Endings

2016 is done.

In numerology 2+0+1+6=9 and 9 is the year of endings and change. No one could deny there was so much of it last year, losing iconic celebrities like David Bowie and Alan Rickman at the start through to George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds at the end, and so many in between. There were countless terrorist attacks – I was very close by during two of them – plus the usual and at times, unusually-located flurry of weather hazards and natural disasters. Then there was senseless tragedy, helplessness and devastation for the vulnerable people of Aleppo, as well as broader Syria and Yemen. The wider Western public gave in to fear and wayward politicians, voting in Brexit and Trump and changing this liberal world as we know it. Time will tell but I think what people were really voting for was a pre-neoliberalist, pre-Reagan/Thatcher world where everyone had a full time job, comfortable wages and job security and adult children could afford their own house and dreams. Something no politician can achieve these days without dramatically changing the massive corporate power and wealth influencing the global government and world today.

Quite simply, it was quite a year.

For me 2016 embraced both endings and change, but not really in any negative way. Continue reading

The Great Declutter, part 3: D-Day

Over the northern summer I spent my eagerly anticipated month in Australia, relaxing on a much needed holiday break while also consciously thinking about the things I own, how to declutter in a meaningful way and how to spend my time in a way that balanced relaxation with family and friend time, spontaneity and community. I was so proud of the result. I returned to work feeling truly at peace with myself, for the first time in a long while. 

I arrived in Australia one wintry Wednesday night. Completely focused on my mission, I secured free wifi in my hotel room and promptly posted online ads for my mattress and bedding package as well as my bike. Within two hours I had someone interested to buy my bike and coming to meet me Thursday afternoon. It was a great start. I was so ready for Thursday to arrive. Little was I to know how smoothly things would go – preparation was everything. Continue reading

The Great Declutter, part 2: The Game Plan

Over the northern summer I spent my eagerly anticipated month in Australia, relaxing on a much needed holiday break while also consciously thinking about the things I own, how to declutter in a meaningful way and how to spend my time in a way that balanced relaxation with family and friend time, spontaneity and community. I was so proud of the result. I returned to work feeling truly at peace with myself, for the first time in a long while. 

The primary goal for the Melbourne leg of my trip was decluttering. That is the heaviest burden of most first-stage minimalists, right? Of course you want to know how that went!  Continue reading

The Great Declutter, part 1: The Real Cost, November 2015

What a powerful bridge I just crossed.

This journey can only be described as an elongated thought process, and so the following post will read as such. 

It’s my day off again. Weighed down by things to do, I came up with a list of short tasks to achieve this morning to help me start to feel like I’m getting a lot of work done. After that I thought, you know, while I’m here I have some other things on my mind that I want to list: easily discarded things from my storage. So I opened up my smartphone notes page and jotted them down. Then it occurred to me to scroll back through my smartphone photos to the last pictures of my storage (which I do each visit), to see if there’s anything else I can see I need to add. What followed was a half hour of liberation.

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Taking Stock

In the Middle East, life can be a double edged sword. On the one hand, you live a charmed expat life earning good money, travelling, learning about other cultures and speaking more than one language. On the other hand, you could be gone in an instant at the whim of your employer. By instant I mean – out of the country within 24 hours. I have known a few people over the years to receive such quick exits; when I left my last Middle East position I had one week’s notice, but was given no free time to pack up and had to lie about my departure time so I could get dropped at a hotel early, where I packed everything I’d stuffed into shopping bags that day into suitcases better suited for my flight home.

To this day the weight of that knowledge firmly rests in the back of my mind, although my carefully chosen employers are not that fickle and I like that most of their staff are long-term permanent residents. Still, it’s one thing knowing you arrived with a couple of suitcases, it’s another to look around your apartment at the life you have made and home you’ve built, and try to determine how much you have and what you would take with you if you ever faced the situation. Continue reading

Finding Closure in Mortality and Nostalgia

nan-pop-2Four weeks ago my beloved grandmother died. Nana was 95 and tired, nothing more, just wanting to be reunited with my equally beloved grandfather on the other side after five years apart. Married for 65 years, theirs was a marriage unparalleled in today’s society, a true eternal love. Today marks their 70 year anniversary; so this post seems a fitting tribute. Two days before she died, Pop visited me in a dream to hang out while he waited for Nan. After a while, since she didn’t come, he hugged me goodbye, a transcendental embrace that left me feeling fulfilled even after I woke. With a busy job like mine, I quickly moved on with my day and thought nothing more of the dream until two days later when I got the crushing news she had passed. I was back in Australia for the funeral a week later.

I wouldn’t be alone to argue that 2016 seems to be a year of death and mortality. Several of my friends have lost loved ones this year – parents and grandparents and siblings – and even more than one. There has also been a number of beloved public figures and celebrities leave this world this year. Over the summer there even seemed to be more terrorist acts claiming lives than in previous years. One notable death that stood out to me earlier this year, that got me thinking about a blog post on the topic, was the passing of a dear childhood father figure and close family friend. That I couldn’t go home to share the family grief and honour his memory was very difficult and upsetting.

Yet these two meaningful deaths, for me, haven’t been sad because of the person dying. Both were deaths I knew were approaching with plenty of time to accept it. No, deep thought on the matter has revealed that these deaths have saddened my inner child. Their passings have closed a lid on my past.

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Silver Linings

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Summer last year my dreams came true. Work took me on the holiday of a lifetime, a holiday I had wished for since my days living in Monaco well over a decade ago. Back then I used to walk around the port admiring the beautiful yachts and super yachts, dreaming that one day I might step aboard the largest of them all. It had a helicopter pad. It was double the size of almost any other there. It was grand. Majestic. One day this dream manifested into reality. The job I was seeking featured regular trips including full summers on their super yacht. Helipad, grandeur, bigger than even the one I had longed for. I got the job. And last summer, I stepped into my dream. Continue reading