Ch-ch-ch-changes & a quarter-life breakthrough

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It’s that time of the year again. Everything tastes of change – the air, the breeze, the extra shot of espresso in the morning. There’s something about the shift through autumn into winter that puts the year in perspective.

Maybe it’s the dwindling days, the twilight falling earlier and earlier, cool evenings making sleep come more easily. Or maybe it’s something else entirely, some giddy contagion as everything goes on the slide, withdrawing, mixing, transitioning towards a new year.

There’s a certain relief beneath the sense of an ending.

Last year had a thousand twists and turns. It’s been the year where anything could happen – time itself seemed compressed. Full of so many vertigo-inducing events crowded together that it became almost impossible to keep track of them, let alone understand how each might trigger more change, more disruption.

And that’s before thinking of the personal tumult. Ups and downs that made weeks pass like one unending earthquake.

But it was also the year I really learnt just how wickedly beautiful this life can be. How sweet it can taste. How different. 

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It was the year of transformation. Of undoing and upending. Old habits die hard but they do die. So whilst I may still bite my nails (dangnabbit), I’m also learning to get out of my own way. To start stop being my own worst enemy and start being my best friend.

It was the year of realising that self-acceptance and self-growth are two sides of the same coin. Sure, tomorrow, or next week, or next year, I may be more accomplished, more successful – more  but I don’t have to be there yet. I am all that I am. I am still growing. And that’s enough.

It was the year of really, truly seeing that I have a tribe. Of leaning on others and offering shoulders for them to lean on too. When I was younger I used to see the kids in the skate park by the Amersham library and wish I could join them. Used to feel more comfortable surrounded by strangers at a gig than I did in a classroom full of people I saw everyday. Then I started finding my people. Sure friendships shift, change in who and how over time. But each friendship grows in their own way. This year, they’ve kept me buoyant, kept me laughing despite the heartaches – and not just small laughter but the full-bellied, cheeks-hurt-from-smiling kind of laughter. Because of them, the last year has been a trapeze of real-life problems and true friendship without safety nets. It was the year of tears. Of breakthroughs. Of trust.

The thing is, I fell in love this year. 

Not with a guy (sorry boys) but with an idea of who I am and can be.

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When I declared my New Year Resolutions in the past, I said I wanted to be “the leading lady of my own life” (you know, like that line in The Holiday). And to be honest, whilst I’ve failed in several areas (these nails, srsly), this at least feels tangible.

Part of it comes down to little things – holding myself like I deserve to exist, talking like I deserve to be heard. “I might be wrong but have you considered this alternative?” isn’t half so powerful a statement as simply, “Let’s try this.” 

And part of it was about letting go.

Cleaning out those toxic relationships – because if they don’t make you wiser, better, stronger, happier; if they don’t make you feel valued or inspired or loved as you deserve to be loved – they’re not worthy of being in your story.

Throwing hands in the air and finally getting that ombre (hello team ginger).

Playing the same songs over and over until the rhythms beat a mantra in your blood.

Dancing until the sun came up followed by dawnlight conversations about nothing and everything.

Saying yes more than no but accepting that no is still an answer.

Doing things because of want not because of should.

Accepting that other people’s success does not undermine anything you’ve done or are doing or want to do. It doesn’t make you a support act, it makes you part of the show.

But most of all it was about realising change can only happen when you make it happen. 

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Tangents happen. Opportunities happen.

There are relationships and projects we will start that will go in directions we never expected or will have to put on pause. You don’t receive the funding. The team you need is delayed. Your partner in crime doesn’t want to uproot for your next adventure. Life jumps in to scatter even the best laid plans like a dog busting through freshly raked leaves.

This is okay. There are new paths hidden amongst brambles.

Because every so often, fate lands in our lap. A book you discovered just when you need to read it. A job offer arriving on the back of a single, unrelated conversation. Two strangers meeting on a Saturday night in an overcrowded bar and bringing out the best in each other – if only for a while

These moments are exciting.

But ultimately – everyday, you have to happen. Again and again. The decision to stop complaining and start doing. To put on your best hustle. To be happy. To find those silver linings. Those things can only come from you.

And they are conscious decisions.

They are constant decisions.

To delve into Shondaland, “Being aware of your crap is different to overcoming your crap.” It’s a life-long process.

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I’ve always found it easier to have a voice online than in reality. Now there’s more balance. I’ve spoken at events, been paid to write my opinion, featured on TV and radio (mostly because of this blog).

So yes there were dark times in the past – but I know a little better what I like now, what I want and why.

And I know there will be dark times in the future – but I know that I can learn and grow from them – as long as I let myself.

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