No Promises

… Last year I made some resolutions and really struggled to live up to them. The year before, I only made one promise, and that was to try harder… I think the latter worked better for me: rather than setting targets and getting upset and demoralised when I don’t meet them, deciding to push myself out of the comfort zone was good. I’m going to take it a step further this year, and stop trying, and DO. My Dad and I have had a lot of useful conversations about just getting on with it. No matter how terrifying, boring, unpleasant. Get rid of the paralysis and just get on with it. Running, writing, big things and little things. This, for me, means a lot of staring the scary things in life down rather than hiding from them.

The scariest thing I have to do this year is sort out what my life will look like next year. My current role runs out at the end of February in 2014, and given the lead-times on developing and funding research projects, that really isn’t very far away. This isn’t something I can ignore until next September, and it isn’t as simple as applying for jobs.

It means:

getting some stuff published…

..which in turn entails writing some stuff, which has been an issue in this last year.

It means getting serious about a load of ideas I have and being brave enough to share them with people and try to turn them into working projects that can keep me gainfully employed.

It means trying to be less outwardly unsure of myself, and projecting the other side of me that apparently knows what she is doing.

It means supporting Matt too, either finding a way for him to move here (including a job) or perhaps making the decision to go back to the UK. This one is tough. I miss my friends, the ready availability of bacon and cheddar, and being near my parents. But I don’t miss the government, a lot of the culture or the mess that is Higher Education at the moment. prospects for a job are a heck of a lot stronger in Europe than they will be at ‘home’ for quite a while. And living somewhere else appeals to my innate curiosity. But I think we’ve agreed, that if at all possible, 2013 should be our last year of living apart. It’s just that the how of together hasn’t been decided yet, and can’t be for a while.

I also think it means I need to get serious about learning Dutch rather than cobbling along as I have been.

So, pretty big task then. I am trying hard not to be daunted and to think of all the amazing things I get to do on the way. I’ll be in Italy at least twice next year, in Belgium in a few weeks, in Vienna at the end of May. Hopefully this will be the year M finally gets to visit Italy. With any luck he’ll love it as much as I do.

Looking back, 2012 was fast- as I said in my previous post. A hell of a lot happened- babies were born, people got married, we said goodbye to my Granddad Thom in the beautiful western highlands of Scotland. In the last few months, some pretty awful things have happened too. A friend found out before Christmas that her cancer has come back and this time it is terminal. She is my age, and has two little boys and an amazing husband. This is one of those things that makes me want to punch the universe in the face. The much loved big brother of an old friend from home is missing, and has been since the end of November. His family are also heartbroken. These things all remind me that it really is the little things that matter. Time with the people you love is always time well spent, if you recognise it. Don’t be complacent. I think that is my ‘lesson’ from 2012.

The Year of Yoda

The Year of Yoda

It has been a very Star Wars Christmas for us, so my motto for next year is ‘Do. Or do not. There is no try’.

In no particular order…

The title says it all.

Yesterday I talked about last year, and that ‘keeping trying’ was going to be the theme of 2012, but that I wanted to put some specifics down. This is a list of things, not in any special order or priority, that I want to do, keep doing, or do better this year.

Running has been really good. I have asthma and this year has been a bad one for colds & associated breathing rubbishness, so I’ve not yet hit my 30 minutes / 5 km goal. It’s fair to say I never imagined I’d be the sort of person that tried to talk other people into starting running, but I’m loving it; the endorphin buzz really exists and the difference it has made to my fitness is immense.

Scotland. Not exactly a resolution, but a lot of my goals are tied to a trip we have planned to Ardnamurchan and Morvern in June. We visited every year when I was little, just like my Mum and her brother and sisters when they were small. We’re going to say a proper goodbye to Granddad Tom in some of his very favourite places; places that are very important to our family. What is extra special is that Matt will come, and my brother and his partner, Suzanne. I am so excited to be sharing such a special part of the world with them for the first time. As part of it, we’re going to climb a mountain I first climbed when I was 7! I need to be fit and healthy and have my asthma under control for that. Bein Resipol is by no means a monster peak, but I want to feel good and enjoy it; not fight with my body the whole day. This gives me an extra push when I’m out running, as does the knowledge that fieldwork this year could well be in the mountainous part of our study region.

Image of Castle Tioram by Iain Simpson on Flickr (creative commons license)

I had a lot of fun blogging the first part of my year in Groningen, and then I got caught in a bit of an emotional downspiral. I’ve talked before about not writing when I’m down. I think that instead of not writing if I get blue, I’m going to try writing anyway, just not about the blue bits, if that makes sense? Writing can be an effective distraction for me and if I commit to writing a post (even if it’s a ‘Hey, I ate bitterballen and they were good‘ type post) a week then that’s an easy goal to stick to and something to tick off and say; yes, I did do that, I can do the other stuff. I need to resurrect the 365 project a bit though… which was also fun, but tough not to make very boring. I guess if I try to live more in Groningen, then there will be more to take pictures of.

Living in two places. I need to try harder to actually live in Groningen. I think that’ll get a bit easier when I move closer to the city centre in March and into a much bigger flat; it will be easier for people to come over for dinner, or pop in for a cup of tea. But I also need to be more proactive. So, a listlet on this theme: Say YES to more invitations to do things. Organise more things to do (galleries, museums, bike rides, picnics…) Get better at Dutch. Join a local RPG group or boardgames group. Perhaps join an Am Dram group. Get some structure and routine in my life instead of work, and being at home feeling homesick or guilty that I’m not working! I’m hoping more people can get out to visit (or least make it to Amsterdam like Andy & Kirsty) too, now that I will have a spare room!

… I’d also like to make it back to the UK a bit more this year. So far, I’ve managed one long weekend and then two extended trips and there have been a couple of very long Matt-free periods, which sucked. This means getting organised in advance about time & money, and being willing to be a bit selfish about what I do & who I see when I do come back. If I’m only going to be here for 72 hours there is a limit, and sorry but seeing Matt is top of the list folks… Obviously, that also means on the flipside, when I do make it back for longer, I need to be more organised about seeing people, especially those not in Southampton. After everything with my Granddad, I really want to do a trip ‘up North’ to see family, my dad’s parents in Middlesbrough, and my cousins in Newcastle that I’ve not seen since they were teeny (and one of them is now at uni!).

I’m already failing at one thing I promised myself, and that’s due to a second ‘resolution’ also going a bit wonky. I have my usual gorgeous moleskine diary from Matt. I did a better job in 2011 than I did in 2010 of writing every day, but still only managed about 10 weeks continuous entries. I’ve not written anything yet this year as I got clobbered by a horrible cold on New Years day that has resulted in coughing, sneezing, insomnia and serious body temperature issues. I’d sort of resolved to be less ill this year, but I’m not totally sure how to make that happen. More fruit and veg, more running and less beer and bitterballen seems like a good start, but it sucks being kicked in the teeth by my immune system this early on. I’m off to the Island tomorrow to spend some time with my folks. Ventnor is an inspiring, beautiful place even in bleak and windy January, so I’m committed to not only getting my diary caught up on but also trying to do some writing. I’ll need to take some work over too… which gets me to the last bit.

Work. The keeping trying thing. Yup. Ugh. I’m not going to get caught up in the details but here is a listlet: step back often and see the bigger picture. Think often about why you love this subject. Make decisions based on enthusiasm not fear. Try harder. If it goes wrong, start again. Plan, carefully and stick to your plans. Minimise distractions. Use what you have learned. Write every day, even if it’s a blog post, a vignette in a notebook, a rough idea for a paper or a project. Keep your skills honed.

I guess that’s it! I’m off to pack for my trip to Ventnor (still think of it as going ‘home’… I sometimes wonder how many places it’s possible for me to feel like that about, I have at least 5 ‘homes’!) and Matt is off to play boardgames so I need to get him to pack as well! Be excellent to each other.