I know, it’s a little ridiculous that I am only now blogging about what 2013 meant to me. One month into the new year and here it is. To tell you the truth, it was a difficult one for me to write. I didn’t think it would be, but it was, and that’s why it took awhile. Two thousand and thirteen was an enormous year for me in every way, so trying to fit a year of reflection into one post was not an easy task. Nevertheless, here it is! And I’m going to pre-warn you that it is a long one!
Wow 2013! You were everything I thought you’d be and more. The positives, the negatives, the ups, the downs – I anticipated you were going to be one hell of a roller coaster ride and you delivered on it and I don’t regret any of it. Last year was a year of major life lessons and self-reflection. It has been my biggest year yet – from my personal life to my career. Every facet of my life saw big changes and taught me valuable lessons. It was also most certainly a huge year of self-discovery and personal growth.
I found myself to be in survival mode for much of the first half of 2013. Still reeling from the aftershock of my separation, I was just hoping and praying that I’d survive each day – that I’d wake up, that I’d get through the day without crying, that I’d get through the day without the desperate feeling of just wanting to sleep forever, that I’d get through the day without feeling the weight of the world on my heart and shoulders. Those first few months was almost all about focusing on getting through basic life like making sure I was getting proper food into my body, getting fresh air, getting some sort of sleep, making it to work so that I’d still have a job. It was tough. The lows were low. But there were some highs too. In April, I spent a week in Hong Kong with a handful of girlfriends – it was the most fun I’d had in six months. It was also a giant leap for me, with that trip being the first time in ten years that I’d traveled without the jackass. I was doing it purely for myself – I felt extremely liberated. Free. When I returned from Hong Kong, I remember dipping into a low fairly quickly. The six month mark of my separation was a doozy. I remember attempting to go for a run but I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I sat by the foreshore in my running attire, staring out at sea as I texted my best friend saying, “It’s been six months and it’s still so hard. When will it get easier?”. In that moment, my heart felt like it was bleeding. Still bleeding from all the hurt. I was still very lost, still very confused.
The first half of 2013 saw me make some of the greatest progress in my career. The breakdown of my marriage kickstarted my instinct to survive and part of that instinct was to throw myself completely into my career. By that point, I’d been in my job for almost two years and it was a job I loved. A job I still love today. And I work with some amazing people as I’ve mentioned many times on here. Shortly after my separation, in January, a fantastic job opportunity presented itself within my team, a position that I had my eye on for some time. I went through three rounds of interviews but unfortunately missed out on the opportunity. Initially, being unsuccessful at attaining the position got me down and left me feeling extremely disheartened and discouraged. But as soon as I processed it all, accepted the situation for what it was, I took a step back and it gave me the perspective I needed. The experience I encountered through those several rounds of interviews as well as the lessons it all taught me over those few weeks, only proved to me just how determined I am and how it didn’t matter whether I got the job or not – it was the fact that I gave it my all, I fought for it and I did my best, that mattered. I could have easily passed up on the opportunity of fighting for it with the simple reason that I just wasn’t ready to go through the stress of interviews given the circumstances I was in with my marriage. But no, I didn’t let my separation hold me back, I didn’t let it dictate my career path, I didn’t let it stand in my way.
The second half of 2013 saw peace enter into my life a lot more. The bad days seemed less frequent. And there were many, many beautiful moments. There was less mourning. There was less crying. There was less anger. That’s not to say that those emotions no longer appeared. They definitely did make an appearance every now and then. But it was just less frequent. There was a lot more acceptance. The clincher for the second half of 2013, and in actual fact for the entire year, would have to be my travels around Italy and France throughout August and September. They were life-changing for me. Those five weeks taught me more life-lessons than I ever learnt in my 32 years of life. Traveling solo for the first time in foreign, non-English speaking countries, pushed me outside of my comfort zone every single day of the five weeks I spent traveling. Some of the most challenging parts of my travels were eating alone and being alone for long periods of time. I have to say that the eating alone part was difficult at the beginning but as the weeks went by, I think I mastered it. The long periods of solitude were tough. Not because I didn’t like being alone – I would never have decided to travel alone otherwise. I love my own company. But being so very far away from the familiarity of home, friends and family was tough. Being alone made it tougher. But I got through it and I learnt to love it. I wouldn’t change any of it and I’d do it again, for sure.
My ten days in Paris saw me experience some of the most inspiring moments of my life. Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the very first time was a major life moment for me. I saw it on my very first day in Paris and I am pretty sure it solidified and validated every ounce of love I already had for the city that I’d only just met. I didn’t realise it then, but the Eiffel Tower is probably the greatest and most fitting representation of everything that I have endured and overcome since the end of my marriage. Being in Paris was a dream fulfilled – I had never felt more alive, more in the moment, more empowered and inspired than I did the moment my eyes rested on the Eiffel Tower. I looked at her and said to myself, “I did it. I’m here. I can do anything”. It was a powerful moment and may very well be the most powerful moment I’ll ever have. And as if Paris couldn’t get any more inspiring, it did. I had booked myself to go on a photography tour of Paris and it was something I’d been looking forward to for months. When it came time for it, I pleasantly learnt that I was the only one who signed up for it. So there I was in the middle of Paris, on a one-on-one photography tour with an amazing photographer. She was an Irish photographer living in Paris and as we walked the streets of Paris that day, not only did I learn some excellent photography skills, she managed to light the photography spark in me. As we took a break from taking photos and sat in an empty Parisian cafe sipping on hot chocolates, she told me her story – three years prior, she made the decision to quit her day job working with horses to move to Paris to start a course in photography. She had no prior photography experience – the closest she’d ever come to photography was Instagram. She didn’t even own a DSLR. She packed up her Irish life, moved to Paris, completed the year long course and ended up graduating top of her class. A class that started with students very much like herself with the difference being that they had some photography experience. So, the fact that she was top of her class without any experience, made me pretty much fall in love with her. In a non-creepy, non-sexual way. Just to be clear. It was two years ago that she finished the course, and at the time we sat in that Paris cafe, she’d already been doing wedding photography for two years. I left her that Paris evening feeling so inspired to do something with photography myself. She showed me the true meaning of courage, persistence, determination and ambition. She showed me what it meant to follow your dream. To actually do it. To make it happen. There is honestly no greater way to get inspired than to be face-to-face with someone who has genuinely pursued their passion and their dream. I left Paris with a whole new perspective on following dreams and with a greater desire to cultivate my love for photography.
So, what else did 2013 leave me with? It proved to me that I am a survivor first and foremost. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this strong and confident within myself. To know that I could be thrown a curveball the magnitude of what was the end of my marriage and to survive such heartbreak and come out the other side stronger than ever – that is only a testament to the human spirit. To my spirit. And my spirit may have been broken temporarily but nothing could keep it down for long. I spent so much of 2013 finding myself. I worked hard at healing my heart as best as I could, I did my best to listen to what it was telling me. I re-evaluated many areas of my life, I worked on parts of myself that needed work on, I worked on being in control of my hurt and anger. I slowly discovered me again and I slowly learnt to identify myself as myself. Something that doesn’t necessarily come so naturally having been in a long-term relationship. I practised consistent self-love and focused a lot on what I wanted and what I needed. And though I found myself to be extremely protective of my heart and emotions, rightfully so, I also worked hard at learning to let go. Letting go of fear, of hurt, of my past was probably one of the most difficult things I did in 2013. It’s still something I’m working on even today, but as 2013 came to an end, I found myself letting go a lot more. The subject of letting go deserves a separate post on its own, no doubt. The year also taught me lessons in the choices we have when we has human beings are presented with a situation. In my case, I had the choice of going down the dark, destructive path of partying, alcohol, drugs and general misbehaviour – which probably would’ve been warranted to a degree. But I also had the choice of going down the path of light and love, of positivity, healing and moving forward. Which is exactly the path I chose. I acknowledged and accepted the fact that my marriage was no longer to be, and that the only way to go was upwards and onwards – there was much to be gained by moving forward. I had the choice of playing the victim or playing the heroin. I chose the latter. I wanted my story to be that of strength, dignity, self-respect and self-worth. I wanted my story to be that of grace and gratitude. Gratitude. If I had to sum up 2013 with one word, it would be gratitude. The end of my marriage gave me the gift of perspective. And with perspective comes gratitude. Gratitude in turn gave me the gift of being present. Present in my everyday life more than I’ve ever been in the past. Gratitude taught me to be in the moment and to truly appreciate all that I have in my life despite the challenges I face.
Despite the roller coaster ride that was 2013, it was a great year for me. There’s no doubting that. I loved every moment of it. Yes, even the downright difficult ones. For they make me who I am today. Those moments form part of my history, part of my story and part of my journey. I’m thankful for all that 2013 taught me and showed me. And I’m ever so grateful that it took care of me.