Wednesday, 22 February 2012
A Decade of Me
1 decade. 10 years. 3652 days. I’ll stop there, if the numbers get any bigger I may actually retreat into a full blown depression. I have finally reached that day. As of two days ago I am in my thirties and you know something? I’m not depressed and not just because I stopped counting at days.
I can sum up my twenties in two words. Jonathan and Physics. Jonathan is in every day, every minute and second I declined to work out. He was the heartbeat and then backbeat of my twenties. There is no denying the importance of that man in my life but there was more to those 10 years than one man no matter how special he was. The other important part of my twenties was studying Physics, it was the only thing in my life that ever came before Jonathan but my success was ultimately only possible due to his support and encouragement.
On my 20th birthday Jonathan gave me a stuffed dog I named Bear and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I was in my third year at university and lived in a flat with two other students. I cannot remember how we celebrated it. I do remember my 21st as it was and remains my best birthday ever. On my actual birthday we went for dinner at a very nice restaurant and then met my closest friends at the pub were they gave me many balloons and cards and much merriment was had by all. The following weekend my parents came to town. My parents, Jonathan, most of my university friends and I had dinner at a local diner type restaurant followed (unsurprisingly) by drinks at the student union. It wasn’t just that it was fun, I felt loved and I felt like I belonged like I never did when I was in my teens.
As much as I found a new level of acceptance at university it wasn’t all plain sailing. I was ill in my first year and in my second year I only just scraped into honours due to spending too much time making up for my lack of social life in my first year. I spent a lot of my first year in tears and on the phone to Jonathan and my mother. The following three years were much better but during the stressful times of exams and overdue assignments I would be crying on the phone again. Despite suffering major exam anxiety and fluctuating grades I graduated with honours, my relationships with Jonathan and my mother intact, a lot of fabulous experiences and with some amazing friends.
After finishing my bachelors I went on to complete a masters degree and though it was partly long distance the majority was completed closer to home and my relationship with Jonathan not only survived but strengthened. During that year I was pleased to discover that as well as making new friends my old friends and I stayed close. At the end of my masters I did a placement in Glasgow and Jonathan and I moved in together. We were a strong and committed couple who had spent the last few summers basically living together at my mum’s house and it was therefore a shock to us to discover that moving in together was rather difficult. There were fights and there were tantrums. Doors were slammed and parents were ranted at, often in my case whilst drinking wine. All in all pretty standard for a young couple’s first attempt at co-habitation I’d say. Of course at the time I didn’t always see it that way. Not long after I stared my PhD I found myself suffering from anxiety, including frightening attacks where my self-esteem hit rock bottom. Fortunately through the university I received excellent counselling. With the support of Jonathan, my mother and my unofficial PhD supervisor I overcame the irrational fear produced by my brain and returned to the happy eccentric geek that I was before starting my PhD. Oh and the salsa dancing. It was during this low spell that Jonathan bought me my favourite Christmas present, salsa lessons for us both. As well as helping to increase my confidence and re-establish my AWOL self-esteem it became a life long hobby and passion for both of us.
The anxiety that surface in my early twenties will always be a part of me but now I know it and I know how to recognise it and live with it. I didn’t know it then but it was also a dress rehearsal for something much worse yet to come. Sadly I was fortunate as it gave me the tools to learn how to live with grief. After finishing my PhD I was in a great place. I was happy and my confidence though not 100% was strong and growing. I had a job dealing with many different people and companies which helped to build my confidence further and led to my job in Aberdeen. This lead to Jonathan applying for and getting a great role with the IT department of an Aberdeen based oil company. Life was good. We both had secure well paid jobs and were looking at houses with a view to buying our first home in the next 6 months. We had plans to visit Australia and salsa dance in Cuba. We were on our way to 'grwing-up' and setting the scene for starting a family. It wasn’t to be though. Jonathan died less than 2 weeks after moving to Aberdeen. Less than a month after my 27th birthday life as I knew it ended.
At first I was numb. Your brain cannot process that kind of information. It simply isn’t capable of it. It does it bit by bit. Step by agonising step. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I spent the following two days sitting staring at cartoons on the TV screen oblivious to almost everything around me. There was the funeral and then denial. I went through the motions of living and refused to acknowledge what had happened. Two things happened 5 months after Jonathan died. First I went for counselling and spent three sessions talking about him and crying to a complete stranger. Second I moved. I moved hundreds of miles away and went from the cocoon of living in my parents house to living on my own far away. Finally I let the grief in. I cried and screamed and I shouted and swore that it was not fair. That it was not true. That it was not happening. But though it wasn’t fait it was true and it was happening. Life was going on without Jonathan in it. The one allowance I had made in Aberdeen to my new widowed status was to join an online support group. Through this group I made friends with other widows in my new home town. My new colleagues were extremely supportive and I was fortunate to have understanding bosses at all levels. I learned to survive. I learned to get through the day without Jonathan and eventually I got to the point where surviving wasn’t enough anymore. At this point I formed Plan C. I handed in my notice, applied for my USA and Australian visas, booked the plane tickets and started this blog.
The end of my twenties was spent on the other side of the planet. It was an amazing send off to an eventful decade. In the last 11 months I have seen, done and lived more than I thought was possible. For all I had dreams of travelling in my teens back then I was more interested in where I wouldn’t be than the where I would be never mind the what I would do once I got there.
In my twenties I faced anxiety, grief, exclusion, self doubt, exams, disappointment, spiders on my own, worry, fear, terror, loss and more. I faced them and I over came them.
My twenties gave me strength, courage, attitude (good or bad I’ll let you decide), more friends than I know what to do with, more experiences than I know what to do with(!) and LOVE. I have loved and been loved completely and absolutely by one amazing man. I love and am loved by my family more today than I knew was possible in my teens. I have a whole other family simply because one man loved me and had the courage to stick by me no matter how crazy I got or how insane I made him feel. I have friends who are my family because they stuck by me when they didn’t know how and there isn't much I wouldn’t do for them. I have friends form the first time zone to the last. Basically I am one lucky thirty year old.
I thought I would be sad when I turned thirty, I thought it would be hard. I thought I would dwell on the life Jonathan and I have been denied but I’m not. I am sad at everything he will never have. I am sad for him. I cry for everything he should be seeing and doing but not for me. Though I didn’t get that life I got this one and it’s a good one. As I type this I’m smiling. It’s a smile tinged with sadness but it is a happy smile for all I have and all I am now. I am looking forward to seeing what the next decade has in store. I know there will be pain but only because there is joy and I know that as long as I remember that then the joy will make all and any pain worthwhile. So as I said so eloquently on my facebook page on my birthday. Thirties? Bring it. I’m ready for you and raring to go.