…with no problems! Well alright, not running, I mean no-one in their right mind runs to get to work, especially up a hill. But it struck me this morning that it’s been six months that I’ve been walking up this hill to work every day, and I hardly even notice it anymore. For the first two months I would be significantly out of breath and sweaty by the time I got to the office, and would invariably moan about how much my legs ached and my back ached from carrying my laptop and all my stuff. For the last couple of months it’s not been an issue at all. I’ve noticed other things have become significantly easier as well – a few times I’ve had to run for the train, or for the overground, and haven’t felt afterwards like I’m going to cough up a lung or perhaps vomit. And I don’t even break a sweat during my dance lessons anymore. Not exactly sure what I’m doing ‘right’, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing very much compared to the amount of exercise I used to do once upon a time when I was heavily into martial arts, but I’ve lost about a stone in the last six months and I feel generally a lot happier and healthier.
I think this is reflected in the rest of my life; after being back for six months, I feel that everything is in a better, healthier place. Happily, I’ve just been given a permanent contract at work, which frankly feels almost like a lottery win. It’s like being handed a key to the future; suddenly lots of things are unlocked – like not feeling under any pressure to find a job in the autumn for a start, when I’m actually just settling in to this one. I feel much more invested in what I’m doing, and it’s nice to be able to book places on conferences and training courses later on in the year without wondering where I might be by that time. If I’m not around, it will be because someone made me a better offer. But it would have to be a really good offer, as opposed to simply something more permanent, given that there’s no real urgency or necessity for me to move on.
It means I can start seriously looking at options like buying a place (or buying a share of a place, given that it’s London). It also means I can plan holidays, and even know that I now won’t have to have an emergency fund to cover living costs in case I wasn’t able to find another job quickly. This has enabled me to use some of my savings to pay off my student loan, the last bit of debt I had. Now my divorce has gone through, and everything is settled, I have no more issues like owning a house in another part of the country, to contend with. It also means that I can start thinking seriously about longer term goals, things I have been putting off even thinking about, like if and when I might want to start a family of my own. Of course these are not unilateral decisions and are much more complex than simply being in secure employment, but without that, for me it would have been out of the question altogether.
There’s also the fact that being made permanent came somewhat out of the blue; it wasn’t something I had asked about or lobbied for, so it felt like a real vote of confidence. Although I have tried in recent years to uncouple my self-esteem and self-worth from what I do for a living, it’s been very hard, especially as someone who has always invested so much time and effort and energy into the pursuit of a fulfilling career. My self-esteem had been on the wane for quite a while, having taken a job in the Commission which I was so over-qualified for. I don’t think I realised until now just how much it had taken out of me, but this, as well as things like having had a couple of my articles published in national newspapers, has really helped restore my faith in myself, and not before time.
It’s also a kind of affirmation of my personal qualities; I feel that I’ve been nothing other than myself since day one (in fact, ever since the interview), so to me it’s an endorsement of me as a person and not just my work persona because I’m just being myself, and people here seem to like that.
There are still challenges, especially in terms of maintaining a relationship with someone who currently lives and works in Brussels during the week. But at the same time, things are more settled there than they ever were when we spent the majority of our time in the same place. Living in the same city does not guarantee being in the same place emotionally or on the same page, and I feel that we’re closer and more aligned in our thinking than we probably ever have been before.
My life is so different to what it was six months ago; I’m now starting afresh with a completely clean slate, and feeling really thankful. Of course there are things I regret, and things I miss – Caspar, my dog, who I still think about and miss every day – I’m even starting to look back at Brussels with a bit of nostalgia for the good times. I think that’s because I’ve realised that the two years I spent over there have not set me back quite as much as I thought they had, and actually despite the crises in my personal life, they were a good learning curve. I learnt a lot about myself, much more than I did in the previous 13 years of living in Exeter.
*Apologies for the naff use of song titles as blog post titles and to anyone who doesn’t know the song, but seriously this is what popped into my head this morning and inspired me to write this post. Apologies also to anyone who doesn’t like Kate Bush, but I do. What can I say? I’m a child of the 80s :)