I had a birthday recently.
For me, birthdays have always been a time to stop and reflect upon the past 12 months. A time to think about what I wanted a year ago, where I was, what has changed, whether I achieved my dreams or whether things worked out the way I thought they would.
In the past two years my life has changed immensely. Last birthday I could only marvel at the changes. I felt things had changed, and were changing, so fast. I was half exhilerated at the pace and half scared that things weren't really going to change as much as I thought. This year I am more comfortable with the changes that are happening. The flow of change is easier. The pace is slightly slower. And I'm growing used to it, after so many years that felt stagnant and Groundhog Day-ish. I have found a new sense of growth, and a strength that comes of forcibly changing my life when it was no longer working for me even though I was afraid, for it had become clear that the consequence of not changing was the death of something in my soul.
So here's a few things that have happened to me in the past year that I didn't really expect.
-Partner and I decided to commit to each other within two months of meeting.
-I found that the kind of love, intimacy and commitment that I'd only really dreamed about could actually happen to me.
-I made a new friend, a real friend who I can really talk to, at a time when I sensed a growing distance between myself and my old friends.
-I got heavily into the internet, discovered blogs, and started one.
-I moved to a state I never wanted to live in, to a town I'd barely heard of.
-I found I like it here.
But those who've been reading for a while already knew all that.
What happened in the year before this? Well, not much that sounds too dramatic. Really, it was a kind of gradual awakening that things could be different. I was unhappy with my life. I had lost track of the things I was interested in. I had, in a sense, lost sight of some things I considered essential parts of myself. One of the problems was that I was in a long term relationship that was going nowhere and making me unhappy. Because I loved the man so much, I hung on hopeing things would get better. They never did. Gradually, I came to realise that love wasn't enough, and it was better to be single than to be that unhappy. Slowly, I came to see that there were other possibilities for me; that I didn't have to stay with him. And that realisation spread to other parts of my life, and I began persuing other aspects of myself that I'd neglected or not had the confidence to enact. I ditched everything (including the relationship) and went travelling for a while to sort my head out, and came back with a renewed sense of who I was and who I could be. I developed a firm sense of what I wanted in a partner, and vowed to never again settle for anything less, even if the price was eternal singledom. I persued my hobbies and interests with greater vigour. I felt better about myself and more confident about my goals than I had in years.
This year's changes have been an extention of all that. They would not have been possible without last year's changes - the slow, growing sense that there was a better life for me somewhere, and then the wild frenzy of re-creation that ushered in my new life.
The other night I sat outside in the warm, tropical night air celebrating my birthday with my wonderful Partner and some new friends I've made up here, drinking and playing guitars together. If, two years ago, when I huddled miserably in my thermals and beanie in front of a heater with a partner whom I couldn't relate to and some friends I had trouble talking to, sick of my job, sick of my life - if someone had told me then, where I would be now, could I have believed them? Could I have believed that I was capable of so radically re-structuring my life? I don't think so. Although I longed for change, I was too afraid to make it for myself.
There was a seed of courage inside me that for all those years I never knew I had.