The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

Birthday Eve so soon again?

So it seems that Birthday Eve is upon me again. And not just any ordinary Birthday Eve. It’s been five years since I wrote my first post on this blog just before I turned 39 and started the countdown to that significant 40th Birthday, which also means that in another five years time I’ll be starting the countdown to that next significant number! Along with most of you too.

I remember last Birthday Eve my thoughts were on new beginnings that were yet to start. It was both exciting and daunting, the prospect of starting a new life in a new town. There was so much I had absolutely no idea about. Even the seemingly simple stuff like when do the rubbish bins and recycling get collected. One week rubbish, next week recycling. You’d think from the same spot for both right? But no, rubbish from the back of the house, recycling from the front. Who knew sorting out your utilities would be more complex than your tax return.

I have found that it takes just a handful of people who are kind enough to reach out and make a newcomer feel welcome to help you on your way. I did notice though that it was mainly #3 starting in Reception year that made the most difference in opening doors to a new social network. I discovered that for #1 and #2, their peer group was a lot more established with friendships having been formed some years ago as early as when they were in Nursery. I guess for the parents too, most parent friendships were formed back then. Still, it takes time to slowly get to know people and on that note, I’ve been very lucky in having made several new friends that I look forward to seeing more often.

After the bright lights and convenience of city living for so long, at first it felt restrictive to find myself back somewhere that shut shop at 6pm latest. So that town centres became quickly deserted and empty of people. Then I realised what did it actually matter when it’s not like I have the freedom to just pop out once the children were back from school! There is also something comforting about that too, to just be at home. I particularly liked that feeling in the long evenings of late autumn and winter where you could take time to slow down, draw the curtains and hibernate.

After a year of settling back in the UK, I get asked what is it that I miss most about Expat living, I miss the diversity of culture and the food. I miss the adventures and exotic locations. I miss home help in the fact that it afforded me so much freedom and spontaneity. Most of all I miss the friends that I have out there. The diversity of those friendships and the mix of interests, passion and inspiration they give.

A year in, I have a varied life here, perhaps not as glamorous (on the surface) as before but one that I have enjoyed pursuing. I have been trying out new things like knitting and jam making. I know it sounds so quaint but the jam making in particular has been highly satisfying. I have this lovely big jam making pot and in it I’ve boiled many bags of sugar with a mix of seasonal local fruits and you end up with lovely jars of yumminess. I can leave bowls of strawberries seeped in sugar overnight without fretting about a trail of ants overtaking my kitchen in seconds. There’s something very soothing about creating something yourself. The action of changing this into that, mixing a bit of this with a bit of that is very good for the soul.

Most of all though, I have really enjoyed getting back together with family and friends. And it doesn’t take long to fall back into step with family like you haven’t been away at all. Exactly like you haven’t been away at all…

The children in particular have loved getting to know cousins and old friends that they’ve met on previous trips back. It gives me great joy to see these children having fun together and forming new childhood memories of their own. I’ve also had the opportunity to reconnect with an old childhood friend I hadn’t seen in over 15 years. It was quite some catch up, not just to hear about how she was doing but also about some old friends I hadn’t heard about since we were 16 years old. I’m sure we all know people that we have lost touch with over the years and from time to time wonder how they are doing.

I’m not surprised really that this past year seems to have passed by so quickly. So much has happened. So much change. So much to process. So many things to get used to whether I like it or not. It has been my most challenging year so far but also one that has probably given me the most strength and reflection too. I guess this is what sets us apart from our 25 year old selves and what ultimately makes us better able to support and empathise with those around us.

So tomorrow I’ll be firmly in that new category of middle 40s. Ooof. And as a new Birthday dawns, I’ve decided that I’m not quite ready to think about the next big goal yet.  I’m content enough with the small things, I’ve got a woolly hat to finish by November for #3, some more varieties of jam to make, crafts to finish, a home to declutter (snort, I mean one can think about it) and this blog to keep going.


That for me, is enough to think about for now.

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