When my relationship with The Italian ended five years ago, I was in my early forties and my life as I knew it – and how I thought it was going to be – was over.
I had put a lot of time, effort and energy into that relationship because I wanted it to work. I adored The Italian, and thought we would make a life together. Consequently, I made a huge investment in him and Us, and I put Me on hold. I lost friends because his family (which was large and extended) became my social circle. I made decisions about my career that I wouldn’t have made if I was single because I expected to be married (and having more babies). I didn’t think I had to worry so much about myself and my life’s journey because I had a travelling companion. I had someone was in my life who would look out for me.
Boy, was I wrong.
At the end of the relationship, I realised that the only travelling companion I really had was myself. The only person who was really looking out for me was Me. And for the three or so years I spent with The Italian, I didn’t do that. I invested so much energy in him and Us, I had nothing left for myself.
So when I walked away from that relationship with nothing (apart from my daughter and my unit), I had to completely rebuild myself because I didn’t know who I was. I had lost Me. And it took me a year and a half to find Me again. It was the hardest (and most rewarding) 18 months of my life because I invested in Me. I started to rebuild my career (which, if I’m honest, has never really recovered from decisions I made over eight years ago), I went back to university and completed a Masters degree (and won the prize for the post-graduate student with the highest GPA) and found new friends (thank you Twitter!). I travelled overseas for the first time (and I intend to travel to a new country every year). I rediscovered creativity through different art forms and finally settled on photography (but I still find mosaics and drawing interesting pursuits), and fitness via walking, and now running. And I started writing again.
In the last five years, I have experienced terrible loss, but also great joy. The life I am living now is very different to the one I thought I would have. But who’s to say that it’s not better and more fulfilling? One can never know unless one lives different possibilities side by side. And clearly, that’s not an option.
The point is: if you aren’t investing in yourself you are making a fundamental error. You need to be prepared, because – to borrow from Benjamin Button – you never know what’s coming for you.