3 things I learned in 2013

il_340x270.426189647_kcusAs regular readers know, I turned 50 this year. I have experienced a lot in these 50 years: love, joy, laughter, wonder, passion, sadness, humility, rejection, awe, embarrassment, pain, fear, anger, betrayal. Feeling each of these experiences has taught me something of life: sometimes things go well, sometimes they don’t. To slightly mangle Dr Seuss’s words: I am stronger than I know, weaker than I think. I am also a bundle of contradictions, wrapped in a shroud of complexity. As we all are.

You would think at this age, there isn’t much left to learn. But I am here to tell you there is: every second, minute, hour, day, week, month, and year on this planet teaches me something new. I count my blessings that I live and breathe another day, and that I get to strip back more of the layers that make up me in a life-long quest to find my true essence.

This year is no exception. I have learned things about myself that I’d like to share with you. Things that I intrinsically know, but it’s good to be reminded of.

1. You can always make a comeback

This year has been the year where I have started again on a number of fronts. I have started from scratch with my running twice this year: once after I experienced ITB syndrome after a downhill run of 14 kms, which had me sit out for 6 weeks just when I was about to start my half marathon training;  and the second was when I came back from overseas after being away for close to two months and not doing any running while I was travelling. I fast tracked myself through the C25K program, and am nearly back to a level of fitness where I can start my half marathon training. Again.

This year, I have regained quite a lot of the weight I lost a couple of years ago, and I am on my way to losing it (again). I gained it because I wasn’t being vigilant with the scale (don’t listen to anyone who says you should throw away your scales), and foolishly thought that running, paleo eating(ish) and intermittent fasting (IF) were the magic bullets I needed for permanent weight control. I was seduced into thinking this by a very lean acquaintance who swore by it. All it did for me was make me gain heaps of weight. (If you are interested here’s an interesting article detailing why paleo and IF is a bad combination for women.)

I resumed blogging after a hiatus of close to a year, brought on by a nasty workplace situation I found myself in in 2012. The only power I had in this situation was my voice – this blog – which I (foolishly, in retrospect) used to help me make sense of what I was experiencing. I stuck my toe in the blogging water to test it when I returned from overseas (and no, nothing dramatic happened at all when I clicked the Publish button when I wrote the comeback post), and I am glad I did. While I was still travel blogging, I had forgotten the sheer joy of writing to nut out all sorts of issues. To shamelessly plagiarise George Costanza: I’m back, baby, I’m back!

2. You can always go against type

20131204-075409.jpgRegular readers will know that I adore Tom Hardy. His soft, pillow lips; crooked teeth; tattoos; misspent youth; and exemplary acting skills make him difficult to resist. I also have a thing for Jason Momoa (particularly as Khal Drogo in A Game of Thrones) and Jeffrey Donovan (Michael Weston in Burn Notice). Recently I have welcomed Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead) into the fold of men who are just my type. And out of all of them, Jason Momoa is the one MOST likely to get my attention in a crowded bar. I’ve always been a visual kind of gal and tall, dark and mysterious has always done it for me.

My type is (mainly) manly men, doing manly things. Imagine my horror when I was attracted to an older, mild-mannered English accountant earlier this year! It didn’t work out at all, but I surprised myself by going against type. Would I go against type in future? I have to be honest and say: I don’t know, but you can never say never.

The same thing happened with travel: up until this year, I had always booked myself onto organised tours. I liked the fact that I didn’t have to think about anything in terms of accommodation and where to go, and I had company while travelling (I always travel solo). After three back-to-back tours in eastern Europe this year, I am (for the most part) well and truly done with organised tours. I just got so, so sick of the early starts, the whistle-stop visits, the hotel food, (some of) my travel companions, and being eternally on the road.

Taking all this into account, next year’s trip to Japan (which I’ve already booked) is me doing Japan solo via On The Go‘s self-guided tours. All my accommodation and transport between cities is organised (which I loathe having to do) but I am solo, apart from a guide for a day in Tokyo and Kyoto. It will be challenging at times, I’m sure, but I reckon I’m up for it.

3. You can always be surprised by the unexpected

One of my favourite quotes ever is from the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button where Mama, and later Benjamin, says:

You never know what’s coming for you.

just_yell_plot_twist-437640I like it because it’s true. You can always be surprised by the unexpected, and you can never really plan for it. This year, I was chatted up in a mosque by a handsome Turk in Bursa. I was stalked by a Texan sociopath in Greece. Last week, I had a casual encounter with a man I barely knew after we bonded over tequila shots in the lead-up to Christmas. I went against type by (briefly) seeing an older man earlier this year. I went to my daughter’s boyfriend’s 21st birthday party only to find that I felt so lonely I could have cried (that’s not to impugn his family: they are lovely people, just not mine). I ran 14 kms in May, only to injure myself and not run again for two months.

I’ve always been somewhat of a fatalist, but the older I get, the more I think life exists as a series of plot twists in a very long narrative. You can’t anticipate what is going to happen, even if you do believe in clairvoyants, psychics, tarot cards, and tea leaves. In all honesty, who can really foresee cancer, or death, or a job loss, or great love? Who can anticipate fame, or a fall from grace, or deep disappointment, or dark betrayal, or moments of indescribable happiness?

If you are living – truly living – you experience and feel the gamut of all these things as they happen to you and to the people around you. Everyone has their own story, their own narrative, their own plot twists. Everyone is trying to make sense of this thing we call life, in their own way.

So, maybe the ultimate lesson I learned for 2013 is that it’s better to feel and experience life with all its intricacies, twists and turns, ebbs and flows, swings and roundabouts, than not.

Ultimately, it’s much better to be on this side of the ground than the other.

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