Emotional Landscaping

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heartmapquoteThe last few months have been a massive change emotionally for me. After deciding to step out on this path of travelling and working abroad I’ve really had to take stock and it’s had a big effect on my thoughts and feelings surrounding what I want for myself and my daughter. I think in a way, entering into the final year of my degree or even just coming back to university after giving birth, has been the biggest catalyst to all this emotional change.

If you’ve had kids then you may have had a similar experience to me, where during the pregnancy and straight after the birth it’s not really possible to really know what you want. I was pretty scared and a lot of things were going on that were outside of my control. I just didn’t know what I wanted pure and simple. I knew what I had wanted in the past intellectually speaking, but it was put on hold in a strange way that I’ve never experienced before. There was an unknown entity on the way and I was really conscious that the minute they came into being and ventured into the outside world things would change – I don’t mean in the obvious ways, I mean more in the sense that there would be a person who would eventually have thoughts and opinions that would change the decisions I was going to make. This mentally put me in some sort of freeze hold and I just couldn’t conceive of much beyond the birth. Even after she was born I spent the usual few weeks recovering and acting like a hormonal wreck and then I started to focus on getting back to university.

It was at this point that I really started to ask myself what I wanted, I found myself caving in to those invisible societal pressures that surround us as parents and even just as people. Those pressures that tell us to conform, take a normal path, provide for our family and not take risks. Despite having never wanted to follow a ‘normal’ path in my life I suddenly found myself looking into ‘normal’ graduate schemes and ‘normal’ jobs. I was convincing myself that having my daughter meant I needed to make the ‘responsible’ decisions and not do the outlandish things I’d always wanted to do. Whilst in the early stages of my pregnancy, Monkey’s Dad and me discussed things that we wanted and we both expressed a wish to travel. I said I wanted to finish my degree and give myself the option of further study, but I said that travel was definitely a part of my future. He seemed to need something more than this and I just couldn’t give it to him. Now, the reasons he decided to leave are way more complex than I can do justice to in a blog post. And I don’t think it would be fair to him to claim that this is all there is to it. But I think a small part of it was that I was too busy trying to control everything, whilst he was too busy trying to force me to commit to things I just wasn’t ready to commit to. We were both panicking and we didn’t know each other well enough and he didn’t give me or himself the chance to find out what we wanted, together as a family. Within weeks of finding out I was pregnant he’d gone. I often wondered what would have happened if we’d just given ourselves the time to get used to the new situation we were in; instead of trying to force each other to be the people we thought we needed the other person to be….

Since that point I have changed and developed so much as a person I’m partly unrecognisable. I’ve gone through such a lot having my daughter on my own and coming to terms with the effect that will have on both out lives. As I said, I really ended up convincing myself that I needed to do the ‘normal’ thing for the sake of my daughter. It was only as I got further down those paths, and truly started looking at things like the NHS graduate scheme or civil service as a realistic option that I knew it was never going to make me happy – and that would make Monkey unhappy. It was this realisation that made me really start thinking about what I actually wanted – and that’s to travel. I know without a doubt that if I get to the end of my life without travelling, without living in another country and possibly without learning another language then it will be my biggest regret. So to allow that to happen whilst knowing that would be a big crime against myself.

A while ago I did a post about how big my safety net should be. In this post I discussed giving myself a back up plan that involved completing a Masters at the same time as saving to do a RTW trip, so that if travel didn’t happen I would have other options to fall back on. Options that I actually wanted to take, such as postgrad study. Since writing that post though, I’ve realised that actually, I just want to go. I don’t want any other distraction; I just want to save up as much as I can and head off into the unknown with my wee Monkey. This trip and travelling has somehow evolved into so much more than ‘just’ a trip. I know that thought is probably echoed in the minds of countless other travellers or wannabe travellers. So much so, it’s become clichéd – but it’s clichéd because it rings so true for so many people. For me this trip is about finally starting my life. That probably sounds strange, but I’m a late starter in life – my own potential and personal development has been delayed and diverted time and time again. Mostly due to circumstances out of my control, particularly as a child and teenager. My 20s were spent coming to terms with this, and it’s only been since starting college and going back to university that I’ve become the person I always knew I could be. Having my daughter has finalised that in a way nothing else could. Making these steps to travel and jump out into the deep end, as a single parent is really the first step in what I feel is my ‘true’ life, the life I’m meant to have. So there’s a lot riding on it. It’s not that I don’t want the postgrad stuff anymore, it’s that I’m acutely aware they will be there when I get back, I can do those at any time, anywhere in the world. But it’s travelling that will help me to be who I need to be emotionally; it’s travelling that will let my daughter be the person she can be….

Another thing I’ve slowly admitted to myself is that I don’t want to put monkey into the daily grind that is the school system. I know there are some amazing teachers out there; my sister is one of them. But there’s also some terrible teachers out there and the school system is there to cater for the middle ground; it’s there to create an obedient workforce who behave themselves, turn up on time, don’t question authority and basically live life with a set of blinkers on. The world does not need any more of those people, that I do know – if it’s to survive, if we’re to survive as a species we need the mad, creative, wild and inappropriate types. I know too many people who had every last bit of creativity and individualism drained or pummelled out of them at school, to be OK with signing my child up for that. I really want to do something that probably lies in between home schooling and unschooling – (although as with most of the other unschoolers I’m not that keen on the name, as it implies no learning whatsoever which couldn’t be further from the truth). Admitting this to myself has made me realise that those are my 2 core beliefs and aspirations in my life: travel and home schooling, so the rest just needs to somehow fit around them. Or I need to make it fit around them because in the end it’s me that’s in charge of my life. No one else can do these for me. I would love to start working for myself, writing and making a living by piecing together all my skills in a way that makes me happy. Whether that’s teaching English, writing, doing photography, or a bit of all these things and maybe some other things too, I don’t know. But I’m definitely not a Monday to Friday kind of a woman. I would also love to meet someone who shares my dreams, I’d like to let go enough to fall in love again and maybe (just maybe) expand my little family, as having monkey has been the best decision I ever made. Finally realising that these are the things I truly know has given me emotional freedom that I’ve never felt before. It’s given me a purpose and something to aim at. I don’t need riches (not that I ever wanted them), I do want to have the finances to travel (obviously) and to provide my daughter and myself with a half decent standard of living but beyond that I really don’t care. I don’t want her to grow up in the consumerist mess we have in the UK, where how we view our own worth and the worth of others is somehow inextricably linked to what we own and how much money we have in the bank. I want her to know that there is so much more to life than money and possessions. Poverty is horrific but so is having all the materialistic things you ever wanted, only to realise that you’re still looking for something that can’t be bought and now you’ve not got the time to find it.

So this is where I am today, embarking on this adventure is a strange thing for me at this point in time. I’ve still got a year of my degree to complete. This will undoubtedly be one of the most intense years I ever experience but it’ll be worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears that I shed and have shed over the last 7 years. The RTW trip still feels completely imaginary – because it is. It probably won’t feel in the slightest bit real until I actually book us those tickets, and maybe it won’t feel real until we step off the plane and head into our first country on the list (hopefully China). To keep myself focused on the long-term future I keep looking at this big map online and planning where we’ll go and when, I’m reading all these travel blogs and talking to my closest friends about my plans. But on the flip side, I also have to keep my feet firmly on the ground and focus on the here and now. I HAVE to get this degree; I’ve worked too hard to fall at the last hurdle. Not only that, I know I’m capable of getting a 1st. It’s where my grade point average is lying at the moment and I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say a 1st is what I want. Although saying that, I do now know that it’s not the be all and end all, any degree will be a massive achievement for anyone let alone someone in my position.

So this is my bit of emotional landscaping – making that decision to travel has just brought on an avalanche of life choices and realisations that I could never have expected. I’d love to hear if any of you have had a similar experience in the comments section! I suspect that travel and making those massive decisions takes on this huge role in nearly everyone’s life – especially if it’s something you end up turning into a lifestyle choice rather than just a holiday. I’m so excited already at the thought of the adventures to come and the experiences me and my daughter will have together – I’ll have to increase my vocabulary and powers of articulation just to put into words how I feel when we actually go!!

Complete enormous to do list? Tick!

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I realised I’ve had such a busy week I’ve not had much chance to post for a few days; so I wanted to say a wee hello!

I feel like I’ve had an incredibly productive week. I’ve had another driving lesson (everyone is alive and well), Ive written my dissertation proposal and handed it in (I now have an enormous self-inflicted reading list to get through this summer), I’ve joined a badminton class and a boxercise class (get rid of baby belly and get fitter and healthier, phase 1), I’ve done an enormous amount of housework (not in the name of procrastination, just for its own sake), I’ve joined various new social media platforms including google+ and Facebook (check out my new pages if you have a chance although they are both huge works in progress so please cast a forgiving eye!).

So out of this big list of things I’ve managed to do there’s one glaring black hole (oxymoron? Can a black hole glare? I digress sorry…) I’ve not managed any TEFL since my last post. I’m learning another lesson; I keep thinking that if I don’t have 2 hours to sit and do a full section of the course then I can’t do it. Whereas a much better plan of action would be to just grab bite size half hour sessions whenever I can but just make sure I’ve got a block of time available when I need to actually sit down and do the tests. A handy little tip I have discovered though is that if you’re like me and a bit of a proud pedantic type of personality; the minute I blogged about not doing any TEFL the last time, I was immediately galvanised into action and spent an hour reading up on verbs. Almost as soon as I’d hit the ‘publish post’ button. So I may just try that in future if I’m not getting much done, I’ll just publicly blog about my uselessness.

I have also started what will sound like a very strange social experiment – just for my own personal gain. I’ve always wondered whether the fact that hippies (by hippies I mean floaty, smily types who seem endlessly calm, wear floaty clothes, practice meditation and yoga, eat hippie food, and carry their babies in great swathes of material until there about 3 – I know I’m generalising here but we all know one or a few; in the west end of Glasgow they’re practically an institution!). Anyway I’ve always wondered whether they are very relaxed, chilled out positive people who therefore become hippies who are identifiable by sight, or if when they’re young they kind of get into the fashion and the rest just sort of follows like a self fulfilling prophecy. As someone who is a bit uptight and pedantic and often suffers with anxiety but prescribes to a lot of the hippy ideals without ever jumping in 100% (probably because I met a bunch of heavy metallers at a key impressionable age and went a completely different route), I’ve often pondered over this chicken and the egg question. Do calm, anxiety free floaty people become hippies or do hippies evolve into calm floaty people?

This all no doubt sounds like a bit of an odd generalistic line of thought and reasoning; sorry if I offend any hippies with my shamelessly narrow description – it’s truly in jest and admiration, I really do just want to be in the club! So I’ve decided to give myself a complete hippie makeover. Whenever I feel stressed or anxious I’m forcing myself to smile and think happy thoughts. I’m off to find a meditation and yoga class next week and I’ve hunted out all my floaty comfy clothes and shoes and vacuum packed everything else. I did actually already own an awful lot of floaty, brightly patterned comfy stuff so it’s just been a wardrobe exchange if I’m honest. The bonkers plan is to see if I can make myself into one of those carefree non-pedantic types who irritates the life out of anyone even remotely uptight. I have a feeling that if I’d met different people and been influenced by those more inclined towards Buddhism (or something similar) from an early age then I would be a different person today and would have taken the paths I’m taking now at an earlier point. This is not about regret, please don’t think that – but it is about trying to take control over my life and my thoughts and my anxieties – albeit in a slightly mad way. I guess the idea is ‘dress like hippie, become a hippie’ and float around the world on a sea of positivity, taking each day one step at a time. But most importantly I want to pass some of that philosophy to my daughter. I was raised by highly anxious people and I inherited those idiosyncrasies, so more than anything I want my little monkey to inherit slightly more positive ones. I’d also like her to truly master and gain a love for yoga and meditation as the benefits of these two things are now firmly set in the social stone that is ‘science’. Brain scans of monks who regularly practice transcendental mediation have been publicised a lot recently; they’ve known this stuff for thousands of years of course but now we have brain scans as proof it’s become ‘common knowledge’. I’d really love monkey to be a calm, happy, positive floaty hippy to start with, rather than have to struggle and claw her way to the same place as I have over the course of 20 odd years.

So I’ll keep you all updated – can I reinvent myself as an anxiety free, carefree, happy, positive hippie? I really hope so although I suspect it’ll take a bit more than that such as a true commitment to serious ideals of buddhism and some serious practice of mediation and yoga. Which will serve me right for such blatant and insulting stereotyping won’t it?