Starting with today

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Truth be told, I didn't want another post of goals to come around so soon. Given my past track record, I have come to realise that the constant revolution of making intentions, then breaking intentions, makes for no fun read at all. Imagine writing your life into a novel and putting it out there for all to read: your protagonist, which happens to be your very good self, bumbles around for what seems like eternity and your readers have no idea whether to begin cheering or steel themselves up for the inevitable moan. You leave them disappointed; perhaps more disappointed than you actually feel yourself, but then again, you have become used to this feeling. You are numb to the labours of your own invention - and this is the trouble that comes hand-in-hand with being a perfectionist.

Self-improvement can often be a long game of two punctuated halves. In the first instance, you are fit and fiery and ready to go. You make lists upon lists, and lists of lists, and set yourself objectives and, as well as aiming for dates saddled at the end of a duration, you aim for the stars. There is almost nothing that can shake the excitement and the positive energy that comes from trying to take the steering wheel of your very own life, precious in it's worth, and trying to lead yourself in a better direction.

But then comes the intermission. Whether long or short, it's always bleak; something that you wish to forget about as soon as possible, or brush under the carpet. In the intermission, everything slips. You are suddenly not abiding by lists anymore and you are no longer on auto-pilot - you are flying solo and this plane is falling. You are experiencing your first failure on this journey to betterment and it's frustrating, de-motivating. You wallow for a brief time - we're all allowed to, we're only human after all - and then you dust yourself off, declaring that it's time to move on, to begin again.

The second half gets underway and you realise something is amiss. You're lacking in spunk, in grit and gumption. It makes it that much harder to persist. You are still inherent in continuing with your plucky positivity parade, but it's like wading through treacle. You lose interest; you seem to lose interest pretty easily anyway. And before you know it, you're back to square one. No, further back than that; you're wondering what led you to captain yourself across this stormy sea, and declare this particular ship well and truly closed for business.

Imagine that. Now imagine all of that, repeated, over and over, like one endless perpetual motion. Blips blending into failures; defeat overwhelming everything until it's all that you ever know. Until it's something that you are so used to, you're not sure you can remember ever feeling so spirited. That would not be an inaccurate description of much of my adult life.

Please don't pity me. I am, after all, the director of my own life, and that is never going to change. I am not putting this tale out there, laying it all bare, for sympathetic ears and helpful words. I am declaring this as a conflict of interest - because no matter how many times it happens, and I have lost count, this is not the way I intend for things to be. I am well vested in my adult life - I'm 30, for crying out loud - and I barely have anything to lose, so why-oh-why do I find it so difficult to give more?

The awareness I am slowly letting wash over me is quite becoming. Recognition is a funny old thing, especially regarding your own being, and it can very easily be dismissed or glossed over, forgotten about until the next big fuck up and the cycle starts up again. But this time, it's different. This time, I am willing to accept a better fate; I am not about to turn down this chance to turn things around; and maybe to feel lifted in the process. Maybe that little joy will continue to lead me, and will aid me in acting with confidence and certainty. Maybe good things will happen, if I put my mind to it. And maybe, just maybe, when I do face failure once more, I will feel it. It sounds strange, but I couldn't imagine anything more fulfilling: to be driven by the losses that you made on your own terms.

It starts with today. Just a little change, barely anything worthy of note. It starts with today - putting it out there in black and white for all to witness, and for reminding myself in times of trouble. Suddenly, it's not about goals anymore. It's not about lists or challenges or all of these silent protests. It's about each and every step forward, delicate and daring all at the same time. Remembering that you are not defined by your mistakes, or regrets. Remembering that you are lucky to live. Starting with today.

Perpetuum Mobile

Friday, 4 August 2017

If you read my last post, then poor you. Poor me, too. There's nothing sadder than a whole heap of wallowing self-pity. Thankfully, it was seemingly a blip and so, panic over. I'm 30 now and I feel pretty alright; mostly just bumbling around in awe of how I didn't self-implode in the lead up. However, numbers may change but some things remain the same, and anxiety reigns supreme in it's own little haphazard way. How is it August already? Where is the summer; why is it raining all of the time? (Oh Manchester, I do love you so, but you have got to sort your weather out.) What is my life and my place in the world? Why haven't I figured everything out yet?

Newsflash! It's okay to not have it all figured out yet. I'm here already and I'm waving, not drowning. So instead of focusing on what I haven't achieved (which my brain reads as FAILURE!) I'm going to focus on what I have achieved, and what I can possibly hope to achieve in the upcoming year.

Stuff to already be proud of:

01. My new-fangled money saving mentality. This sounds ridiculous but it has taken pretty much all of my adult life to become somewhat good with money. After years of payday pandemonium, which began to settle and slow down once I was past the flighty-nature of my mid-twenties It was only when I turned 29 and had to pay for car insurance, estate agent fees and an unexpected month's rent for an entire apartment, thus having to live on bread and oil for the rest of the month, (Note to my parents: this was an utter exaggeration) that I decided enough was enough and I had to completely re-jig the way that I looked at money. ....

02. My fantastic relationship with my parents. Alert, alert: you are about to be inundated with a whole lot of clich├ęs. Otherwise known as Ma and Pa, my parents are more than absolute rocks: they are an island. Sure we've had our ups and downs over the years, as I'm sure every son and daughter of every age all across the world have done themselves. But as a trio we are more than aware of life complexities and know that most of life's trials and tribulations, however harsh they may seem at the time, are always just a drop in the ocean. It's taken me years and I wish I had matured sooner, but now that I am a Real Adult™ my relationship with my parents is at it's finest. They are more than just ancestors - they are true friends and there's pretty much nothing that I can't run by them or talk in-depth about, anymore. Considering I was the most rebellious teenager, and that most of my big life decisions have just been history repeating itself, to be able to hear my parents tell me how proud of me they are is jelly-knee-inducing. And to be able to have this relationship with them at all; I am very blessed indeed.

03. My assertiveness & ability to say no. In the past couple of years, I've slowly but surely learned that it's okay to take time for yourself, and to not be on-the-go all the time and that, while it's fun to say yes to everything, it's not the be-all-and-end-all to miss out on some of that fun here and there. In fact, there's nothing quite like sitting back and relaxing in your pyjamas in front of a good TV series, after a long hard day at work, in place of the pub. So basic, but always worth reinforcing.

What I hope to be proud of a year from now:

01. Read 20 books. I'll start with a little story that says it all. 2015 was my best reading year yet, if you picture it from only the summary. When you delve deeper into the analysis you will see that, out of a total of 18 books, half of those were read in the month of November, during time well spent on South Asian bus networks and beaches. In 2016, I read just three. Abysmal, entirely abysmal. What I find with reading is that it's just as easy to not find the time for reading, as it is to make time for reading. There's a few pages to be had in a 20 minute break, or that hour winding down before you drift off to sleep, book upon face. So I just need to attack this one with vigour, otherwise known as 'just getting on with it'. I ummed and ahhed over a number before I finally hit publish on this post but I knew I wanted it to be a greater amount than it ever has been, and with 18 currently topping the charts, I think 20 is a nice round number to bestow upon my 30th year.

02. Positivity in fitness and healthy living. You know, it's true what they say about your twenties in terms of body image - that you waste all your time worrying about what people think about your physical self. They also say that turning 30 changes everything, and I am here to quash that statement. I can honestly say exactly when I truly stopped caring what people thought about me: I was 28 and travelling solo for the first time in my life, all around South East Asia. For the first time in my life I didn't have to answer to anybody or be influenced into making decisions for myself by anybody else, and over 6,000 miles away from home I sure as hell wasn't surrounded by the people who had stuffed me full of self-doubt. It was also constantly pushing 35 degrees, and so I was fairly relaxed with the amount of clothing that I had on (when it was suitable to do so, of course). I don't think I was fully prepared for how mentally at-peace I would feel for the first time in forever and suddenly, I didn't care what anybody thought about my body. Because, suddenly, I realised something: that nobody was looking anyway, because nobody cared; because everybody else were probably too busy dealing with their own hang-ups to give me a second thought.
Mind. Blowing. I know. But it's so freeing, that awareness, when it finally hits you. And I am here to say that it doesn't hit you the minute you turn 30. It may take a little longer and that's okay... but it also may come sooner, which is fabulous. Just make sure you embrace it, and keep embracing it. My health journey is far from over: I have more hiccups than I care to remember, and that's just the stuff that I am directly responsible for. There's other stuff underlying, deep beneath that shiny new thick skin of mine, that needs professional dealing with sooner or later. There isn't even a proper plan in mind. But as vague notions go, I would say that this is a pretty good one to have. Just the knowledge that your mind, body and soul are all linked with what you choose to fuel it with is enough, and there is no need to put a label on anything. Also, good fuel input equals great energy output and I look forward to rinsing that energy to the max. More hiking, more cycling and getting back into running are all high on my list.

03. Make a step change, workwise. I am not saying that I want to change my job; but my role? Definitely. One cannot be an admin assistant forever. I know that I am meant for bigger and better things. Fueling my ever-growing ambition is the reassurance that the company I work for are willing to put a set amount of money towards training for each and every employee, as long as it will help themselves to grow within their job title. I am firm in the belief that some form of marketing would aid any role, and so it's part of a wider action plan that I am currently trying to settle on the most perfect Digital Marketing course for me. Will be handy for keeping the ol' brain cells alive too!

04. Complete the first draft of a novel. Something I endeavour to go into detail with at a later date, but I have been in the process of writing a novel for the past two years. Process is a very loose term, as progress hasn't exactly been booming. It's another one of those things that really took off when I had a lot of free time travelling in Asia, but has fallen by the wayside in the last year. Another of those things that I simply need to make the time for, no excuses.

05. Travel more. This is a very broad topic but I feel like it encapsulates so much more than just booking a bunch of flights to claim kudos-laden stamps in my passport. It's also about making the most of the country that I live in - that is the United Kingdom, just in case anybody was unsure - by way of daytrips, night drives, city-visits and Hooligan Hikes. If you're wondering what a Hooligan Hike is, fear not - it doesn't involve anything that would make the National Trust recoil in horror! Just see it as a rowdy group hike involving singalongs, way too many Instagram stops, a little alcohol and a lot of fun. I mean if the Hooligan part doesn't appeal to anybody, then general hiking will suffice, but then again, what's a hike without a random skinny dip at the end of it?

06. Invest more time in friendships & reconnect with people. It's hard not to hold yourself personally responsible for the dwindling of friendships in this journey called Life. However, we are all as equally culpable just as it seems to be one of those things. You spend a large deal of your mid-twenties ravaged with panic that so-and-so hasn't spoken to you for two days and perpetually wondering if you have said or done anything wrong. Another newsflash - you haven't. What happens is, you grow a little bit older and, much like how you shed the belief that everybody is staring at your stomach rolls, (recap: nobody CBA, okay?) you also shake off the false suspicions that all of your friends hate you. They don't have time to; they are only trying to get through their similarly obstacle-filled life just the same as you are. All I can say is, be available for them when they need you, and they will never let you down. Some of my best friendships are punctuated by several weeks of silent running and that's entirely okay. It's easy to pick up where we left off or begin an entirely new stream of conversation flow, and there's never any awkwardness because there isn't any expectation. Whoo, I think I've waxed lyrical about this point enough now!
That being said, while I am comfortable in the knowledge that all of my current friendships are weighted with quality, there are a few people who have touched upon my life in a variety of manners that I would love to reconnect with and strengthen the bonds between us. These include Gwen and Vicky, who I have known for about ten years and have both had babies since the last time I saw them, as well as my beautiful bridesmaid buddy Kerry who is actually my best friend's best friend and I would love to bond with more, and Grace, who I cannot describe more actually than "she is my sorta-soulmate" and it's plain silly that we have not made more happen. There are also new and growing friendships that I intend to strengthen, like Lauren and my current housemates.

07. Save XX amount of ££. I guess this completely tallies with what I have bigged-up above. It's going to be hard - I'm trying to have more of a life for the rest of this year and that involves plans and spends, naturally. But I'm completely determined to meet what I think is a realistic target of £2,500 saved by the end of the year.

08. De-clutter my life/not own so much stuff. This is a Ronseal job, really. I am not utterly obsessed with having that elusive capsule wardrobe anymore, but at the same time I am not totally over it either. What I have hopefully found is a rare middle ground where I am organised and tidy and able to keep my wayward ways under wrap, but also where I am not afraid to satiate my magpie-eye from time to time.

09. Deal with my anxiety. Probably another something to go more in-detail about in the future but I feel like one of the pivotal points of this year gone past is just the understanding that yes, anxiety is something that I am actively dealing with. Just the realisation of that alone is an awfully big step and I know fully well that it will take time to understand more about why this is a part of my life, and how to handle it when it rears it's ugly head.

10. Visit Bee, Nick and Buttercup in Los Angeles. It's laughable; absurd; completely outrageous that my best girl and brain-twin, as well as her husband and pup, have lived in California for almost two years and I still am yet to make a visit to the place that they now call home. Outrageous! Nothing is set in stone but I know for a fact that this is likely to be one of the last tasks I can cross off of this list with certainty, as I hope to finally make that visit at the end of June next year. Obviously saving the best for last, aren't I?

11. Keep an ongoing record! Trust me, I don't need anybody to tell me that I am absolutely horrendous at sticking to anything. But until the clock strikes midnight on my 31st birthday next July, I am adamant that I will be able to look back on the year gone by in at least one fashion. Any of which are yet to be determined, by the way. However, I have a little notion lingering on the edge of my brain telling myself that I will try to blog once a week. And I really will try; it doesn't sound so impossible really, does it?

I will leave you with a song that signifies exactly what I wish to be: perpetually in motion. Always trying to achieve the best version of me. Never giving up; not even trying to. It fills me with hope and strength and ignites a fire in my to fulfill my dreams, big and small. And I think that you should listen to it too.