Assessing the Importance of Reflection

Over the past few weeks or so, when people aren’t talking about Euro 2016, or the UK’s EU Referendum, I have seen various mentions of people doing their exams, hoping for good results to help them progress on to a new stage of their life.

This led me to look back on myself 8 years ago, back in 2008 when I took my GCSEs and then 5 and 6 years ago when I took my A level exams, to compare myself then to now.

Another way of referring to this is “reflection“, defined as “serious thought or consideration” or to “think deeply or carefully about“.

I personally believe that people underestimate the power of reflection and what it can do. You can use reflection to:

  • Learn from your mistakes
  • Learn what you have done well
  • Helps you to help others
  • Gives you perspective – Over what you perceive to be important, and what actually is important

Admittedly, always looking back to the past isn’t beneficial as we all live in the present and can shape our own futures, but sometimes, it can be useful to reflect on what has happened to get to you to this point in time.

Back in the 2007/2008 academic year, I think I was quite a different person compared to who I am now, although I had also changed a fair amount just before that with a lot of support from a few people at Frome College, due to my disorder, Asperger Syndrome. A couple years prior to GCSEs, I was very introverted, serious and suffered with a lack of self-confidence. After a lot of support from support workers, I began to “come out of my shell”, and enjoy life more when with others as a result of an improvement in social skills and at this point felt I could maintain a relationship / friendship.

When I took my GCSEs in May/June, I remember believing I had failed miserably and not feeling good enough in life. As it turned out, I went on to do very well,  and due to the support I had received and the familiarity of Frome College, I stayed there to do my A levels.

I look back on A levels both in a positive and negative fashion, but at the same time believing it was during this time that I began to mature and where I learnt valuable life lessons.

The first year (2008/2009) was a time where I struggled to cope with how much more difficult A levels were compared to GCSEs, where apart from a coursework based qualification in I.T the year in academic terms was mainly a write off, failing most of my exams and eventually changing my subjects and starting most of the first year all over again.

In the 2nd year (2009/2010), due to a lack of self-confidence combined with my academic failings of the previous year, I believed I had failed my exams again even though I felt that I was doing well all throughout the year in my classes. Luckily, it turned out that I did much better and went on to do the 2nd year of my A levels albeit I was there for a 3rd year.

Due to a breakdown in key relationships / friendships, my final year (2010/2011) was one I very rarely enjoyed and I was miserable throughout until about 2 months before my final exams, when after confronting the issues I had been facing, I found my “spark” / my motivation to succeed and then done so in my exams, achieving the sort of grades that I had very much wanted.

At this point, I was at a crossroads. I realised part way through A Level that I wanted to work in I.T , but didn’t really know how I was going to get there. After finishing my A levels, I knew I didn’t want to go to University as I decided that I was fed up with taking exams, and learning theory about things that didn’t seem relevant in life.

I eventually managed to get an apprenticeship in I.T via Bath College, where the placement was with a private company called Mouchel Business Services, where they were providing I.T Support for Bath and North East Somerset Council. I started in September 2011, and at the start wasn’t sure whether I had made the right decision, because although I seemed to be getting along with other people very well, and a select few took me “under their wing”, some of the work I was doing was more administrative (grouping Mobile Phones by make and model ready to be disposed of), changing people’s IT Accounts to reflect their true office location, which wasn’t something I was majorly enjoying.

However, as the apprenticeship progressed, I progressed also. I started to set up I.T accounts for new employees, went onsite with other members of staff to learn from them, and even was given a piece of project work which although was simple (It was basically PC Maintenance), it meant that I could get my teeth stuck into something, and it meant a lot of onsite work, where I needed to learn the various office locations in the Council, and involved contact with many other employees of the company. Also, after being very against it, I did eventually agree to provide phone lunchtime cover on the IT Helpdesk, and that turned into having set days on the Helpdesk.

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There were some fun times during my apprenticeship!

 

By the end of my years apprenticeship, I was offered a permanent position as an Operations Technician, by which point I felt a strong sense of accomplishment. I had just earned myself a permanent job in I.T where I was going to be a part of a very skilled and experienced team of people that I had huge respect for.

I continued to develop my skills, and during a restructure about a year ago, I managed to get a promotion to senior technician… Something I partially feel is deserved, although I do sometimes wonder whether I am ready for that sort of role, especially as it involves having leadership skills which at my age and point in my career I’m unsure whether I actually have.

However, I believe I now have become an important part of what is a very different team compared to the one that existed when I first started. People have moved teams, people have left the company altogether, and with the faith others have in me, and with the knowledge I have accumulated over the past few years, to the point that I am now very much a trusted individual as long as I keep on the straight and narrow path.

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I’ve also become a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) by passing a Microsoft Exam!

Outside of work, there have been ups and downs as well. There has been me trying to understand the relevance of Aspergers Syndrome on my life, meeting my biological mother, trying to understand the effect early life has had on me, and my battle with depression, where with support from friends and counselling through the NHS, I have managed to change my mentality, my thought processes, and my opinion of myself.

This is the point in time I am at now. When I look back on myself, I can identify how much I have changed, from being a shy, quiet lad to now being a more confident, and happier person who can identify my weaknesses but also my strengths in work and in life.

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As I said before, it isn’t good to just look back at the past as we can’t change what has happened, and we live in the present where we are able to help shape our own futures. But I personally believe that it can be good to reflect on the past to identify our mistakes, to realise what we did well, but also to see whether we have progressed, to give us as people the chance to either be proud of how far we have come or alternatively to identify areas where we can improve. When I look back, I definitely feel a sense of happiness for just how much I have changed, whilst needing to remember that life is a journey and I haven’t finished yet!!

 

Levels of Friendship – It Takes Two to Tango!

As someone who has a disorder called Asperger’s Syndrome, I experience difficulties with various things in life, many of these things being social aspects. There is plenty of information readily available on the internet in regards to Aspergers, and I may end up writing a separate post in relation to it in the future, but one of the things I have at times in my life found difficult is the subject of friendships, and “the levels of friendships”.

My understanding of how “normal” people look at friendships seems quite simple.

They don’t analyse, and categorise friendships at certain levels. People are either friends, or they are not, and friends can become closer, or become more distant and it doesn’t in their mind mean anything.

There do appear to be different “types” of friends in that certain friends do certain things together, but wont do these things with other friends. For example, some people are friends simply because they share an interest such as going out on the town, and “getting on it” with the lads, whereas other friends might be friends because they feel that they can talk to each other about the more serious things in life. However, these friends are not necessarily on a different level, they are just friends for different reasons.

Then, there are the “not so normal” people like me…

One of the traits of a person with Aspergers is that they like everything to be structured. This can be in regards to anything, whether it be the time you get out of bed in the morning, the time you eat, what you eat on particular days, and in this case, the level of friendship you have with someone.

I find myself always trying to quantify how close I am to someone, how well we get along, how much I trust them, what we can talk about, how often we should catch up, and so on and so forth.

I have tried various searches on Google to see if there is an accepted model detailing the various levels of friendships, but have struggled to say the least to come up with something that resembles what I think. The closest is probably what I found on this website (http://experiencecle.com/2014/09/understanding-differing-levels-friendship/) although even this can be a bit “wooly” / open to interpretation to a certain degree.

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For me, I look at levels in terms of circles, for example:

Circle

Where, the closest of my friends will be in the circle closest to me, and where the more distant friends / acquaintances will be in the furthest circle away from me. Whilst it is possible for people in one circle to move to another one, it isn’t something I like to happen too much, as I tend to like to have people fixed in a particular area.

The issue with this is that sometimes, it appears to me that people sometimes change their “tune” so to speak. By this I mean that I think for example Jess (I am using the name Jess, as opposed to the actual person’s name)  is a close friend (one I trust, one I enjoy catching up with, and chat to quite often), but then she seems to become increasingly distant, and even if I then try to catch up and see how everything is, I get this vibe that actually she doesn’t exactly care, or that she doesn’t want to talk to me, catch up with me, go for drinks with me or something.

As a result, I then start to change the circle Jess fits in so that she is then a more casual friend, and not one I intend to spend a lot of time with, or confide in. Then, just when I am thinking I have it all figured out, Jess then makes an effort, or is really nice to me the next time I happen to see her out of the blue, and then I think that maybe I got it all wrong before and then put her back in the closer circle, where she was before meaning I can then confide in her again, and catch up with her again etc.

As you can probably tell, this then turns in to a cycle, which in turn frustrates me, and as a result, I never know where I stand.

Do the “normal” people in life notice this? Does it bother them? How do they cope with it?

The issue I guess is that I am a rarity in that most people don’t use a structured way of categorising what circle a friend is in, but I would have thought that if you both seem to trust each other, confide in each other, have fun together, enjoy each other’s company, that this wouldn’t change from one week to the next… But it kinda does!

I am then left trying to come up with reasons why this happens – Maybe I don’t slot into the “cool” category that society says certain people have to be surrounded by, and as a result, I am only “good enough” when all the “cool” friends are busy? Maybe people have to be in a more serious mood to consider me a friend, or for them to be able to socialise with me, as I am so boring? Maybe I trust people too easily, and am too welcoming?

I think the thing that is the most difficult is that it takes two people to make a friendship, two people to manage it, two people to keep it alive / maintain it, and as much as I try to take control of it, and as much as I try to make sure the friendship is at a certain level, all that effort, all that analysis means nothing if the other person isn’t making the effort aswell – Hence the title of this blog stating “It takes two to Tango!”

Do I think this blog post will fix my issues? No, it probably wont. Do I think that anything will change? I very much doubt it. So, the next question would probably be, why post a blog on it then? Well, I am thinking that maybe, just maybe being able to get it all out of my head will help as to get thoughts from your mind and to then write them down involves thinking, and trying to split / separate it all into paragraphs / sections, and maybe this will make absolutely no difference at all…. But maybe it will?

Also, if anyone wishes to post their opinion on this, if anyone experiences the same or similar issues, as always, you are more than welcome to contribute to this. What I have said is not fact, it is my opinion, it is how I see things. That doesn’t mean I am correct, that doesn’t mean everybody else is wrong. It just means we have different ways of looking at things, and maybe if I knew your way of looking at the situation, it would help me, and then I could change my views, as it seems to me that whilst my way makes sense to me, it certainly doesn’t seem to work in society, otherwise I wouldn’t be experiencing these issues….

The one thing I do think is true though, is as the title suggests, in terms of friendships, it really does take two to tango!

The Definition of Success

Something I have been reflecting on over the past several days is how you define success. At what point do you look at yourself and say:

“I feel like a success”

“I feel like I lead a successful life”

Doing a quick Google Search comes up with the following definitions:

1) “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”

2) “The attainment of fame, wealth, or social status.”

Is being a success related to where you are in terms of your career? Is it when you have a wife and kids? Is it when you own a flashy and expensive car? Is it when you get pregnant and get a house off the government? Is it to be better than your parents (i.e. to outdo your previous generation!)? Is it when you can put a post on FaceBoook and get 50 likes, or when your hashtag trends on Twitter, or maybe it is as simple as just being happy in life.

In reality, I believe it could probably be none or all of these things as the definition of success is very much a subjective topic and depends on various factors such as self-esteem / self confidence, your character / personality (e.g. determination, ambition etc) and your ability i.e. how clever you are as to whether you can acheive what you set out to do / what you want to do.

So me personally, I would probably say that I feel I am successful due to some of the things I have achieved such as the position I have in my job (Senior Technical Officer – I.T), the challenges I have overcome in life (with help and support admittedly) and the fact that I feel I manage to be independent in life.

However one thing I would say is that even though I look at myself and say I feel like a success, I also would say that I have more to accomplish in my life. I now need to develop further in my career and cement my new job position, I need to find that special someone, get married, have a family and I would love to get a better car… Not necessarily in that order mind!

As I say I believe the definition of success differs for everyone due to a number of factor’s and this is just my opinion on it, and quite frankly I dont think there is a structured, true definition of the word “Success”

As a final point, as you go through your day, give yourself some time to reflect and think “Do I lead a successful life?” “Am I a success?” You could ask this as a rhetorical question  or if you want, you are more than welcome to comment!