Well this is a tough one. I have a different perspective now that I am taking a few weeks off and relaxing in a friend's flat. I am surrounded by hills and footpaths and beautiful scenery and yes, I'll confess, a shopping mall adds to the picture here. Much more positive now than when I was stuck in an old lady's house day in and day out with confused ramblings and constant criticisms for conversation.
Looking back on this past year fills me with mixed feelings.
When I set out in July 2014, I had big dreams.
- Travel - UK, Europe, Eastern Europe. Travel is easy and affordable from here, isn't it?
- Collect interesting stories from people who have been around since the beginning of the previous century
- Pay off debt - mine and the boys' student loans
- Pay off my house
- Build up a huge savings
- Make new friends
- Have ME time
- Buy a leather jacket
- My money! spend my earnings on myself for the first time since leaving home at 18.
- Get the kids fully independent
What of these have I achieved in 12 months?
- Travel - Barcelona, Wales, Cape Town, various parts of England. Not nearly as much as I'd hoped for
- Stories - the thing with 99 year olds is that in most cases their ability to tell stories is, well, challenged. I felt like I was eavesdropping on my lovely old lady with dementia when she started talking to imaginary friends/family about personal stuff! I could write a book on that....
- Debt and
- house - well I sold the house, and paid off all the debt. Tick those off.
- Savings - I'm working on that.
- New friends - tick. I keep meeting such inspiring, strong, interesting people. Far more so than I did back home, working at an office.
- ME time - I try. And to be honest I think I can tick this one. I make ME time a priority now, whereas in my old life I kicked myself to one side too often.
- Leather jacket - still to come. That will just be a symbolic purchase.
- My money: spend my earnings on me - yes, most of my money is mine now. What I manage to hold on to, that is.
- Independent kids. Tick that one off. I am so proud of those boys. They have achieved so much these last 12 months. One has just landed an apartment at the V&A Waterfront! And the other is about to walk off with his Bsc in Genetics and Biochem. Well done, boys.
What have I learnt about myself?
- I can do this. So many people say "I could never do what you're doing" but you what? You probably could. Some empathy, perseverance, determination, and focus, and a view of the bigger picture makes it manageable.
- I am resilient!
- I can allow myself the occasional wobble. Or, as I like to call it, a wallow. After all, if a hippo can take so much pleasure in wallowing, why should I not take a day off a month, blame pms if that helps, and just let go? As long as it doesn't last longer than a day.
- Two new friends gave me some excellent advice the other day. "Make caring work FOR you." I am learning to do that.
- I have good friends. Really good friends. Thank you.
- I've learnt to be grateful.
- I have choices. If I don't like a placement, I can choose to leave.
- I am free. Freer than I have ever been.
- Discovering new interests and passions, things I didn't have time to consider in my old life.
- An appreciation and respect for time. It passes. Use it well.
What have you learnt about yourself? What helps you to keep going? Is it worth it for you?