Pushing myself out of my comfort zone – part 4


Some news.

I am leaving Canada, for a while at least.

Some of you may remember that I decided to push myself right out of my comfort zone in 2019 and took a job as Deputy Provost at Athabasca University – Canada’s largest open university. After 3 years I have decided to leave and am returning home to Scotland.

I will say up front, for those who have been following the Athabasca University saga, I am not leaving because of the recent changes in leadership, nor because of the work. I am deeply sorry not to be working with Peter Scott, but I have worked with Alex Clark for the last 18 months and I have no doubts about his commitment to AU, our open mandate, and the students that we serve. I leave with a lot of regret, a lot of love for my colleagues, and a big sense of very bad timing. There is much to do still at AU, I was excited to do it, and I know I can do it. I’ve never been afraid of hard work or tough problems. I don’t rule out a return if there ever was a place for me again.

However, to be able to do the work required I need to have wider life supports in place, and I just don’t. On top of  pandemic isolation, and the loss of 2 parents, it feels like every leg on the metaphorical stool supporting me has been kicked out from under over the last year, and come January 2023 I found myself sitting on my ass on the floor. The major pieces I need to sustain me here are not in place.

So this time I’m really pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I’m stopping for a little while. Resetting, refuelling.

Having felt homesick for long periods, I’m leaving Canada with very mixed feelings. BC has really gotten under my skin, and it only gets more beautiful the more I look. I rather fear I’ve consigned myself to never feeling quite fully at home anywhere again. As much as I’ve yearned for the lush greens, tree-lines, and seascapes of home, I’m going to miss the scrubby sagebrush hills, the warm summer lakes, and the beautiful golden evening light here in the Interior. I’m going to miss good friends and a Canadian life that could have been.

In the short term I am going to take a little time to recharge. I’m going to read, write, make things, listen to music, watch films, enjoy art, walk by the water, swim, spend time with all the good people, go dancing, go to gigs (some already lined up). I’m going to cook and garden. I’m going to spend time in wild places, perhaps go off-grid in France for a bit, maybe some mischief in the sun somewhere. As I talk to people about coming back I’m truly humbled by the love that I’ve felt wrapped around me. Over and again I’ve heard “we love you, get home, we’ve got you”. A friend sends me snapshots from their window of the street and weather and the normality and familiarity of it keep me moving forwards. I’ll have my boots on those streets soon, maybe even enjoy that same view with a cup of tea in my hand.

I’m not putting timescales or constraints on how long I’ll do this for, or what else it might look like, but I rather suspect I’m going to get itchy for new challenges and interesting work quite quickly. So once I’ve had a long nap and spent some time being cared for by the people who truly lift me up, I will be looking for work that brings me joy or sounds like fun. That might be in the UK, or that might be in Canada. I don’t think my wanderlust has gone at all, so we’ll see what the future brings.

My long term plan is to be radically open to all possibilities, and maybe even be a little rootless for a while, and that feels pretty thrilling.

16 thoughts on “Pushing myself out of my comfort zone – part 4

  1. Hi Anne-Marie, I am very sorry to see you leaving our place of work before having a chance to get to know you better. But I definitely get the urge to go ‘home’ for awhile. See you in cyberspace.

  2. Reading, writing, movies, art, cooking, dancing etc etc. I’d like this too. The work we all do in higher Ed is so all-in I find it hard to fit in these things too.

    I think I shall have to plan a trip to Scotland to visit and fo some of these things with you. I especially like the prospects of “mischief in the sun somewhere”

    1. Please do come visit for some of this fun stuff, and keep that spare room ready for me on the other side. I’m maybe not quite done yet.

      and always up for mischief in the sun somewhere. I am very good at it.

      1. I admire your decision to push your comfort zones for a refresh. If you find yourself visiting family in the deep South, do reach out. I live on the pretty island and it’s good for the soul.

        1. Thanks Wayne – it’s a tough call to put myself first – definitely not how us wee Scottish Calvinists are built! I do hope I will find a way to come visit family in NZ before the year is out, so I may well come visit myself upon you. As you know, I’ve got family on the pretty island too and I haven’t seen him in far too long.

  3. It’s been brave of you in all directions, kudos for making the hard choice to take care of yourself first.

    Take in a few castles too!

    See you around the nets, and keep the brain fluff fluffing.

    1. Thanks Alan – it’s been a tough call and reading all the messages from my colleagues here has had me sobbing on a pretty regular basis for the last 24 hours. Putting myself first is very much out of my comfort zone but I’m going to give it a try.

      Hope I can still make it out to see you one day – I don’t discount coming back to Canada. I’m keeping my warm jacket and snow boots.

      And yes – will see you around the net and hope I can up the blogging a wee bit too.

  4. Sounds like a little change will do you good, and to re-iterate what both you and Vivian have already said, the reading, writing, watching, and dancing are something I want to re-connect with as well (I can’t cook 🙂 ). It seems like a time for searching and seeking, and I hope you find what you are looking for, cause I feel your restless energy and great things can come of it—here’s to the next chapter! Wishing you all the best…

    1. Thanks Jim – since I made the decision I can feel a little bit of that energy coming back and I’m desperate for it! As much as it’s been a hard decision, and I am so damn tired right now in terms of what it’s taking to see it through, feeling that wee tingle of excitement helps me know it’s the right path.

      Looking forward to dancing with you in Inverness soon…

    1. Thanks Doug! I strongly believe we need to share the hard stuff as well as the wins. It’s often where the biggest lessons are. If these last few years have taught us anything is that we need to clock off and have a nap more often.

  5. I just read Anne Marie and I’m so excited for you. All the things you’ve already lined up looks super fun. Rest, recharge, renew, reinvigorate, and restore your body, mind, and spirit. I’m sure you will come out of it feeling more alive than ever. Take care. ❤️

  6. Dear Anne-Marie,

    It has been a pleasure crossing your path in the past few years. May you recharge and blossom wherever you go. Cheers!

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