This post was written on July 14th, 2012.
I woke with a bolt this morning, body and mind jolting me into consciousness simultaneously. “I made it!” I thought excitedly and with a dawning freshness that comes from realizing that the slate is indeed clean. “Twenty-nine.”
Today is my birthday. Perhaps it was the coffee I drank at 5pm yesterday, but more likely it was the awareness in my mind and body that today, fourteenth July 2012, marks an important milestone for me. I’m not the kind of person to make a big deal of birthdays externally – I’m pretty lax when it comes to even getting a card to my nearest and dearest on their days, let alone a present, and I rarely do anything special or ‘big’ to celebrate my own day.
However, one thing is sure: I will take time to reflect, connect with myself and zoom out for a moment, getting a bird’s eye view on my life, going back and marvelling for a while, and giving myself a jolly good pat on the back for everything I’ve achieved and what I’ve come through, both in my life and over the last year. It’s an organic process; my waking up at 4.30am today wasn’t consciously intended, but it somehow seems inevitable. As I nodded off last night, the clock nearing the chime of twelve, I bid au revoir to the closing of the last twelve months. ‘Goodbye, 28’… and into dreamland I went.
Twenty-eight was pretty darn good to me. I told Nige as we said our goodnights that if I were to die at this point in my life, that I would feel satisfied with it. I’ve had a good innings and I already feel a sense of completion. I wouldn’t be dying with regrets on my lips and heaviness in my heart. I’ve overcome enough obstacles in my life, have woken up on thousands of days and have wanted to live my purpose, have lived spontaneously and expressively, have loved, been heartbroken, and have gone on a journey of the soul to reclaim my wounded childhood self that has been so painful, so challenging and so integrity building that I know that I have already been, seen, felt and done enough. If I weren’t to wake up this morning, I thought last night, I would be really okay with that.
There is an immense freedom in this. I don’t feel bound by the weight of things not yet achieved. No house? So what. No public recognition of my outstanding achievement to humankind? I don’t need to prove my worth, thank you very much; my life is precious beyond description and I have made an enormous impact simply by trying to move through the umpteen layers of fear that have paralysed me and return to, and then extend, love. So I haven’t spent the last ten years building a high flying corporate career for myself. But I have come to a place where I know – or perhaps sense is a better word – in my whole body, that I’m where I’m meant to be when I’m teaching. And along the way I’ve worked in artificially lit offices, have travelled to Hong Kong, have waited on tables and served pints, have stacked and cleared and merchandised, weeded and punctuated and scrubbed, and have been disappointed many a time by the words, ‘We regret to inform you that your application’…
You’ve been good to me. I met you at a time of internal turmoil, my life at a crossroads, my visibility lost. I didn’t know how to take a step forward. I only knew where I had come from was where I didn’t want to be. No more spreadsheets. No more pretending. No more sales targets. No more stress imposed from a job I don’t love in the very marrow of my being.
I didn’t know what I stood for in terms of tangibles; I only knew what I didn’t want. And so, I gardened. I returned to teaching. I edited. I wrote articles for a fledgling fashion-based business, duping them into thinking I was actually a fashion conscious young professional. And slowly, my professional life fell into place. I did a 30 day challenge, choosing one project and focusing on bringing it to life in thirty days. I started a women’s circle, and became overwhelmed with the old, familiar mindtrap – do they like what I’m doing? Do they like me? Am I good enough? I’m not qualified to do this. I’m not confident in what I have to offer. I’m less than. I’ve lost all desire to do it. The circle fell away, and a sense of disappointment set in; once again, I had bottled it, driven more by my deep beliefs about myself than by my heart. In the process, I learnt that I have a big impact on people, especially women – my choosing not to run a group one week left a lovely lady feeling vulnerable and abandoned, as she had turned up for the first circle two weeks prior to that and had poured her heart out into the space, making it truly sacred. I found out that another lady in the circle didn’t plan on coming again, and my confidence was shattered. I let myself draw all the conclusions and in the process, hurt another human being, someone who genuinely needed the space I was offering.
I forgive myself and move on.
Teaching English as a foreign language jumps back into my life in the form of a hectic summer school job. It ends in August, as these things do, so it’s quite a surprise to find myself teaching at a new school in October, November, December, January, February, March and April… and then returning to the first school for April to June before coming ‘home’ to Regent Brighton again in July. I realise how much I adore teaching and at the same time, how ready I am to step up, especially after running away from leading the women’s circle. I look ahead, take a breath and apply for a Masters in Applied Linguistics. I’m offered an unconditional place based on my application alone. I defer and accept a place on a hands-on, practical teaching Diploma instead. I begin teaching online. I discover Marie Forleo, and years upon years of lack of direction, confusion and inability to choose one thing for fear of missing out on something else fall away to reveal a clear, vivid vision of what I want to commit myself to. My own business: an online English language school. I start a newsletter and get great feedback. I pay a lot of money to do an online marketing course, about online marketing and running a business.
I get married. I should backtrack and say that in my twenty-ninth year, I first get a beautiful engagement ring that sets my heart alight as much as my love for the man whose existence is my reason for wearing it. Things get rocky when my goddaughter is born as the mother instinct is awoken in me, but it settles down again and the way ahead is clear – connection with my soulmate matters more to me than whether I will want a baby in a few years’ time or not. I stop trying to figure it out.
And, we get married. Our wedding is simply beautiful. Planned in a week, handled with care, rooted in love. A fabulous wedding night in the gorgeous Alexander House hotel. And a really difficult first month of marriage, but something which I think we both begin to settle into as the second month passes.
I edit a book. It is long, hard, stressful and in the end, an amazing accomplishment.
And right before my 29th birthday, I let go of sugar. My soul leaks out of my eyes on a daily basis, hot and salty. This is a dark night of the soul and one in which I meet myself. It’s decision time – live or die. I choose to live. I rescue myself, be my own saviour, my own best friend. It’s fucking difficult, but I do it.
At twenty-eight, I also start weight training and continue to ride my bike with a bit more determination, a bit more focus and a bit more skill. I enter my first sportive and struggle like crazy. I watch my friend run her first 10k and sign up for one myself. I pound out my anger on the streets of Steyning, pushing, breathing, speeding, willing myself to keep going, keep going, keep going. Don’t stop, don’t slow down. Gotta get there, got to be fast. My knees swell and hurt, reminding me that I’m not in control. I don’t run the race. I’m okay with that.
I celebrate ten years clean and sober.
I choreograph a musical (!).
With my newly betrothed, I go to Italy on our honeymoon. A week of riding carbon, climbing winding mountainous roads, eating and being with my best pal Nige. Bliss.
And July rolls around, and I turn twenty-nine.
As I look back on the last year of my life, I feel an incredible sense of happiness. I once read in a Louise Hay book the affirmation ‘All is well in my world’. This feels incredibly true for me right now. Life moves forward, and because of some internal sense that this piece wasn’t finished, I wait until September to publish this. But it’s never too late.
Today might be the first day of the rest of my life, just as it is for you, but have I really considered that it might also be the last?
One day. No, in fact, one moment: it’s really all we’ve got. So as I sit here at 5:56am, candle burning, green tea and dressing gown accompanying me, the darkness slowly lifting outside, I decide that it’s time to press publish. My reflections on being 28 are not perfect, but they’re good enough.
What is it that you would like to take the leap and give birth to, today? And will you join me in feeling the fear and saying YES to it anyway?