Monday 01/01/18: I’m in a happy bloated place after a surprisingly decent New Year’s day lunch and the talk of resolutions has reminded me of one of my first blogs. It was in September, in the last few days of my life at Shell, and I’d set out a list of targets to achieve in my upcoming six month mini-sabbatical. It was to be the first six months off I’d had in 14 years so I wanted to get as much out of it as possible. I called the post “The Four Epiphanies” (’cause I’m a pompous prima-donna) and in a nut shell, I wanted to be happier in, and with, myself. Considering I’ve not been able to get a handle on these personality traits for 35 years, it was always going to be a lot to ask of a six month’s jolly, but let’s see where I’m at with two months to go when there’s still potential to fix it:
1 Stop Being Such a Control Freak. I went to Africa with a detailed itinerary (3-pages, front and back) stapled in to the front sleeve of my diary like a proper little girl-scout. It included things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see; details of local telephone numbers; possible travel options and expected timelines; addresses for hostels that I liked the look of; estimated costs; blah blah blah… In case I lost it, I had a photo of this behemoth travel guide saved to my phone. And also to my Gmail account. In addition, I was armed with a stonkingly heavy Lonely Planet Guide for Southern Africa (which didn’t even cover two of my five countries) that could handily act as a door-stop or as a weapon against would-be assailants. As I was traveling alone, I wanted to be super sure that I didn’t end up in the back-end of nowhere with no ideas on what to do/how to escape. Happily, as I started my journey, it became less of an itinerary and more like a list of ideas that could change depending on my mood, suggestions from fellow travellers, or discoveries from talking to local people. I would have missed out on so many awesome days if I’d rigidly stuck to my plan.
At home, amongst my friends, I’m mocked for a diary (paper, proper old school) that is fully booked months in advance. You wanna go for dinner? Cool! I have a free spot in six weeks’ time! Oh, you want a Saturday? Pff! <flicks forward another fourteen pages>
I can’t help it! I like to keep busy generally and I’d hate to miss out on stuff because I hadn’t planned in advance and didn’t book tickets or accommodation in time. Only now, I’m starting to wonder about all the spontaneous weekends and nights out that I’ve missed.
So this has developed in to something interesting, an epiphany if you will. I like being organised but I don’t think that’s such a bad thing any more and I’m going to stop feeling guilty about it. I get lots done and I love my life! I do, however, recognise that while some organisation and control is great, this in itself needs managed. It’s all about balance. Or as the inspirational Sri Sri Ravi Shankar succinctly puts it, “One who can learn to flow with the current, as well as manage it, is the successful one”.
I see the same trait in others, particularly the volunteers here in Nepal. I see how much pressure they’re putting themselves under. Yes, it’s important to achieve what you want but you mustn’t forget to stop, take a breath and allow others to help influence things around you. This isn’t a cop-out; I’m not talking about just sitting back and waiting for life to happen to me, but I know I can, ever so slightly at least, release this white-knuckled grip I have on the rollercoaster of life!
Epiphany #1 progress check: Getting there, slowly slowly, but I’m going to let it naturally develop (or not!) ’cause you know, I’m just so chill now.
2. Get Over My Weak Stomach. Tick! Backpacking in Africa definitely helped with this but it was saying the word diarrhoea forty-seven times in one day to numerous Nepalese doctors/volunteers/officials/passers-by that finally bottomed this out. See “All hail the NHS!” for the miserable poo-roof. I can now proudly discuss bowel movements and listen to the delightful phlegmy sound of people hawking on the street (both a sorry necessity here) without gagging.
Epiphany #2 progress check: A big doo-doo DONE!
3. Learn The Art of Patience: Hahaha! Nowhere near! While I was travelling, I was noticeably more patient. You have to be patient in Africa or you’d crumble in to a bubbling mess (62-hour train ride, anyone?). Being patient, however, while on your dream holiday with no pressures, no commitments and access to all-day alcohol, is a whole heap easier than trying to navigate through the bureaucracy and inefficiencies of a developing country (particularly while sober). In addition, volunteering for an NGO is so far removed from working in the corporate world (as was to be expected) that it will have to form its own separate, long-winded ranty blog.
“TIA” (This Is Africa) was cute when I was travelling but when you’re trying to get stuff done, the Nepalese equivalent, “Nepali time” makes me tear my hair out. Starting a meeting 60 – 90 minutes after the scheduled time is enough to test even Buddha’s patience. It’s early days though and we’re still finding our groove. Timekeeping, speed, haste – it all does, admittedly, feel a little out of place in a land such as this, with its pace of life so gentle and a people so sweet that it might yet (hopefully) erode my hurry and lull me in to a suitable zen-like state.
Epiphany #3 progress check: Best bet might be meditation if I can’t find any strong sedatives while I wait for zen to kick in.
4. Figure Out What I Want To Do With The Rest Of My Life: If only it were that easy! I am closer, at least, to understanding myself better. My original goal asked to establish what’s important to me and that’s getting clearer, so here goes…
I love travelling but man, I love Glasgow and Scotland – I’ve been so patriotic since I left (despite actually being English!). I’m ready to settle down and do the grown-up thing now. I enjoy making my own decisions but I need to let others in. I like helping people succeed with their own ambitions. My opinion is valid. I’m a far better manager now than I was when I was younger. I’m good at pulling people together. I’m a hard worker. I enjoy writing. I care about people. I still hate faffing. I do not suffer fools gladly. I’m dedicated to things I believe in. I need my me-time and my own space. My friends are far more important to me than I previously understood. I like being busy and organised. I can do anything that I put my mind to.
Epiphany #4 progress check: Slowly piecing it all together but open to suggestions if anyone wants to give me a job/flat/wedding proposal around March?
Two months to go…