I think we can arrive at a crossroads in our lives when we start to review and reflect on where we are today, how we got there and where we’re going. I’ve arrived at such a crossroads (maybe a bit late in arriving) and now as I reflect on things, I’m taking full control of my life and focusing on who I want to be rather than trying to be who others think I should be.
As I said, I’ve done a lot of reflecting to bring me to this point. I started off thinking about my health and fitness levels, simply that I wanted to ensure I was able to enjoy my retirement when the time comes but as my fitness levels improved and could see the benefits of eating more healthily – giving me a lifestyle I thought the CFS (Chronic Fatigue) had robbed me of – my dreams got bigger.
This is where the real reflections came in, and I’m going full steam ahead with change – living the lifestyle I want, but also being the person I deserve to be – not restricted or held back by the image in my head of who others (parents etc) indicated I should be. Its taken me a while to get here and to really understand how these early influences can hold us back. I can’t change the past, only the present and future, so that’s where I’m going. I hope I still have many years (decades) ahead of me, so I want it to be my life I’m leading; and I want to live it.
Things are very rarely black and white and I was always encouraged to study, to pursue the career path of my choice – its not as if I was interested in becoming an engineer like my dad or a French polisher like my mum. However, I think some core values and behaviours were reinforced from an early age. Not to challenge authority, accept whatever was told/whatever decisions were made. But also, as the oldest sibling, to always be the responsible one – I suspect all first born children in families had similar experiences, so that’s normal. However, what I think made my experience different was my mum “switching” roles and looking to me to be the adult, to be the responsible one and make the decisions for her. To some extent, I lost out on some of the delights of being a teenager; not having to worry about things, to not have a parent who over-shared on the relationship between my parents. I was never allowed to act out or be rebellious. I never gave my parents any worries. In some respects I was forced to grow up quickly, to be mature and responsible because my mum either wasn’t able or willing to take responsibility for herself or her family. I should say there was no physical or mental reason why this happened – my mum wasn’t ill or disabled; I just don’t think she ever learned to take responsibility for herself and therefore looked to others to do it for her.
This expectation of being the one to put the interest of others first; always making sure that my siblings were looked after and safe, that my mum had the support necessary was also reinforced by my grandmother – the message was clear: it was my responsibility to do whatever was necessary to make life as easy as possible for my mum, for my parents – that I should constantly be working in the background – unseen, unheard – but being of service. Also, always being compared to others, to cousins and other family members who could apparently do a better job – so also, nothing was ever good enough. I wonder where my perfectionism comes from?
That’s one side of the adult I became, but I don’t think it was all negative. There certainly always has been a stubborn side to me, where I will stand my ground and where I have the confidence to make changes. And I think that’s why I’m able to make the changes I’m driving now – and I’m definitely in the driving seat. I could imagine without that tenacity, I may not have had the courage to change, even if I recognised that things were not great.
Looking back I can see times when, as a child and subsequently when I’ve stood my ground or challenged the status quo in some way – When I was about 16, my mum left my dad. We (mum and 3 kids) moved in with my gran where we stayed for about 4 months and when mum and dad got back together I refused to go home. I couldn’t understand, given all she had told me about what had happened, how she could go back to him. I didn’t want anything to do with him, so I stayed with my gran – until about 3 months later when I was told that I had no choice – I had to go back to my parents’ home. Our home was a violent one (my dad would regularly hit us – but he never hit my mum – she said he wouldn’t dare but she never stood up for us and would lie/cover up his actions) so as soon as I turned 18 and could legally get my own home, I left.
Some people see making changes in your life as taking risks and consider the price too high, but sometimes you just need to jump. Maybe because of my background it made it easier for me to take these risks as an adult too. In my early 30s I changed career, graduating from university at 37 and moving from being a legal secretary to a lecturer in HRM. I loved my job as a legal secretary and was good at what I did. People couldn’t understand why I would want to give up a job when I was happy – but I realised I was capable of more; I recognised my own potential. Of course I had worries if I was doing the right thing, would I cope with this new direction; this new job but I don’t regret it. I love what I do now.
As part of my language degree studies, I spent time living and working abroad – 6 weeks in Spain and 11 months in France. Again, people were shocked that I would quite happily just go off and do this. I saw it as part of my degree, part of my studies but I think the time abroad allowed me to just focus on doing what I wanted, what I needed to do – setting off for weekends exploring France on my own – that my 11 months in France gave me self-confidence. Thinking back on it now, it was quite liberating – I’d forgotten about that feeling, but I guess that’s what I’m trying to do now – liberate myself from the restraints of my past.
So now, in 2023, I think its time to really start putting my needs first – this is something I struggle with, sometimes to the point of causing myself harm, so I need to learn to be a bit more selfish and stop ignoring my own needs. I need to start listening to myself a bit more – so that’s the focus of the changes. To find out who I am – who I want to be. To break free of the limitations of a lifetime of familial expectations. I guess there will always be a part of me that wants to be responsible but do I always have to be the serious, reliable and dependable one, the grown up? I’d like, every once in a while to be unpredictable, spontaneous and fun. Thanks to blogging and this wonderful community, I’ve learned I can be creative; I wonder what else I will discover.
Where do I go from here? Well, I’ve started thinking about my image – there are things I want to wear but need/want to lose more weight first, but in the meantime, I’m being more selective about my clothes. Anything I’m not sure about, or never really liked or wasn’t sure about are out and I’m slowly buying things that will reflect who I want to be. I’ve also started looking into colour psychology for fashion (thanks Crispiecoach for her post on Wise & Shine). I hadn’t given colour much thought beyond which ones I love (purple, red, blue) and hate (pink, pink, pink!!!!); so I’m looking at that too.
I am approaching this with an open mind, so I’m considering and exploring everything and anything to see what feels good. Except the colour pink!
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