Podcast: Dear Student of Life...

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As I do each year, I’ve been seeing lots of photos and reflections from parents whose children have completed a school year, or ‘graduated’ from nursery, and it’s made me think about our reflections and milestones as adults. 

You have the typical end of year musings, as one year ends and a new one begins. There’s also what some regard as the ‘second new year’ in line with the start of the September school year.

It’s made me consider two things: If we are all students of life, why do we ever stop reflecting on how we’ve grown and changed in this way? And, when as adults do we stop marking our own milestones? What counts as a milestone? We take up the mantle instead of slowly fading out of our own journeys, the parts solely about our own whole selves, morphing into those that we celebrate by association or attachment. 

The reflections and milestones I see, are latched onto or viewed through the lens of someone else or our roles in relation to another. Whether you’re partnered and celebrating an (anniversary), a parent celebrating a specified parenting day or living through the lens of your childrens’ firsts (first steps, first day at school etc.). 
But what happens if and when those milestones end? And what if you don’t play any of those roles or have any of those titles? It’s giving lack of celebration vibes, and I don’t like it. 
As someone single, who doesn’t have children, and isn’t on any form of “traditional” career ladder, I wonder, where are my milestones? If I look for them in what exists within the boring structures of the world, I have few. It’s funny, writing this, a bible verse I picked up as a teen, ‘you’re in the world, but not of it,’ springs to mind. I operate within certain societal structures and -isms, but I won’t let them define me. 
So I made my own list of personal milestones, and I’d encourage every single one of you to do the same, else this life will have us existing and not reminding ourselves of all the things in our lives that we have done and are doing. A few could be:
  • The job you left
  • The business you started
  • The first time you recognised and didn’t repeat a certain behaviour
  • The first time you remember reaching out for help in an area where you needed it
  • Reaching a personal health milestone
  • Reaching a financial health milestone
  • Leaving a situation you know wasn’t for you
  • Saying yes. To yourself. To a relocation. To a relationship. To a challenge.
 Our individual efforts deserve recognition. More pomp and ceremony about the efforts that matter to you, whether recognised milestones or not.

A massive one for me to this day is passing my driving test in April 2017 and buying my first car: a zippy ten-year-old Peugeot 206 affectionately called Boopsie (there is no reasoning for this) in August the following year. It represents so much more than a test and a car to me. It took me nine years to get out of my overdraft after university. To recognise my money stories, and commit to getting out of it once and for all. This also tells you a lot about the feelings I have around not feeling like an adult for an extremely long time. But that’s a story for another day.

For me, those milestones are a direct representation of better money habits. Passing my test (first time, no less) is evidence of being able to do things, where doubt would usually butt in before I tried. And subsequently, driving has given me a tangible feeling of freedom - a value I live life by in my adult life. Every time I get in that car, it still delights me some four years later. 

Something like that wouldn’t matter to anyone else, I’m sure. But it doesn’t need to, because it’s my life, and my milestone. So what are some of yours? I have literally marked some of mine on a calendar as a reminder too.

I wish we’d stop going through life not celebrating ourselves, or not as often as we should, under the impression that we must wait to be celebrated, instead of doing so for ourselves. Once every ten years is not enough. And what are we demonstrating to those in our lives when we adhere to that? Celebrate every birthday in your youth, every first at school… and then what, it just stops at 16? Or 18? Or 21? Maybe, if we focused a little more on the everyday celebrations and recognitions, we wouldn’t have these big flip outs about turning thirty, when the last societally sanctioned celebration was nine years prior. Racking our brains for what we’ve done since then. And ditto, every decade that follows. 

And so, this brings me back to my other point: what has this last year in the school of your life involved? I’m thinking of this like a Life CV. They always say you should update it as you go, else you forget half of the things. And that’s entirely true. 
The things that were so much bigger, but now that we've dealt with them, we minimise the impact of. Just because you’ve gotten used to it, doesn’t mean it wasn’t and still isn’t hard. The evidence that there are always small joys, days of delight, the things we do routinely, that we don’t connect the dots with and realise make up the fabric of our lives. The great meals, the starting points, the memories of the days behind the selfies that may have made it to the internet. 
With our phones being the diaries of our lives, whether we want to see it like that or not, I went through the photos between last September and now, to really see the small moments my life has been made up of, and what’s changed. 
And this is what I found: 

Three locations, as I’ve moved twice since then. A good luck card from leaving a job, which represents a further step in sticking two fingers up at the career ladder.  Who presented me with this ladder anyways? A lot of tears and sadness from the end of a relationship. Many a video of me more dancing than riding in Peloton classes. A lot of plated up pretty meals for one, because be more extra always, even and maybe especially when you’re alone or when you think the occasion doesn’t call for it. It always does. Finding peace whenever outdoors. Zoom calls. Candles. New starts. Blank canvases. Pressing unsubscribe and stepping off the roundabout of any kind of prescribed way of eating (as something that had taken up way too many brain hours for the best part of 20 years, that alone is monumental). Diagnosis. Remission. Travelling for food. New friends, quiet moments, happiness delivered. Thoughtful friends and family. Ideas scribbled down on scraps of paper. Moving my body because it feels good and I want to. The evolution and increased prominence of my natural hair. Epic baths. Experiencing firsts within a creative business that I am loving building. Fewer moments alone as the year went on. The realisation that I am creating this life. 

If you take anything from this episode, please let it be a reminder to celebrate yourself and take note of who you are becoming in each season. And create your own milestones. In the micro. In the macro. In who you are, not just what you do or who you may be in relation to others. Remember, you are creating this life. 

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