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Learning and learning. - Emily Macaulay [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Emily Macaulay

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Learning and learning. [Dec. 4th, 2015|08:06 am]
Emily Macaulay
This is not the blog I had intended to write this week (the other one will come soon) but it felt timely to do so. There are many things I know to be true about myself and one is that I always need a goal. So when I had a week off work recently and no plans (purely to use up my leave) I knew that I had to set a goal. In fact I set three. Two I didn’t complete in the week. I didn’t run everyday and I didn’t complete a blog, but here it is now.

The one goal I did complete was decorating. The main outcome of this completed goal was a decorated room. But what I hadn’t anticipated was quite how much I would learn.

I’ve never decorated before, never been interested in it even. I recall my parents decorating rooms in our family home, and being involved in picking wallpaper and colours for my own room but when it came to the graft I had no interest in being involved, I didn’t even watch them. There was a day in the last two years when I helped someone remove wallpaper in their house and frankly I only lasted an hour, and had only done that so I could write amusing social media posts about spending the day stripping (ho, ho, the old ones are the best!).

So when I decided to spend the week decorating I knew that I had a lot to learn. So I prepared. I spent a few weeks before watching YouTube videos on B&Q’s channel about how to do different bits, making lists of equipment I needed to buy, tips I needed to remember and planning schedules to be efficient in my use of time. The room I was decorating had some quirks. The walls are old, some of the existing paint was flaking, there were some tiles that had fallen down and woodwork that needed freshening. But I read and I watched and I planned. I was ready….in theory. "By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail" as someone once said (or multiple different people if Google is anything to go by).

As I followed my schedules, hour after hour, I learnt about the practical application of these skills. I learnt that being time efficient meant not waiting until all the walls had been completed until doing the woodwork, but then you had to find a way to protect each bit when painting different colours. I learnt that one should really suss out what type of screwdrivers were needed to remove a light fitting completely, before getting up there removing all except one screw and finding you can't get that out. I learnt lots more like this too, and that feels good...to have learnt new skills is satisfying.

What was more interesting, and indeed satisfying though, is the other stuff I learnt. I discovered that I need to concentrate on decorating when I'm doing it so much that my head can't wander, my mind has to focus on the job in hand. As a result decorating has an almost meditative effect for me...I thought not once of the piles of work building up in the office, of things that were troubling me, of the fact I wasn't running, of what I'd be doing later or needed to do the next day, it was an almost blissful state of single thought. I don't have patience as a rule, but sometimes this was all I could have when waiting for things to dry / set. This was particularly perfect being a week off. I also learnt about the fulfilling power of decorating. I started with the room in one state, worked hard through the week and ended with it looking completely different and it will stay this way for some time. In almost every other area of my life this isn't true. As fast as I am completing one task / answering one email / dealing with one problem, another is arriving to take its place. I'm never "done". And also I learnt that I can do things with my hands. I am probably the most uncreative person you would ever meet and this made me apprehensive about this task. But what I discovered is if you get someone with a "good eye" to pick the colours, then the rest is an execution of processes - like computing coding, or Lego building. Not quite but almost colour by numbers. I can do that. Actually I was always quite rubbish at paint by numbers, but I make a mean Lego pirate ship.

You never stop learning. Every day I will make the comment that "every day is a learning day" particularly when you're lucky enough to work in a place like I do packed full of people interested in information. But I didn't think I'd learn so much about what so many people seem to do as a chore, or even more confusingly as recreation. But I did. And along the way I learnt a bit about me too. I've already booked my next week off in the New Year to do another room. Until then...well, I think I just heard the ping notification of another email.