In many ways 2018 has been a tough old year; tinged with a sense of longing and sadness that seemed unable to be shaken off. I received divorce papers on Boxing Day of last year, which kicked off a process that lasted up until March and did not offer the sense of closure that so many advised that partaking in that formal arrangement would bring. Throughout winter and spring, my main source of joy came from my time with Bodhi dog – being around him gave (and gives) such a sense of indescribable love and meaning that I felt almost unable to bear the weeks that went by when he was living with elsewhere. Living on my own began to seem a mistake in the darker months, when friends often seemed busy, hobbies and interests went unfulfilled and I found myself spending the majority of my time watching Netflix in my jogging bottoms. I felt as if I merely existed – silently waiting for the tide of life to turn, for my heart to heal and to find a sense of purpose and belonging. I carried loneliness around inside me like a heavy stone; a permanent lump in my throat as a reminder of a life I walked away from and now so badly wanted back.
I wrote about joy recently. I feel as if I’ve worked at re-discovering it this year. Let me tell you about 2018 – and if it seems like a brag then please indulge me, because I need it; I need to shake off this heavy coat and put on something lighter.
In March I went for a promotion; just a secondment but a change of role to move into Project Management. It’s been my hardest job yet and I’ve learned so much about myself – about dealing with change, building resilience and building relationships. I passed my two project management exams and my secondment will continue for at least the next few months and give me a real opportunity to continue to learn and push the project forward. I am grateful that the space in my life has given me the opportunity to progress my career in new directions I did not previously think possible.
I travelled to the Canary Islands with Nicole where we learned surfing, lived in a hostel for a week and drove around in a hire car searching out Fuerteventura’s most beautiful beaches. I travelled to Austin, Texas on my own (my first solo trip) and then met my friend Fleur after four days of exploring (and eating my way around the city). I rode a bike around, stopped for tacos, went on tours, took taxis and just generally soaked it all up. I never could have imagined I’d have the confidence to travel alone. A decade ago I wouldn’t even get on a train on my own, ask for help in a shop, or make a phone call. I’m flipping proud of myself.
I’ve dated a couple of really lovely, nice men and removed a toxic ex from my life. I’ve been on lots of first dates and genuinely enjoyed getting to know people. Even with those early relationships that didn’t yield something long-term I experienced that giddy sense of excitement again, that teenage sensation of wanting to talk about a new person constantly; checking your phone to see if they’ve got in touch, planning things for the two of you to do together. I retain a sense of hope that I will find my person and experience love again.
I’ve made new friends and resolved to invest more time, support and love into my existing friendships. I’ve counted my blessings SO hard that I know so many women who are creative, inspiring, motivated, kind and fun – women who are chasing their dreams and helping each other up; cheering from the sidelines and heralding each others achievements. I hope I meet tons more women like this in 2019. There will always be space in my life for them. With two of these friends I went to Reading Festival and watched NERD from the side stage, as well as a host of other bands I love. Watching live music also taps into that sense of joy and presence I have been longing for – is there a better feeling than that warm glow of a few pints of cider consumed from a cardboard cup whilst watching music you adore? It’s hard to feel anything but total gratitude and contentment in those moments.
I fell in love with running again and spent Wednesday evenings in the summer jogging through the New Forest with Emma, being in total awe of the beauty of nature. I camped and paddle-boarded at West Wittering. I swam in the sea near my parents’ house, ate fish and chips on Bournemouth beach and stroked alpacas at a farm.
And now I’m in Australia. I flew over with a friend but now I’m on my own again – and that’s okay. This year has taught me that I can handle it; that I can embrace it and use these opportunities to further grow and learn. As I write this in a hostel in Airlie Beach I have just stepped off a boat from a two-day sailing expedition of the Whitsundays where I snorkelled with tropical fish, saw the coral reef, drank wine and ate nachos on a deserted beach and saw one of the most stunning coastal views stretch out in front of me. I am so, so lucky and I feel it keenly.
When I started the unplanned solo part of the Australia trip last week I found myself sobbing down the phone to my eternally patient parents – feeling the sadness of being single and not having children at 34 creeping up on me as soon as my brain had the space to bring it to the forefront again. But I see now that I was focussing on ‘lack’ and churlishly counting what I don’t have instead of what I do. In every way possible this has been a gift of a year. I have met the highs with gratitude and the lows have been an opportunity to grow. I realise that I have been treating the last two years as a search – a search for the key to happiness, to joy, to fulfilment. “I’ll be happy when… I read this book, move to this town, lose two stone, meet a guy, visit this country, get this job, etc”. But of course the greatest cliché of all is that external factors don’t bring happiness, this can only be found by cultivating an attitude of gratitude and in noticing day by day all of the amazing opportunities to feel joy – no matter how big or small (and they are usually small).
I will be starting 2019 with an intention to go with the flow, let go of expectations and believe that the universe has a plan. I intend to love my family and friends as hard as I possibly can, and to try in some way to give back for all of the love and kindness they have shown me this year. I want to spend more time in nature and to examine my goals and to continue to chase them. I want to write a book, grow my blog and travel more (with the limited annual leave I have left!) I want to volunteer more and be of service. I want to endlessly try and be a better version of myself and give myself the grace to make mistakes. I can handle this. We all can.
*Written on my phone – please forgive any spelling or formatting errors.