Having been an adult for a number of years, there are certain things that I am confident that I have learnt. Things like that life is a long journey made up of destination checkpoints as determined by oneself. Things like that even though you’re aware of something being an issue like anxiety, it never truly goes away, no matter how much you work on it, it’s an ongoing relationship where some days feel better than others.
But what I do not know, is how things like this restless feeling keeps coming back. I do not know where it stems from, and I do not know how to live alongside it. It’s been sitting inside me like the ever-present rot during a wet and rainy winter, and it concerns me that there’s this feeling it may cause my house to fall apart.
Last night we went down to the river for a wild swim with my boyfriend and his old school friend. His old school friend lived locally and had invited a long a bunch of other parents that he knew through his children’s school. They were all lovely people and you can see knowing each other in their community gave them support, comfort and joy. To me, there was something that made me want to run away from it. There was something distinctly monotonal to me about their identities being British parents. Part of me is horrified at the thought of it if I were to ever have a child, knowing full well that if I had a child, this would probably be the type of community I would seek out. So what is it that makes me feel such an aversion? What am I seeking instead? Because every time I ask that question, all my brain does is come up with nothing. I long for the times in my 20s where I go out adventuring, meeting new people, being free to explore however, I am no longer that person. I have trouble reconciling how it is I “should be” vs what I have known vs what it is I want but do not know. Getting older is not easy. They say that the 20s are the time for you to figure out who you are and that 30s are when you have come to know yourself. Sure I know myself better in some ways but I certainly do not feel like I have it figured out. I feel since I’ve hit my 30s, I’ve had to try and figure it all out again with new doubts like “Am I too old to be wearing this crop top?”. It feels like if I’ve set myself off on one direction, I come to change my mind at a later stage.
Sometimes I’m envious of people like that group of parents. They know what it’s like and are making the most of their lives as parents and seem to be owning it. Perhaps they struggle with exactly how I feel, but then they’re probably distracted by their children screaming about something inane, or creating some sort of mess or chaos.
Is this restless feeling a sense of not belonging, or wanting to run away?
It’s taken me a while, but I slowly feel like I’m reaching a stage again where I feel capable of pushing physical and also mental limits.
I broke my ankle at the very start of the year, and was off my feet for weeks if not months. I barely left the house for the first two months. With such dominating condition, I guess it’s not surprising in hindsight how much that would affect me physically but also mentally. I became very used to being inactive and staying in which is very different to how I usually am. It also made me feel very trapped because I didn’t feel like I could go out, it took a lot of effort for a long while.
If I had to take a stab at explaining it, I would say because I was going through such an amount of physical pain, it left me with a reduced capacity to deal with any other discomforts. So I was drawn to easy and pleasurable experiences that did bring a degree of comfort. However, a life well lived (in my opinion) is one where one must become somewhat comfortable being uncomfortable because that is where the most personal growth occurs. For example, returning to rope climbing, I have been feeling more fear of heights and falling than I did before. That fear has always been there, but in the past I’ve been able to acknowledge the fear and climb past it. With no little amount of patience, I’m finally feeling a little closer to being able to do that again.
Another avenue in my life that provides mild discomfort is my recent uptake of Spanish lessons. Learning the language has always been something I would love to do but never known quite how to make a reality. I finally decided to bite the bullet and commit to a course and so far, it’s very early days, it seems to be going well. But one thing I do recognise is that you do also have to be uncomfortable in being unable to express yourself and still be willing to learn and be corrected. It’s amazing though, if embraced, how much progress you can make in a short time.
Life does gives us all knocks, but I am glad to have been able to navigate back to this point where I am seeing more progression. The other important point, is that the healthy way to look at progression is comparisons between where you were recently (maybe like 6 months or a year ago) rather than all time. Progression is about recognising the uptrend in performance and sometimes that may have fluctuations over “all time”. It’s just something I’ve had to remind myself of in an effort to be kinder to myself.
My life has radically changed since the last time I wrote. I’ve moved cities, bought a house and also changed jobs. Kind of crazy that it all ended up happening at the same time. It was definitely a lot of stress but now I am starting to enjoy the rewards of having made those changes.
The cities thing was always going to happen. London will always hold a special place in my heart and memories, but it was never the place to stay long term. Every location has a rhythm, a pace and London’s is just a bit too fast to sustain long term. It’s wonderful to visit though and I thoroughly intend to do so regularly to see friends and for work.
Moving to Bristol has been a great change so far. It’s just such a more relaxed place without having the sacrifice the fun things that we love about a city. It’s also allowed us to buy a cute little house which is something that would’ve never been an option in London. Well, not never been, but certainly would have to work a lot lot harder in order to be able to afford a house.
That part has been hard to get my head around. Having lived in London for so long, owning property was something that I had labelled in my mind as something that was unattainable (certainly to buy an actual house and by myself). So to actually do so is hard to wrap my head around. The living part is easy, our house is great and we’ve been able to decorate it into a lovely place to live. But it’s the understanding and realisation that I now own a house and have a mortgage, with a lovely man who I’ve been dating for a short two years with. My brain just goes “riiight… As if that’s happened”.
And then to top it all off, I managed to leave a job which I was constantly feeling overwhelmed and stressed and joined a company that I would’ve never thought I would be able to get a job at. I have only recently started so it’s early days but so far it’s been a real 180 in pace and I can see lots of potential in things I can do and achieve here which is exciting. Adjusting to a lower pace has been hard so far. I don’t think I’ve realised how wound up I’ve been by my last job and how that has lasted longer than I think it has. However I think it makes for a healthier long term. No one can feasibly sustain working under constant stress with a huge workload for an indefinite amount of time. And I look forward to acclimatising back to a slower, more varied pace in work.
Overall there’s been a lot of new starts and lots of changes. Reflecting on it now, it’s been a long time coming for that change of pace but at the end, I’m grateful for everything that enabled me to make those changes and choices, luck goes a long way but also allowing myself to take those steps which can be scary. Something to definitely look back and be proud of.
It’s six weeks into the new year and it’s been pretty eventful so far (despite a national lockdown). I’ve managed to break my ankle, catch covid, lock myself out of the flat (on crutches) and also had the water supply temporarily cut off without warning. But all in all, I feel pretty good.
I think in some ways, the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have felt so all encompassing in their isolation and how much they affect you, that more trivial or common mishaps in some ways breaks that doom and gloom feeling. Shit still happens. Life still happens, it’s just a little subdued right now.
Crazy to think we’re fast approaching one full year since I started working from home. Trying to remember how it felt back at that time, it felt like such a bizarre occurrence. There was such disbelief from friends, loved ones and also myself that it would last any longer than 4-6 months tops. And how we’ve all learnt since.
We’ve taken a lot from 2020 in terms of teachings, although definitely more of the tough love vein. My hope for 2021 is that we end this year having been able to implement those learnings and grow positively.
Anxiety is a funny thing. For me, I didn’t manage to put a name to that erratic feeling that made me mess up and fail on so many important occasions until my mid twenties going into my late twenties. People talk about it, and you hear about it. It just made me think about people who were of a nervous disposition. It’s hard to recognise that clenching of your stomach and the tightness of the chest you unknowingly feel is the same thing.
Recognising it for the first time wasn’t a formal process, the first time I recognised it as such, there definitely was a feeling that I was making it a bigger deal than it is – a running comment on the British culture I’ve been brought up with. Now that I’ve accepted what it is, it’s been helpful and freeing to realise all those job interviews I messed up at at the last hurdle, or the time I broke down in my grade 8 piano exam, or my three failed driving exams at 17 were all products of a deep anxiety that had not been managed and not because I was weak, or stupid, hopelessly flawed or a failure. It’s allowed me to do less beating myself up and put that energy into increasing self awareness and trying to manage the real cause of the issue.
It’s taken me a while to be able to catch my anxiety rising. The way I can best describe it is that I catch myself feeling erratic, like my lung capacity has diminished and I can’t breathe like I normally do. This usually causes my brain to panic and in the past has been the zone where my mistakes occur and I feel out of control. Once I recognise that feeling, that allows me to push my self awareness through my body and look for the tension I’m holding in my stomach and chest – the energy pushes my body forward and like it gathers on my forehead and chest. The main way I find I can combat it is to sit up and back (because usually I’m slightly hunched over) and take a long and deep breath in and then out. Repeat a couple of times if necessary but the breaths need to hit the bottom of my stomach expanding it down and releasing the tension that it held before. And that allows some calm to wash over me and neutralise the frenzy.
I now do not view that it is weak to have anxiety. It is just something that I know I have and that I have to conquer, every single time I put myself in a stressful position. That can be in work, in job interviews, whilst climbing, whilst out and about, whilst shopping. It is a part of me, but it doesn’t have to control me. And for being equipped with the self awareness and the tools to help combat it in the moment, it makes me feel more capable. I have learnt to conquer an obstacle within me and I will continue to conquer it each time.
Feels bizarre to hit a new decade. The realisation hit me only two days before the new year began. This year I will be three decades old, which is quite an overwhelming thought for some. It’s interesting speaking to friends in similar situations and seeing the breadth of reactions. One friend admitted they had gone to therapy because of anxieties about turning 30. They weren’t where they thought they’d be in terms of career or relationship/family. I guess that’s why it’s important to manage expectations and see the importance for setting goals (to encourage motivation and ambition) but accept that things may not quite go to plan.
For the most part, I have always had fairly little long term expectations of where I would be. At my roots, I am a dreamer so I have a thousand things I want to be, but the realist in me knows that I cannot be all of those things at once so I compromise by having an attitude of trying to be the dandelion puff that rides on the wind. Except, perhaps with a tad more self-determination.
A decade is a long time. 2010s saw me grow into an adult and learn some hard lessons. I wonder where 2020s will take me.
I remember when I was a young teenager, when coming across someone who was in their mid/late twenties and thinking “Wow, that’s so old! I’ll never get there”. It just seemed like such a distant concept that my mind couldn’t quite comprehend how I would get there.
Today, as a 28 year old, I look back and recognise that version of myself. I am no longer that person, but that person is part of me. The person I am today encompasses every single day and every single version of myself I have been but I am more than them. And the person I am today, will be less than the person tomorrow, next week and in a year’s time.
There is no wasted time, for all that you’ve learnt, thought and gained comes from the people you have been whether that’s been the life you wanted by design or lived but desperately wanted to get out of. Those circumstances have left you with the motivations and viewpoints you have now so as with so many things in life, acceptance is the key to be able to make peace with who you have been and are. This will enable you to harness all the powers you have in your fingertips. The person you are today is magnificent and I look forward to seeing who you are tomorrow.
Having never wanted to move here in the first place, never wanted to stay, never wanted to come back after travelling, I mean every word when I say I do not want to stay in London. I will truly be heartbroken if in ten years or maybe even five years time I am still here. But no matter how much I mean that, I also know there will always be somewhere in my heart for this city. Like a long term relationship, it has shaped and moulded my life in my years as a newly fledged adult. That will forever remain part of my identity. Like everything else that has influenced me in my life, I would not be the person I am without having been here. With nearly 7 years since I moved here, that’s a significant proportion of my life.
I write this as I sit on the bus home just going past Tower of London and going onto Tower Bridge. It is these moments when there is that moment of stillness as the almost empty bus sits in momentary traffic just in front of Tower of London that I think “I’m pretty lucky to be here”. This city swallows and spits out people everyday, and I am here, still standing. It’s a reaffirming message – you’re alright, you’ll be fine.
Expectation is such a double edge sword. On one hand, it helps give the motivation and confidence to fully commit to things because you expect to be able to do it. On the other hand, it does create this discord within oneself when you fail to meet your expectations. It’s so easy to fall into that rabbit hole of berating yourself and falling deeper into the vicious circle.
We all would do well to remind ourselves from time to time that we are not invincible and we are not limitless. To be able to listen to oneself and to take a more overview perspective to be able to see the upwards trend in progression is so important. Yes we should set goals and work with expectations but we are the only person we will ever get to be in this life. If you are keep knocking yourself down from not meeting expectations, to what purpose does that serve?
I still miss you. I can hardly believe it myself but I do. I’ve always found it tricky to let go and move on after relationships but I’ve never stuck around for long. It’s coming up to five months and I still feel a deep sense of loss when flashbacks ambush me or when I wonder about you. It’s slowly dawning on me that maybe it will always be that way.
It’s frustrating to be in this circle. I think about you, feel the sadness, get frustrated that it’s still so dominant but allow myself to feel in the hope that I’m working through it and thus it goes round.
I’m not pining. I’m pulling hard hours at work, see friends, climb, yoga and plan trips to escape the city. I joke, laugh, rant and cry. I’m a different person to the one I was already but emotionally I am still there.
I’ve worked through it rationally as much as I need to. I know I’m fine on my own, and I understand from an overall perspective things as they were, why things happened. But nothing helps this sense of loss that hits me in the core and I can’t shake.
The worst part of it all is that the person I miss isn’t even the you that you are now. Or even the you who you were five months ago when we broke up. I miss the you from almost a year ago (doesn’t time fly quickly?). The worst part of it is knowing the person I miss doesn’t even exist right now. I am mourning a memory. I have no precedent of how this goes. All I can do is see how it goes just to keep going.