February 29.

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February 29th, a day that comes around every 4 years. A crazy concept if you think about it. Do you know roughly where you were in life 1 year ago? I am sure most of us do. But stretch your memory back, where were you 4 years ago? It is a great opportunity to really look back and see where we are and how far we have come since the last February 29th

Around about this time 4 years ago I was living in London. I was the catering manager for Goldman Sachs, in charge of one of their campuses – staff, food, ordering, training, accounts… you name it, it was in my job description somewhere. I was getting up at 4.30am to make it to work by 6am (London public transport), working until 6 or 7pm (or later) and getting home around 8pm most nights. I was getting up in the dark and coming home in the dark – a mildly depressing notion.



It was a really mixed time for me. I had not long broken up with my fiancée, and had thrown myself into work. Most kiwis and aussies who go to live in London do it for the experience of living there, but it is mostly based around working enough to have some money to party and travel. While I went there with this intention, in my true fashion, I ended up working like a maniac and missing the whole ‘London Experience’ (travel, parties, festivals…) My first job lead me to become the Assistant Manager at Maze by Gordon Ramsay; after a year of this I decided that I didn’t come to London to work 12+ hour days and every weekend and holiday. So I quit. And worked 2 jobs instead… Well what can I say, the opportunity to work at Goldman Sachs AND with a leading psychologist appeared at the same time, I didn’t want to say no to either, so I naturally said yes to both. Leaving me once again working 12+ hour days.

By the time Feb, 29, 2012 rolled around I was running on empty. While I had achieved a lot professionally, I was personally an absolute mess. Burning both ends of the candle, I was working my ass off by day AND by night I was drinking myself into oblivion, causing any number of scenes around town. Of course there were boys too. Newly single I was back on the field, attempting and failing at a few half-arsed relationships (at least it was a 50:50 ratio of me ending relationships and them). I never gave myself appropriate space and healing to understand or let go of what happened between myself and my ex-fiancée, so I was doing everything I could to avoid facing myself. But we all know there is only so long we can run from ourselves and our demons. I was teetering dangerously close to the edge of a nervous breakdown. One night my best friend found me crying hysterically in my room (it was a nightly occurrence by this point). She asked me “what’s wrong, what is it, why are you upset?” Between sobs and pants all I could muster was – “I. Don’t.. Know..” And I really didn’t know why. Something just wasn’t right and I had no idea what to do about it.



I was so adamant that I was supposed to be in London. A wonderful city that never sleeps and opportunities are like a self-serve buffet, if you are hungry enough – you can eat as much as you like! So, as I am always hungry (metaphorically and actually speaking) – the opportunities kept coming my way. The people I worked with, the venues and events I did, not to mention the celebrities I met was so much more than I could have ever imagined. At one point I even hosted and coordinated the Front of House for an Academy Award event for Vanessa Redgrave where the guest speaker was Meryl Streep! Let me tell you, for a little girl from the small town of Milton in New Zealand, who never even dreamed she would travel, let alone live in London, this was all a pretty fucken big deal.

So it was easy to convince myself that I was in the right place (well maybe I was, but I wasn’t in the right mental state, which I would find out soon). The company I worked for had said they would sponsor me to extend my visa. This was perfect. I would work my 12 hour days during the week and push myself to pursue all of these side projects in my ‘spare time’ (at this point I was planning on starting my own PR company of the sort, to organise FOH events for these large functions, I already had a contact in the Academy Awards who wanted to work with me). I was all guns blazing and ready to take on London town!! That was until the director of my company dealt me another hand (a blessing in disguise). With 2 months left before my visa was to expire, he gave me the news that HR decided they would not be able to sponsor me. I had set up their campus and got all of their new systems operational, pulling these long days with the thought that it was all for a reason… only to be dealt a devastating blow in the last moment. With only 2months remaining there was no hope of finding a new job AND convincing a new company that I am valuable enough to sponsor and keep on. They really fukt me over and I was pissed to say the least.

My thoughts on the situation
BUT… another feeling came too, which took me completely by surprise – my insides let out a huge, long awaited, sigh of relief. I battled against this feeling for a while because London was where I wanted to be, where I needed to be… but there was no arguing with my body. As the anxiety eased and the tears became a lot less frequent (there were still tears of frustration and fear at various moments, but I was no longer curled up on the floor of my bedroom crying at nights) I had to accept the fact that maybe London was just not meant to be. Once I got over the shock that ‘my life plan was ruined’, I started to feel an excited sort of anticipation at the prospect of this new found freedom. What could I do, where should I go?... I have to be honest here, the thought definitely scared the shit out of me, especially as I had very little money set aside for the contingency plan that my London life would end abruptly – all my eggs in one basket springs to mind here. However, there was something else going on underneath the surface, not quite visible but there nonetheless. I could feel my soul itching for the adventure it had longed for since I first set off on my journey from New Zealand in 2008. While I had been many places and seen many things, I had done this all while in the throes of a relationship or my many demanding roles. But this, this was something else, the first blossom after a long winter…

A huge space opened up in me once I realized that I was only limited by my imagination. I knew one thing for sure, I was not ready to go home, to go back to NZ, I felt I had some unfinished business in Europe… SO with this as the keystone, I looked for every other option that would allow me to stay in and around Europe. I have always attacked life full throttle, but while I had had many experiences, they were all relatively ‘safe’ – I had worked in hospitality and restaurants since I was 18. It was time for a change. I didn’t have the complete financial freedom to just have a travelling adventure, so I needed a job which allowed me travel and or live in Europe (the loop hole in the 2-year visa, I could still be in and around countries in Europe for no longer than 3 months at a time). So what was written on my heart, what random adventures or roles had I always fantasized about? What would you do? Well, I had never given it too much thought; because generally we don’t allow ourselves the freedom to entertain such nonsensical thoughts for too long… But when I gave my inner-thoughts the gift of my attention, I was amazed at what they came back at me with (amazed but I can’t say I was completely surprised, I mean it was myself I was talking to…)

It turns out that I had a lot of ideas, things I have always quietly thought I would like to do in some alternate Universe, that had no limitations. This is the list I came back to myself with:
1.       Become a tour leader. Actually it was even more precise than this – become a tour leader on a yacht in Croatia. Now bear in mind this is a very interesting thought considering I had no idea where Croatia even was, nor had I ever spent any time on a boat! But now that I had finally given my inner-desires a chance to express themselves, it was no time to question their ideas or methods.
   
    Travel around Europe. This wasn’t so precise and my voice felt no need to explain itself further. It just said, ‘hey, we haven’t done enough travel around Europe, we haven’t even been to Paris! There must be some way we can rectify this – without paying of course… Now again remember, dreams are free, so this was no time to stomp on the dreams I proffered myself.
3.      
     Become a Nanny. I had always loved children and had toyed with the idea of what I would be like as a nanny or even preschool teacher… (does everyone have this many random dreams or am I just an eclectic soul?!)
4.       
     Live in Florence, Italy. Again, this was quite specific for someone who had never been to Italy, let alone Florence, but, carry on, as you were.
5
    Start writing a Blog. I have ALWAYS written for as long as I can remember, yet I had never published or made any of my musings public before. I had a million and one stories accumulating in my journals and mind, but no outlet…
6
       Become a travel writer. Like I said, I have always written, but had never allowed myself to think that I could earn money from my passion before (fear of failure was too great) – my inner-voice threw this idea to the curb and said: “hey, how great would it be if we could get paid for writing, like a travel writer or something…”

7    Find Love. WHOA, this is pretty fucken major, but remember - no limitations. I put it at the end of the list for a reason. At the time of writing this I was all kinds of messed up in terms of love – did I deserve love, was love really for me, maybe I will just travel around collecting others’ love stories for my book… BUT my inner-voice was still running the show and wouldn’t have any of my doubts. It simply said: “I want a ‘crazy, beautiful, explosions in the night sky’ kinda love and I DO NOT think this is too much to ask" (turns out, it wasn't!)

So there you have it. Not an exhaustive list of all my life’s dreams and aspirations, but I think this was a fairly decent list for someone who had just been working herself into the ground and towards a nervous breakdown… Here is the beautiful thing, I can say that only just now writing this - other than the starting point of February 29th, Leap Year and reflection - I had no idea of where this story was heading (the incredible gift of writing sometimes). Looking back for the first time over this ridiculous list of dreams, I can proudly (if not astonishingly) say that I have achieved every, single, one of these 'crazy dreams', and some... (this blog piece would turn into a novel if I wrote down the ‘how’ this all came about, but trust me, it did – and maybe stay tuned for the novel one day)



It was not always easy. It was most definitely not always pretty. But one-by-one I turned my 'imaginary wishlist' into reality. It didn’t always happen like I thought it would, in fact it never happened like I thought it would. But as I opened myself up to the Universe, put no pressure on outcomes and just allowed myself to be, the next step was always placed before me in the exact moment I needed – sometimes without a second to spare – like when I found myself stranded in Italy (after exiting a training trip program to become an on-road cook for a travel company…) trying to find a job and got down to my last $100, I received a phone call out of nowhere from a Travel Company (who had been given my details by a mutual friend) asking me if I would like to be a Tour Guide on their Yacht in Croatia. I didn’t know it at the time, but that would be the single, best phone-call and job offer I ever received, as it would lead me to my husband… (again, a story for another time)

Allowing myself to be open to whatever the Universe sent my way was some of the most turbulent and magical moments of my life. I was offered so much grace in this time – helped out by complete strangers, coincidences, family, chance meetings and pure magic. If I had an image to describe this time (in general - of course there were some trying and ‘darker’ moments, but this is a light story) I would say it looked something like: ‘me, riding on the back of a beautiful multi-coloured Unicorn, enjoying the ride…’ And no, this is not an acid trip. Actually just before I left Australia to move to London, this is the exact image a spiritual healer drew for me – she said: “you have always had a lot of magic surrounding you your entire life, but you are pushing too hard, always rushing to find the next achievement, your next chapter is about learning to reconnect with magic, to sit back and enjoy the ride!”

This is the actual picture painted for me by the spiritual healer.

Well it took a few years, but I think me and that Unicorn went on a pretty freakin’ epic adventure in the end!

Here it would appear that I have reached the end of the story for today. Like I said, this piece comes as a complete surprise to me too, and it has unfurled before my very eyes, allowing me a much more beautiful insight that the loose idea I initially sat down with... As always, life and inspiration has shown me something new.


Happy leap day everybody!! (Now what are you going to write on your ‘list’? Let’s reconvene next February 29th…)







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1 comment :

  1. Sometimes it can be so hard to see that something (or someone!) we love actually isn't working out for us or in some cases is actively bad for us. I lived in London for a long time before moving away to a more semi-rural town. I do miss some aspects of London but overall feel much happier and healthier living here. I am lucky in that I can easily visit London to still experience many of the great places, events and experiences it has to offer. Good luck with your ride, hope it is n enjoyable one!

    Abraham @ ASIC

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