*Note - when I started writing this post I intended for it to be about spring and new beginnings, but it actually evolved into something very personal. I'm a little scared to put it out there because it's not the usual kind of post, but I'm hoping that by sharing and being vulnerable I might just be able to help someone who may be feeling how I was last year (which was vastly different to the really positive place I'm in now)
Almost every year since I started this blog in 2013, I have put up a post declaring my love for spring. I’m generally not a fan of cold weather, so usually by August I’m fed up with winter and am absolutely hanging out for the warmer, brighter days and the promise of summer that comes when September rolls around and everything starts feeling a little bit lighter! (I fully realise this dislike of winter is silly and dramatic considering I live in one of the sunniest places with very mild winters and in reality have nothing at all to complain about!)
This year feels different though.
I feel like I have grown SO much this past year and have come to rely less on external factors (eg: the weather) to make me happy, instead focusing inwards much more than I have ever done before, and actually appreciating the present moment, rather than always yearning for the next thing.
Of course that doesn’t mean I’m not super excited for spring (I am!), but it does mean that for once I haven't been thinking the phrase that I'm sure so many of us get caught up in...
"I'll be happy when..."
How many times have you had that thought?
I know that personally it was something I used to think all the time:
I'll be happy when it's September and the weather warms up.
I'll be happy when it's the weekend.
I'll be happy when I go on holiday.
I'll be happy when I tick off all the things on my "to do" list.
I'll be happy when I'm working in a job I love.
...or whatever the thing is that you're wanting to have or do.
That's not to say I didn't think I was happy, but there was always the possibility of being "happier" and meant that I wasn't actually appreciating how wonderful things were in the present moment!!
The problem is, when we're thinking this way, we are constantly waiting and striving for the next thing... and then once we get it... there's another thing to work towards... and another thing...
and before we know it, years have gone by as we wish away our time while running constantly on this hamster wheel.
The past year though, I've been really focused on releasing all that.
It's been all about self-discovery and self-development (the easeful, fun, peaceful kind of self-development, not the hustle and grind kind!)
I've have loved diving really deep into so many books/courses/inner work and I feel like I have FINALLY gotten to a point where I've (pretty much) broken away from that cycle of waiting for a certain outcome or goal to happen before I can be happy.
Of course it's still a work in progress (I'm in no way saying I am perfect at it, it is always a practice!) but having the ability to feel happy and peaceful and calm in the present moment is just such a freeing feeling and I am in such a different, more positive and just generally really happy and content place now, which is a big change from where my mindset was last year.
I plan to share a lot more advice on how to go about making these positive changes, and the things that have helped me (courses, books, other resources) but before I get into those things, I feel like first, I need to share where I was last year.
Now, in the grand scheme of things and compared to what other people go through, what I'm sharing is not that big a deal, but at the time it was, and to me it feels really vulnerable because it's something personal that I still don't share with everyone (although I'm slowly getting more comfortable with it). I want to put it out there though, in case anyone else reading can relate to how I was feeling last year, in case it can help, even just one person feel less alone and realise that things can always get better!
This blog is usually my place to record all the happy moments, but being happy all the time is obviously unrealistic and hiding this part isn't giving the full story and would be continuing that social media mirage of a "perfect life" that is so prevalent these days.
So this is also just a little reminder to you that just because everything may look beautiful on social media, you never know what's going on behind the scenes.
I feel like we can all relate and help each other way more when we share more of our story and not just all the good bits - so here we go...
As you may know, I'm a dentist, and last year I was at a point where I was really hating my job. It was in most part due to health issues – severe neck pain and (then migraines which were triggered by the neck pain) and these were directly linked to the work I was doing (sitting all day leaning forward and holding awkward positions).
I would come home from work everyday and have to lie on the floor with a heat-pack on my neck, and rarely a day went by when I didn't have to pop panadol/nurofen just to get through it.
I dreaded going into work the next day, I was feeling anxious all the time, always close to tears and I didn’t just get Sunday night blues, I’d get Sunday morning blues because I was already worried about the week ahead.
Aside from the pain part, I also think that deep down there was a feeling of “What am I doing with my life? This can’t be all there is” and not feeling fulfilled with what I was doing, but I wouldn’t admit that, and to be honest now I’m starting to think that all these physical symptoms were really my body’s way of forcing me to make a change.
I don’t think I realised at the time how down I was though and I did a pretty good job hiding it from most people. I was just plodding along, getting through one day at a time.
Finally though, it got to a point where the people closest to me had to step in and say something. Tom had been encouraging me to cut down my hours for ages, but it was eventually my Mum who made me realise I needed to change something when, (after I burst into tears during a family birthday dinner) she pointed out the fact that I was absolutely miserable and it was making her sad to see me (a usually positive and really happy person) becoming so negative (my inner dialogue was getting serious angry, and negative by this point which was a huge departure from my usually cheerful self).
You always hear about stories where people hit rock bottom before they make a change. I wasn’t at that point, but I’m glad I realised that if I didn’t change something, I’d get there soon (physically and mentally).
So, I decided to cut down my days and work part time, telling myself (and everyone else) that it was just a bit of a break while I found something else I could do. Now it doesn’t seem like that big a deal, but at the time it really was for me. I felt grateful that I was in a position where I was able to make that decision, but I also gave myself a pretty hard time about it because I felt so guilty. I felt like I was letting myself (and other people like my family) down.
I had all these negative thoughts around it. Things like; “everyone else can hack it, why can’t I?” “I should be tougher, why can't I just suck it up and deal with the pain”, “people probably think I’m just weak or lazy”.
Thankfully, after making the change things got a lot petter -physically and mentally! I feel so grateful that going part time has actually helped with my neck pain a huge amount and the difference it has made emotionally has been huge too because it's given me the time to rest (for the first time ever!) and also to delve into other interests which I didn't have the time for while I was working and studying. Most of all it has given me time to really work on some of the deeper, inner work that has helped me kick a lot of those negative thoughts to the curb and just generally grow so much.
I am so grateful (and even proud of myself now) for making that decision.
So where am I now?
Well, I'm currently still working part time. At first I was feeling the pressure to go back to uni and study something else so I could get a job that would be less physically demanding on my neck and back, but something in me just didn't feel like that was the right path (not yet anyway).
I have realised I actually really love my job when I don't have so much pain (because I'm not doing it every single day) - I love the awesome team of people I get to work with and the fact that I'm able to help people in a really tangible way. I feel really fortunate that I am able to be in this position (although there's still a bit of guilt that I'm lucky enough to be able to do this and work these hours when others don't have that option...)
I'm really excited that I have the opportunity now to explore different interests in addition to my work, that I might eventually be able to turn into something more.
I was putting a lot of pressure on myself earlier in the year to figure out what my next "thing" is going to be, but have finally (finally!) decided that I need to let that go and enjoy this "floating phase", and just start off my doing things that are fun! (like blogging for example!)
So... this post is getting really long. Thank you for reading if you've gotten this far, and hopefully it's given you a bit more of backstory and understanding of me... I feel really nervous to put this out there, but something is telling me I need to share it.
Being able to step back and look at something and ask "what's not working", and then having the courage to make that change is hugely powerful, but it can definitely be a scary step.
I want to say that, looking back, it probably would have also been beneficial to talk to someone professionally about all this (but I was way too proud at that point to admit I had an actual problem with anxiety,) but fortunately I had a lot of supportive people around me who were able to help me out and I was able to recognise before things got too serious that I needed to make a change.
It's always easier if you have someone supporting you or at least someone to talk to about it, and I am so incredibly appreciative of my husband and family for that.
If you relate to any of this or if you're going through similar feelings, please feel free to message me.
(you can direct message me through instagram @laurennatalia29 if you're not wanting to share publicly).
Next week we'll be moving back to the usual, more upbeat kind of posts, and I'm planning on sharing a lot of the different things I've been diving into that have really helped me change my mindset around to the positive place it's at today.
Lots of Love
There was supposed to be some metaphor about moving from the darkness of winter into spring and new beginnings weaved in there... but that didn't really happen! haha :p
I hope you like these Spring photos though - taken in the Bologna Botanical Gardens when we visited in April!