played out and how different your life would be with this path in motion, there will also be the struggle with challenging the existing balance of everything and embracing change.

This is what I did. On Sunday night I emailed the laboratory director and explained my situation – the work permit 3 hours rule, which I suggested I could adhere to whilst waiting for medical clearance to be allowed to go beyond work experience and actually be employed in that environment. So after a decision has been left resting with me I’ve volleyed it back. I should also mention that the job was part-time with no benefits to speak of, but as far as getting my foot on a ladder and something of some career relevance, it works. And did I mention the cryopreservation area was awesome?!

This doesn’t chain me to Calgary forever, life happens and all you can do is make the best decision that is right for you at the time.  As well as thinking about what you want you need to be realistic and take into account the economy and job market. I hear the coalition government in the UK are cutting a lot of jobs in the public sector and things will get worst before getting better, wouldn’t it be foolish to not at least attempt to make the opportunities here work for me? So I wait for her decision now, if she says 4-6 weeks is too long to wait then I will make a mental note of ‘not meant to be and tried’.

Like the quote commands, flexibility. Your choices don’t have to encase you in concrete, stuck.

About two minutes ago I applied for a temporary job at the University, working full-time two months on cell lines and their response to therapeutic agents. Unfortunately the post has a strong internal candidate but hey, I am not standing still. Definitely still watching from my lookout post.

Still moving.


Filed under Building my CV, Canada, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Musings and Aphorisms, NABLOPOMO, Personal Development, Science

World is All Gates

‘The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck’ ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

If my opportunities were strings they would be pulled taut waiting for the strike.  If they were doors I would be sat on the step waiting for them to open after hearing my knocks echo for what felt like a long eternity.

Plagued the IVF clinic answering machine again today, treading the line of persistence and nuisance. It’s like when a friend begins telling you something and cuts off right before the good bit, you really want to hear what happens next even if it means twisting their arm. I feel a bit like that, like they’ve teased me with an intern possibility and left me hanging. I’ve put myself out there for a few jobs so far, including a Lab Attendant for Canadian Blood Services, and feel like I get back a screen of silence.

I also made another important phone call – to the hairdresser. Can I confess something? I haven’t had my hair cut in over 5 months, I guess I never got around to making that call. So my bangs have reached that awkward stage and any style that was originally there has grown out. It looks totally different to the girl who left the salon back in December (who got a fringe cut for the first time since she was 12 years olds). I’m always surprised by how much difference a haircut, a kind word, a smile or wearing a pretty top can make to the bounce in your step. When you catch sight of yourself in a shop window and feel like twirling, then watching it back at 1000 frames per second. Then there are those days which eat away at your confidence. Everyone deserves that bounce.

I was drawn into Indigo bookstore yesterday. 501 must-see cities book was sitting in the window. So in a trance I enter the store and take the book to the counter, it was 10 bucks and I’m far too weak to resist a book that ignites wanderlust with a capital W. Plus this is as close as I will get to Tokyo, Berlin and Paris for now.

Whilst serving me the colleagues behind the till are talking among themselves. From what I could make out a guy had just found some resumes that were about two months old and figures it’s about time to looking through them, in a grudging tone. He mentioned there was a girl who had two and a half years worth experience at Chapters. The lady next to him shrugged, and said something to the effect of – “Do we really need someone with that much experience?” Hearing this conversation was disheartening.

I hate to think of resumes sitting and collecting dust, lost and forgotten. I might as well have just mailed it to a super massive black hole at least then I would have the pleasure of watching it being stretched  into spaghetti. Careers services told us that experience makes all the difference not just to whether you will get the job, but an interview. Employers want to hear about experience, what you learned from it and how it can be applied to the position they are hiring for. CV girl is likely to be aware of the top authors in an assortment of genres and probably able to operate the till system, I’m not sure how a couple of years in a book store could make her overqualified and I bet she happily wrote it down on her resume thinking it would be a selling point. Waiting on a call that may not happen for a couple of months, if at all.

If something doesn’t happen, remember,

you gave it your all and that’s the best anyone can do.

Sometimes things are out of our control, remember,

you gave it your all and that’s the best anyone can do.


Filed under Building my CV, Career, Graduate, Life, NABLOPOMO

Where Time Ran Away

‘Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time’ ~ Arnold H. Glasgow

This week I feel like time has snowballed out of control. Gathering momentum when I wasn’t looking and before I knew it the weekend was here. I had intended to blog post on Wednesday, catch up with everything. Wednesday came and went. I had a To-Do list which has remained mostly untouched, so many intentions and so little action. Time only flies like this when a) I’m dreading something b) I have an imminent deadline and c) I’m exceptionally busy.

By the time Thursday came round I realise this time it is a definite (b). I still haven’t written a persuasive ‘hire me’/’sell myself’ covering letter for my job opportunity discoveries, due FRIDAY! Maybe it made me nervous to have to write something that had so much riding on it that it was easier to keep putting it off. When I was in University, I told myself I wouldn’t search for a job when I graduated, I was on the look out for a career or an opportunity that would help me in my search for the elusive and mysterious career. Any graduate knows this isn’t how it works exactly and you end up having to let go of this notion and grasp reality.

Back to the job applications, these are the first positions I’ve seen where I can see myself enjoying the job, making some contacts and learning something useful along the way. Not something I’d class as ‘just putting up with to get by’. It’s a lab assistant position in the field of gastrointestinal physiology (mouthful much?) with focus on gastric bypasses so I researched into the topic so I could show understanding of the research on my covering letter and then began to weave some paragraphs on my skills and how they fit the requirements for the job. After proof reading my letter closely in fear that a spelling error might have slipped through spellchecker, I attached my CV and sent them along their way. Begin: hope.

On Monday I left answer machine messages at the IVF clinic. I still haven’t heard a peep from them. It’s getting to the point where I want to keep reminding them I’m here but not become a nuisance. Persistence is key but is there a limit? I did specify in the message to contact me if there had been any updates, but maybe there hasn’t been any. I think I made a good impression in our first conversation – confident and eager. I want this really badly but I hate being kept hanging and wondering what the etiquette is in this situation.

I ended up leaving two messages as I thought I sounded too nervous in the first one. So I wrote down exactly what I wanted to say and calmed myself and left a second one in a more calm manner, apologising for leaving multiple messages and this time adding some extra details. It felt so foreign to get nervous over leaving a message, when I worked for Sheffield Uni undergrad admissions leaving messages was part of my job and I did it without a second thought. There’s no pressure to leave the perfect message on a friend’s machine. I guess it’s because the IVF clinic message really matters and it has to leave a good impression, no exception.

This weekend…

Introduced to Jones Orange Cream Soda. Coolest thing – you can submit your photos to the company and they print them on the label. Every label is unique. I thought being in Canada and having a chilled grizzly on my bottle was rather fitting. So sharing my first bear sighting in Canuck land!


Filed under Building my CV, Calgary, Career, Graduate, Life, Life Lessons, Personal Development