A year ago yesterday, I was sat at our kitchen table typing up a post for this picture when Graham walked in, home from work early, to tell me his Grandad had died.
It was just four short weeks after his Nanny has passed away too. (It was a Ryan Gosling, ‘The Notebook’-esque end to their beautiful love story.)
We had been in Ankara for less than two months. I was pregnant. And this hit me hard.
I was so stopped in my tracks by the unexpected news, the high I had been riding from the night before (pictured above) came to an abrupt halt.
And so I never did post the picture or the text that follows. It just seemed too celebratory. It was one of those times when I really called into question the choices we’ve made.
The truth is, sometimes there are days when I wonder what the hell we are doing.
I miss the comforts of home. I miss spending time with friends that I've known longer than a few months. I miss my family. I see friendships I thought I could count on fade with the distance and differences. I find myself frustrated by foreign culture and missing the ease of an English speaking country. And I wonder if we’ve perhaps made the wrong choices.
But then there are the amazing days. The days when, like pictured here, we experience things, people, places and create memories together that are just BRILLIANT. They make me feel we’re doing exactly what we’re meant to be. It’s exciting, different, vibrant and fun.
So what I’m coming to realise now, having done this international thing before, is that it can be both.
It can be both brilliant and hard.
It can be fulfilling and yet empty.
At times it's so exciting and at others, a little depressing.
Because that, well, that is just life.
No matter where you are or what you’re doing, life will always offer a full spectrum of experience.
In fact, it's the depth and fullness of that spectrum that makes the highs feel high (and worth striving for), and the lows feel low (and worth working to move beyond). Otherwise it just becomes one monotonous "blah".
I've come to realise that life doesn't care whether you're in leopard print dresses at fancy Embassy parties in some foreign land, or snuggled in your trackies on your sofa back in 'Blighty' - highs will still feel high, and lows will still feel low.
It's the same story, they're just wearing different jackets (or dresses 🙂).
Is one jacket better than another?
Is one jacket more worthy of higher highs or lower lows?
Will you only ever access happiness of 'those' levels when you take off your jacket and try and fit into someone else’s?
I don't think so.
So then, what does matter? If it's all the same, what's the point in pursuing anything?
The point is that when the jacket fits, you will always be able to find comfort. In the highs and in the lows, you will know that this is EXACTLY where you need to be.
So here I am a year on, feeling compelled once again to share the message below.
Stop thinking that others’ experiences are so different to yours because the jacket their story comes in is so much prettier/more adventurous/more exciting.
Stop thinking that for you to feel the feelings you so desire, your story needs to be more like theirs but that 'just isn't possible' in your world.
Instead, go and find YOUR perfect jacket and know that while the highs and lows will still come, they’ll come in a way that is exactly right for you and you’re exactly where you need to be!
So without further ado, here is the post I wrote just over a year ago.
I hope it sparks something inside of you.
I'd love to know if it does.
(Written November 2nd 2017)
As Graham and I arrived at the British Ambassador’s residence in Ankara for a ‘do’ last Friday night, all glammed up and surrounded by dignitaries and truly impressive people, it dawned on me...
We lead an extraordinary life.
Since moving in together in 2011 Graham and I have navigated:
5 house moves
Living in England - Northern Ireland - France - USA - England - Turkey
Extended periods apart as he worked away
Extended periods apart as I worked away
Repeated learning (and re-learning) the dance of living together joyfully
A new puppy
Ever changing social scenes
A pregnancy (watch this space)
So much more...
I am incredibly grateful for all that we have lived, loved and experienced but I am also incredibly proud…
We have created this life. We have enabled those experiences. We have chased down those lobsters!
It would be easy to assume that as a military spouse I am/have been somewhat redundant in the path we follow. Whether due to conscious efforts as a couple, lucky experience or attitude alone, I couldn’t see things more differently.
I see that so many of our conversations from the early days about our dreams and ambitions have come to fruition.
I see how together we’ve worked for and with each other to make those happen.
I see that despite the struggles, the inevitable challenges and the often unsettled transitions, we have held onto the vision of what we want to create for ourselves and each other and the promise that so long as we’re enjoying the ride, then we’re still "all-in".
Perhaps this promise is more a commitment that as soon as our choices aren’t bringing us the joy and purpose we seek, then we come together to discuss creating change. Yes those times have arisen and no, they're not always an easy or fun conversation to have, but it is always the first step to steering us back on track.
And that is why I feel empowered within and therefore proud of this journey. This extraordinary, challenging, lobster-full journey that we’re on.
So what’s my point?
Brag brag brag, blah blah blah?!
I hope you know me better than that!
My point is to encourage you to be brave.
Boldly go after the life you want to lead. Navigate the inevitable challenges with as much grace as you can muster. Hold onto the vision of what you want and then see how great it feels when you get there!
No matter what environment you move in, your choices (of action and of thought) day in and day out, shape the life that you lead and your experience of it.
As a couple Graham and I have made some brave decisions - decisions that friends and family have regarded as totally bonkers. But that’s because these decisions have led us to OUR lobsters, not theirs. Sure, sometimes those decisions haven't worked out as anticipated - but that's all ok with that promise of the potential for change.
So I write this to urge you to uncover what you want, make bold choices that move you towards this and then enjoy the twists and turns of the journey to get there.
I write this to encourage you ALL to
And to love yourself deeply and kindly as you do so!
So much love to you.