Another year ended, another begun. Welcome to 2014.
That moment when the clock strikes twelve and we all wish each other a Happy New Year is somehow magical. Our hearts fill with nostalgia for days gone by and great hopes for the future. Whether we want to lose weight and exercise more, spend more time with our family, or travel the world – it all seems possible!
Then the next morning we wake up, exhausted from our antics the night before, and faced with the cold, dark reality of a rainy New Year’s Day.
I’ve written many a list of standard resolutions in the last twenty odd years. Some years, I’ve been more focused, deciding on a couple of things I want to concentrate on. Other years, I haven’t really given it any thought.
Of course, if you’re not fussed about where you’re going or what you’re doing, and you’re happy to take life completely as it comes, then writing goals and lists and action plans is probably not going to be productive.
But I do think a degree of reflection over what you’ve achieved and experienced over the past year is a worthwhile exercise. You press the pause button on an otherwise action-packed film and even get to rewind, to smile as you look back over the joyous moments, to recognise the hard work you’ve put in and difficult decisions you’ve made, to feel again the sadness over the more painful memories; in other words, to reflect on both the good and the bad.
As far as my own video of 2013 is concerned, unusually, I actually feel completely contented. No big regrets, no ‘what ifs’, and overall I’m left with a blockbuster hit that I’ll be watching again and again over the next few years…
1. I finally travelled to South America
South America was an untouched continent for me, a far-off land that promised adventure and great natural beauty – though people warned me of its darker side (mwahaha!). After having talked about it for a while without doing anything about it, I ultimately decided to make it happen, and then everything fell into place.
People now ask me what the highlight was, but, of course, it’s impossible to choose one single aspect. The whole three-month period – my longest break from school or work in twelve years, and my longest trip alone ever – was a highlight. Good or bad, every day meant a new experience, a new encounter, a new memory.
Machu Picchu was always the biggest draw of South America for me, and it exceeded my expectations – somehow I had been so focused on the big finale of arriving at the ruins, I hadn’t realised how much there was to see and hear about on the four-day trek that led me there. Then there were all kinds of wonders of the world and activities to tick off on my newly created bucket list: 5. Visit Iguazú Falls, 41. Sing Evita songs in Buenos Aires, 55. Gallop across a field (on a horse).
I also had my first – and hopefully last – encounter with a gun, and had my iPhone stolen, which led to four whole months of life without a smartphone (gasp!).
2. I started to blog
Not exactly an early adopter, in January 2013 I bit the bullet and created a personal blog. A little tentative at first, I soon got into the regular routine of publishing something every two days. It wasn’t too difficult to think of things to write when travelling alone across a new continent! The most popular posts? The Bucket List and my South America packing list, my ode to London, and my musings on daring to dream.
I love writing and the blog has given me an outlet, a ‘reason’ to write. And, as much as I write for my own sake, I’m also grateful to those of my old and new friends who have actually taken the time to read my ramblings.
(I actually just found a diary I wrote in the summer of 1995, with insights that would make Miley Cyrus blush. Well, no, they were probably quite normal adolescent reveries, but still quite embarrassing. Thank goodness they didn’t have blogs ‘in those days’.)
3. I changed jobs and countries
Sometimes, however happy you are somewhere, you need to shake things up. It’s so easy to snuggle down into blissful contentedness, as your comfort zone gradually shrinks around you. New encounters and new physical surroundings will by definition give you a different perspective, an injection of energy, a burst of new ideas.
It can be hard to leave your friends behind but in the end you have to create your own life. And, anyway, you haven’t really left your friends. They’re with you in your shared memories and, more prosaically, in your online network. With a mixture of Facebook, WhatsApp and email, and a sprinkling of Easyjet, it’s like you’ve never left…
I haven’t quite settled yet, so there are likely to be more changes still to come!
That was 2013. What about 2014?
Obviously I need to lose weight, exercise more, travel the world… and I will. But is there a more inspiring way to kick off the new year than with the usual list of resolutions?
In the last few days, I’ve come across for the first time the idea of identifying a personal theme for the year, instead of writing resolutions that you will inevitably break. It’s an approach that I find appealing in its simplicity. It can be something like ‘mindfulness’, ‘family’, or ‘fitness’, and it’s intended as a general framework to guide your choices, instead of being yet another list of things you should do.
Looking back over the past year, I think I would retrospectively assign the theme of BOLD DECISIONS to 2013. And with that wonderful benefit that is hindsight, I can say that with each big decision I’ve made, I’ve grown more confident as I’ve seen the results unfold.
And I think the new theme of 2014 will be FOLLOW-THROUGH.
Follow-through is defined as the completion of a motion, finishing the stroke after you’ve hit the ball.
Making the decision turns out to be the easy part. The tricky part is the bit that follows, sticking with the decision you’ve made, completing the movement, avoiding distractions as you drive it to a conclusion: the follow-through. It’s going to all the exercise classes or language lessons once you’ve paid the fee. It’s buying that plane ticket before it gets too expensive. It’s reading that book that’s been sitting untouched on the shelf for so long.
I look forward to seeing what this one magical word will have led to when I do my review of 2014 a year from now!
Happy New Year everyone, and good luck with whatever plans and goals and lists you’ve created for yourself!