Today is my Nameday – a day of celebrations of my personal identity and my relationship with my Dad (we used to celebrate our first names together). This is one of the few most important days in my calendar, so I tend to make it special. This year it is really important to me because it marks an important step in my life journey. I would like to use this day as an opportunity to launch a new edition of my business, Voxel Hub. This blog post contains an update on how I have arrived at this point in my professional life and why I think digital wellbeing is the next core focus of my work. I have posted quite a while ago about my luck in professional life. Most of my jobs were excellent. I worked in innovative industries, with fantastic leaders who showed me the way to grow but also to ask myself the right questions in regards to my life – private or professional. All those experiences and skills I have acquired along the way, shaped me into a person who seeks new challenges all the time. However, that constant need for movement and growth does not feel too heavy – it helps me grow, learn and help others. So today I would like to explain to my friends and colleagues why I have arrived at the point in life when Voxel Hub feels like the natural next step.
Whether you work for yourself or others, you are probably making career choices almost daily. Every single task and stuff you get done leads to your future direction in life. If you pay attention to your life, you can shape it into something rather extraordinary. That is precisely what has happened to me in the last decade of my life. I started my UK career in the first social media agency in the country, but as it grew and moved to London, I decided that living in London was too noisy for my young son. I was a single mum, so I had limited choices, but that did not stop me. I was told a startup was in the making in Oxford, so I reached out to them, and thus NFP Voice was born to support charities with social media work. I was deeply involved in digital for charities and really loved it, but I felt restless. The industry was changing and so doing social externally as an agency became a challenge to our beliefs – that people and organisations should be embedding social into their internal structures. So our work shifted to individual consultancy, and I suddenly became a business owner myself. It took me a few years to figure out the work-life balance and learn how to run a business, but I had brilliant support from my family, friends and colleagues. Only that working from home and running it, running a business and raising a child in a small and hostile town started affecting my overall mental health. Social media became my life-line, and until today, I strongly believe in the positive impact of online connections. Access to courses and life hacks also helped me a lot. I got involved in a few local causes, to balance out my inability to join other mums for a coffee during school hours. I made a few good friends to fill the loss of those lost to the ever-busy life of digital marketing in London.
I was incredibly stuck, though, and I did not know why. On the one hand, my actual circumstances were pretty good – a good job, a loving family, great location… On the other hand, something was bubbling up in me – a realisation that something around us was changing too. Our town became more and more hostile, on some occasions, racist. My son’s school turned into an academy and stopped caring for children – moved to care for results. The cues to the local GP practice grew, and all around me, people became more anxious and more lonely. I was feeling very lonely too. And in late 2015, I started noticing worrying trends online. Six months in the lead up to the Brexit Referendum I got seriously ill. Each time I sat to work int he morning, I would experience severe bellyache. My GP could find no other reason than stress. Only that my life was rather good, balanced… I did not understand what was going on. Something was really bothering me still…
The night of the Referendum vote I got an hour of sleep. I was worried, sick. For a person working in trends, I could see the results coming – I was genuinely not surprised. I was just really shocked that very few of us did see it coming. Next morning, before school run, I receive a message from a mum who after months of weekly visits to my house with her sons positioned herself as my best friend (actually best-mum-friend would be a more suitable term) saying: “I talked to my husband. He is certain that your husband will not get a job in the UK now”. I was experiencing racism and profound cruelty but also an astonishing level of entitlement and bias, which I did not see until then. The same afternoon another mum stopped me and said: ”I honestly did not know if I can text you or not so I decided to share this in person – I am so sorry for what you are going through right now.” And that reaction made me feel very curious. It is evident that everyone in the UK that day was suddenly to take a side and renegotiate their relationships. Still, it was also quite clear that cruelty was loud and forceful, while kindness was too quiet and too polite. At least in my experience, this was the trend I was experiencing in weeks and months in advance.
That day my husband and I decided to leave the small town. Pending our residency application, we would move to Bristol or Italy. Our residency application came through in two weeks, and it was backdated, so clearly we not just welcome but destined to stay. We started working on our plans to move to Bristol while I was processing my learnings from those early Brexit days concerning my profession – social media marketing. It was pretty apparent that the vote was hacked and today we also know how it was done. But I was more interested in two areas: people’s ignorance and general lack of civic engagement (and by extension engagement in the way they work with technology) but also the lack of active resilience and resistance in the times of rising hostility. I spent most of my time since summer 2016 figuring out what was it that bothered me about it all. I did not wake up one day with a brilliant idea of opening a new business and educating people on digital wellbeing. No, I did not.
The idea of Voxel Hub was born out of years of confusion (offline social isolation and thriving online connections) and active search for answers to new emerging questions. On that journey, I have promised myself a few things: to trust myself, to listen to people, to learn and never to assume anything.
I sat back and took time off work. I spent a few months switching off entirely. I was ill due to Brexit news, so I stopped reading news and focussed on my self-care a lot. I got a dog, went back to gardening (perfect time for listening to podcasts) and moved my blogging back to my quiet journaling on paper. It felt like I lost my public voice, but I know now that I was merely in need of quiet time. Time to think. I was confused but curious to explore the more human side of technology.
Next, I went back to my clients for more feedback on my work. I was always curious about social media ethics but their feedback clarified a more significant perspective on my passion – my deep curiosity in the human aspect of social media. It was my clients who made me realise the truth about my work – I was helping them with social media but also with their actual perspectives and feelings about it. One client made it pretty clear that I was her coach and a counsellor too. And that I was pretty good at it. But I was also aware of one problem: I had basics of psychology from my teacher training and books I read, but I was not qualified to do counselling so I was out of my depth! I had to go back to school.
I spent a few weeks learning to hack my life to make space for studies. I designed the family and home running around it and recruited all family members to help me with my new goals. My husband sat and planned it all with me, promised his support all the way. So I started learning a lot. First, I took all available online courses on human psychology, cyberpsychology, coaching and counselling. I learned about systemic challenges to mental health and a lot about personal ones too. I studied biases and learned more about echo chambers – before they were even a mainstream term. I studied leadership and collective thinking. Then I went back to university. At the same time, I dived deep into the practical work of counsellors – I still study and gradually start supporting people myself too.
Additionally, I have stopped assuming things. I explored and questioned every step of my way. I was confident in my skills, but I wasn’t sure about the stuff that was going on for my clients. So I stopped looking at things from my little box and worked hard on my own story and my individual assumptions. I spent over a year in personal therapy (study requirement but also a way of growing personally). I cannot tell you how many times I have shed the layers of my culture, upbringing, past religions and other systems. It is and always will be the most painful and formative part of this process, but it’s worth it. Instead of assuming, I was testing. I tested the idea of a tech hub for young children and their families. I tested running of a local art initiative for collective benefit. I tested online courses, coaching and one-to-one support around digital wellbeing. I started building in my learnings into my daily work too.
As the world started talking about the positive side of mental health and technology I was already in the space where a balanced view on both was not just new, it was a basic human need. I wanted to explore it, but I did not have a term for it, so I was forced to look at academic work around the impact of the Internet on our lives. I found it in London, Cardiff, Birmingham and…yes, in Bristol at the University of West England. At the same campus as their counselling studies. And that was the point when all my explorations started to align themselves into a consistent picture. Moving to Bristol made sense. People were friendly here, so it also helped me heal from my experience of racism and local hostility. I moved beyond my newly acquired anxieties towards a more courageous life. I even jumped out of a plane to celebrate that!
In those last two years of our life here, I started working on the idea of Voxel Hub and my new work-life balance. I joined the oldest youth counselling service in Bristol and continued with my social media consultancy to maintain the right balance between technology and mental health. I continued with my studies. Cyberpsychology is not new, but it took its time to enter the public discourse. 2018 welcomed first positive conversations around mental health and also more balanced research into the impact of social media. Google launched digital wellbeing tools, thus coining the term. Apple introduced screen time tools, and so the idea of wellbeing around technology became relevant to all. Digital resilience, the term which applied to the information security of company systems, starts to be used for the human element of those too. In education, contextual safeguarding is finally implemented with young people actively involved in the process. In the online rights movement, access to information is now the topic too. We even start to research and question the bias in academic research around the impact of social media on humanity. You can now learn some aspects of digital wellbeing online. Digital wellbeing frameworks emerge in a specific context, here’s one for academia. The Internet is 50 years old, but in our daily conversations, we are still repeating the myths (“social media is negatively impacting our lives” or “screens are damaging to our health”). There is so much work to be done! Slowly, the shift is happening though, so now is the time for Voxel Hub to open its doors.
I do have to admit this: the last five years of my life were challenging. I lost both parents. Due to all the stress, I became pre-menopausal and moved to a new biological age (experiencing a hormonal balance for the first time in my life was a bit of a shock to the system). I have lost some significant friends and leaders. I also lost two countries – not a day goes by that I do not grieve for Polish and British democratic process the way it used to be. At the same time, the losses created space for the new. I have chosen to make a difference to the systems around us in the way I am best equipped to do – through my experience and skills. I am celebrating my new family daily – it remains to be my core priority. I am making new friends and welcome new leaders. I am looking at both countries with the hope of young people who are angry but also determined to act and built a better future for us. I am moving away from certainty into a world of unknown. I learn to live with the uncertain, exploring instead of arriving at specific destinations.
Symbolically, launching a new business in the middle of Brexit crisis in the UK is a reminder for me to stay steady and prepared for the unexpected. I can only achieve it by reminding myself to be kind, open, resisting the power and welcoming the change. Always critically questioning the status quo. In my case and in my small way, I will be here to help others explore their individual and collective relationship with technology. I will study our humanity in this digital age. And I hope that you will join me – actively involved or watching, but prepared to point out mistakes and hold me accountable for my assumptions too.
So on my forty-second Nameday, I would like to introduce you to the Voxel Hub – a safe space for digital wellbeing explorations. You are welcome. I hope you can join me.
I have spent the last six months working on the core of Voxel Hub articulating the mission, core services and branding to create a calm space aligned with my values and what I think my clients need. I described it in the brand guidelines and the website’s about section. I have developed a core model of support which combined digital marketing principles with core approaches in mental health support. There is not much large scale research into this area, but what is out there, I have included in the Voxel Hub methodology. I will spend the next six months working with my close and trusted friends on a series of affordable online courses. You will see topics ranging from the language around mental health for online journalists, resilience in the digital age to leadership topics and management of online crisis with appropriate self-care. I have published one free course already and signalled other courses I am working on this winter.
As I continue building the core of the business with digital consultancy and digital wellbeing support, I will also be testing coaching and counselling support, training and corporate packages. All of this will have to happen slowly, as I do not want to change my current commitments, but I am really excited about it all. I hope to have a core of my business work finished by March 2020 (after October, the second most significant month in mental health calendar) for a larger launch here in Bristol.
I remain committed to all my current commitments as they perfectly complement each other, but you will see me writing and talking more about digital wellbeing from now on. I hope you will find those explorations useful.
I am eternally grateful to each and every single person who was there to support me in this journey – you know who you are. Also, for those of you who were experiencing my quiet blog – thank you for waiting, reading and joining in. Voxel Hub would not be possible without you.
(Digital wellbeing is new, and so I hope many will be inspired to take it and make it their own. However, in the Voxel Hub format, it feels precious to me, so I would like to take the liberty to dedicate it to the men who shaped me: my Dad, my Brother, my Husband and my Son. I love you all with all my heart.)
I am doing it. I am terrified, but I am doing it. OTR Bristol did a SkyDive last year but I wasn’t brave enough, because last summer I was still unable to cross the Bristol Suspension Bridge. Today I still sweat climbing the attic ladder, but I have conquered the bridge at least. I am obviously really worried about it but I also feel that is it exactly what I need right now to process all my grief connected to the losses of this year and the experience of severe social isolation from the past few years too.
There are a lot of reasons why this project is emotionally challenging for me. Doing the SkyDive is one thing, but I am also managing the OTR project, which means my role is to support others doing it too. I am also fundraising at OTR, which means I feel at least a little bit obligated to meet the fundraising goal – which after a move to a new city seems a bit hard. We do not have many friends in Bristol just yet. Basically for the next six months I will live and breathe the OTR SKyDive.
There is also a good chance that this fundraising event will distract me from a lot of emotional processes going on for me at the moment as I am emerging from the next counselling course and a pretty difficult year of Brexit and loss of both parents. I think that is exactly why I have decided to document my SkyDive journey publicly – to ensure that I am immersing myself in this emotional journey but also remain very kind to myself. Being actively engaged in this, but at the same time taking it easy will be my personal goal. I hope to heal, really. I healed a lot in the first year of our life here in Bristol, so this my next stage. I hope to move away from the anxieties and get back to the more adventurous and opinionated self. I hope to think about my dad a lot and celebrate the best of his legacy.
So here is what I do. I set up my SkyDive page, you can see the plans for the day below.
I set up my JustGiving page where I share updates on my journey:
I was very honest in my story description because I think I owe it to my supporters too:
This summer, a big group of OTR’s supporters are taking part in a skydive! This is exciting but also TERRIFYING!
I will be joining the team in memory of my Father, Hubert Korsak, who died this January. I really wish there was something similar to OTR Bristol when he was young to support him through his difficult marriage. My mother was a narcissistic abuser but their generation did not speak about mental health. They had to “get on with things”.
Despite his times, my Dad was a good man. I was raised by a kind, carrying Father so I appreciate the importance of good emotional support in difficult times. I became a resilient and steady adult.
In the last few years of my life in Oxfordshire however, I have experienced severe social isolation and (for the first time in my life) racism. Few years of that Brexit infused hostility resulted in newly acquired anxieties.
It took me 12 months of living in Bristol to collect the courage to cross the Suspension Bridge. I still sweat when I climb the attic ladder! My relationship with fear is very new and very strong. So this challenge is going to be really difficult. Very emotional. Very difficult. But also very healing.
I joined OTR Bristol exactly a year ago, shortly after my move to the warm and welcoming Bristol. I have started feeling better and trusting people again. Losing both of my parents in that period was extremely complex and difficult but I was held by a wonderful group of people who really were there for me. Who show up for young people every single day.
So I have no doubt that my dad would have liked the idea of the SkyDive and if he was here, he would have donated the first sum. I miss him, but I know he would be proud of what we do at OTR Bristol.
I am hopeful that my father’s legacy will continue in my son and that my son’s generation will talk about mental health openly. OTR Bristol is already making a difference in his school so I am pretty sure he will be open about it and supported.
I set up my Facebook fundraiser with similar updates because many of my friends work in social media so they will find it easier to support me there.
I also set up a YouTube live journal which is here with the first video recorded last Thursday to kick it all off.
I will record my second video tomorrow – which in itself is terrifying, but good. It makes me feel slightly uneasy but also happy to have the technology to openly share my journey. I have lost my voice so now I am thinking this is a great opportunity to let go of my newly acquired anxiety, let go and enjoy the journey.
I hope you will join me on this. I hope you will learn something from my explorations as well.
Thank you for reading!
Today marks a day of a very long journey for me. Since June 2016 I was quiet, I lost my voice. Back then, a few days before the Brexit referendum, I posted a quick note about the meaning of the vote. That post marked an end to an era in my experience of technology. It was also an end of a difficult 6 months of watching the pre-Referendum campaign unfold in front of my eyes and feeling really helpless. Even really social media savvy people took on sharing posts promoting lies about EU not realising that this actually helped the reach of those messages. Discussions about echo chambers only really started when Trump actually won. We have started to learn the truth about social media: its landscape and underlying mechanisms reflect how we work as humans. With the help of algorithms but also very basic human biases, we forgot about echo chambers. We became vocal when some of our opinions should have remained offline. I know many of my friends do not agree with this still up till this day, but I see we are finally learning from Facebook’s scandals. In the recent reactions to Christchurch events, for instance, I have, for the first time, noticed a lot of sentiment around NOT MENTIONING facts not to promote them towards biased audiences.
I call this process resistance. It’s a new word in our new digital reality but I think it works. We do not have to tolerate racism and the divide our political leaders are aiming to cover up their own mistakes. We simply have to resist sharing all our points and think a bit more strategically how our opinions travel in social networks. Do not forget that in social media marketing a mention, any mention (even negative one) is marked as positive for a brand – because any mention is better than none. So the best thing we can sometimes do is…remain silent. Not speaking can be an act too.
Today also marks the day when I am coming back to my more opinionated self. I spent months, years by now, learning more about digital wellbeing. I dived into psychology again to understand our biases. I started figuring out how we communicate online and what is the essence of our digital humanity. Today I know it is the choices that shape us. We all have the ability to act or to remain passive, to speak or to hold silence, to hurt or to protect others. And so as we are going through the really difficult part of the Brexit process I am wondering: what are we learning today? I personally start to see the value in both speaking up and in remaining silent – but both in the right times, strategically. In resistance, but also in active response to abuse and in risking to take a stand.
In the spirit of this new realisation I have visited the Bristol Museum to see the old Banksy work – a very relevant artwork indeed. It was brought back for the tenth anniversary of Banksy’s museum takeover, but it is pretty obvious that it is yet another response to the current political events. I am really glad that some people do take a stand, in a smart way. I really hope that that the next few weeks will bring kindness and unity back to the UK and to Europe, because we are ever so divided. I personally am really fed up with it and will blog on the mental health impact of those events more.
For now I would love to know what you have learned from the last few years of Brexit and the rise of less tolerant movements in Europe and what was the role of social media in this process?
I read something really good today over on BrainPickings, something I aim to explain to most of my clients, but also something that defines my personal networks:
“We reflexively blame on the Internet our corrosive compulsion for doing at the cost of being, forgetting that every technology is a symptom and not, or at least not at first, a cause of our desires and pathologies. Our intentions are the basic infrastructure of our lives, out of which all of our inventions and actions arise. Any real relief from our self-inflicted maladies, therefore, must come not from combatting the symptoms but from inquiring into and rewiring the causes that have tilted the human spirit toward those pathologies”
More often than not my clients ask me to support them with “Internet addiction”, “Fortnight obsession” or other digital wellbeing concerns. Most of which in the end can be narrowed down to behaviours connected to our basic human needs – the need to avoid feeling lonely, the need to have fun, the need to spend quality time together or simply rest after a long day of stressful work. Some of those statements are overused and should not be taken, nor mentioned lightly. I think they should really be explored in more details with our actual context in mind. So today I would like to start by having a look at the three most common things I hear from my clients and friends. Here we go!
- Internet addiction or in other words obsessive, automatic, prolonged time online can often be used lightly. Everyone seems to have it nowadays, but what does it really mean? It is generally a very overused term but in some cases can stand for an actual problem. Spending a disproportionate time online is often a combined result of our inner need for genuine human connection and life in the world which is increasingly lonely. So it’s worth asking yourself some honest questions: why am I doing this? what is missing? what do I gain from going online? and finally: does it actually help? do I feel better? If you feel that going online does bother you it is really worth exploring the real, deep reasons for your concerns. Does it affect your health, work and relationships? It’s really worth exploring all those questions and if in doubt, having a chat with your GP. The Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) was now added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) (the bible of official mental health conditions) but with a clear note that it is still not fully confirmed – a lot of research is needed to fully confirm it as a condition. I would recommend this article which explains how it is measured and diagnosed at the moment, but also what challenges lie ahead of us in pinning down the exact impact of the Internet of our mental health. Example: a single, middle-aged, financially independent and fairly fulfilled woman asked me once for a tip on not checking her emails on her mobile first thing in the morning. When we explored her morning routine in more detail something very sad became apparent (she said it but I had to reflect it back at her, she was not even aware of stating her own truth): she was lonely and hated the feeling of waking up in bed alone. In the end, she decided to get a dog to keep her company and tackle her sense of loneliness and stopped checking her phone in the morning.
- Fortnight/Minecraft/(any other game)+ obsession is the first thing I hear from many parents or partners of regular gamers, but what does it really mean? Google defines obsession as “an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.” but let’s just very quickly look at its synonyms: “fixation, ruling/consuming passion, passion, mania, idée fixe, compulsion, preoccupation, enthusiasm, infatuation, addiction,..” As you can see some of those words are indeed negative, but what would happen if we were to replace the word with some positives? What if our child has a “Minecraft passion”? What if our partner has a “preoccupation with playing Call of Duty”? Does this term also describe their actual feelings and state of mind? In some cases, gamers might and will overuse their time online and that habit might and will affect their health, real-life performance and quality of their relationships. But in other cases, in most cases, really, their gaming habits will be a result of something fairly easy to explain: the need to connect with peers (since we cannot really hang out in the street anymore and the youth clubs are shutting down); the need to rest after long day of work/school – simply a quick way to relax or maybe simply wanting to have some fun? Is that really so bad? I would like to add something to this mix: each situation is unique but our personal feelings about other people’s gaming habits might reflect our own issues or needs to. So I would recommend asking ourselves some questions too: am I missing this person? do I want to spend more quality time with them? do I want to join in and feel excluded? do I judge them without having a chat about it? and finally: if we did not have games in our lives, what would be our alternatives? It’s also worth noting that Internet Gaming Disorder is defined in DSM-V but it is also mentioned “that gaming must cause “significant impairment or distress” in several aspects of a person’s life.” You can check the proposed symptoms of the actual disorder but it is still an area that requires a lot of research. Gaming disorder has been also listed last autumn by WHO so you can find more information about it here. It’s worth having a chat with your GP if you are concerned. Example: I worked with a dad who initially was so worried about his son’s “Minecraft obsession” that he decided to ban him from the game for the entire summer holidays. Needless to say, this particular idea backfired. The boy was struggling with fitting in any way and was left with even more reasons to be bullied and misbehave. We have worked with both dad and his son on creative ways of using the game to build, invent and present ideas. During that process, dad learned how the game works and how it can be used for fun, for creative ideas but also for studies (of maths, science or even hand-writing). At the end of our work both dad and son shared the same laptop and both came up with new ideas for creative use of Minecraft. Both found a way to talk to each other and collaborate – within and outside of the game.
- The negative impact of screen time on our health is a myth and after 15 editions of Safer Internet Day, we are finally openly talking about it with a bit more grounded and academic context. My son is 13 and through his entire life, he was told by his teachers, health professionals and other adults that spending the time of screens has a detrimental effect on his health. Despite the fact that we did not even have good, extensive research into this topic (all but impact of TV screens, to be honest), we have been telling our children and ourselves that screens are simply bad. Here in the UK that exaggeration became officially demystified this January by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health: “The evidence base for a direct ‘toxic’ effect of screen time is contested, and the evidence of harm is often overstated. The majority of the literature that does exist looks only at television screen time.
Evidenceis weak for a threshold to guide children and parents to the appropriate level of screen time, and we are unable to recommend a cut-off for children’s screen time overall. Many of the apparent connections between screen time and adverse effects may be mediated by lost opportunities for positive activities (socialising, exercise, sleep) that are displaced by screen time.” We now need to admit that most of us were wrong: it is not the actual screen time that can be damaging, but lack of movement, sleep or human connection. If used wisely and negotiated with our children in the context of its value and benefits for the family, screen time can actually be educational, relaxing and bonding. There is also another danger in making this assumption: by focussing on the mere technology of screens we are moving away from discussing the reasons behind our activities, feelings evoked by specific online activities and their meaning to us individually and as a group. It is a huge simplification to look at our screen time – we really have to think about the why behind our time on screens. Example: I met a mum recently who was worried about the screentime of her son so she decided to introduce a “no screens in the bedroom before bedtime” rule. The rule was discussed together so that her son and all other members of the family could have their opinions expressed. It was agreed that like with all other house rules, everyone would follow it. This small, but collaborative change to their habits improved the quality of everyone’s sleep but also opened up a channel for discussion around other areas of technology used in the house. Let’s face it, screens are really not the next big thing;)
I hope this very short introduction to the core three questions I am working with nowadays will provide a bit of context to how complex the digital wellbeing of our lives can be. Please remember that the research in this area is still new, but already substantial. We now know that our digital activities are complex and there is not one size fits all solution. We need to explore our motivations, impact of our activities on our lives and keep having honest conversations to nurture our relationships: with each other and with ourselves as well.
(Please note: these are my experiences and my understanding of the above-mentioned topics, if you have other experiences, I would love to hear from you – please leave a comment!)
I stopped blogging pretty much last September, but I have lost my voice a few years ago. I start to realise just now that my experience of severe social isolation during my years in Oxfordshire affected me really deeply. I start to feel my voice emerging again, but I am still a bit shy to fully put in words what happened to me back there and then. I can only hope to do it slowly, gradually, with a great deal of self-care. I know that life is a journey. I know that oftentimes it is hard to see the true meaning of our reality and so we have to give it some time. Today I can start to see the meaning in my experience of extreme loneliness, but for a long time I did not have the courage to look back at those days. Simply because there is a lot of negativity around my experiences. There are a lot of people who did nothing to help me and I will have to point some fingers.
Thanks to my new life in Bristol, a few good old friends, my family and a vast amount of new support networks I can now slowly come out of my quiet place and speak up. For the first time in my life, while living in Oxfordshire I have lost my voice. I have lost the image of myself. I have evaporated into the thin air.
I do not know if anyone else can relate to that feeling of being a complete ghost but if you do, I salute you! It is a very tricky burden to carry because it is actually light and very difficult to define. But I will go back to those days and attempt to explain my experiences simply because social isolation becomes a problem of our generation. We are losing ourselves and forget the true meaning and value of our lives in the world that tries to convince us otherwise: that we are meaningless and never quite good enough. We are distracted blaming technology for the sins of our bad leaders and lazy networks. When in reality we are all in this life together, going through a lot of similar pains and challenges.
This year I lost both of my parents but I have also lost a sense of innocence that I aim to find again. I became an orphan in so many ways! I am ready to share it though. Thanks to my hard work and determination, support of the carefully chosen people, I am in a good place. This gives me hope for a better tomorrow. I cannot do it without the act and courage of looking back and exploring my dark times. A
ftera few years of living in a cold, alienating and adverse to change I feel like I was sucked into a black hole and disappeared in a different dimension. Now, upon my return, I am wondering: what has changed in me? What have I learned? How can I share those learnings to warn others? I know my experienced bothers me and I know I am not the only one affected by social isolation. So I hope to explore it in more detail. I know I am not doing it all on my own.
It is our job is to speak up and resist the status quo – we live the times when we all finally have to take a stand. I am hopeful to find my true voice again!
This is the end of your life and I owe you this letter.
I want to tell you how much I love you and thank you for everything you have done for me.
Thank you for keeping me safe. Your life was a storm but somehow you have managed to keep me safe, steady and centred. All throughout the journey that we have shared. You shielded me from the thunders in our own house. You showed me the way out and never held me back.
Thank you for showing me what it means to love and to be loved. I mean the warm, kind and caring love. You showed me the active, deep connection few people appreciate. I grew up knowing a good relationship from a fake one.
Thank you for teaching me the basic life skills. Without your practical teachings I would not be able to live a full life today.
Thank you for teaching me the value of self-care in times when it was unacceptable and unthinkable.
Thank you for teaching me that the true legacy of a human is not the amount of houses they own, but the amount of trees they plant and people they nurture.
Thank you for showing me the value of learning and exploring, never standing still, always moving forward.
Thank you for teaching me the difference between a to-do list and getting things done
Thank you for teaching me that choices are not easy, but they can be informed.
Thank you for always leaning in, speaking up and looking after the people who came after you. I have no choice but to follow you the same way.
Thank you for teaching me to treat young people and adults with equal amount of respect and attention. For treating everyone as a human being – regardless of their gender, education, origin or age.
Thank you for showing me how to live life fully. You showed me how to relax, step back a little, slow down and simply take in the world around us. You showed me how to be happy.
Thank you for teaching me to look back only to steady myself. For reminding me to always look ahead of me, to focus on the future, on the life’s horizon. Thank you for showing me how to love the right here and right now this way.
Thank you for teaching me to surround myself with good people. We can only aim to remain faithful to our values, it’s a constant battle, but we are in it together. We are all going our best.
Thank you for showing me the power of our human vulnerability. It is only in our weaknesses that we can find the power to go on, not in strengths. I get it now and it makes everything easier, simpler.
Thank you for showing me how to protect myself. I know it also meant that you lost me. But I also know that it was you who showed me the value of knowing our own boundaries.
Thank you for being so very human with me. For teaching me to make mistakes and owning them. This one is hard, because it’s your mistakes that led to me loosing you way too early. Thank you for even trying to understand and respect my final choice on that.
Thank you for hopefulness, for the constant faith in life and in people. Kindness was your religion and so it remains mine too. You showed me the value of each small leap of that faith. It’s revolutionary.
Thank you for our shared, magical silences. You showed me the value of a grounded, rich stillness. You talked to me without words, yet showed me so much! You saw, heard and spoke
wisdomof our ancestors few people nowadays are even able to notice. You held the time and space for me, expecting me to do the same for my family.
Our time is difficult. The world is challenged like never before. We are all challenged daily. You have shown me the truth of our human condition in its entity: the perfect imperfection of our kind. With “
kind-ness” as its most imperative adjective. I am so grateful for that. We have shared a connection hard to explain. Even when separated by our choices, we lived in our own solitudes but in dignity. I have never ever lost the legacy you have given me. I carry it with me as a reminder of the best of people. And I promise to pass it on to others through my own silences, words and actions.
I miss you dearly, but I know I am doing my best to make you proud.
It’s been a very intense university term for me here in Bristol so I was really quiet on all my blogs. I am still here and I am learning so much about human nature. I am starting to put my new counselling skills into practice already. Supporting people with mental health issues and challenges is the most humbling work I have done so far. I feel really privileged to be in this place in my life together with all our friends, colleagues and family.
It’s been a strange, very intense and grounding year. Full of major gains and major losses. So I am spending this Christmas resting, meeting friends and re-evaluating my life. Our university homework is to write an autobiography in preparation for psychoanalysis studies in spring, which gave me an opportunity to start something I have been meaning to do for a long time: write up my life experiences in form of a private book.
It seems to be a Korsak family tradition to write and self-publish books for friends and family and so I am glad that I can continue it. It’s draining. It brings up a lot of forgotten, darker memories, but it’s also very healing. Sometimes it’s also fun – hugely thanks to the Internet browsing for long lost places, people, stories. Reflective writing and reminiscing are said to be good for us – I strongly recommend it.
I am using this time of the year for reflection. It’s quite astonishing how much my boys and I have achieved just in 12 months of living in Bristol – it’s quite overwhelming to look back at those months without getting dizzy. We are all really happy here, surrounded by people who actively react to the UK and world events with kindness and everyday validation of our humanity.
I hope your year was good and I hope the next one will be even better!
Happy Holidays from all of us!
Slow progress can be frustrating, but it’s better than no progress at all, especially when it comes to our balance between tech and other aspects of life. For me, the balance is measured in the screen time and allotment time. We have signed our allotment agreement in spring here in Bristol and did not do much on the plot due to a very hot weather. The soil was a way to dry to work with even just for clearing out the grass and weeds. It’s a miracle that we have managed to grow a few fruit and veg, and some flowers early in the year, because we really cannot enjoy the plot just yet. But since we came back from Moldova I feel really determined to clear out and prepare the soil for work on it. It’s really hard to work through such a large plot. A neighbour told me that he was offered our plot but did not want to take on too much. I think, however, that with a good, slow flow of steady work, we can conquer it.
I have been visiting the allotment for the last few weeks almost daily, every day doing a little bit of hard work. I loved it. I hated it. I enjoyed it. I dreaded it. But I continued, steadily. I posted on Instagram to document the progress for myself, but also quietly hoping that our followers there would cheer me up. And so they did, oftentimes! It really helps to be supported. But as I am approaching the second phase of my work: digging up the actual beds – I am also realising that work with soil is extremely monotonous and relaxing. It gives me a lot of time to think about my therapy, therapy studies, new job, old job, new plans for an even newer job (ie. new products in my own company). On many occasions I allow myself to rest from thinking too – I rest my thoughts on the petals of our flowers or birds flying above the plot. I simply allow my subconscious to do all the work instead.
I have a vision of the final result which really helps because with every swing of the shovel I am closer to that goal. The goal is mine, self-inflicted if you wish. In positive psychology, we learn that achieving self-prescribed goals make us happy. If someone else sets you a task and you are not empowered, nor engaged, the success rate is rather small. The feeling of accomplishment comes with choosing the level of your challenge and completing it. So I get a lot of that in the allotment nowadays and I will feel really happy when the project is complete and we can start planting fruit and veg. The slow and steady rhythm of work means that I can see some results of each chosen task – I do not have to push myself too hard – and I feel really accomplished every day.
There is also something comforting in the regularity of the work. It does feel like a workout even though I am there for one to two hours each day. That is really not a lot of physical work to fit people, but I am a geek so this is my maximum for now. I can feel my body is getting a bit more resilient and a little bit stronger so I am starting to consider winter jogging once the allotment is finalised. I feel that the regular walk to the allotment and my routine of setting things up, working, resting, working more, resting, picking up fruit, taking photos, chatting to neighbours, walking back home, sharing photos online…all of this is a nice little relaxing routine.
So this slow progress in the afternoon warm sun with people equally excited about re-connecting with nature really balances out all the time I spent online or in front of screens.
I would love to hear how others manage their balance between digital tech and other areas of life?
I am back to my coffee blogging over at MyLittleCoffeeBlog.com. Friends ask me why? I simply feel like it. When I was busy building my consultancy I really did not have time to travel and quite frankly I was also stuck in a small, dull town. There was only so much I could do with coffee. My reason for blogging about it is simply enjoying and sharing the impressions about coffee places I get to discover, stories I get to hear, memories I share with my friends. So now that we live in Bristol I have endless opportunities to find a new coffee spot. We also have our first coffee festival this weekend so the coffee scene here in the city seems to be maturing. I think it is worth capturing my moments of coffee beyond my little Instagram account now. I need more space to share my impressions and learn more about this simple, yet such an inspiring drink.
Because noticing coffee and coffee places is more to me than just a hobby. Hobby is really good to have – learning keeps us happy and stimulated. New discoveries keep us entertained and excited. But to me stopping for a coffee – alone, with a friend or for a work meeting means a moment of mindfulness. The realisation that we are all OK. We are all good enough. We are doing our best. We are in this life together. Coffee experiences – shared or in solitude – ground me and put life in perspective. My morning coffee is the best example of me-time and my daily self-care routine. Sharing a cuppa at work or in a meeting in the city also means I can relax, stop, have a meaningful conversation or simply time to think.
We need time and space to notice things, to cherish life and to celebrate what we have. Coffee is a perfect opportunity to do so. So I invite you to visit My Little Coffee Blog where I begin a new phase of my coffee journey.
This week was hard. I am in pain. I spent the entire week digging in our new allotment and I cannot move without pain. I am really happy though, because it’s my own project – it’s something I have decided to do this September for myself and for my family.
There are many aspects of hobbies like allotment gardening that improve our mental health so I think this project deserves a mention on my blog. First of all let’s think about the difference between projects we choose and projects we are given to complete: obviously the ones chosen by us make us feel more accomplished and happier to deal with it. Despite of what we think of passive entertainment, active challenges tend to make us feel more accomplished and happy. Secondly, the sense of achievement. What we hear on the news and see in advertising is not really happiness – it is the unachievable dream we are to chaise and crave, and pay for, of course. Happiness is actually free. It can be effortless, but it also might require a little bit of time and effort. They need our own vision, choice and commitment. When we choose our own tasks with the right level of effort and complete them, we feel truly accomplished.
I chose to clear out our allotment inspired by a garden seen in Moldova. It made me realise just how much potential is in the plot we have here in Bristol. I started feeling the passion for gardening, for outdoors, for relaxing evenings on the plot. I have a vision for the final look of that plot and my family is really supportive too. There is nothing more calming and empowering than a sunset amongst flowers you have planted yourself munching on home grown fruit and veg. So every day I go to the allotment and work really hard on preparing the soil for years of gardening. It’s really hard work because the plot was given to us in a really bad state so we need to re-claim it from Mother Nature. But the soil is really good, once you get to it. And every day I get closer to our goal. I work hard, but not too hard. I have my ups and downs but I continue and slowly start to see the big results of this work too. The plot is shaping up already.
The best element of this adventure is the balance between mind healing solitude and mind stimulating and caring socialising: both offline and online. We can all go to the allotment alone and enjoy the quiet – even in the city centre the allotment sites can be really quiet and calming! Every time we go to the allotment we meet other nature lovers, share tips, help each other, receive their crops now that we still have to do the basic work. At the same time we share our journey on Instagram where people join in, cheer us up and share additional tips. It’s really nice to be a part of a community of similarly minded people. The passion for nature, physical work, growing and enjoying results of that work, passion for nice food and time spent well together is something all alotmenteers have in common.
For me, working and sitting in the allotment, is an important aspect of my personal self-care. It’s an area of counsellor’s work that is increasingly more and more important. One cannot support others without enough of rest and energy. But regardless of your profession, I really recommend it to everyone! Especially in times when the general definition of happiness is somewhat lost and so many people feel lonelier and lonelier (with or without friends). Nature is all around us and if we look close enough we might realise that we are really never truly alone.