27 October, 2013

2013: The Year I Learnt to Adapt

If I have learnt one thing this year it is that we are amazingly adaptable. We go through life sort of collecting aspects of it – friends, hobbies, partner, job, house, kids – and for me there is always that vague feeling that if any of that unravelled or changed, I wouldn’t cope. Yet on we go, with life constantly throwing curveballs and although we may struggle inside when it does, for the most part we just get on with it, and for a lot of us we actually get on really well.

As someone who clings to routine and struggles with change, I tend to look at other people who have gone through big, unplanned changes in their lives and wondered how they would adapt, how they would come out the other side and still be themselves and actually happy. I am always so impressed when a few weeks, months, 1 year down the line they are not only fine, but better. I view other people’s ability to adapt as somehow superior to my own; ‘I wouldn’t have been able to do it’.

Something I struggle with a bit is flexibility and not freaking out when things go tits up. I am not even talking big things, I mean really small things sometimes. Not because I expect life to be perfect all the time, believe me I know how imperfect life can feel, but because I panic slightly about how things are going to turn out. The challenges life has thrown at me this year all seem to have been around that, around my ability to adapt and go with the flow. It is definitely a challenge I needed, and while I’m not quite there yet, I am learning and I always have faith that every bruise is a lesson I needed.

This year alone I have moved house, changed jobs, moved to a new side of town very different from what I have always been used to, had to largely sacrifice my running and at times completely give up exercise, been unemployed for a whole summer, gone from feeling fairly flush to having not a penny to my name, been 3 months without a salary, experienced some of my relationships drastically changing and really had to let go of a lot of the routine stuff I had become so dependent on. If someone had told me in January all this was waiting for me I would have gone back to bed and given this whole year a miss.

But despite all these changes that have happened, I have still achieved so much of what I wanted to when 2013 first rolled in and probably been happier than ever. I am driving (yay!), my relationship has progressed to a strong and steady space, I have adjusted to a very new living environment, I have learnt not to rely on money, I have built new friendships and I've taught myself to break from exercise as soon as I need it and not panic about what that means. That was a point I knew I really needed to get to – the ability to go easy on myself.  Yeah I have had to let go of old routines, but new routines have taken their place, they just aren’t all about me anymore. All of this is good progress. It is progress which has been really hard work, and with all the changes to my landscape it has been more than a challenge at times. I have suffered with stress and injuries and illness and heartache, but I’ve proved to myself that I can go through difficult things or awkward changes and still be happy and still achieve the things I hope for.

I still have a way to go, but for the final few months of this year I’m going to try and learn from my experiences. Some areas of my life are still clutter and discord, but I am trying my best not to panic about what would happen if this or that, and try to let go a little more of the things I feel bind my life together, because really those things don’t bind my life together – I do. I have surprised myself this year with what the changes I have adapted to, some more easily than others, and sometimes with a massive side-order of stress, but here we are in nearly November and I finally feel like I am swaying back to more of a stand-still. Yeah I may have been a bit ruffled from time to time as I have struggled to adapt, but my feet are still firmly on the ground and I have come up rosier than I could have dreamed. Maybe I can cope after all.

If you can see even the biggest of challenges and obstacles as something that you know you need (even if you don’t know why) it makes it so much easier to take, and in viewing hard situations in that way, you stand a great chance of turning it into something brilliant. 

05 October, 2013

My Girl and I: when your best friend is getting married x

Next year, in around 9 months time,  my beautiful best friend is getting married. That right of passage we all look forward to, and it's happening. NEXT YEAR! My Best Friend's Wedding! Every time this thought pops into my head, I get a bubble of excitement in my tummy and the threat of tears in my eyes, because quite frankly this is the most exciting thing that has happened to me. Yes, to ME! The wedding of course is all about her, them, the most perfect couple you could ever imagine (I know everyone says this but REALLY!), but as one of her 4 lucky bridesmaids, I am proof of just how much the beauty of a wedding radiates beyond the couple in question, to all the people close to them.

When Harriet asked me to be her bridesmaid (at my 27th birthday, with all my best ones around me) it knocked me sideways - in a good way. I felt and still feel so blessed to be involved in the marriage of such a fantastic couple, both brilliant as individuals and as a team. But beyond that it just touched me to feel so valued by them. I mean, you kinda hope that's the case with your best mate, but nothing screams WE LOVE YOU more than being included in their special day. So I cried, obviously.

I am yet to meet someone with Harriet's energy - both in terms of the amount of it and her disposition, she's so warm and confident in the best way possible, and makes everyone around her feel comfortable and protected. If you want a drink she jumps up to get it, if you need a shoulder she is there in a heartbeat, if you are having a little life crisis and have your lost your way, she guides you back and sees the best in you when you can't even see it in yourself. She is someone who is so naturally inspired to be there for other people, that she doesn't even know she's doing it, and she is hands down the most selfless person I have had the privilege to know. As you can see, I am constantly bragging about how amazing Harriet is, and she is even better as a friend.

The history of my friendship with Haz hasn't been conventional. We met on the other side of the world for one thing. In a hostel in Noosa - a tiny posh town in Australia which I visited for all of about 36 hours. She walked in, aged 18, with the confidence of a 27 year old, tanned, a ball of energy and smiles, easy-going and completely 100% content in roaming around Australia by herself. In stark contrast I was a bit of a pasty nervous wreck, with a mass of frizzy beach hair, on the verge of tears at most times, feeling lonely at roaming around Australia by myself. Haz took me for a drink that night and I was probably boring, quiet, tired, obsessed with getting home to the UK. We parted ways a few days later, but she always stuck in my mind as someone who I admired.

Little did I know that I would find myself bumping into her a few times at the university we both attended in Sheffield, and that within 5 years, a year after I graduated, I would be occupying the 8th bedroom in her house of 7 friends. I had graduated, they were all final year students, and it was a mad couple of months in every way. Easily the most unbalanced and lost I have ever been, I partied all week with the students whilst trying to hold down a job which I did enjoy, I spent all of my peanuts salary on Jaeger Bombs, regularly went into work hungover and found myself in debt, lost and isolated as my reckless ways alienated me from the rest of the group.  I was stuck in a dark, toxic cycle and apart from my family and friends who were all 200 miles away, Harriet was my only light.

Some time later, when all the signs screamed at me to change something, I did the decent thing and moved out and on, formed a proper young professional life in a proper young professional house in a nice part of town and actually did the 9-5 thing. Early nights, the gym, healthy meals, the Friday feeling. I found my way back, but not without the enormous help of Haz. While those few months were fairly crazy, Harriet was pretty much a constant.  She had to be there for me a lot very early on in our friendship, but somehow she knew without knowing that my behaviour was out of character and pretty much carried me back to a point I could start again from.

Although I moved on, my friendship with Harriet stuck, and blossomed and grew, as I was finally the person she knew I could be and I was able to give her the best of myself. In the years since, Harriet has never failed to amaze me with her generosity and warmth, I honestly can't fault her as a friend. She's driven over from Manchester just to have dinner with me on a random Wednesday, she's dropped everything to wine with me on a Friday night when I was feeling down, she's called me instantly whenever I have needed her, within 2 hours of my new job offer, there were flowers from her at my door. She has championed me and encouraged me to the point I am finally properly confident and finally treat myself with the respect that I should - I am under no illusions, I know I massively owe it to her. She's been both my rock and my role model.  Harriet is proof that you get back what you put out into the world, and the reason she has found such everlasting love is because she is constantly giving to other people, is so selfless and grounded, and expects absolutely nothing back.

Needless to say, I am quite beyond bursting with pride and cannot wait to see her tie the knot in 2014. I even bought the most perfect wedding acceptance card about 3 months ago (haven't had my invite yet) and I am planning my entire year around what is going to be one of the most memorable moments of my lifetime - my Haz marrying her more than deserving man.