2014: I’m still a work in progress…
Along with sharing my WordPress stats, I have a quaint tradition (self-imposed) of doing a wrap-up of the year. You know, what I’ve learned or discovered about myself, what worked well, what I’d do differently… that sort of thing. I do this primarily to document my progress and growth, and to clarify my thinking and to help me try to not make the same mistakes again. This year has been an interesting one, because I’ve discovered more about myself, just when I thought there was not much more to learn. And what I’ve learned can best be described in three key themes.
1. Decluttering and minimising
When I returned home from almost two months in Europe towards the end of 2013, living out of a suitcase for all that time, I was struck by how little stuff I needed and how much stuff I had that I didn’t actually need. I started the process of minimising. It took me most of 2014 to divest myself of extraneous stuff, but I’ve more or less completed the shedding and it feels good. Really good.
And also I’ve looked to other areas of my life that need a clean out and stripping back. Areas like work and friendships. I’m taking baby steps away from full-time work and all that that means: overly structured days, often meaningless tasks and activities, soulless bureaucracy that stifles my creativity. In the process, I’m thinking about ways to build other income streams. The portfolio approach to paid work – a bit of this and a bit of that – has always appealed, and I am drawn once again to its allure. And I’m determined to include my writing – and making a living from my writing – as one of those income streams.
I’ve re-evaluated friendships and readjusted expectations. It has become clear to me over the course of the year that many of my friendships are largely based on convenience and longevity and accidents, rather than shared values. I’m not saying that these kinds of friendships aren’t without merit and that they aren’t fun, but at times I feel I’m wolfing down a cheeseburger followed by a Coke zero, rather than dining elegantly and sublimely on grass-fed beef and Moët. There’s something vaguely unfulfilling about them. So I’m stepping away from these types of friendships in lieu of forging bonds with people who reflect where I am in this chapter of my life. More inspiration, less desperation. More learning, less teaching. More meaning, less drama. Less chaos, more calm.
2. Clarifying and realising
This time last year, and well into April of this year, I was being buffeted around by that white water thrill ride of sex and attraction and potential relationships. It took a three-week trip to Japan in April – and no mobile phone service – to allow me to sail into quieter, calmer, more peaceful waters. And that’s where I’ve stayed for the last eight months, because I’ve come to a conclusion: I don’t want a partner.
This decision was made after I talked to a very nice man on Oasis. We talked about many things, one of them being my penchant for travel, and his willingness to accompany me. I felt a certain disquiet at the idea of a travel partner, but I let it pass, not quite being able to put my finger on what bothered me. He was an academic, researching an interesting field, and I Googled him – because I could and he was easy to find – and up popped images of a man who looked old, even though he was in his fifties.
And it got me thinking. At my age, in all likelihood if I’m looking for a partner, I will end up with a man who is, well, my age. But what I’ve noticed about men my age is that they tend not to look after themselves as well as women my age. Men my age, on the whole, tend to be overweight and unfit: prime candidates for strokes and heart attacks and diabetes. Even fit and healthy men could end up with cancers and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. I would hate, hate, hate to become a carer for someone who, in the scheme of things, I have only just met. Selfish? Maybe. Smart? Definitely.
But it’s more than that. For my own mental health and well-being I don’t want the emotional roller coaster, the stop-start, will he-won’t he, unpredictable investment in a maybe that comes with starting something new with someone. God knows I’ve been disappointed in the past – hell, we all have – and I just can’t put myself through it again. More than can’t: I don’t want to.
There is something freeing about coming to this conclusion after chasing fairy tales and happily-ever-afters and potential possibilities for most of my life. It means I can walk into a bar, club, café, karaoke bar, library – whatever – without feeling the need to scan the room, alight on a face and think: Is it you? Are you the one? It means I am free. Free to travel the world on my own terms, in my own way, on my own journey.
And that was the disquiet I felt when talked to that nice, old academic on Oasis. It was intuitive: the thought of sacrificing my freedom – on so many levels – for someone I’d only just met… well, I can’t do it. More than can’t: I don’t want to.
3. Creating and building
This year, I ran my first half marathon. And I’m just about to publish my first book. Both of these things haven’t just happened. It has taken years of wanting and trying and failing and restarting to get to a ledge where I can rest in safety for a while and look back at what I’ve done. But it’s just a ledge. It’s not the peak. It’s not the summit. It’s a stop on the way. There is more to come.
This has been the year of realising that once I set my mind to achieving something, nothing is impossible. All I’ve had to do is take action, one step, one kilometre, one kilogram, one word, one sentence at a time. Each idea formulates action which becomes a magical building block of activity that creates the monument of achievement. Small begets big, and leads off into other mountains that need to be climbed and explored and conquered.
Like independent publishing. Or rather, my becoming an independent publisher. Why write and publish just one book, when I can write and publish many? And potentially publish books for others? It has never been a better time to be a creative. We certainly have all the tools. All that is needed is the will, a little bit of luck and the wherewithal. And the twin engine rooms of hard work and effort.
Specific highlights and lowlights of 2014
This was the year for celebrity interactions
I made Markus Zusak guffaw at his book signing, touched Benedict Cumberbatch at Oz Comic Con, had Tara Moss rub against me at her book signing, and there was a 99.9% probability that Justin Timberlake stopped by The Diane Lee Project on his world tour…
This was the year for kicking some major goals
I ran my first half-marathon and I’m just about to publish my first book. I’ve taken baby steps toward my new career as an independent publisher and authorpreneur, and have started my new business venture, Delicious Publishing.
This was the year for being terribly hurt by my own child
I was devastated by how hurtful my daughter was to me not once – but twice – this year. Her 21st should have been a time for celebration and Christmas should have been an occasion for us to spend time together as a family. Both were sad, awful events for me.
This was the year for figuring out work
I was asked to work on a couple of freelance projects, which I declined, because I realised that I did not want to spend my valuable time working on stuff for other people. This epiphany caused me to use my day off with much more care and value, and think seriously about dropping another day in my paid job so I can work on my stuff.
This was the year for losing 10 kilograms, again
I finally understood that controlling my weight means I have to stay vigilant. I cannot allow myself to fall into the trap of thinking: I run, therefore I can eat. Where my weight is concerned, I can never, ever relax.
I thank you all for your continued readership of The Diane Lee Project. May 2015 bring you a year of serenity and abundance and good decisions.