When I’ve reached a grand old age and – like any self-respecting old lady – I am surrounded by an army of cats; I will look back over my life and remember the following things: living in multiple houses around the world; people I loved; the ones I lost – those that stayed; friends; holidays; plane, train and bus journeys; and the students whose names I will have long-forgotten, but whose faces I will always remember.
Yes, I will remember an active life of fun and adventure. Yet as I’m musing my mind will drift to 2018-2019 and I’ll think ‘what the hell happened there?’
The Best of Times: The Worst of Times
Charles Dickens opened ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ with the following paradox: ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’, which presents a conundrum: how can you simultaneously experience both the best and the worst year of your life? Well, in 2018-2019, I did. I had a breakup. New people entered my life – some who stayed, some who arrived so powerfully they took my breath away, only to vanish as quickly as they’d appeared. There was a worrying illness in the family. People I thought might understand – empathise even -walked away, and I dreaded going into work. I struggled with loneliness and depression.
Moreover, I started running whenever I felt sad or lonely, so I ran until it became an obsession. Channelling all that negative energy into running resulted in the 9 medals hanging proudly on my bedroom wall. I learned how to turn my sadnesses into victories, as well as appreciating that my really good friends were those who reached into the darkness and led me back out. I learned the importance of kindness – that you never really know what is going on inside somebody’s head, so just be nice. Always. What’s more, I learned that life clears your path to make way for a better one. Lesson learned – thank you, 2019.
Mid-life Meltdown, or Existential Crisis?
You might be wondering why I’m writing this on a travel blog. Well, because I began this blog when I was travelling, but I’m not a traveller now – not a full-time one, anyway. For the last year, I’ve been figuring out who I am. When I turned forty in February, I had a mid-life meltdown at best, an existential crisis at worst – I saw myself as an abandoned, unmarried, child-free (sounds better than childless), newly turned 40-year old woman working out her role in a society that still asks women like me ‘what’s wrong with you?’ I beat myself up for being a failure.
Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must. But, never, ever, give up.
Thankfully, seven months after the Big Birthday, I no longer feel like a failure. My turning point was the starting line of the Stockholm Marathon in June, having signed up after a particularly inspiring TEDx talk less than a month earlier. When I Googled ‘Can you prepare for a marathon in 30 days?’, the answer was, unsurprisingly, ‘NO!’, but the speaker had encouraged us to challenge ourselves, so I registered. At the time, I was barely eating and a damaged knee on my first long training-run ended any more training before the event. I knew it was a race I couldn’t (and shouldn’t) run, but that I was going to try.
Minutes before the countdown, a singer sang Whitney Houston’s ‘One Moment in Time’ and if ever a song encompassed my life as it was – this was it: “I want one moment in time when I’m more than I thought I could be. When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away, and the answers are all up to me.”
She said she could, so she did
As Whitney sings in the song, I raced with destiny that day, finishing a marathon that I should never have been running with an hour and 10 minutes to spare.
And just like that, my paradigm shifted and life changed – I am capable of anything.
As you may have noticed, I’ve been away from blogging for a while, but I’m coming back now. I enjoy writing – even if nobody is reading, but I have changed: I’m not a travel blogger anymore. I’m a teacher; an expat; a traveller; an unmarried and child-free 40-year-old woman; a runner; and a MARATHON FINISHER! Today, I said something profound in the staff room, so maybe I’m a wise woman too.
I’ll still write about travel (starting with Malta, Cyprus, and an epic US road-trip), but expect posts about living and working overseas, teaching in an international school, adventures with friends, and more about life in general – because, right now, life is better than it’s ever been. And with that, I’m about to get on a plane.
Happy Weekend, all!
Thanks for all wise words! Glad for you that you love your life again!
I’m often have a question for my self and my husband: do you like your life like it is now or do you want to change anything? It’s important to answer that question so you don’t sit there when you’re old an ask, why didn’t I do it?
Thanks, Lillemor – you are a wise woman! I will ask myself (and those closest to me) that question more regularly from now on. I think too many of us trundle through life, afraid to ask that question because we know that an honest answer will force us to act. Change is hard, change is uncomfortable, but it’s pretty much always necessary!
Your marathon inspired me to get out and run and that’s no small feat! I’m so glad you’re feeling better and I hope your brave words above help someone that needs it. You’re always welcome wherever I am.
Awww, thank you! And thank you for being there for me a few nights before when I did not think I could do it. I love that you ran because of me! I will be in Sweden at the end of October and would love to see you if we can arrange it.
Love, love, love this post. When life hssvthrown me curved balls it’s usually taken me a lot longer to figure it out (once it took me 14 years!), so this old lady (sadly without pets currently) looks back with embarrassment at a pretty long stretch. I’m so happy for you that you didn’t have to wait that long!! But even in those bleak spells seeds are planted we don’t always notice at the time ? I can’t stop smiling thinking about you. Please do give me a ring if you ever pass by this way again!
Do you know that I think of you an awful lot, Linda? When I look back at people who came into my life, I am always a little sad that my time with you was so very short. And the things that you have said to me in the past two years have been significant in helping me figure things out. I would love to come by and see you! Thanks for your kind words.
Your bravery, honesty and indomitable spirit are truly inspiring. When you thought you were at the lowest point, life threw yet more at you. Bu you fought back. I am so excited at the new turn your blog will take. You write so well, touching on emotions that we have all felt, that there there will definitely be many, many readers. Good luck with it.