HALF FULL (OR FULL OF IT)

I SAID here there was a lot of fulltime stuff happening in my life. Fulltime family, fulltime work and what feels like fulltime volunteerin...

I SAID here there was a lot of fulltime stuff happening in my life. Fulltime family, fulltime work and what feels like fulltime volunteering.

This year I will have been a member of the Girl Guides for 25 years. I joined when I was 10 and have, as a Guide and leader been challenged in extraordinary ways. I travelled to Bangladesh and worked for a UNICEF program there, launched and ran a monthly market to raise funds for the same, led members through major changes to the association’s programs at a national level and met many, many, many wonderful, inspirational, hardworking, enthusiastic, passionate and determined women.

Best of all, each and every week I am surrounded by my enthusiastic charges and together we plan adventures to push ourselves outside our comfort zones in a way that is supported and safe. The Guides enter the hall with the angst and worries of teenage girls but leave two hours later in high spirits, dirty and laughing (very often at themselves, and me). When all else in their tiny worlds – because their worlds are tiny – feels out of control they can come to Guides and be themselves. No one there will judge them. They will be encouraged. Their ideas will be heard and even trialled. They’re allowed to fail. In fact, failure is encouraged. If it doesn’t work, we take a good look at what went wrong – together – and have another go.

In all my adult years as a Guide leader I have found no other organisation that delivers so much to its members. I have seen young women leave my unit at 14 and whether they remain Guides or not they take that spirit of adventure and sense of accomplishment into their adult lives.

It’s been a hard decision to take but come term II of this year I will be taking six months off from active leadership and concentrating on some new pursuits – mainly writing and art – and on helping my partner balance a hectic study load. If at the end of six months we find things are calm at home, that new doors have been nudged open and that I’m not missing the action and activity of the unit, I’ll retire from active leadership.

I know, I know, anticlimax, huh? But you have no idea how much angst there has been in making this decision.

The words of the darling Natalie, of Daily Imprint, helped.

The only way we develop as people is by giving ourselves challenges and looking into ourselves.

Too true, and I need to stop and take a look. I’ve been flying through the days and weeks and years and there’s been little time to stop and look up and out.

My challenge is to find new ways to fill the gap that will be left. Girl Guides has been, for me, a community, not unlike a church community. It’s a value base, a set of rules for living, a place to be renewed and revived. I understand my place in that community. At the ripe old age of 34 I am in fact an elder. I have war wounds, a shared history and a vision for the community’s future. But I am also aware it’s a crutch and one I have used far too long to avoid letting other projects and ideas take flight.

So, I head back for a term to sort a few things out. Then I’ll pack my swag, set my compass (all things I know how to do because I am a Girl Guide) and bid those sweet faces farewell for a little while. You know, I agonised over this until I realised I was a Girl Guide in the same way I am a woman, a parent, a gardener, a writer. I don’t stop being one just because I’m not there to open the Guide hall at 6.30pm every Thursday night. There’s a saying among us Guides: Once a Girl Guide, always a Girl Guide. It’s so true.

Go on, tell me you’ve agonised over something that, now I write about it, seems so simple, so small. But it’s not. Really. It’s huge.

A final word on all these thoughts from Ms Power: “Give yourself permission to do what you need to stay sane and have faith that everything changes.”

Thank you. Normal blogging will now resume.

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8 comments

  1. I've been reading your blog for quite a while now so I realise what a huge decision this must have been for you.
    I think it's great to take some time for yourself and pursue your dreams.

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  2. You're a great writer Kate so I can't wait to see where this change takes you. Very exciting! Good on you for making the decision, scary though it might seem right now. You will grow from this and it might be painful but at least you will have lived and not be sitting around wondering 'what if?' :)

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  3. You are a miracle Kate, Girl Guide or not. When I started reading your blog I had no idea you were even a Girl Guide Leader(that's probably not the right terminology)!

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  4. Wow! That's a big decisions. Good luck, sweetie, and I hope it all goes well (which I'm sure it will, for you are one talented lass).

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  5. wow i can imagine why it must have been an agonising decision. it must be so rewarding to be working with thoses young girls. reading your blog i have noticed the pleasure you have gained from allowing teenagers space to be kids again. the safe space u describe sounds very special. i do believe however that in order to give back to the world we need to nourish ourselves and help ourselves so we can continue to help others. the old 'put your breathing mask on first' airline instruction springs to mind. goodluck in your quest to find the right balance - big thumbs up from the camp home girl. btw am nearly finished the divided heart and finding it lifechangingly inspiring too. also btw didn't realise u livied so far away - big bumma - was excited that we could have an overalls convention - one day xxx

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  6. I'm sure they will miss you just as much as you will miss them.. Such a hard decision for you, but it's great to hear you're on your way to some wonderful new ventures. If only there was more time, hey? We could fit it aaallll in :)

    But, that the nature of decision making isn't it. I'm sure this will be a rewarding break for you, one that shows you new aspects of yourself, that you can then one day return to guides with :)

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  7. Man, I wish I'd had you as a Guide Leader ... I was such a happy Brownie but had a terrible experience as a Guide and left in disgust and despair. Your attitude would have positively affected so many teenage girls so you can go on leave knowing that you've made a huge difference and that you now need some time to think and be and re-balance and find some equilibrium. It is so important. Good on you for making a tough decision.

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  8. I'm still playing catch up with your blog after a few weeks away but I just had to let you know how moved I was by your words. It actually brought tears to my eyes and it was as though I felt the angst of your decision making. However, I agree with Home Girl who wrote: ``in order to give back to the world we need to nourish ourselves and help ourselves so we can continue to help others''. Wise words and so true.
    It's a huge decision to have made. I can understand why you agonised over it . . . only natural when guiding has been a part of your life for so many years, opened the doors to wonderful experiences and given rise to precious memories.

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