Life Lessons

I feel like a lot of my life has been spent dreaming, planning, procrastinating and hoping that one day I would be brave enough to bring my dreams to life. I guess that can be one of the side effects of growing up in a teeny tiny village in the arse end of nowhere in the most uninspiring, pancake flat landscape I have ever set my eyes on. I spent the last two days of the year devouring the book ‘Tracks’ which I read cover to cover and this paragraph pretty much sums up how I have felt for much of my life spent dreaming;

During this time, a kind of misery, a feeling of defeat, was building almost unnoticed in my head. The joy of being on my own, of living in a fantasy place,and of dreaming about the trip without ever coming to terms with the reality of it was beginning to pall. It dawned on me that I was procrastinating, pretending, play-acting and that was the source of my discomfort.

Robyn Davidson, Tracks

For me, last year was the time I stopped dreaming and planning and started doing. I decided I could do anything I wanted to do. I decided I was brave and I wanted to do things that I had always been too afraid to do. For a while now, I have felt very empowered, more so than in any other time of my life. I think a lot of this has to do with me breaking down any self limiting beliefs that I may have had in the past. I feel that if I truly believe something, I have the power to make that my reality.

Last year I have earned less money than ever in my life, yet I went away on more enriching trips than I ever have in my life, and I am planning many more for next year. I have never been paid much, nor have I ever been inclined to work too much as there are just too many other things I want to spend my time doing. I have over the years become totally disillusioned by the whole consumer culture that seems to have the whole of the world brainwashed. A great side effect of this is that my monetary needs are much less, therefore I can work less and live more. Any spare money I might have can be spend on travel, experiences and going away.

When I was younger I went shopping as a ‘hobby’ and I frittered away all of my spare cash on clothing, hair dye, makeup… Now I rarely go shopping, in fact I have actually come to loathe shopping. I see through the whole charade and realise how ridiculous it is. I simply cannot justify spending my hard earned dough on some poorly made clothing that is riddled with the stench of exploitation. The only exception I make to this rule is underwear, technical clothing and outdoor shoes. For everything else, there are clothes swaps, donations from friends and my favourite boutique… the Salvation Army! I have whittled my living costs down to the bare minimum. I live in a room the size of a shoebox, eat free food from work wherever possible and always think twice before I buy anything. I can usually talk myself out of buying most things! I have less possessions than I have at any point in my life and I am constantly doing what I call ‘life editing’ where I sort through and donate anything I haven’t used for a while or no longer have a use for.

Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car, and the house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it.

Ellen Goodman, 1941

I rarely eat meals out for a couple of reasons, first I love to cook. I love having friends over for dinner. Second, it’s pretty goddamn expensive to eat a good meal in a restaurant and third, my friends love to cook and equally enjoy having people over for dinner.

When I was a child I was very resourceful and my father would often comment that I could live on fresh air and water. Throughout my later teenage years and continuing through to much of my degree, I somehow lost my sense of self. I drank too much, spent too much money, partied too much, ate too much and wore too much make-up. I frittered away my time which I now see as being the most precious thing in the world. I was unproductive and lacked motivation to change my habits. There is that old saying, if only I knew then what I know now… I look back on the person I used to be and I barely recognise myself. I do think that I had to go there to become the person I am today. I am once again a very independent, resourceful, confident person with a strong sense of self.

My perceptions of beauty and beauty standards have changed so much in the last few years. I used to spend hours each morning, primping, and preening, camouflaging and suffocating my beautiful skin and ironing my hair to within an inch of its life. I still have the odd moments when I may wear eyeliner or red lipstick, but for the most part I spend my days fresh faced. Heck, I even gave away my hair straighteners last year as I realised I hadn’t used them in over a year. Now, you’re more likely to find me fresh faced and rosy cheeked from the outdoors with the odd mud splat on my face. I often talk with my beautiful friend Amy about our changing beauty standards and we think about how many hours of my life I have saved. Hooray! As young girls, our biggest role model is our own mother. I grew up watching my mother ‘put her face on’ every single day without fail. She even refused to pop to the village store unless she had a full face on. My mother is so beautiful and I am happy to see that though she still wears makeup it is now just a little to enhance her natural features rather than conceal as she did in the past.

Appreciate your body for all that it is. As a small child there are many, many photographs of me running around, naked as the day I was born without a care in the world. What is it that happens to young girls that makes them change their perceptions of their body so much during adolescence? Whatever it is, it deeply affected me and I spent much of my teenage years loathing my body and trying to change every little thing about it. It has taken a lot of time and somewhere along the line, I have learnt to love my body. I go running wearing little more than shorts and a vest in summer. I look in the mirror and appreciate what I see. Hard work and sweat have gone into building my quads, calf muscles and butt and hey, I like what I see! I believe running is one of the main reasons for my changing perception of my body. Running gives me so much more than a cardiovascular workout, what I take away from running is a self belief, a strong body and a clear mind. If I do ever have a day where I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see, my mind is usually changed after I go for a good stomp through the woods. Another way I have found to accept my body is to get naked with my friends! Go skinny dipping, sun bathing, do a naked bike ride! You will experience so much raw innocent joy that you will completely forget about the fact that you are naked!

Make sure the people you love know that you love them. I have some really incredible friends in my life and I make sure they know that I love them. The friends I have in my life mean so the absolute world to me. They uplift me and hold me high. They enrich my life so much and make me feel loved. The same goes for my family and housemates. If you love somebody, small kind gestures will let them know, as will telling them you love them.

I learnt to truly enjoy my own company. I stand on the edge of a very fine between relishing in the enjoyment of my own company and being terrified of being on my own. I faced my fear of being alone when I hiked across Wales in March and I came out the other side just fine. Yes, I talked to myself, cows, squirrels, sheep… These were all very much one sided conversations. I didn’t have any massively profound thoughts or epiphanies as I had hoped I would in spending so much time alone, but I did have a greater appreciation of my own strengths and I now have a thirst for more extended solo hiking adventures.

Tell me… what it is you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

I decided it was better to live without regret. I asked somebody out for the first time in my life. Hey, it didn’t quite work out the way I would have liked but at least now I know the outcome. I can never look back and say, ‘I wonder what would have happened, if only I had the courage to…’ My best friend Deb thinks single life is working out great for me and I agree. I also agree with her that I need to be the person that likes the other person more, so I’m happy to stay single until then! I honestly feel like there are so many goals and projects I have planned in my mind that it would take a lot before I would be willing to accommodate somebody else in my life. I’m happy just being me for now.

Something I am still working on is being authentic with my feelings. I’m pretty good at the positive emotions. It’s the sad, angry, unhappy etc… emotions that I suffer terribly with. I never want to make anybody feel bad or upset so I continually act like everything is just dandy even when I am damn well annoyed / angry / upset with somebody. I have a terrible fear of confrontation that I need to get to grips with. I’m working on it.

Always have something to look forwards to. I can feel very unmotivated when I have absolutely nothing to look forwards to and get excited about. Though I’m still planning, I’m spending less time procrastinating and more often I’m seeing my plans come to fruition. I’m going to start this year by scratching my travel itch a little. I’m first starting with a working holiday in Norway followed straight by a holiday-holiday in Colorado to visit my best friend Deb and I cannot wait. I’ll be sure to share a little of my trips with you guys.

I have some longer term goals that I want to share with the internet for accountability reasons…

  • Build my own tiny house / eco house
  • Run the UTMB by the time I am 30
  • Go on an extended solo hiking trip (6 months – I year)

 

I probably wrote this little post more for myself than for anybody to actually read so well done if you’ve got this far!

Questions for you…

  • What life lessons have you learnt?
  • What are you looking forward to this year?
  • What one thing have you always dreamt of doing?

 

Much love best wishes and happy new year!

Olivia ♥

 

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