What a difference a year makes

Photo courtesy of Averie Woodard

Spot the Difference

A year ago, my life looked very different.

I was living in a beautiful, tiny village, with my eldest at the great village school – yet I was managing to feel massively unconnected, because Monday to Friday, I never got to enjoy the village or the school life. I felt like the village outsider. The village fraud.

I was tired of the rushed daily commute.  Heading to my long-held, and one-time much-loved, job – that was just making me feel exhausted.

My children were in (superb) organised daycare from 0730 – 1730,  and I knew that I should feel lucky that such care was even available to me – but all it actually made me feel was guilty for wanting to work.

And I spent my late afternoons / early evenings with the children rushing through fruit, playtime, bathtime, stories as quickly as possible – so that I could get to the next thing that needed to be done. The inbox to be cleared. The laundry to be sorted. The Ocado to be ordered. (Again, I am fully aware how lucky I was for these to be my concerns…)

I felt like my family were getting the dregs of my spirit. My small group of friends were still my friends because they had known me long enough to ‘forgive me’ for the fact that I had no time to actually see them.  And me – what did I do for me? I didn’t get a look in.

My desire to be the ‘best I could possibly be’ was saved for work.  But I couldn’t see where I was headed and I wasn’t really sure I wanted to go there anyway.

But the worst of it? I felt like I was sleeping my way through my life. Not living.  I felt like I had no choice. No options.  This was just what life was meant to be as an ‘adult’.  This was what being grown up was about.

I was doing well on paper.  I had the house, the husband, the kids and the career.  Seriously – what more did I think I was entitled to? My job was to be responsible. What right did I have to change anything? Risk anything?

But oh how I wanted to.

One small step

I took what I thought was one small step.  I started talking out loud about the desire for more.  About the idea of what a difference might look like.

And then I started dreaming about ‘more’.  And then I started writing it down.

And it started to grow. To open me up to the idea of change. To what might be possible.

And now I am reminded of that great line “Be careful what you wish for…”

Because along came the mention of Shanghai…

But really, timings for me were terrible – I had commitments at work til the end of the year, minimum…

But were the timings awful, really? Would it not just be amazing to up and leave everything and see what happened? Would it not bring me back closer to who I was when I was young & fearless? Would it not provide the (huge, scary) wake up call that I had been (quietly) screaming for, for ages?

Would it not make me realise exactly what I was capable of?

And would it not be exactly the kind of example that I would want to give to my family?

And so here I am…

It’s month 8 in Shanghai and the differences in my life shout loud & proud.

I live in the most populated city in the world – yet the introvert in me is less scared of people than ever before.

I live as an active party within an amazing community – and feel freer than ever to be as involved or uninvolved as I want to be on a day-to-day basis.  I had 6 kids running around the house this afternoon (playdates were like rocking horse sh*t in my old life) and I’m baking cakes for the International Food Festival at the school on Friday.

I drop the small people off each morning, and collect them at 3pm every afternoon – and I love being able to do that, even when their only interest in me is what snacks I can provide.

I’m retraining professionally. I’m actively studying to support my new career (thank you Udemy) and trying all sorts of new things (writing, running!) just because I want to.  And if it doesn’t work out? It doesn’t matter.

I’m working part time – and I love it! I read, listen to podcasts, (& stare at brightly coloured laundry hanging from the 30th floor of apartments) on my commute. And I am enjoying my time in the office – quite possibly more than ever before.

If you had told me any of this a year ago, the idea of it would have petrified me.

But now…

I know that the differences have made me.  I am wide awake. I am not sleeping my days away.

I am daring greatly – and I have never felt more alive.