Twenty Five Things, by all accounts was a craze that went round Facebook a few years ago.
Well, for anyone who knows me well, it will be no surprise that I’ve only stumbled across this now. On the popular culture front, I am never quite on the same page as anyone else at the same time. I stumbled across The West Wing years after it had finished, and I’ve never caught up. Anywhere. On any continent. In any time zone.
I am behind the times wherever I happen to be living, and I’m used to it. It is now one of my defining characteristics. And one of the best things is, that with my goldfish-like memory, I never remember the spoilers that people have discussed with me.
But anyway… I came across this Twenty Five Things thing a couple of weeks ago while reading the awesome, if somewhat uncomfortable and painful, but equally enlightening and inspiring Love Warrior (ok, bad book title, I know… but hang in there – it ends up making sense…)
And I thought I’d quite like to try and write my own Twenty Five Things – of things that I am, things that I believe and things that I’ve come to realise since arriving in Shanghai. So here goes…
Twenty Five Things…
- I always suspected it, but it has become very clear that I truly am an introvert. And I am ok with that. But if I don’t have some daily, quiet time to myself, I start to go crazy, I feel like an exhibit in a zoo, being poked and prodded… It can get nasty (sorry all… but 10mins by myself somewhere quiet can usually restore the working balance)
- Headspace gives me just the perfect answer to this. I love my 10minutes a day with Andy, and always feel just a little bit sad when I haven’t managed to find the time in my day… I mean, really – 10 minutes? It’s not so much to find, is it? (Hmmm… well, I’m trying)
- Conversely – new adventures are more fun when undertaken with other people. Travelling and setting up life on the other side of the world on my own was fun, but could be lonely. Relocating life with 3 small kids in tow, well, it just gives an entirely new perspective on what’s really important (fish fingers and a big enough space to let off steam – both them and us). Plus, having the opportunity to walk into a fully formed, friendly, supportive ex-pat community – it’s allowed & encouraged me to be more social than ever before. There is space in my world for my own quiet time (to reflect, to digest) and also for a growing tribe, community and network – after all, it’s people who make this world an amazingly interesting place.
- Freedom is a bicycle with a basket up front. I can get myself wherever I might need to be, getting exercise as I go, and some fresh air – and hey, I can collect stuff along the way! Plus I can talk or sing to myself – which adds to the happiness quotient…
- I am a feminist – and I need to start being a little clearer in saying that out loud – both in my words and deeds. It doesn’t need a justification. I believe that everyone, whatever gender, whatever race, whatever sexual orientation, whatever whatever, should be afforded equal rights. I am better than no-one else, and no-one else is better than me. (And comments & behaviour like this are unacceptable. Any and every time.)
- Linked to this is a complete love of the United States Declaration of Independence – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I want a poster, with the words beautifully laid out, printed large and framed for my home. If my eldest can take nothing else from her American birthplace, then I hope she takes this – and takes it fully to heart: the pursuit of happiness is a right.
- The M&S Food Hall in Shanghai is a lovely little place to wander aimlessly around – peaceful, calm, and full of English suburban food porn…
- I thought I was too young to put my slippers on back home… but you know what? The tiled floors here are just really chilly. So I’ve got me some slippers. Mahabis in fact. And they’re cool.
- If a yoga class doesn’t almost bring me to tears, it’s only a ‘so-so’ class. I’m crap at yoga. After years of doing it all over the world, I’ve come to accept I’ll never be any good at yoga at all. But I love it. I swear I come out of the classes taller and stronger. These feelings are multiplied immeasurably if I’ve been almost brought to tears. It’s a learning, stretching and striving thing.
- I knew that I’d never miss the unpredictability and stress of the daily commute – but…I was listening to one of my ‘commuting’ playlists at the weekend, and it made me smile, rather unexpectedly. I’ve come to realise that the walk to the station on a bright morning, those 25minutes each way on the train, when I had a seat, with some headphones, a great playlist and a great book – it wasn’t too shabby, really…
- So now, my (3 days a week) commute is enjoyed in the bubble of a bad soccer-mom style people carrier – but it seems rude to put on headphones and disappear into a playlist, even though it’s not like the driver and I can have many stimulating conversations! But I get to view and experience lots of ‘interesting’ Shanghai style driving, and wonder at the sheer number of residential buildings – who lives in each place, and what do they do in this sprawling city? And why the blue roofs? And the red?
- It’s also become clear very quickly, that most road traffic rules out here appear to exist ‘for guidance only’ – pedestrians beware.
- Cooking and photography – the proper, thought about versions of both – are things that I aspire to being good at when I’m a ‘grown-up’ (with clear hero’s in both fields that I have been inspired by, and very much look up to – you know who you are!) – but for now, I’ve accepted that I have neither the time nor the (head)space to devote to these pursuits – so thank you iPhone and Sherpa’s for saving me, and my family, on a regular basis…
- Don’t forget to breathe. An odd comment maybe… but… There is a section in Love Warrior that talks about the guidance by many to ‘just breathe’ – and do you know what? I’ve found the need for a reminder to be true. I hold my breath so often. When I’m anxious. When I’m stuck. When I’m trying to think. And it never helps. So now, I try and notice it more. And then… I try to remember to breathe. (And it reminds me of something my mum always used to say before I headed out for the day, or went travelling – her last words to me were often ‘Don’t forget to eat’… I never used to understand that at all… but now, with life and 3 kids and all the rest of it – good advice. That’s what it is.)
- And know that out here, the air that you breathe has a daily quality rating – which provides as much general daily conversation opportunities as the weather in general does back in the UK.
- Music makes everything feel a little bit better. Yes, there is a good place and time for quiet, but sometimes… sometimes your life just deserves a good soundtrack.
- And sometimes you just need to dance to it… (probably in the privacy of your own home, but… dance, nonetheless)
- I could not survive without books to read, and pen & paper to write. I lost myself in books from a very early age and still do. Give me a sunlounger in the shade and a good book, and I’m as happy as can be. If I can have pen and paper to make notes as I go along – well, you may well lose me for the rest of the day.
- I will write a book before I die. It may not (almost definitely won’t) get published, it may quite possibly never be seen by anyone other than me, but I will write one.
- I love a good motivational quote – guess it’s back to that love of words
- Ditto Typography. One of my favourite places on my travels was the Wellington Writers Walk – words, on display, in concrete – just a perfect accompaniment to a good waterside stroll.
- My family, and my desire to be a good parent, drives a lot, if not most of my thinking these days. I’ve begun to understand that it’s not whether I follow ‘this’ parenting style or ‘that’ parenting manual, but more about how I can answer this question: Am I the sort of adult that I would want my children to grow up to be? (The answer is a minute by minute moving feast…)
- When embracing China and shopping on Taobao, even when using the English Version for eejits – start small… Mistakes are less costly when they are based on trying to buy a pack of swim diapers, rather than a television…
- When you move in somewhere, change your wifi password from the generic. It’s amazing how many people don’t… Just saying…
- When everything feels too much – just remember your friends. 20 years ago, I met the basis of my (small but perfectly formed) gang – with a couple of amazing additions along the way – and for whatever amazing reason, they’ve all stood by me through everything, even all this mid-life crisis, coaching, touchy-feely-talky-honesty stuff that I seem to be suffering from right now. I may be in Shanghai, but I know they’ve got my back. And for that, I am eternally grateful. And as of Friday, we’ve got a hell of a spare room wasting away…so come on over, we’ve even got our own lift!