This week I notched up another birthday. It was not a big one… Forty is still some way off and something I may start worrying about in June 2014. But after the sea changes of the past twelve months, 38 felt like a birthday worth marking.
The past year has been a time of many changes in my life and I have been intensely aware of shifts, large and small. By going more slowly, I have seen the rippling effects of changes in priorities. I have had the time and space to observe myself in the world and my interaction with my surroundings, the environment, other people and my own hopes and anxieties… On the one hand, I have enjoyed watching my interests and priorities develop and my mind and body grow calmer. On the other, I have witnessed a rekindling of simple pleasures that delighted me as a seven-year-old as well as principles that fired me up as a teenager. In short, I feel as if I have moved on, come home, and set out again each day… in many ways and for many reasons. Below are just a few.
Ten things I have realised
- My siblings are the best part of my parents’ legacy!
- Growing is more fun than figuring out what I shall be when I grow up.
- I may criticise my country, I may never feel fully at home here, I may rile against its infrastructure and institutions… but after revisiting life in continental Europe, I know that I want to live here.
- There is no reason to stay in a career just because you are good at it.
- Leaving the law is a whole lot easier than most lawyers would have you believe (and as all ex-lawyers will tell you).
- De-cluttering gets easier with practice – I have not regretted letting go of anything I have given away, not even books!
- Most people are happy for you to pick their brains.
- It is easier to break a bad habit by developing a good one.
- There is no perfection in gardening – there are just too many variables – and, anyway, perfection is not the point. There are so many other rewards.
- There is no point investing in a summer wardrobe in the UK (no matter how much the fashion industry tries to persuade us otherwise).
Ten things I have discovered
- I can still run. What is more, I actually enjoy running!
- Potatoes are not just bland starch, not when you lift them in the afternoon and eat them in the evening.
- It is possible to deliver a home-made three-tier wedding cake to a Limerick wedding without a car.
- Despite my initial reservations, I like Twitter. (I am still not sure about Facebook though.)
- I can watch my cats for hours. Their behaviour, responses and little peculiarities are endlessly entertaining.
- I like colour – something I discovered thanks to photography and Vivienne McMaster’s e-courses in particular.
- It is possible to wean oneself of a double espresso habit. And I feel much better for it!
- Yoga lessons are not just about the 60 minutes on the mat. Yoga’s lessons kick in during the painful stretch of a run, when struggling with violin exercises, on crowded buses and during relaxing walks.
- Skip-diving is quite fun, especially seeing the baffled looks on respectable neighbours’ faces when they spot me picking out old sash windows, planks of wood, pallets…
- Making sourdough bread is not a chore, it is relaxing.
Ten things I still believe
- Accepting Mr M’s proposal of marriage was the best thing I ever did!
- When faced with injustice, inequality or indifference, we cannot do everything but we can all do something, and often more than we think.
- Investing in friendship, food and learning is never wasted.
- Information labels can change buying habits: food; clothes; household goods; cleaning, laundry and garden products…, which is why corporates lobby so hard against them.
- Reading around a subject is always more rewarding than slavishly ticking off a reading list.
- BBC Radio 4 alone is worth the licence fee.
- Most people are fundamentally decent.
- The world needs less specialists and more interdisciplinary generalists.
- A cup of tea works wonders!
- Cleaning may be therapeutic (although am still not fully convinced) but a peck of dirt in your lifetime does you no harm.
Five projects for the coming year
- Finish my masters.
- Set up a community garden or a community of micro-gardeners.
- Formally launch my millinery business.
- Turn the shed into a potting shed with a water-harvesting system.
- Re-enter the job market.
And a few things I have (reluctantly) accepted
- Sometimes, fit-for-purpose is good enough.
- I can no longer wear high heels (without paying the price the next day).
- I shall always file my tax return with minutes to spare.