Taking a Detour

In March 2020, along with thousands of others, we went into lockdown. In March 2020, I had a crisis. What was I going to do with the rest of my life? A close friend had died a month earlier, and I wasn’t to know that in four and a half months another close friend, part of the same circle, was to die and 18 months later his husband would die. Death brings sadness and grief but also perspective. However long I had left, I wanted to make the most of my time.

My wife qualified as a yoga teacher during lockdown, while working, and studying for a PhD in Existential Psychotherapy. Our conversations were ones I had convinced myself I would not a) like, b) comprehend. Existentialism meant philosophy. No way. I’m a secondary modern school girl with few O-levels, a Drama Dip came in my early 20s and two degrees in my mid 30s. But existentialism? Sartre? Heidegger? De Beauvoir? Kierkegaard? My wife’s overwhelming passion for her course had ignited something in me, only I didn’t know it at the time; the flame was building. When she suggested I look at her university’s website, in case there was an introductory workshop I might find interesting, I immediately said NO. My moody inner child emerged. I wasn’t interested in anything, that was the problem. And I was adamant that I did not want to spend another however many years writing essays and studying a subject that had no appeal.

I acquiesced and signed up for a three-hour introductory workshop in Existential Coaching, to prove that I had tried. I would not get on with philosophy, but I was prepared to give it a go and then walk away, confirming that I was right.

I was wrong.

At the end of three hours I was overwhelmed and enthused. It made sense, well, some of it didn’t, but the workshop could have been tailor made for me, for everything I was experiencing right at that moment. My head was buzzing. I could be a coach, I could do that, but two years of study and essays AND a dissertation? I’d done it before, 26 years ago, I was a different person then. But what if I was rubbish, unable to make sense of the material? During my B.A. I was hopeless in tutorials, shy, sitting quietly, lacking confidence. What if I was that same woman? I’d do it. I wouldn’t. I would. I’d sign up. No, definitely not. Yes. No. YES. YES. YES.

I’m not that same woman. I am not shy or quiet and mostly not lacking confidence. If I make a mistake, misunderstand, so what? I find my way with others. We journey together. If I take a detour someone is there to hand me a map and I do the same for them. There is no competition, no rivalry. My life has been transformed. I even enjoy the essays. I feel like I have discovered reading for the first time, the joy, the thrill, the surprises. What could be more stimulating than studying with curious others in Iraq, Japan, India, Israel, Denmark, America, Australia and Essex. In July I will have finished my first year. I can’t quite believe it. Two years ago I had no idea where I would be. I’m still teaching, and writing, but I have taken a detour to focus on my MA because I will probably never have this time again. But what time I have, I am seizing and running with it.

If you’d like to work with me on your detour, here’s my website.

One thought on “Taking a Detour

  1. Hi Shelly,
    It’s Jane (the Geordie) from Brixton. I was wondering if you are still available for creative writing workshops as I have just been granted funding to run more sessions. Can’t remember where we left off now. The centre is now a St Vincent’s de Paul (the freeholders of the building) centre called St Vincent’s Brixton but does much of the same stuff as when it was Brixton Community Base. I am still here 3 days/week. I did email you but it bounced back so hoping this will get to you.

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