During the last week, I marked the one year anniversary of my arrival in Australia. I spent it down in Gippsland (about 4 hours east of Melbourne) where I had some of the best cheese and wine I’ve had since I got to Australia. Then at the weekend I helped my partner out with a work event, a rally for owners of Moody, Hanse and Dehler yachts in the bay. You can see from the attached photos what a hardship that was…
An anniversary is often a good moment for reflection and so it seemed the right time to look back over the last year and see what I have learnt about myself.
Retaking the controls of my own life
When I was telling people that I had decided to leave work and go to university in Australia, I generally got two comments: “You’re so brave” and “I’m so envious”. Looking back I don’t feel I was brave: I had just reached a point where something had to change and I couldn’t go on the way things were. It didn’t feel brave at all; it was almost inevitable. So I suppose the first lesson is, if you feel trapped or unhappy, the only real agent of change is yourself. However scary it is, the benefit of feeling you have control over your own destiny far outweighs the scary factor.
Learning is a great joy
Another big lesson of the last year has been that education is wasted on you when you’re young. I have got so much more out of this experience for having been away from education for a while, so much more than if I had done this straight out of university, or even 5 years later. I was so hungry for it when I arrived, and I have approached it as a privilege. I’ve taken many opportunities to learn in the broadest sense of the word, doing new things from sailing to start-up weekends.
Let it go
One of my favourite lessons has been the realisation that I don’t have to get things right first time. Any idea I have can be improved by working with other people, who will come at it from different angles and bring different perspectives that I could never have achieved. It’s not a sign of incompetence to let your work be improved by others. In fact, it’s a sign of strong emotional intelligence, and good sense.
Actually, I don’t always have to *have* an idea. Sitting back and letting things grow can also work well. I’ve taken that approach with setting up the Bayside Women’s Business Network – I had a view of what it should do, but I made an effort to let the group have its say and put forward its own ideas. In the end, the two are broadly similar, but I think it makes a difference both to me and them that it is a collaborative effort.
Happiness has a real value
Obviously I’m living on much less than I had when I was working full time, but I really don’t feel any difference in terms of material things. I still do the things I love, though I’m just a bit more careful about it. I have a comfortable home, I go out. But I am much much richer in personal terms and that makes a real difference to my life. I do work I enjoy, I set my own terms, I have a strong, supportive partner. It’s so easy to undervalue the importance of being happy. I’m so grateful that I had a chance to realise that while I still (touch wood!) have time to act on it. I’d be even happier if my dear friends and family were here with me, and maybe I should have valued them more when I was unhappy. That’s part of the perspective too, I suppose.
I don’t know what the future holds
Since I left school I’ve been on a path. One I chose, and was happy with for the most part. Year off, uni, European Fast Stream, Commission. But the path dwindled away and now I’m thrashing through the forest undergrowth trying to find a new one. That’s scary, but very exciting and it does seem that the new path is going to be in a different direction to the old one. Not radically different, I’m not going to run away and join a circus, but different enough. And its form is going to be different – I think for a while at least I’m going to try to develop the portfolio-type work I’ve been doing while I’ve been here. It suits my popcorn machine of a brain to have different projects going on! Doing things the way that works for me and keeps me fulfilled is much more important to me at the moment than having a ‘proper job’ with a title I can put on a business card. If I’m making it up as I go along, well, that’s fine by me.