Turning 35

This weekend, I turned 35.

Birthday’s normally create moments of reflection for me. What have I accomplished in the last year, what do I hope to accomplish in the next?

So far this year, I have been too lost in other things to actually pay much attention to these thoughts.

Sitting here mulling this over as I type now, it would be quite easy to think that I haven’t achieved much this year. The focus has been on others and not me. But actually, as I start to reflect, it’s been a pretty epic year for me too. Move all the drama to one side, and you will see that I have been quietly beavering away in the background.

So what have I achieved in the year leading up to my 35th Birthday?

  1. I finished my ILM Qualification in Leadership & Management…and passed. It was hard going back to studying and working on assignments after such a long time. I had attempted a qualification in Horticulture before my move to London, but this was exams based, and exams had never been my strong point. Give me a written assignment or coursework though, something I can get my teeth into and write to my hearts content, normally leaves me in a pretty good place. And so it did.
  2.  I started to visit lots of new places. To name but a few, I have discovered Chelsea Physic Gardens, Tooting Broadway Market, Kensington Palace Gardens, and Holland Park. I spent a day chilling and drinking wine with friends in Regents Park. I enjoyed a day exploring Abingdon and Oxford with my friend Alastair, I discovered Venn Street Market, which is just a stones throw from my flat, and thanks to my mum, I discovered the Vintage Retreat and Millers Yard Cafe at Boughton Mill Equestrian Centre in my home town of Northamptonshire. 
  3. I went to the cinema on my own for the first time. For someone who likes her own company, going to the cinema on my own had become a bit of a barrier. However, I was desperate to see Black Panther and had no-one else to go with. So it was a perfect opportunity to push myself to just do it. And I did. And I loved it. I had a whole bag of Malteser’s to myself, no obligations to share, and was able to sit back and relax and just enjoy the film. 
  4. I have found more time to read. I cried my way through Freya North’s ‘Turning Point‘ and Maria Realf’s ‘The One‘, but also spent some time reading about ‘Hygge’, the Danish way of living.
  5. I took a spontaneous trip to Southend on Sea. I had been to Southend before, but mum and dad had decided to spend the weekend there, and with nothing else planned that weekend, I jumped in the car spontaneously and went to join them.
  6. I travelled to the Greek Island of Crete for the first time, with my younger brother Sam. We had never holidayed together just the two of us before, but we were both in desperate need of a break and some time away from our everyday lives. I fell in love with Elounda, the village we were staying in, and long to go back one day, armed with my laptop, and to write to my hearts content. 
  7. I spent some quality time with my Dad. My parents have been happily married now for 35 years (they didn’t get to enjoy married life very much before yours truly came along!). Whilst they come down to visit me in London a couple of times a year together, my Mum will always pop down in between those visits so we can enjoy some Mum and daughter time together. However, I don’t know if its a man thing, but Dad had never really talked about coming down on his own before. Mum hinted one day that Dad would love to come down more, so back at the beginning of summer I invited Dad to come down for the day. Me and my Dad have two main things in common. We love football. And we love walking. Having done a couple of charity walks with my Dad years ago, I decided it would be fun to do a walk in London. Whilst I had walked the Thames Path in central London a number of times, I had never really covered the path which starts further out to the West. So we hopped on the train to Richmond, and walked from Richmond to Wandsworth along the Thames Path, stopping for a lovely pub lunch and a couple of drinks on the way.
  8. I went Glamping for the first time. Whilst I spent 6 years of my life camping with my ex, I had never been Glamping. My camping days are very much behind me, but the idea of Glamping had appealed. So off we went one Friday afternoon to the South Downs where we stayed in the most delightful Glamping site. It was a blazing hot weekend, but thankfully, our chosen site was amongst the woodland, which was a nice bit of respite from the sun. A nice little addition, was the outdoor hot tub  which despite the heatwave, we obviously had to try out. So one evening, we donned our swimwear and relaxed in the hot tub whilst the sunset behind the trees. Bliss. It was the first time either of us had stayed in the South Downs National Park. Another place I would happily move to in order to sit and write all day. It’s such a beautiful part of the country, only an hour from London in one direction, and an hour from the coast in the other. 
  9. I have enjoyed lot’s of new experiences, which have included visiting Chelsea Flower Show with my lovely friend Kim, getting tickets to Club Wembley for the England v Nigeria game, and watching the lovely Craig David & Rita Ora perform at Northampton’s County Cricket Ground earlier in the summer.
  10. I lead a process at work which we were being externally assessed on…and we passed.
  11. I had some professional coaching for the first time. And loved it. This has helped me to realise that some of my ‘dark cloud’ moments are thanks to Imposter Syndrome. Recognising that I suffer with this, and then looking at ways to overcome it, has taken a huge amount of weight off my shoulders and has helped me to start to understand some of the muddled chaos in my mind. It was also this that made me consider blogging for the first time. It also made me…
  12. …start to think more about mindfulness, wellbeing and my own mental health. I had always been aware of mental health. Many of my friends and family suffer from anxiety or from bouts of depression. My dearest B had battled with mental health as long as I had known her. But I had never stopped to consider my own. Mindfulness and Wellbeing had never really entered into my headspace. However, through the coaching experience, I suddenly realised it was something I needed to explore. I started to download apps (Calm and Headspace to name but two), and to read articles which explored these areas in more detail. It was also around this time that I realised I had a lot going on in my mind, and I needed to start shifting some of it to help me to declutter my mind, to help me to think clearer and to function more effectively…
  13. …so, I started my blog ‘The Mindful Musings of a Gingernut‘ and created my Instagram page ‘The Mindful Gingernut‘. And what I great experience this has been. I wrote my first blog at the back end of August and since then I have written 21 posts (this will be my 23rd!), my blog has been visited by 302 people and has had 710 views. Now, I have no idea in the grand scheme of things whether this is below/above average or not, however, what I do know is the stats don’t really matter. What really matters is that by blogging, my mind is freeing up some headspace. I have more time to reflect, to think about what works for me and what doesn’t, it’s helping others who are experiencing or have experienced similar things, it’s giving my loved ones an insight into what makes me tick, and one of the things I least expected from my blog, was the ability to make new friends through the site. There is a lovely network of bloggers out there, who are likeminded and seem to be travelling down a similar path to me. It’s lovely to bounce ideas off one another and to seek comfort and reassurance from one another. Creating my blog and starting to write again has by far been one of my greatest achievements of the year. But it hasn’t stopped there…
  14. I stopped drinking coffee. Throughout my coaching experience, it was flagged by a number of my colleagues that I had an inability to function effectively in meetings before 11am and around 3pm. This was quickly linked in with my coffee intake. I would need at least 2 cups of black coffee in the morning to feel like I was ready to function. After this time, I was fine, until around 3pm. I would have a further cup of coffee, but instead of helping me to function, it just made me really sluggish. I was able to function on my own at these times, but human interaction during these key points during the working day was useless. I would like to say that this pattern of behaviour encouraged me to stop drinking coffee. It didn’t. What finally made me give up, was a bout of Norovirus at the back end of August (funnily enough, also coinciding with the time I started to write my blog). I came down ill one Saturday night and was violently sick for the next 12 hours and continued to be ill for the next few days. After this, I just couldn’t stand the thought of coffee. The smell and the taste even now, still makes me feel slightly nauseous. I have never been a tea drinker, however, all of a sudden I felt the urge to try herbal teas. So now I drink a lot of mint tea and peppermint tea and feel so much better for it. I have found that I don’t have to wait for 11am before I can function. I am able to sit in 9am meetings and have a perfectly human conversation, come up with new ideas, and to think things through effectively. It has also prevented me from hitting my 3pm slump. I power on through the day from one hour to the next, without any noticeable difference in how I will react to a situation at any one time. 
  15. More recently, I have also rediscovered my love of baking. I don’t have a very big kitchen in my London flat. There’s no room for funky gadgets and little room for using a rolling pin. However, recently I have found myself starting to find ways around these issues. During the winter, when it’s too wet to tend to my plants on my little terrace, I find baking massively therapeutic. Sometimes you just have to think a little bit more creatively about how you can use the space you have, and by making sure you stay on top of things like the washing up throughout the magic you are creating, just so things don’t get too crazy in the kitchen. The month of December is always a great month to get your bake on back on! So far we have a Christmas cake waiting to be iced and decorated, and I made my first batch of mince pies at the weekend. I wonder what goodies will appear next… 
  16. After a pretty epic year, I didn’t stop there. On the day before my 35th Birthday, I decided to go and get my ears pierced. Being a glasses wearer, I’ve always joked that I already have too much metal on my face to suit earrings. Mum has tried to convince me for years that they would suit me, but I just didn’t have the urge to get them done. However, over the last few months, I kept looking at really nice fashion earrings, wishing I had pierced ears so I could wear them. As I strolled down to our local shops with Mum and Dad on Saturday, who were visiting for my Birthday weekend, I turned to Mum, and said ‘Shall I go and get my ears pierced?’. So that’s what we did! I now have lovely pierced ears with white gold earrings. I’m still a few weeks away from being able to wear ‘fashion’ earrings, but I love the ones they have put in for now. They make such a difference to my face and make any outfit look slightly more glam, just by having a little sparkle on my ears.

Despite it not being the easiest year, it’s certainly been full of lot’s of positive moments. 

Sitting down and writing this has made me realise just how much I have achieved and how much I continue to grow as a human being. 

I’m excited to see where the next year will take me.