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My Beacons

Deciding what to write in my very first Blog post was never going to be easy.  Contrary as it is to the concept of publishing a Blog, I am in many ways a private person.  The idea of publishing online the type of thoughts that I wouldn’t drop into conversation with strangers or even acquaintances, scares me a little.  On the other hand I love to find connections with people, and I don’t keep my thoughts to myself for any other reason than my inherent introversion and my self-doubt.  With all of that in mind, I figured I might as well start things off with a biggie.

As I get older I find that in many ways, life gets easier.  Or if not easier, certainly better.  Whilst I’m never going to be sing-from-the-rooftops-about-how-great-I-am confident, I’m definitely more self-assured than I used to be.  I’d love to take some of this self assurance back in time and give it to my 13 year old self, or my 20 year old self, or even my 25 year old self, but there’s a time and a place for everything and I guess it’s taking this long to start getting comfortable with myself for a good reason.  But despite this very definite change for the better, many things in my life are now more complicated.  I have more decisions to make, and the risks if I make the wrong decision seem greater.

My husband and I have recently made some big changes in our life.  One after the other we have left long-term and stable jobs to work for ourselves, and we’ve started and made a success of not one but two businesses together, with nothing in the way of a fall back position.  During these and other periods of decision making and change, I have really wrestled with how on earth to know if I’m making the right decision.

At the time we decided to begin these changes, I was pretty much treading water in my job.  I think I am naturally quite a drifter.   I daydream a lot and little things make me happy.  I’m pretty upbeat and although change often makes me uncomfortable, in the end I’m fairly adaptable.  Most of the time, if I really don’t like a situation but feel there’s nothing I can do about it, I’ll go into my own little world and escape it in that way.  On top of all that I’m pretty afraid of failure and I suppose I haven’t tried to do new things that I might want to do, because I don’t want to fail.  My husband on the other hand, seems to know when something is fundamentally wrong in his life, and he’s prepared to do whatever it takes to change it.  His unhappiness in his then job is ultimately what has led us to where we are today in terms of how we make our living.  Throughout the various stages of these changes, this problem of how I could know if I was making the right decision for me, has been a real struggle.  I suppose it started off as simply wanting to support my husband when we were trying to decide if we could risk investing the small amount of money we had to start a business in a field in which we had no professional experience.  He was very unhappy in his job and I completely believed he could make the business work, so of course I supported him.  This pattern pretty much continued, but until recently it was still more about supporting him and not about working out what I really wanted.  I was just hoping that things would turn out for the best, and that I would continue to be happy on a day to day basis.

One day it occurred to me that perhaps – in the continuing absence of any thunderbolt from the blue telling me what I should be doing with my life – I should think about what I might look back and regret at the end of my life.  A slightly downbeat way of looking at it I know, but I’m a big one for guilt and beating myself up if I don’t get things ‘right’, so this seemed to fit with my way of thinking.  I wanted to strip it all back and know really, when all is said and done, what would I think ‘gosh, I wish I’d…’

First of all, I needed to brush away the layers of longstanding ideas I had about myself.  I’ll talk about this more sometime, but one of these was that I should be a Writer, and that I should Write And Publish A Novel.  This has been on my ‘list’ for almost 30 years so it sounds like it’s important.  But, when I get to the end of my life, will I really be fretting if I haven’t done it?  The answer I gave myself was ‘No’.  Yes, it would be a great achievement and it might mean my name hangs around for longer than it otherwise would do.  But so what?  As a child I wrote because I utterly and thoroughly loved it, and because I was constantly inspired and had a million little ideas.  Most of those ideas weren’t really novel worthy, and I would start my latest book and then stop writing when the next idea came along.  Somewhere along the way, this starting but not finishing became ‘failure’.  Even though I loved doing it.  So actually, I’ll be kind of sad at the end of my life if I haven’t found a way to enjoy creative writing again, but I won’t be sad if I haven’t Written and Published a Novel.  And so on.  I stripped away the layers of should dos, and tried really hard to get to the crux of it all.  I was trying to make them as simple as possible, because I wanted to be able to use them as guiding principles behind many of my decisions.  (Note I say many of my decisions, not all  of them, because it could be counter-productive to tie myself to these things at all times…sometimes I think we have to go off on the odd tangent, or focus on mundane day to day tasks, appealing as the idea is of only ever doing the things we love.  Sometimes I might even have to do less of these things for a while, in order to hopefully have more of them in the long run, although that is a whole other conundrum).

So, here are the things that – at the moment – are most important to me.  I make no claim that these are earth shattering notions and I’m sure lots of people would have the same or similar thoughts, but they are the things I want to do as much of in my life as I can.  They are the things that I will use as guidance and as warning beacons, so if I appear to be on a path which is ultimately leading me away from them, I will try to change my path.

(1) Spending time (in whatever form that may take) with loved ones

(2) Being outdoors

I came up with these over 2 years ago and I’ve since used them many times when I’ve felt indecisive and lacking direction.  Sometimes they have given me reassurance, sometimes they have made me challenge what I’m thinking or doing, and over time they seem to be helping me have more faith in my own decisions.

Camera: Rolleiflex 2.8TLR, Film: Portra 800

Camera: Rolleiflex 2.8TLR, Film: Portra 800, Image Copyright Pretty Phil 2013



Dawn - May 7, 2014 - 6:39 pm

Lovely insight Erica 🙂 enjoyed reading something so well written! You could write a novel! xxx

Sonia Jansson - May 8, 2014 - 8:29 pm

Erica, I look back, and wish very often that we had gotten to know each other better in Norfolk. I was not really in a good shape, and barely survived the workshop with my sanity intact, so maybe it’s a god thing we didn’t socialized more then. Well, what I mean to say is that I really feel we speak the same language, when it comes to look at life and what is precious in it.
Also, there is something really obvious standing out of this beautiful monolog of yours. It might come through a novel, a blog, photography or something new you might find yourself passionate about, but you will end up saying something to this world. You do have something to say, and when the right form and medium will give it voice, I am sure you will make an impact. It’s just growing and evolving. You will shortly notice what ever it is. I am sure of it.
I suspect you won’t have many regrets, when you ‘ve grown old. You are to mindful, to let that happen.

Erica - May 9, 2014 - 5:26 pm

Thank you so much Sonia and Dawn 🙂

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