This has been a good week for reflections, in more ways than one. There have been blue skies, and I’ve been searching for reflections of iconic London monuments – such as Big Ben, Nelson’s Column and St Paul’s Cathedral – in the windows of surrounding buildings.
I’ve also been reflecting on the highs and “less-highs” of 2015, and thinking about next steps for 2016. I don’t tend to write in a journal or a year planner – I prefer to set a general intention for the year, and then stay open to spotting opportunities as they arise. My intention for this year is to be BOLD: to ask for, or offer things that might lead to people saying no. Or yes! (Both are equally scary!)
My reflections have also been inspired by what other people say…
“To the ones who asked me why I left my very good and well-paid job in London, to the dozens emails I receive weekly asking how, and to the many messages and comments seeking advice on how to follow your dream to travel the world.
Well, here is the honest answer you were waiting for: Fear. .
Yes, fear is what got me out of my comfort zone and “easy” life in the UK. Fear to be missing out, fear I would never be truly happy despite all my successes and accomplishments on the corporate ladder, fear I would postpone my own dream to travel to prioritise the common need of a shining CV and spotless career. Fear I would never see the world with my eyes, photograph it or writing about it. Fear my travel around Australasia would stay in the dream drawer forever. Fear that I might actually die before I could see all the things I wanted to see, do, experience or be. Fear I would never touch the Taj Mahal, or speak a few words of Hindi, fear I couldn’t never surf in Australia, fear I would never ride a camel or an elephant. Fear I couldn’t never see a kangaroo or hug a koala. Fear I wouldn’t see the skyscrapers in Hong Kong or discover the secret of mysterious Myanmar. Fear I would miss my chance for happiness. .
And this might sound a bit dramatic, because it is in fact. When somebody close to you does die, that fear you have dominated or forgotten for so long, comes out of nowhere and start eating you alive. This is what happened last year and this is what got me on the road 6 months later. Forget your career, your boss or your stupid professional achievements. .
Get out, eat the world, learn a new language, dance with strangers, look at the stars in the desert. Be alive. Feel alive. Inspire and be inspired. There is nothing more to life than feeling free. .
This is why I want to keep going, explore Asia and the countries I skipped because I feel in love with #India so much. I want to share this wonderful experience with a group of like-minded people, inspire and be inspired on the journey. See, experience, feel alive and make my life remarkable.
This is my mission. What is yours?”
Fear as a Driver
I found this so inspiring, and it got me thinking. Fear is often what stops people from making progress – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection… But when I think about my own experiences, I realise I’ve also been driven by fear. Years ago, when I told a friend that I was reading “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers, she said: “you don’t need to read that – you love the fear!” And in a way, she’s right.
I don’t love the bungee jumping kind of fear, but I do like to constantly challenge myself – to see whether I can do just a bit more than I think I can. It keeps me on my toes.
That’s why I spent a month in Germany at the age of 15; why I worked as a temp during the holidays as a student, facing different technology and office politics each week; why I trained to be a computer programmer even though I had no idea what they did; and why I accepted a job that I knew would send me to Australia and New Zealand for my first project, despite being acutely claustrophobic and terrified at the idea of being stuck in a flying tin can for 24 hours!
It’s also why I did a parachute jump on the third attempt, in my twenties, despite being brought back down in the plane on my first attempt, and being pushed out of the plane on my second attempt!
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, in 2008, I knew I needed to change my life in some way, but I didn’t know how. I spent several months reading inspirational books and taking care of myself – but at the end of that time, I still didn’t know how to change my life. When I was re-diagnosed in 2011, and again in 2013, I realised I had fallen into the trap of believing other people knew better than me, and I felt that I needed to be myself, rather than trying to be like someone else. I even wrote a Manifesto about it.
But each time, after taking some time off, I went back to doing what wasn’t working – chaining myself to the desk and trying to build a business on the wrong foundations.
So in 2014, when I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in the spine, I realised I really needed to get off the treadmill and make some drastic changes. The diagnoses were getting closer together (3 years, 2 years, 1 year) and I genuinely feared that my life might end very soon.
My husband, bless him, told me: “stop worrying about trying to earn a living, and do what you love” – which was ironic, as that’s what I used to tell my life and career coaching clients!
I’ve always loved travel, but I didn’t have the energy or the funds to go far in 2015. So I decided to explore London with my camera (or, more specifically, my iPhone) and to meet new people. I stopped talking about “earning a living” – as though I have to do something in order to deserve to be alive – and instead thought about ways in which I might earn income from filming and photography.
2015 was a fantastic year. My energy levels gradually improved – although I still get very tired if I’m out and about or with friends for more than a couple of hours, and I have to have rest days in between. I had lots of fun and I made some lovely new friends.
In 2016 I want to continue filming and photographing, catching up with the friends I’ve made, and meeting new people. I also want to stretch my boundaries and travel more, and to find ways to get paid to travel. (I’ve done it before…!)
So this week, when I received an e-mail asking for ideas for lectures, workshops or language courses for the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin, in May 2016, I sent off a proposal for delivering a talk about introverts as multi-linguists/polyglots. I was convinced they would say no, but I thought I might as well send it anyway, as I had nothing to lose – and they’ve said YES. Berlin here we come!! 😀