Teachers: Real life influencers

With all the talk about influencers in the form of bloggers, famous people, Snapchatters, Instagrammers etc. it seems like the first influencers that we come across in our lives are left out. The word influencer doesn’t seem to be related to those people anymore as even though they had a big impact on our lives, they did it here, in the real world, not on screen.

But who are these people I am talking about? Well they are parents, siblings, other family members and friends along the way. However, the group I want to focus on today are one of the first ones we come across and sometimes make more of an impact on us than we realise.

Recognising the part they played

In the last few years I have been trying to follow my own rule of complimenting people when it is due and thanking people for helping me at different stages in life.

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Photo by Carl Attard on Pexels.com

We all know how nice it is to be recognised for the things we do and complimented on a job well done. I am really bad at taking compliments and usually try to put my self down a little when that happens. I am working on it though and now try to smile and say: “Thank you”. The hardest thing is to not follow it up with something like “I do not do enough of it though…” or “If it wasn’t for (insert any excuse appropriated) I couldn’t have done it…” and so forth.

The last year or so I have contacted people from the past and thanked them.

For an example I called or messages some of the people that played a role in my case when I was in foster care. People that were working for social services or came across my case in any other way. I wanted them to know I had turned out just fine and that I consider that their role was a big part of that. I imagine when you do a job like that you must sometimes doubt yourself, it must wear you out at times and a lot of the times people forget to let you know what an impact you had.

When I started doing that it actually gave me a lot of satisfaction. The phone calls and messages I received filled my heart with love and care. They told me how well I had done, then and now.

I have also spoken to or emailed people I have listened to at conferences and thanked them if they moved me. I have also told people I work for or with if I believe they are doing a good job.

Teachers

In Iceland children tend to start going to kindergarten at quite an early age and that’s the place we first encounter teachers and then they lead us all through adolescence. Once we are 16 years old we then either go and work or continue studying and if so, they mentor us for a few more years.

Most of us can probably relate with the stereotypes, as I believe stereotypes are founded on reality, then they are exaggerated, or the reality can change. By stereotypes I mean like the teacher that was way to smart to teach what he was trying to explain, the teacher that had been teaching for way to long and just wanted to get through the day, the teacher that was so warm that you felt like you had your grandparent there, the teacher that was overenthusiastic, the strict one you didn’t dare to provoke or the teacher that was trying so hard but just somehow couldn’t reach his audience.

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But then there are the really special ones, the once that touch us or our lives in a way I think they sometimes don’t realise.

I am going to cover the ones that I came across and the reasons they touched me.

Passion for creativity

When I was in 2nd – 4th grade I had a teacher who was also an actress. She was in an amateur theatre group in our town and really wanted to get us hooked.

She was loud, she was strict in a sense that even though we were having fun we were not to take advantage of it, she was creative and passionate.

She managed to convince the headteacher to let her put acting into the syllabus. There were 5 classes in my year and my class was the only one that got these lessons. For two hours every Friday we would be on stage practicing pieces either she or we choose, we would get to put on a show for our parents once each semester. She would have us practice talking loud enough and help us find the courage to do so in front of each other. She taught us how to stand and carry ourselves on stage and at the end of the lesson she would have us all lie down and meditate. We found that part funny and awkward at first but grew to like it.

She was successful and many of us carried the dream of becoming actresses and actors. I was one of them. I got so smitten that I formed my own theatre group. It was called “Pots and Pranksters”. I wasn’t allowed to invite friends in to play very often and when I could I could only invite one or two friends at a time. But I didn’t let that stop me. In the Icelandic weather we practiced outside, in my garden. In order to have enough people in my group I made an advertisement and hung up in my school. The kids that asked to join mainly consisted of me and my brothers’ friends. As I was a bit of a control freak I “of course” wrote the plays, directed them and casted myself in the biggest parts. Next to our house was a day-care centre for children and young people with disabilities. One of my grandmothers worked there and as the leader of “Pots and Pranksters” I marched in there and asked if we could set up a show for the kids once a week, on Fridays. That was approved and this group operated for quite some while.

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I had the dream of becoming an actress until I was about 20, by then I hadn’t been on stage for 4 years and convinced myself I was to old for it. However, I still carry the dream of entering an amateur group at some stage after university.

This teacher also read for us. She didn’t read what would have been considered children books. She read thick and old books, often folklore. I loved that! With my passion for words and stories that was something right down my alley!

I believe she was one of the first people in my life that encouraged me to be creative and helped me connect with that side of me. Without her I am not sure who I would be today as the traditional education in the other classes in my year wouldn’t have focused so much on letting our artistic side develop.

Finding her feet in the world of teaching

As a teenager I was in a class with very colourful people. Like most other teenagers we were all trying to discover ourselves and striving to stand out in our own way. Some of us, however, tried our best to blend in, in order to be left alone and not become the target of ridicule.

When I was in the 9th grade we got a new teacher. The teacher that had led the class for quite a few years was now letting go and we got a new vibrant teacher that had just graduated.

She used unorthodox approaches in her teaching. When teaching us history and geography she would bring things to class to make the subjects come alive. Food from the countries we covered and objects related to them. She also invited the whole class to her house one night, for a cosy-out-of-class experience. That was so nice and made me feel like she wanted to know more than just whether we could detect where “the X” (algebra pun) had gone!

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In English classes she brought lyrics with blanks in. She would have us listen to songs that had emotional lyrics or songs that were popular at the time and fill in the words. For the poet and story writing me that was a favourite! I was always excited about which song she would bring next.

With everything she did and all the effort she put into it I always felt like the class didn’t appreciate her. I felt like she was bullied by the class and had to deal with a lot of attitude. On behalf of my class I have carried guilt due to that. Recently I contacted her. I wanted her to know what an impact she had left and that I was grateful for what she did and how she did it as a teacher. She was thankful for the message and to my relief told me she actually enjoyed teaching the class and loved all the different characters in it. This shows how different perception can be. She was probably prepared for what she was getting into, knew she was teaching a class with teenagers and that they would test the boundaries.

The Math-artist!

Yep! That’s what I will call him! As I have found one really has to have skills to teach maths. You can be really good at maths but crap at explaining it. Many of the math teachers were so clever there was no way they could put themselves in the shoes of people that simply didn’t get it and therefore couldn’t “dumb it down” for them. Then there are teachers that talk to people that have a hard time with maths and speak to their students like they have learning disabilities and are 5 years old on top of that. Degrading.

When I became a teenager, maths started becoming my Achille’s heel. I developed a very negative relationship towards the subject and in fact, anything that had to do with numbers. Throughout the years this relationship got worse. Then all of a sudden when I was 19 I had a teacher that got to me! I am not really sure how or why, but he did. The fact I had decided that semester that I would do my homework EVERY day in maths probably helped. I put all other subjects on ice, as they came easy for me, and mainly focused on maths when I did my homework. It also helped that the teacher put me next to a guy that NEVER did his homework. Me and that guy got on well and the teacher encouraged me to help him a little “as he himself was so busy with all the other students”. I think that was his main trick! Having to verbalise everything I had done at home to someone else made my understanding of the subject a lot deeper.

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After quitting this course 5 times in different schools I finally sat through it and didn’t have this constant inner conversation of “You just can’t learn maths”. I learned that I indeed could and I was quite good at it. I passed with the highest grade given in the class!

The one that knew me better than I did

This teacher touched my life in many ways. When I was a teenager, she didn’t teach me but she worked for social services and worked on my case. She also taught in the school I attended. Therefore, when I returned to school at the age of 25, she remembered me.

From the age of 25 to 27 I did a few courses at my old school, as many as I could, being a mum of a young daughter, then pregnant and finally, mum of two young children.

Her office became my haven. When I went through the split ups with the fathers of my children I sat in her office and cried. The first place I could think of when the father of one of my kids sued me for custody was her office, where I sat and cried and gathered my thoughts and strength. She had a way of letting me vent out and then look at me kindly and give me some advice or encouraging words. She knew who I was and what I was about. As she had been involved in my case when I was a teenager she knew better than most what I had been through. She even told me it was a shame the school system didn’t value life experience at all, that one could not get any credits for that, as she said she knew I had a lot of that. She empowered me.

Empowered

I will never forget when I came into her office and asked her: “Is it true that you conduct ADHD tests on people?”

I hardly finished the sentence when she excitedly said: “YES!”

And I said: “Well, I was wondering…”

Again, she answered with excitement: “YES!”

By that point I got a little awkward and thought I was missing something: “….well…you know… whether maybe I….If I should perhaps take a test like that?”

Like she had been waiting for this lightbulb to come on for a long time she said: “YES!”

I did the test and found out I do not have ADHD. She told me, however, that I’m dancing on the line. She said some factors are very high, while others are within the scope of where they should be. She told me in many ways it was harder to be in my position. If one is “normal” then that is that. If one has ADHD it can be worked with and handled accordingly. However, she told me to use it to my advantages. She also told me I just had to be aware of it and use cognitive therapy when I felt like I needed to.

She taught me 2 or 3 classes. She taught upbringing. I loved the subject as I had worked in 3 kindergartens and was a mum of one and soon to be two. I went over the top in all the assignments she gave us, I always did a little extra. Or a lot..

It was in her class I also found my voice. My voice in school. When I was a teenager it was considered uncool and nerdy to participate in classes. To engage with the teacher. When I sat in her class, as a mature student, surrounded by 16 – 18 year olds I discovered I wasn’t expressing myself out of fear of judgement. It was in one of her classes that I decided I was studying for me, that I wanted to get the most out of it and that I didn’t care what other students thought. I enjoyed classes so much more! I asked questions and I engaged with her in conversation about the subject.

Since then I have been quite vocal in classes. Nowadays I am not afraid to take up space in classes.

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The motivational duo

When I finally went to do my equivalence of A-levels full time, as a single mum of two, I came across many great teachers. However, in that school there was a married couple. She taught Danish and he was a school counsellor. They were amazing!

She was cheerful and positive and managed to make Danish fun by showing us funny music videos and sketches. She was so full of spirit in classes that it transmitted over to the whole class.

He became my guidance when everything became too much. I would talk to him about this and that. Sometimes I would pop into his office just to talk to someone older than the age of 3. I would also go in there and cry my eyes out if needed and understanding and kindly he would listen and let me get it all out. When I was making life hard on myself by over analysing things or by taking so many notes while listening to lectures that one could have published a new textbook, he would make fun of me and then guide me in the right direction. When I didn’t believe in myself, he would help me focus and point out what I had actually achieved and told me I could do anything.

I try to see them when I drive through the area of the school as I highly appreciate them and how much they give of themselves when interacting with other people.

The supportive philosopher

When I did my bachelors I had to do a course in political philosophy. I had dreaded it throughout my studies as neither politics nor philosophy were my favourite subjects and there I had a course that combined both!

After having one philosophy teacher before him that opened my mind a little and helped me connect the theory to real life and showed me how relevant all these old books and ideology actually was, I was a little more open to his course. Still, it was this mixture of philosophy and politics.

Once I started his course I quickly detected how enthusiastic he was about the subject. As I was a distance student I went to classes once or twice each semester and then listened to lectures online. When I went to his lecture I was the only student that showed up. Lucky me! I got a private lesson and it really helped me to understand the subject and I discovered it was very enjoyable and one could debate it back and forth for ever.

To make a long story short this was one of my top subjects. I was highest in the class when we finished and I went on to doing a big group research assignment and it involved both politics and philosophy. He was our tutor in it and gave really informative guidance. While working on that project I was about to have my youngest child. At the end of it we turned in a big dissertation and then had to present it and defend it for a panel. I had my daughter 12 days later!

Once my daughter was 6 weeks old I had to start working on my final dissertation. At the university I graduated from one can request a tutor. I knew I wanted him. Because of that and my brothers reactions when I told him I was going to study PR I chose to write about PR and ethics. I could not have had a better tutor. When I was at a breaking point and thought I had misunderstood everything I was doing and that I would probably have to postpone my graduation I sent him a message. He told me to call. We had a 45 minute long conversation where we talked about the assignment and he pointed out he wouldn’t be as much involved if he didn’t believe in me and what I was doing. He helped me straighten my back, brush the dust off and sit back down and put in these final words needed.

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When I applied for the University of Leeds he was one of the people that wrote me a recommendation letter and the letter he wrote means the world to me. What he wrote empowered me and made me think there may be a little more worth in me than I sometimes see.

Reach out

All these people touched me one way or another. They helped me to get to where I am today. Some of them I have thanked and told about my thoughts, others are still on my list.

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child, there is so much truth in that. However, I want to extend that as we need “the village” all our lives as our learning, no matter whether it is in school or not, requires this village. The people that laugh with us, pick us up when we are down, encourage us, point out things that we don’t recognise within ourselves etc.

I encourage everyone to reach out and let the people that have influenced them know they did so and tell them how. It will hopefully give them something back for what they gave and the odd thing is it gives you so much as well!

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Icelandic Crazy Christmas Traditions

As it is getting close to the Christmas holiday and my family and I are starting all the preparations, I decided to tell you a thing or two about Icelandic traditions. As this blog is, amongst other things, a platform for me to play and practice with different media I now present you with my very first Vlog. Below the video there is a little more information and some pictures on some of the topics I have covered.

I hope you enjoy!

Santas!

I think we better cover the 13 naughty brothers straight away! So here is a link to a very informative site about the Yule Lads and their mum Grýla, their dad Leppalúði and the Christmas Cat.

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The horrid Grýla, mother of the santas
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The terrifying Christmas Cat

Music

As I mentioned in the video there is a big concert industry linked to Christmas. If musicians do not have their own Christmas concerts they are very likely to appear at other musicians’ concerts.

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The Icelandic rapper and the guest appearing at his concert

As far as it goes for Italian songs that have been changed into Icelandic Christmas songs here is an example of an original Italian song (not a Christmas song) and then the Icelandic version.

The original:

The Icelandic version:

There are other things that I could have covered and I could have gone into more depth BUT, as far as an introduction I think this is a good starting point. Next year I might go into more detail.

I will not wish you a merry Christmas YET as I plan to post a few more blogs here before the holidays. I will do that in between turning in final assignments and preparing for Christmas by making ice cream, writing Christmas cards, buying presents, decorating, baking cookies, getting Icelandic visitors over and enjoying the days leading up to it with my family.

Governed by fear or humour?

What happens when the general public gets fed up and thinks enough is enough?

A lot of people never thought Trump would be elected and many people also thought Brexit would never go through. But it shows you should never say never. People were fed up with the situation and wanted a change. That’s what they got. Without really knowing what sort of change they were voting for.

Today I am mainly going to talk about examples from Iceland where the general public had enough and how it presented itself.

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Blissfully unaware

By the end of September 2008 I was in a hospital in the east of Iceland. I had just had my first child. My beautiful baby girl. She refused to come out naturally and therefore I was wheeled into an operation room and she was delivered by C-section. After the operation I had to recover so I stayed in the hospital for a week. Maybe it is just me but after having my first child all I talked about was how well she took the breasts, how many nappies we changed, how well she slept and whether she was getting air out by burping. I completely forgot there was a world out there. After 6 days in the hospital I realised this and decided I needed to ask people what was going on with them as well. I didn’t have a TV in my room. You  also have to understand that this was before the times of smart phones and people constantly being connected to the internet. That very same day my auntie called me and I blathered out this and that about my daughter, then I remembered my newfound realisation and therefore asked: “How about you guys, how are thing with you?

She angrily replied: “US!!? HOW are things with US??

Very confused about how I managed to insult her I carefully replied with: “….yes…

Again, very angry she replied: “EVERYTHING is falling apart! We have NO idea what is going on! ALL WE KNOW is that we are FUXXED like EVERYONE else!!

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After very cautiously asking her what she meant by that I got a little bit of the background to her reaction. Something had happened to the banks. I still didn’t understand what exactly had happened and asked my fiancé at the time to get us some newspapers. I could see in the papers all the main banks had gone bust. I still didn’t know what it meant but by reading the papers I understood it was not good.

Once I got home from the hospital, I turned the TV on and watched the news, the situation didn’t look good. Following the news was a comedy show. This was a weekly show that always made fun of the current affairs and what had been going on in Icelandic society since the last show. At this point Russia had offered Icelanders aid in the form of financial support. All the comedy sketches were tailored around that. In the show they pretended we had taken the support and Iceland had changed into an old time Soviet country. People were poor, they were begging and had food stamps. People were wearing worn out clothes and women had shawls on their shoulders and cloths on their heads.

Still not hormonally tuned I didn’t see it as a joke. I sat on my couch and cried, I hugged my baby girl and feared the situation I had borne her into.

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Protesting the Icelandic way

The financial crisis in 2008 hit Iceland very hard.

Icelanders weren’t happy. The government said too many people had bought flat screen TV’s without having the money. The people were blamed. Banks had behaved really irresponsibly but the general public had to pay. England invoked the Anti-Terrorism Act against Iceland due to Icesave and Icelanders were gobsmacked. A group called InDefence was formed and it fought against Icelanders having to pay for Icesave and tried to fight the image of Icelanders being terrorists. Pictures like this were posted on social media:

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Life quickly became harder and Icelanders were struggling. People were losing their jobs, homes and possessions.

It’s the only time I’ve been sincerely grateful for owning nothing and being relatively poor.  There was nothing they could take from me.

The society was boiling and ended up erupting like a volcano. Protests and demonstrations were planned. People flocked down to the city centre to protest the government. They felt like the government wasn’t taking responsibility or looking after the people of the country. The protests involved planned public speaking in front of the parliament and peaceful gatherings. Famous writers, journalists, business people and activists would lend their voice and join forces.

Thousands of people showed up every week and took part in what was called “The Pots and Pans Revolution”. It may seem harmless and quite comical, but it worked. People showed up with signs and whatever they could make noises with, they hit pots and pans with ladles and honked horns. Just whatever they could do to make noise and make it visible they were unhappy with status quo. It ended up escalating into a bit of a riot in January 2009, where windows of the parliament were broken, eggs were thrown, and 20 people were arrested. By April 2009 Icelanders got to vote a new government and the sitting right-wing had to resign and a left-wing government had a big job ahead of them as they needed to do a lot of cleaning up.

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Since then Icelanders have protested like that twice. First in 2016 when the panama papers were revealed, and the sitting prime minister was a big name in them. People called for elections, which they got and then again 2017 when the general public discovered that people in high places and linked to the governing party in the parliament had vindicated child molesters. They had declared these molesters were now all better and vouched for them behaving well and therefore they got a clean slate and a clear criminal record and could go about their lives as normal. This made people angry and they protested.

Influencing with fear

In both 2016 and 2017 the right-wing parties got to power again after being overthrown with protests. People were speechless. There was so much anger and turbulence but still the right-wing parties were going strong. (The Panama PM did not get voted back in and left politics for a while).

What had happened? Was it a loud minority or was there something wrong with the system?

I believe what happened was similar to what happened when both Trump got into power and Brexit became a reality.

When I did a philosophy course while doing my bachelors we had to look into power, power struggle and fear. I did a group assignment where we watched and analysed an hour-long interview with Teresa May and read loads of articles, just before the elections in 2016. We also had a look at how Corbyn conducted himself but not in as great depths as May was the focus of our assignment. While watching the interview and looking at the articles it dawned on us, she didn’t talk much about what she wanted to do to better the lives of UK citizens, she didn’t go into depths of her policies. She used scare tactics and fear. She focused on the fact the UK would sink without her as a leader, that she was the one that knew what to do when it came to Brexit and that other parties were not to be trusted.

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The same happened in Iceland in the elections in 2016 and 2017. New parties emerged and smaller parties were gaining support. The big right-wing parties have a lot of capital and therefore started a campaign where they focused on trashing the smaller parties, there were adverts on YouTube and other social media which dragged up negative stories about the other parties and played on fear. In interviews they kept telling people the other parties didn’t have the experience they had and that Iceland would go bust again without their leadership.

And the scariest thing about these fear tactics is that they work!

Hopefully however, the results in all these cases will wake people up and make them realise they need to vote! They also need to see beyond the crap, which can be harder, but being informed and not just believing the one whom is the loudest can make a huge difference.

The Best Party

I am going to end this post on an example, also from Iceland, which I find humorous and shows what happens when people get fed up but have better choices than Trump to show their discontent.

The year was 2010 and it was time for City Council Elections. Promises had been made for years and were never kept. People were getting tired and felt like no matter who they voted for they would always get the same kind of government.

A new party emerged. It called itself “The Best Party”. The leader, comedian Jón Gnarr, said he had always wanted power and money. He also said he had always wanted to be in a position to be able to help his friends out. He said he had nicked a lot of the material on his manifesto from other parties like helping old people, women and the Less Fortunate but he also said he didn’t mean any of it and it was just a cover up. He hoped people wouldn’t take any of it too literally.

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So, there was a party that promised all sorts but did it as a joke and was always upfront about the fact they didn’t mean to live up to any of their promises. The party also promised to be different from other parties as it would be openly corrupt.

Here are some of the promises on their manifesto:

  • To improve the quality of life of the Less Fortunate: We want the best of everything for this bunch and therefore offer free access to buses and swimming pools, so you can travel around Reykjavik and be clean even if you’re poor or there’s something wrong with you.
  • Stop corruption: We promise to stop corruption. We’ll accomplish this by participating in it openly.
  • Effective democracy: Democracy is pretty good, but an effective democracy is best. That’s why we want it
  • Free bus rides for students and disabled people: We can offer more free things than any other party because we aren’t going to follow through with it. We could say whatever we want. For example, free flights for women or free cars for people who live in rural areas. It’s all the same.
  • Free dental services for children and handicapped people: This is something that is lacking, and we definitely want to take part in promising it.
  • Free access to swimming pools for everyone and free towels: This is something that everyone should fall for, and it’s the election promise we’re most proud of.
  • Take those responsible for the economic collapse to court: Felt we had to include this.
  • Listen more to women and old people: This bunch gets listened to far too little. It’s as if everyone thinks they are just complaining or something. We’re going to change that.

They made fun of all the promises and phrases other parties used like “sustainability” and “transparency”, which were hugely popular at the time.

This is Tina Turners’ “Simply the best” which they made their own lyrics to, it has English subtitles, but I have also translated it and you can see it below:

They won the elections and the party governed Reykjavík for 4 years. The Mayor, Jón Gnarr, was open about the fact he didn’t know what he was doing and when he was interviewed, he always had someone close by to call if he got questions he couldn’t answer, and he wasn’t shy about it.

I lived in Reykjavík at the time and it was colourful, Jón supported human rights and was vocal about that. He dressed up every year for Reykjavík pride and took part in the parade.

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If you are interested in knowing more about Jón Gnarr, here is a documentary about him:

When Icelanders voted for a new President in 2016 there was pressure on Jón Gnarr to run but he decided against it.

All of this shows that one does not have to use fear, even though it is a powerful tool. One can use creativity to provoke the status quo. When I go out to the world and hopefully start working in Public Relations I hope I can do just that, be creative, think outside the box and have some fun while I am at it!

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Blogging: Investment? Diversion? Maybe both?

Why am I blogging? Why do I take the time and sit down each week and share the things I write on this platform?

Well, I am studying Corporate Communications, Marketing and Public Relations and one of my teachers posted a thing on Facebook about a blog competition for PR students in the UK. I looked at this post and thought to myself “That might be fun!”. As I talked about last week I have always enjoyed writing, however, as I have also talked about before I am the queen of self-doubt and therefore I started telling myself I would probably not have enough to talk about and that little old me had no business entering a COMPETITION, let alone one where I had to write in English! Therefore, I put it aside but kept wondering.

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A few weeks later I asked my teacher to send me the details about the competition again, so I could have a better look at it. Somewhere I had read that having a blog as a future PR practitioner would be like being a designer and having a folder with his/her work in it, it could be my portfolio. That sounded less scary, I wasn’t doing it to win but to practice and make a portfolio (one that became a lot more personal than I realised it would be when I started).

When I looked at the details about the competition, I saw a post from Orlagh, who won last year. She described how she did it and it was quite inspiring. I decided to enter. Just for myself of course. No one would notice. I would practice. I could always delete it all later anyway. If, to my surprise, it would be any good at the end I would have a decent portfolio.

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The search for content

My biggest worry was concerning the content. I was sure I would run out of things to write about. To my surprise things kept coming to me, sometimes while having a conversation with people, sometimes while sitting on the bus in peace and quiet, often when my head hit the pillow at night and even sometimes while cooking for my family. Each time an idea popped up I pulled out my phone and made notes, a few sentences or words I could revisit when the time came to sit down again and write a new post. I keep adding to the notes, but only once have I had to look to them for material.

Most of the time something is pending and takes over and rather than looking at my notes. I think about it for a while, I let it brew. When I did group assignments while doing my bachelors I often worked with a friend I got to know at the university. The two of us would then add people to our team as needed for each assignment. After meeting up with a group I would go silent for a little while, for  a few days I wouldn’t say much to the group. When other group members would ask my friend what was going on with me and whether we shouldn’t start putting thing on paper he would always tell them to stay calm and not to misjudge my brewing time. He knew how I worked. I would then have articulated my thoughts and would sit down and write like the wind (if the wind could write that is!).

My first blog post for the competition was about myself. I was so new at this that I wasn’t even sure how to use the PRstudent hashtag to make sure the post would find its way into the competition. Therefore, I emailed the editor at PR Place and told him I had entered. He had seen my blog before he saw my email and encouraged me to keep going.

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Since then I have blogged about myself and things I believe can either come in handy for other people, help, or inspire them. I have also written about PR. My blog took on a life of its own. All of a sudden, I was sharing a lot more about myself than I had planned to but the thing is, when I entered, I decided to be authentic and true to myself as if I would try to be someone else it would come across fake and at some point I would be bound to contradict “my-alter-web-ego”.

How it spreads

Once I started posting I had to post it on Twitter, a media I am not used to using, but as soon as I did that I was sharing it with anyone following the PRstudent hashtag.

Then I thought to myself, if this is my “portfolio” I should probably share it on LinkedIn. So I did.

I haven’t shared it on Facebook yet. There are two main reasons for that. One, I am curious to see how big of a crowd I can reach without it being my friends and family. Two, I like being “unknown”, to simply be me and not someone I feel like I should be as we all have certain roles when it comes to the people around us.

With these few actions I have had more reactions to my blog than I would have imagined. For an established blogger my numbers are far from impressive but for someone that started with no one knowing who I was and thinking I would be talking to myself I am quite impressed with myself!

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Ok, these numbers are not huge, I know! But they are all I need, for now anyway. I am being noticed and people from countries all over the world are stumbling onto my blog. I know the PRstudent hashtag has a lot to do with that. That is great! It is a great way to get known and to build a network.

Since I started blogging, I have been approached by Richard Bailey, the editor of PR Place, who asked me to come to Leeds Beckett University and speak to his PR students. Once I got there he asked me about personal branding and blogging in general. It was so much fun! And I learned so much by doing this. Can you imagine, I didn’t even realise until put on the spot in front of these students that that was exactly what I am doing?! As I am a fairly quick thinker, I could still inform them about me and my personal branding!

I emailed the girl that did the talk I blogged about earlier. I told her that she had inspired me to write and therefore I wanted to let her know there was a blog out there partly about her. I also admitted to having stolen a picture on the internet to link to the post and that I hoped that was alright. She emailed me back. She liked my post and said, she in return thought I was inspiring and that my story needed to be heard and asked if she could share my post on her media. I was overwhelmed. She’s a big influencer. I knew as soon as she had shared it as the number of visitors on my blog spiked, and I had not just released a new post.

I have followers on Twitter I didn’t have before I started blogging (I now feel a bit of pressure to become more active on Twitter) and I have professionals looking at my LinkedIn profile.

All of this amazes and brings me joy.

What about the ROI?

Richard Bailey challenged the PRstudents in the competition to look at data and told us to connect with our inner geek (my inner geek loves words but makes little sense with numbers).

I still took his advice and looked at the analytics on my Twitter account:

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Pretty impressive right? As I was almost none-existent on Twitter before the competition it is probably not a surprise, but it still looks good!

But having said that I have to admit I had to google the term ROI while I worked on this challenge. If there is anyone out there as ignorant as me it means: “Return On Investment” and Wikipedia explains it as following: “it is a ratio between the net profit and cost of investment resulting from an investment of some resources. A high ROI means the investment’s gains favourably to its cost”. So, if I understand it correctly it basically boils down to whether what you are doing is actually worth it. Regardless of data and numbers my personal answer is YES!

The reason is simple and came to me while having a conversation with a fellow student at Leeds University. She told me she didn’t understand how I had time to do it all. Study, run a family, host visitors regularly from Iceland AND blog. I hadn’t really given it a thought but as I spoke to her, I realised how much it gives me back. I told her it was not about BEING ABLE to manage, it HELPED me manage. With all the things I have to do and think about each day, these 2 – 3 hours I take every week to sit down, alone, maybe a glass of rosé by my side and a few candles are my meditation. They bring me back to myself in all the clutter I manage every day, week and month of the year. I enjoy writing. It is my me-time. I have always meant to write more but never given myself the time to do it, always used the excuse “I will do it when things calm down”.

When you lead a busy life, when things are hectic there is never more of a need than to sit down and meditate. I am a very impatient person, so the typical way of meditating doesn’t really agree with me as I start wondering how far into my 10 minutes of breathing in and out I am, but this I CAN do. This is how I bring myself together and channel myself. Being a part of the PRstudent competition gives me the framework and discipline to actually do that, follow through and take the time to sit down.

So, all in all, my numbers are up, I am being noticed, I am making a network but last and not least I am getting rewarded by the satisfaction of doing something I enjoy and helps me focus.

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The Storyteller

“You are a storyteller!” These words came from someone I believe knows what they are talking about, just the other day.

I had never looked at myself in that way. I have always loved words and to play with them. If they are nicely and cleverly put together they can entertain, they can bite and they can educate. They can even change someone’s point of view all together if they are strong enough. I have also always liked writing but thought of myself as an amateur who is just doing it for fun. I have always felt like I need more tutoring in the art of telling stories, get someone more knowledgeable than me to tell me HOW to do it. At the same time, I wonder how much exactly can be taught without people losing their personal touch when writing.

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After he told me I was good at telling stories I started thinking about it and I did come to the conclusion that it is somewhat right and that I have been doing this from a very early age. Stories and words are something I have used as an escape from a very young age. I have also used them to entertain myself and others.

Hiding from the dark

I am from Iceland. It can be extremely dark there and during winters we hardly get any daylight, we get dusk and then darkness again. For someone who is afraid of the dark this is horrid!

As a child and teenager I was very afraid of the dark. When I was a kid we used to have school before or after lunch. As me and my brother had school after lunch, we had to walk ourselves to an activity before school at a very young age. It would be dark and cold, and it was quite a long walk for small feet. I couldn’t stand silence. In the silence my head would go all over the place and I would imagine shadows being something they weren’t, I’d imagine all the worst I had ever heard, and I would imagine any noise I heard being something gruesome. Therefore, I would let my brother choose a story for me to tell him while we held hands and walked to our “before school activity”. Once I had told him the story of Red Riding Hood so often I could do it without thinking (and therefore had space to think about all the horrible things in the dark while spurting it effortlessly out) I came up with a different idea. I had to challenge myself if this walk was supposed to be bearable. I asked him to tell me what kind of a story he wanted to hear and name at least one character he would like me to include in the story. After that I would make up stories about bunnies on great adventures, dragons with toothache and more. This way I had to think, I had to be creative to make sure he was interested, and I had to make sure they were long enough to last all the way to the “before school activity”.

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I used the same approach when walking alone in the dark, going home from a friend’s house or from an afternoon activity. I often had to take a dark path that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and seem to have no end to it, my heart would start racing as soon as I got close to it. I would therefore have conversations with myself, in a way. I would do a roleplay without dolls or toys as I would just imagine them in my head and then do their voices and conversations. I felt ashamed of this as I was old enough to realise this looked very weird to anyone who would walk past me. But it worked. I took myself away from the dark into a magical place where I could be anyone doing anything, and believe me, they were never surrounded by darkness!

I have always had a vivid imagination.

My attempts to be a novelist

Three times I have started or finished my own “books”.

My first attempt was when I was around 8 years old. I had a 4-year-old niece and I had just realised I could draw pretty good pictures and produce good stories. I loved my niece like a little sister and enjoyed making her happy. I got lined A4 paper out and my pencils. I wrote a story about a girl star. An actual starshaped girl. I cannot remember the story anymore but she must have gone on a magnificent adventure. I remember she had gloves on and I coloured all the pictures and the story was quite a few pages long. I remember how excited I was after I finished it and walked across the town where I lived to give it to her.

My second attempt was when I was a teenager. In Iceland most teenagers get confirmed. When they get confirmed they get presents. The year I got confirmed PC’s were the go-to gift for parents to give to their teenagers. Most of my classmates got computers and could connect a lead to their computer to go onto the internet. That was huge at the time! While they were online they would go on chatrooms and talk to strangers. I was not allowed an internet lead, my parents didn’t think teenagers should be connected to the internet. I didn’t care! I was in heaven as there I had my very own typewriter! I had often written short stories and poems but my hand would get very tired after a few pages. Once I got the computer I started writing. I wrote a story about teenagers. It was a spooky story and very much a teenagers story where I would describe the clothing they would wear and there would be a lot of drama and love. The story involved a ghost of another teenager who had been murdered. Once I finished a chapter, I would bring it to my friends to read. They got very excited and encouraged me to keep writing. I never finished it but got close to 100 pages and enjoyed it. I probably then started chasing boys myself and put it aside!

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My third story came about when I was around 20 years old. I worked in a kindergarten and sometimes we needed something to catch the kids attention and get them to have some quiet time. I would get a marker in hand and stand by the whiteboard. I would then tell them the story of Króki the space crocodile. I would make it interactive and they would raise their hands to fill in where I asked them to. They loved seeing the story come alive in front of them. When I was 24, again, I worked at a kindergarten and brushed the dust of my friend Króki. I would adjust the story to each class, whether it was 2-year olds or 5-year olds etc. Once the headmistress walked in and was in awe, she said she had never seen a class of thirty 4 – 5-year olds sit so still, quiet and ready to raise their hand in order to get their part in. She was adamant we had to take this story further. After work I hardly touched the ground as I felt so appreciated and flattered. I told my boyfriend at the time about her words and he said: “No YOU GUYS are not doing anything with the story!

I replied with: “What?”

He said: “YOU should do something with YOUR story. Don’t let anyone else take credit for it!

I didn’t have the drive to do it alone nor the belief in myself therefore, I didn’t do more with the story for the time being. Soon after I thought to myself, I should probably get my head out of the clouds, I wasn’t an author, I was just an amateur that could keep little kids amused for a short period of time.

When I was 27 years old, I did my equivalent of A-levels. I was a single mum with two young kids. I bought old furniture and did them up. I ran the household, raised the kids, was a top student and therefore felt equipped to do anything and felt like nothing could stop me. Therefore, once again, I brushed the dust of Króki. I got a pencil and paper and wrote the story and drew pictures. I sent it to one publisher and held my breath. I got a rejection, but I was damn proud of myself for actually having the courage to send it in. I should have sent it to more places but one rejection at a time!

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This is an actual picture of Króki the space crocodile

Escape and outlet

While I was in school, we had to learn poems. We had to handwrite them and decorate with pictures, then we had to learn them by heart. I loved that. I could cry over a beautiful poem, I could laugh over naughty play on words and I could wrestle with elaborate poems with a unique use of words and phrases.

It wasn’t until I was 13 that I realised I could write my own poems. That one didn’t need to be William Shakespeare to write poems. It helped when I got a teacher that challenged the rules and form of poems. Told us to break them. Said that, in itself was art. I realised I didn’t have to follow all the rules or even make things rhyme. That was a huge breakthrough for me. Poems became my outlet and escape. I expressed the hardship I went through in poems. I also wrote about teenage drama. Poems became something I used when I hit walls or something really difficult happened in my life. That way I could sleep. If I went through any sort of trauma I would go to bed and my mind would be racing. If I reached for a pen and a piece of paper, however, I could take all the emotions and thoughts and put them on the paper in the form of poems and then go to sleep. Some of them are full of self-pity, but they did the job they were intended to do at the time.

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When I did my equivalent of A-levels I had Icelandic teachers that taught us about Icelandic literature. One of the things they covered were poems. I told them I had bunch of poems I had been writing from the age of 13 up till then (I was 27 at the time). I asked it they wanted to read them over. I had always kept them locked for no one to see except my closest friends and family. They were happy to! I had all the poems on one file on my computer and sent it to both of my teachers. Later the same night the horrible realisation dawned upon me! I should have gone through them before I sent them! Two of the poems were very offensive, full of rage poems about my ex, where I listed all his faults and made cruel fun of him and his manhood. When I spoke to them a few days later they told me how much they liked the poems and that it was unique to see a collection spanning such a long time and very interesting to see how I developed from a teenager to a young woman. They never mentioned the outburst poems about my ex.

Blogs, articles and Facebook statuses

For a few years I blogged, in Icelandic and just about my life in general. I also blogged about things that touched me. But it was just a blog that described the mind of a 22 – 24-year-old woman. Unfortunately, I can not access these blogs anymore as I would love to read them, and then probably hide them forever as I am sure they are cringeworthy now!

I also did a few blogs while I lived in the Middle East describing my life and thoughts there. I did it in Icelandic and then translated them into English below. They were mostly an attempt to be funny and sometimes provoking.

I have also written A FEW articles and then long notes (in the form of articles) on Facebook.

We should not take our gifts for granted

So, I guess using written words, expressing myself through stories, poems, blogs etc. has always been a part of me.

Nowadays I feel like it is a bit of a challenge though. Both to find something to write about but also to find the time to write. I should probably do more of it as it liberates me and gives me pleasure.

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My brother keeps encouraging me to write stories, but I feel like I don’t have anything to write about. Like I don’t have the imagination anymore. That it left me as I grew up. He has proposed to do it the way we did it on our long, dark journeys as kids, he comes up with a concept or an idea and I write around it. Maybe one day. I do love losing myself in the world of writing.

I didn’t think it was something special, I didn’t see it as a gift. I thought it was something anyone could do but now I know better. When I reflect, I recognise my friends often come to me and ask me to put things into words for them “because you are such a good writer” they say. They tell me they do not worry about me if I have to deliver a speech or do a written creative assignment as they say: “You with a pen can conquer anything”.

Therefore, after being told I am a storyteller, after thinking back and thinking about kind words from family and friends I realise it is not a given, it is not something everyone can easily do. I should utilise my talents. I WILL find the time. For the time being this blog will be my practice and my muse.

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You are enough!

I’m sitting in the dark in a big hall, loads of people around me and a young energetic girl on stage sharing her wisdom and being an inspiration to us all. I was there with my school mates but in that moment, I was alone, she was talking directly to me. Or at least that’s how it felt, I shed a few tears. Well, I cried a bit. Okay, I full blown ugly cried with a big frown, open mouth and a runny nose.

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Alda Karen is the motivational speaker I went to listen to.

If there was one thing she wanted us to take away with us this night, it was these three little words: “You are enough”. And those three words evoked so many feelings inside of me.

I have, without really realising, always battled the feeling of not being enough and always felt like I have to do better, prove myself and make others proud. When something goes wrong I am also very good at blaming myself. I tend to convince myself that I didn’t do this or that right or that I am simply “not enough”.

But where does this come from? Well, I’ll try to give you a short version of a very complicated and bumpy ride called my life.

Harsh environment

I grew up with a parent that seemed to struggle. Struggle with the role of being a parent. Unfortunately, this seemed to be my fault. I was brought up in an environment of mental and physical abuse. The physical abuse almost completely stopped when I was around 6 years old but the threat of it always lingered in the air.

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As a young kid I started having to take on a lot of responsibility at home, which was fine. However, if things weren’t done, right down to the letter, I would be met with a fit of rage.

If a piece of clothing was folded the wrong way the whole laundry basked was turned upside down and I was told I did a sloppy job and had to do it all again. If my toys weren’t categorised in the toy boxes they were spilled all over the floor and I had to start over.

If it didn’t take me long enough to vacuum my room (however long that should be) I was sent back into my room to vacuum longer and better.

If I came home too late (5 minutes late would be way too late) or did something considered out of order (it didn’t take much!) the punishments were very intense.

I grew up with a lot of screaming and pointing and a lot of threats. The sentence “You have ruined the weekend (week, day etc.), I hope you are happy with yourself!” rang in my ears whenever I behaved like a child (I say that as I have children now and know I was no better or worse than other kid). That was a huge responsibility for my small shoulders to carry.

If I behaved exactly the way this person wanted and did everything expected of me (which was a whole lot more than any other kids my age) I would get some love and praise, and MAN did I live for those moments!

However, I was a kid and I became a teenager. I got fed up with the environment I grew up in. Therefore, I rebelled, but only periodically. I tried drinking alcohol a few times, no drugs or anything of that sort, got with boys and other things parents usually frown upon. Often Child Protective Services got involved. Sometimes because I called for help. Sometimes because this parent called them. Sometimes because the people in our town knew I was being brought up in unacceptable circumstances and they couldn’t look the other way anymore.

By the age of 16 this parent didn’t want me anymore and I was sent away.

For this parent “I wasn’t enough”.

Living with strangers

Child Protective Services had a hard time deciding what to do with me. They weren’t used to having to find a solution for a teenager that was just being a teenager. However, I ended up in foster care for one summer. I was sent to a farm where the family also ran their own company.

I felt like the family at the farm didn’t want me there, but that they got decent money for housing me.

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I had been ripped out of my life and placed in an unfamiliar place. I didn’t know the people around me. I didn’t know the area. I wasn’t allowed to work (while everyone in the house was away most of the day/evening working) and I wasn’t allowed to use the internet or call my friends and family. I felt completely alone.

The parent that didn’t want me made sure I would still be punished even though I lived somewhere else.

After about 2 months of this however a guardian angel intervened, and the situation changed. The power was taken away from that parent.

At that foster care home “I wasn’t enough” and felt like no one really cared.

The bullying

I was raised in a household where there wasn’t much money. Regardless of this I counted myself lucky as there was always food on the table and I always had a roof over my head. The people that raised me had to work hard to make ends meet and therefore I had to take care of myself a lot. I also had to wear used clothes, passed down from my cousins. They were a lot bigger than me so by the time I could finally wear the clothes, they were well past their “fashionable wear by date”. For this reason, I was bullied.

I was also bullied for developing late. I was picked on for not having boobs when all the girls in my year had got them. I stuffed cotton down a bra. That idea was suggested by someone I though was a friend. She even lent me the bra. She then told everyone about it when I showed up with my newly developed “boobs”.

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At school I “wasn’t enough” for my peers.

The sexual abuse

I was abused by a family member. I only remember glimpses. One of my coping skills seems to be to block things out. I am quite thankful for that.

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However, I remember being told I was difficult and prudish while this person tried to penetrate me, I was around 10 years old. I remember being told to moan and then being told off for doing it wrong.

Even while I was being molested “I wasn’t enough”! I couldn’t even do that right!

Hurt them before they hurt you

My relationships where later defined by my upbringing. I couldn’t believe that anyone would love me, let alone love me forever! I had been rejected as a teenager by a parent, one of the few people that you would think was guaranteed to always love and protect you.

Without realising, this spilled over into my relationships. I didn’t realise this myself until much later.

If I felt things were getting serious and that I was getting heavily involved I would hit the eject button.

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Made to please

In my constant search for approval and intimacy I let men treat me in a demeaning way, a way that was self-degrading and some of it was pure abuse. I didn’t see it at the time, I just loved attention and the affection however short and shallow it was.

Upwards and onwards

Even though this sounds like a sob story, it isn’t. Really it isn’t. As a child I was still fairly happy, and I did have friends. Even with my “luck” with men I have done some amazing things and met some unbelievable people along the way. I have also grown as a person.

Today I am aware. I am aware of HOW I was shaped. I am aware I HAD to cope. I am aware I didn’t always do it right. I am aware I have hurt people along the way and I am aware I probably hurt myself the most.

However, after being in foster care for 4 months a family member fostered me. She took me in and got legal custody of me. That person was amazing. When she took me in I was broken and hurt but I was still unbelievably positive and driven by the urge to survive. I used humour A LOT!

As I have talked about previously , I decided at a young age I wouldn’t let what happened to me or what other people think affect me from now on. It is my life and I am responsible for it, and for how I am going to tackle it with the cards I have been dealt.

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Photo by Israel Garcia on Pexels.com

I am a fighter through and through and therefore I decided I wasn’t going to let all of this define me. I have always believed I am meant to do great things, and I wasn’t going to let other people put me down or make me believe that I wasn’t.

I am driven not to use my past as an excuse to be unhappy or to lose my path in life.

Therefore, with bumps, falls and crashes I have pulled myself up. I did the best I could with what I had.

And you know what? I am damn proud of myself.

However, these words made me cry. Why?

Because, even though I am independent, even though I have reached a really good place in my life, even though I have the best fiancé, even though I have happy and clever children,  even though I have educated myself (and am still at it), even though I have the greatest net of friends and family around me and even though I am generally happy, I know some of it was fuelled by “not being enough”. Fuelled by “I’ll show them!” and by “If I was that useless I couldn’t have done that!” etc.

And even though I know I am doing well, even though I know I am at a great place in my life, even though I know I am a good mum, even though I know I am a loving fiancée, even though I know I am a friend to my friends and family I still feel like I have something to prove. Sometimes I feel like no matter how hard I try “I will never be enough”.

So why am I putting all this out there? Why am I sharing this with the world?

Well, because even though I have self-doubt at times I know “I AM enough!” I also think it is important to be authentic and true to one self and all of this IS a part of me. I hope my story can encourage other people going through difficult times to keep going. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, don’t give up. I also think it is important to share my experience as if someone is going through hard times and for whatever reason stumbles upon my blog they know they are not alone and there is a way up.

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Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

I believe stubbornness, sarcasm, writing poems and diaries, being positive and never giving up has got me to where I am today, and I will keep going no matter what other people may or may not think.

You know why? Because “I AM ENOUGH!”

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What is the worth of a good reputation?

“If I was a CEO I would never pay my PR practitioner less than my lawyer, I would pay him even more!”

These words came from a friend of mine back in Iceland. She’s a law student, a mother and works as a team leader in a big production plant in Iceland.

As many people don’t really understand what it is a PR practitioner does they don’t understand the value they bring to a company. It can be hard to measure the financial value they actually bring, however, when a company doesn’t have someone to integrate their communication and respond professionally when a crisis hits, they can really feel the impact of not having someone trained in the profession at hand.

When I conducted my interviews with the PR practitioners in Iceland for my dissertation it blew me away how varied their job was. They were training CEO’s and spokespeople in how to speak in public, at interviews etc. and how to react when facing challenging questions. They were writing news releases, they were planning social gatherings for their costumers’ clients as even though they are not event planners as such. The whole look and execution of events has to echo the message they’re trying to send out.

An example of someone who would have benefited from some PR training is Barilla’s chairman in 2013 when he said on Italian radio: “I would never do a commercial with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don’t agree with them. []. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role. If [gays] don’t like it, then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand.”

Barilla’s slogan: “Where there is Barilla, there is a home” Became a target for a play on words for those offended by the comment. Posts like: “Where there is my home, there is no Barilla” and “Where there is Barilla, there is homophobia” surfaced on social media.

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One person commented this on the company’s Facebook site: “I’m Italian, I’m gay, I’m married legally to a man, I have three adopted children. I had Barilla pasta for dinner last night. Today, tomorrow and forever more I will choose another brand of pasta. Good bye Barilla! You lose!”

My brother is gay. He made sure I knew about this. Therefore, it’s safe to say it hit the company at a larger scale than “only” through its gay customers. People conscious of human rights also boycotted their products.

2 months after the comments Barilla pasta was on 25% discount in the main supermarkets in my home country, Iceland.  However, it is hard to find evidence of how hard the comments actually hit the company as its privately owned and didn’t reveal how the boycott hit their sales figures. But it’s not only sales figures one has to consider, it also has to do with the brand and the brands reputation.

Barilla did bounce back and learned from their mistakes. Only a year later they featured a gay couple in an advert, they were donating money for gay rights causes and expanding health benefits for transgender workers and their families. All very positive, however good news seem to travel slower than bad news and until I started researching the case further for this blog post I hadn’t heard about this turnaround. I only heard the negative news back in 2013.

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Another company that could have hugely benefited from having integrated communication plan is United Airlines. This is a case I covered in my dissertation as it shows how by not responding a relatively minor event can spiral into something huge.

What happened was that the musician Dave Carroll and his band flew with United Airlines. When arriving at their destination he noticed that airport staff unloading the plane threw bags between them, including the bands instruments. Once Dave got his Taylor guitar he discovered the neck was broken. For 9 months he tried contacting the airline to get some compensation, he tried many different ways of communicating with them but had no luck. After getting nowhere he wrote the song “United breaks guitars”. He uploaded the song onto YouTube and when this is written it has been watched 18 million times. He wrote two more songs about his experience and went onto radio and TV to talk about his experience. On YouTube people have written comments about the songs and their own experiences with the airline.

( You can see the video here )

If the company had responded and shown some empathy, things wouldn’t have had to go this far but with social media and power of the masses things can quickly spiral out of control.

In both cases there are other companies however that seem to be quick to realize opportunities, companies that are indirectly connected to the crisis in question.

Barilla’s competitors Bertolli Germany responded to Barilla’s crisis by publishing an advert which they had published 2 years prior, which featured a gay couple. They also posted a picture with the caption: “Pasta and love for all” on their Facebook site.

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While United Airlines didn’t seem to realize how important it was to respond to their customers’ needs Taylor guitars did, even though they weren’t prompted. They compensated him by giving him a new guitar and they uploaded videos onto YouTube about their repair services and on how to travel safely with their guitars.

This shows that having a communication/marketing team on their toes can hugely benefit a company as they will seize the moment and grab the chance of positive publicity when it presents itself. As these two examples show, it doesn’t even have to be expensive, just seen and acted upon!

So, going back to the beginning of this post, I believe my friend hit the nail on the head.

A good PR practitioner is worth their weight in gold. If they listen to the market, are responsive, creative and on point they can in many cases avoid major upheaval. At the very least respond to it in the most efficient way. They will also be able to spot potential opportunities when a crisis hits someone else.

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Being a PR student in the shadow of the professions questionable reputation

Oh, the controversy of Public Relations!

I have 10 siblings, in that group I have two siblings with a university degree. I come from a line of hardworking working-class people. From generation to generation I believe the elderly always hoped the younger ones would be able to make a better life for themselves. Not merely live from pay check to pay check, and sometimes not even that. Therefore, my grandparents and parents have tried their best to push us towards education. They want us to be able to enjoy the jobs we do as well as life.

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My brother holds a Bachelors degree and Masters degree. He’s 1 and half years younger than me and very close to me. He has always encouraged me to study. Understandably, when I made the decision to do my Bachelors he was the first one I called, for support you see.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: “I’m going back to school!”

Him: “Really? That’s great news!”

Me: “Yeah, I just enrolled this morning!”

Him: “Fantastic! I am so happy for you!!”

Me: “Thank you!”

Him: “So what is it in?”

Me: “Media and Public Relations”

….at this moment I got the feeling that if he would have stood in front of me, he would have spat in my face.

Him: “What the fxxx!! Bloody unprofessional bunch of people! Got no morals and are ready to say what ever as long as they get paid for it!!”

Me: “Hey, I’m still me and my ethics won’t change overnight….”

Him: “These people are spin doctors and twist the truth to serve their clients!!”

Me: “Well…I just wanted to share this with you. I’ll start next month…”

'Are we talking about political reality, media reality or the real reality?'

And that’s where we left it. I didn’t manage to tell him I was in it for the media side of it as I wanted to become a journalist or a news reporter. The public Relations side just came with the course. Once the news broke out within my family I continually met voices that echoed my brothers opinion and my standard answer was: “I’m in it for the media side”. Whenever Public Relations practitioners were working for corrupt politicians or companies with a bad reputation I would be poked and told that was going to me. As time passed I got to the Public Relations part of my studies and to my surprise I loved it! I liked the sound of the buzz around the occupation, the thought of meeting a lot of people, the fact the tasks can vary and so on. Therefore, it became harder to answer people when they told me I was a future spin doctor.

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In my Public Relations class we were told to tell the truth and tell it quick. That sounded pretty ethical and to me it felt like that’s how it should be done, but maybe not everyone practiced in that way.

Due to all this I decided to calm my own mind and shut up all these negative voices (hopefully) by writing my final dissertation on ethics in Public Relations. It was called “Ethics and Public Relations: where is the line?” This is the dissertations abstract:

“This dissertation covers the ethics of Icelandic professionals working in the field of public relations. It covers what kind of values they follow when facing ethical issues at work. It examines whether those values are formal or informal and whether they follow them when facing an ethical crisis. To achieve an answer to those questions in this dissertation it is based on theoretical content such as philosophy, peer-reviewed articles and other material that concluded my findings. Additionally, it is based on interviews with four professionals in the field of public relations and their attitudes towards ethics at work.

The findings indicate that public relations professionals in Iceland work by informal and personal values. It differs whether they actually follow through with those values when it comes to it as half of the participants said they would, while the other half either said the liability rests on the shoulders of their company directors or that when it comes down to it, ultimately the client pays for a certain service.”

In short, it varies. Some follow ethical guidelines, mostly their own, as there doesn’t seem to be many formal rules for the profession in Iceland. However, there is an association of Public Relations practitioners in Iceland but only two out of the four practitioners I spoke to knew of its existence. None of them knew that the association had a set of ethical rules. Two of them said they wouldn’t lie but they might not tell everything if it wasn’t necessary. They all agreed however, if you lie and practice spin you won’t survive in this profession for a long time. Especially not in a country as small as Iceland as news travels fast and as a Public Relations practitioner your reputation is everything.

When I told my family that I was going abroad for further studies in Public Relations I met with nothing but positivity and support. It’s a field that many do not understand and to be fair, Hollywood hasn’t done us any favours. My family now understands that the profession doesn’t make a person unethical and that it rests with the person itself as to how they practice.

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Bans, Bins and Bureaucracy

I live in Leeds and I have lived here just over 3 months. I had been to England often before and had certain thoughts and opinions on this and that, some which have changed, others have been reinforced. I have also learnt a few things I didn’t know until I lived here and I am sure the people of Leeds and England will keep surprising me in the coming year.

People in Leeds are friendly

I say Leeds as from what I understand, people are not as concerned about the next person everywhere in England. Doors are kept open, bus drivers are thanked as people step out of the bus, strangers greet each other, people help others out in the streets (I have had total strangers offer to carry stuff to the car with us, pick stuff up that I drop etc.) and so on. I am told this video explains the difference between people from the north and the south pretty well.

Where I live (which is not that far from the city centre) is a real sense of community. I am already involved in “mummy”/” wives” groups. We have been to a charity event where I knew surprisingly many faces and we have had the people from our neighbourhood over for an open house in order for us to get to know them and for them to get to know us.

Even while seeing my doctor to get contraception (as we definitely don’t need another child at this point in time!) I felt like I was talking to a friend, or at least a friend of a friend. She told me all about how much older her husband was and that the fact he could be too tired for sex (due to age). She stressed that this was definitely not her fault as she was still sexy and up for it. She also told me that they had children quite late in life so I didn’t have to worry, there was still time for us to add more kids to the family. She was brilliant!

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Carpets DO make sense

I used to think people from the UK made life way too hard on themselves. Coming from a country where most of the floors are wooden or tiled I couldn’t get my head around all the carpets. In a country where people tend to wear shoes inside and it rains A LOT it seems absolutely mad to have carpets on all the floors. I felt so bad for people having to drag a hoover around, even up and down stairs! Since I moved here however, I have learned most people do not wear their shoes inside. I have also learned about the cost of heating. I have therefore accepted the extra exercise while cleaning and seen the practical side of carpets. They keep it a bit warmer.

Things concerning children are expensive

Most things in the UK are cheaper than back home. If you see a delirious, dehydrated and exhausted person carrying 4 big bags from Primark, 2 from H&M and 3 from Tesco, you have most likely run into an Icelander that is making the most of a short visit to the UK. To my surprise things concerning children (other than clothes) are just as expensive and in some cases more expensive than in Iceland.

We brought an Icelandic au-pair over with us as we simply cannot afford the childcare in England. The average day nursery costs 232 pounds a week for 50 hours! In Iceland I would pay less for a full month in nursery, it would cost me around 195 pounds a month for 40 hours a week. Included in that price the children have breakfast, a healthy hot lunch and an afternoon snack. In each class we have at least one member off staff with a Masters degree (5 years in university) in childminding, teaching or upbringing etc.

Our au-pair is also a lot more than just a childminder. She helps us with things around the house, makes sure we as a couple get date nights and is simply a great addition to the family!

School meals over here are around the same price as back home. I find this mind boggling as I know for a fact that all the ingredients are cheaper, and the labour is cheaper. It might stem from governmental support though, maybe schools in Iceland get more support in this area than UK ones.

My kids have to take the bus to school as we live quite a distance from their school. Each week we pay 6 pounds per child which adds up to 12 pounds a week. In Iceland we would be paying 9 pounds for the same.

As I say I just find all this surprising as almost everything else is more expensive in Iceland, considerably more! Beer on draft for an example is a whopping 7 pounds!

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Utility bills are your currency for most things

With everything you may need to apply for or need to set up you will be asked for a proof of address. That proof of address is a utility bill which is an electric bill, gas bill, water bill etc. It amazed me how important it is to drag an old bill around. I had to do this to open up a bank account and to get a phone and phone number. This is something I am not used to back home as one is registered to a certain address and that is in a database companies can access, and to be fair where you live just doesn’t seem as important to companies there. They just want to make sure you are who you say you are.

Due to this we hit a massive hurdle when we were applying for schools for our kids. We knew which area we wanted to live in but couldn’t start applying until we had a house. We started renting our house in March but by then all schools were full, the councils website told us they had been filled by January. Nonetheless we applied to 10 schools and with the application we needed to send a utility bill, which we didn’t yet have as we still lived in Iceland! What a mess!

Bureaucracy

The utility bill is just one example of the bureaucracy in England. In Iceland most things are done online and usually you can do them from the comfort of your own home. In England one seems to have to get actual documents, fill them out (block capital letters please so the people receiving them can read them…. Oh, wouldn’t it be easier to receive a typed document via the internet?), sign them and send.

One has to jump through ridiculous hoops as well. For an example while applying for schools for the kids we had to provide the application itself (of course), birth certificates (Ok, I understand that one), copy of their passports and mine (don’t see why as the birth certificate should have given all the details needed), proof of address in England (understood due to priority being given to the children living in the schools area), proof of baptism (as most of them were religious schools), signed papers from their (at the time) current school saying they know that they are leaving. Last but not least a letter from our landlord in Iceland stating that we are actually moving! (This one is so far beyond my understanding that I can’t comprehend it! As ANYONE would fill all those forms out and send them just for the fun of it, having no intent of moving, but for some odd reason is renting an empty house in England!?).

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I am international when it suits

It’s a little frustrating that Iceland is not in the EU, it is however in the EEA. This allows Icelanders to move within Europe as freely as EU members, we do not need visas and all the same rules and laws apply to us as EU members. Except when it comes university tuition fees! Even the school itself told me I did not have to attend a gathering for international students as I wasn’t one. I replied with: “Huh, that’s weird as I pay as one!”. I got the explanation it was to cover police, visas and the general system here. It’s a surprising contradiction and, to be honest, I seem to be international when it suits.

Wasps live forever!

…or so it seems. This section is only here as I HATE them! Back home I wait for the first overnight frost and after that I know they are all gone. That happened over a month ago! The flying bastards are still hovering around here. We even got a pest control expert over this week to get rid of 2 nests as we have had quite a few inside our house and one morning this week I counted 23 of them on my bathroom window (the outside of it, thank god!).

Hosepipe ban is a thing!

I had never heard of this, but it makes complete sense!! When it is hot and dry for a while the government may issue a hosepipe ban. The ban is supposed to save water in these circumstances.

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Bin days are something to be excited about

In my neck of the woods the bin people come up to the house, get the bin, empty it into the bin truck and then bring it back. Therefore, I never paid attention to when they came. Over here it is different. One has to put the correct bin out by the side of the road. My fiancé gets very excited when it’s getting close to bin day, thinks out loud whether it is general waste or the recycling bin (he only really knows after having a look at what the neighbours are putting out). He then makes sure to tell me loud and clear “It’s bin day tomorrow! It’s the grey one/green one!”. Like I really need to know so I can run out with the emergency recyclables (or general rubbish) I have been hiding away!

People don’t say what they mean

I am quite straight forward, and I believe Icelanders can come across rather direct. They generally say what they mean and mean what they say. However, I have learned that people in England tend to be a little passive aggressive in their ways or say something completely opposite to what they think just so they don’t offend anyone, and to avoid coming across as rude (God forbid!). For example, I have noticed that people can moan and complain about their food at a restaurant and even pick the service apart, but once someone comes over and asks how everything is everyone replies in perfect harmony: “Lovely, thank you”.

Coffee vs. tea

When English people visit Iceland and ask for tea rather that coffee they are faced with a dusty box, dragged from the back of a cupboard, fruit flavoured and an awkward Icelander who tells them to mix it themselves as we usually have coffee and are not entirely sure how to make a proper cuppa. Now that I live in the land of tea I see the opposite. When I ask for coffee I am faced with a host that looks like a deer in headlights. Very often instant coffee is pulled from the cupboards and apologies are made for it probably being to strong or weak. I find it amusing and can relate 100% and therefore smile and am just thankful to get some caffeine.

happy coffee
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All these different things are, in their quirky ways, a part of what makes England what it is. Most of it I love and other things I have learned to live with as one has to adapt when moving to a new country. I had a few more things on my list but I will save them for another time. But “this has been lovely, thank you”.

 

 

Motivation is the key to success!

I went for a job interview the other day where I had to fill out a form. On the form was a question that read: How do you motivate yourself? Underneath the question was a really small box where I could hardly fit my name let alone all the ways I use to motivate myself.

After the interview the question kept coming back to me as I had never really thought about what keeps me going or what I do to keep focused.

As I lead a varied, even sometimes a hectic life where I have to juggle many balls at once I can often hit a wall. The wall can seem so big that is can seem impossible to get over it with everything that is going on. There are, however, a few things I do to overcome these hurdles.

Number one:

Plan, plan, plan and plan. It may sound dull but once I have things mapped out I can see that they are do-able. It helps me unclutter and prioritise. As I have a fairly big family to run there are many things that need to be considered. For this I use a few methods:

The Huge Calendar:

I put things the whole family needs to know on this. When people are coming to visit, when the older kids go to see their dads, football practices, my big school assignments and to remember to get money out for the kids’ school bus (We use to forget this and have to rush last minute every week to get the money out). I put the Huge Calendar up on a wall where the whole family can see it and the kids take turns in crossing out the days as they pass. I always hang up the current month and below it I put the coming month as nothing is worse than realizing last minute something is about to happen. This way we always have an overview of the coming weeks and everyone in the home knows what is happening and when. Each person even has their own colour!

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My Diary:

My diary contains most of the things that are on the Huge Calendar. It also has all the reading I have to do and assignments, small and big. It also has all the personal “mummy stuff” in it like: Renew passports for such and such, book trains etc. I highlight each thing I have finished. I LOVE highlighting stuff! It gives me such pleasure to be able to tick things off!

Menus:

A busy home means little time. When you have many mouths to feed you start dreading the daily question of: “What’s for dinner?”. I solved this by sitting the family down and getting everyone to brainstorm what to have for dinner for the next 2 weeks. This way everyone gets something they like, and I always know what’s for dinner and it spares me headache and angst! It also saves a lot of money as one doesn’t have to go to the store as often. Sometimes we reuse old menus and sometimes I get my cooking books out to get some new, fresh ideas as it is easy to get stuck in a rut regarding this.

The Envelopes:

Due to security, I am told this is not something one does in the UK, so we have worked out a safer way of doing this over here. In Iceland we used an envelope system. This system was applied to our finances. We were both working low paid jobs and didn’t have much left at the end of each month. By using this system, we managed to do things we wouldn’t have dreamt off before. We had envelopes marked “Week 1”, “Week 2”, “Week 3” and “Week 4”. In each one we put money for grocery shopping for the relevant week, usually a big shop in the first week, smaller in 2 and 3 and then a fairly big in week 4. We also had separate envelopes for “Petrol”, “Bits and bobs” (when we had to nip to the shop for a loaf of bread or milk etc.). Last but not least the envelope called “Live a little” in which we put a little bit aside to be able to go to the movies with the kids, go out as a couple for a meal etc. It is really important to budget for some fun as well, other wise the whole system goes out of the window as it is easy to give up when budgeting if there is no fun involved.

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Goals:

As planning the mundane and day to day stuff is not fun on its own I also make a list of things I want to achieve that year (usually based around the academic year as I have gotten use to working around that in the last three years). One of the years this list had things like: Try out all the swimming pools in the Reykjavík area (I did not get to check that one out as there were more of them than I realized), go to Tenerife (we managed that, even saved up for it using the envelopes!), cook new food once a week (mostly achieved), travel around Iceland (we did it in 27 hours and therefore didn’t stop much, but still, around we went!) and so on! Making that list was fun. Having to think of fun things to do throughout the year, for me and my fiancé, for all of us as a family and for myself. It is so important when life is busy and feels like all you do is eat, sleep, work to have things to look forward to and to have goals, even though they are not bigger than trying out new swimming pools or cooking something you haven’t cooked before.

Goals

Number two:

As you can see above visual motivation in the form of crossing things out of lists gives me pleasure. At one point in my studies life was quite hard. I had a big load of assignments at school, my fiancé was battling severe depression and anxiety, I was working a lot and the kids were a little more demanding than usual (as they seem to be when everything else is). I was about to throw in the towel and quit school. I thought I could not do it and it seemed to be such a big task. Thankfully, I took some time and thought about it and rather than giving up I found way to motivate myself.

Sort of a list but not really:

I printed out a list of all the courses I had to finish to get my bachelor’s degree. I put each term separately into an Excel sheet. This included the name of each course and how many credits I would get for it. Some I had already finished. Then I took a highlighting pen (as I love that pen!) and highlighted what I had finished already, which was about one term and then some. It was so empowering to see the courses I HAD finished, the credits I had already earned, and no one could take them away from me. It made me want to keep going. I had this on a wall above my desk and every time I sighed or thought about giving up I looked up and thought “No, you can do this, you can’t give up now, just see how far you have come!”. Every time I finished a course I highlighted it until all of a sudden it was all done!

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Inspirational quotes:

I decided I needed something more to inspire me. I looked online and through an ocean of quotes and eventually I found 3 quotes that suited me. There were many good ones and many that made me feel all warm inside, smile or giggle but after a bit of research I choose the following: ,,If you can dream it, you can do it”, “If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough” and “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t”. Here I was working on my self-doubt as previously discussed, and as I am a big dreamer, I can get a little lost in my dreams but then disregard them as just that, dream. I needed to remind myself that in fact I could and would make them a reality.

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Number three:

On top of all that I kept reminding me how far I had come and why (which you know all about due to the blog I posted last time, if not, click here).

I have gone through so much in my life and I had to grow up quickly. I have often had to rely on myself and just pull through. I was only 17 years old when I decided not to let other people or events define me. Things happened that were out of my control, but when I turned 17 I decided to take control of my life and from then on be responsible for where it would take me. I did loads of very spontaneous things in the years to come and many stupid things, but I don’t regret any of them as they shaped the person I am today. Even after difficult times I have gained some experience and usually had some fun along the way.

The hurt little girl, rejected teenager, the single mum, the divorcée etc. has come out on the other side and will only keep climbing that wall, even though it is cliché: The sky is the limit!

aurora during night
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