Monday, 30 May 2016

Why new?

As a self-confessed creature of habit, it may come as a surprise that my chosen blog topic is advocating all things new. If you ask anyone who knows me well, they will say what I hate most is change. And spiders. One is an irrational fear shared by many, and the other? I'll leave you to answer that. I tried once to cure my self of that panicky, spine tingling reaction to all things eight-legged by holding a tarantula at a wildlife park. Even at the age of 21, I still made my mum go first hoping that she'd chicken out. She didn't and I practically sobbed in front of a bunch of kids much younger than myself as the spider walked sedately across my hand. Fear cured? Not a jot.
But two very important questions arise from this instance. Firstly, were all the kids present that day, super kids with no fear? Of course not, they just jumped on an opportunity to try something new. How many of their peers at school the next day could boast such brave exploits? And yet the same reaction could not be said of their parents, dutifully taking photos of their little heroes whilst studiously avoiding the hairy beast themselves...
Secondly, if we treat 'common' fears like snakes, spiders, heights etc. as something to be overcome, why do we often lack the same approach to fear of the unknown?
I believe the two are inextricably tied. As children, all we hear from our caregivers is "Don't say you don't like it til you try it." We are encouraged to try all sorts of things (vegetables aside), and our childish curiosity embraces the new as exciting, sometimes scary, but definitely worth a go. Yet as we age, our routines grow with us as safe comfortable bubble as we navigate through such milestones as changing schools, moving house, first jobs etc. The 'New' suddenly becomes this dark shadow, always looming over us threatening the familiar which we have come to rely on like a pair of cosy well-worn slippers. They do their job, keeping our feet warm day after day, but they will only ever be one thing. The same can be said of life - you cannot expect it to be anything other than it has always been unless you do something different to change that.
I have seen first hand how powerful an effect stepping outside of your comfort zone can be. Sometimes you discover things you love, like new food, new friends, a TV show or even new places or hobbies. Sometimes you discover new things to hate. Like kumara, aka the potato's evil twin. Either way, you are learning more about yourself than simply likes and dislikes: how you react to new experiences may be the most important. You may discover you can cope far better in a novel situation than you thought - I discovered that once I'd gotten over the fact that I wasn't going to die, I quite enjoyed white water rafting. You may also learn aspects of your character you thought you knew could turn round and surprise you - I believed myself to be very trusting until an acro-yoga workshop revealed it was harder than I thought to trust strangers to quite literally support your 'flight'.
So this is where this blog comes in. Not to preach but merely to serve as an example of how doing something different, reading something new or traveling into the unknown can have a profound effect on our character and how we see the world. And just maybe, start to realize the shadow of change is something we can befriend after all. So come, my fellow creatures of habit, allow me to introduce you to the Power of New...

Saturday, 21 May 2016

New beginnings

It was mid 2014 when the bombshell dropped.
And I don't mean little bombshell like, "What, no ice cream left?!" Although to be fair, that is a tragedy.
No folks, I mean BIG, life changing, world upending, you name it.
Let me set the scene. I was in my final year at university, I had a job I enjoyed, great people around me with my love life getting better by the day. I was happy. Or was I just comfortable?
Well anyway, I settling down for bed in my family home when my boyfriend rings. Nothing unusual there, except his tone tells me somethings up. After much sighing and mumbling, 'Bad news love, when my visa runs out I can't apply for a new one straight away like we thought.'
Hmm, minor setback, I think. So what, he can just fly home to New Zealand, get a new one and be back with me in England in a few weeks? 'Erm no, immigration says I have to be away from England for two years before I can apply again.'
Sorry, what?
So this was the bombshell. We hadn't been dating long enough to consider a long-distance relationship, let alone one spanning the entire globe. I had two choices. Go our separate ways perhaps wondering what could of been, or maybe we'd just go back to 'life before' and be happy. Or I could leave everything behind and follow him to New Zealand.
My mother cried. Can I just point out here that before this I couldn't even make it from London to Brighton without getting lost. Apart from the worry of losing her daughter abroad, I think there was a genuine worry that I would actually get lost and spend the rest of my days stuck in an airport. Knowing me, I probably wouldn't make it out of Gatwick alone. As it happens I made it to Dubai before getting lost, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
For a while I genuinely didn't know what to do. I am a creature of habit, the worst thing you could do to me was introduce change and stick me in a room full of strangers. Yet something in me wondered, what if?
I was happy with my life but I was restless. Through no fault of anyone, I actually wanted something different. I didn't know what, but I knew I didn't just want more of the same, even if I was putting my happiness, relationships and possibly sanity on the line for it.
I don't remember when it was that I decided to go but I knew I was scared. Scared to do what I needed. What if I hated it, what if his family an friends didn't like me, what would I miss out on at home?
Then that little voice in our heads that so many of us ignore said, 'F*** it, you're going!'
So I did.
New Zealand here I come!