Square 242

I’ve been debating whether or not to publish my traditional annual post summarising my year. This is primarily because of the shift in my attitude toward being private about my personal life [1].

Pauline looking over at the view in Sheffield

In the same vein, with 2022 being so transformational, it seemed silly to abstain from documenting it as I had done previously. I also know that the future me would be disappointed if I didn’t write this!

So you’re welcome, future Pauline. P.S. I hope that you’re wiser. 👵


2022, For Me ✨

To get all new readers of my blog up to speed, it’s a tradition that I have a word that “grounds me” for the 12 months ahead (inspired by the Bullet Journalling community.) Last year, I wrote:

I have chosen the word(s) for 2022 to be High Hopes* to affirm that everything will be better this year. I’m hopeful. 

Fear

At the end of 2021, I spent several sleepless nights with anxiety eating me up [2] like I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I didn’t notice it then, but it showed up so much externally that my close friends and family expressed how deeply upsetting it was to see me lose myself.

I’m ashamed to admit that I always knew, at least unconsciously, what was causing me a lot of distress[3], but I was too afraid. Afraid of the potential outcome. Afraid of change. Afraid of being alone.

So for months, I pretended everything was OK and diverted every conversation I had with professionals away from the actual problem to “oh, it’s just the weather” or “I’m just stressed this week.”

Despite this, I had extremely high hopes because I told myself I could fix this. With time, energy and commitment, I could fix this.

Eventually, I snapped.

I remember the exact moment I snapped.

I sent a 4-minute and 42-second voice message, then proceeded to ugly cry in a gym’s bathroom. Strangers asked me if I was OK, and I angrily told them to leave me alone. Instead of returning home, I spent it by the beach, watching the strong waves crash into each other in my attempt to calm down.

The beach in Las Palmas on a cloudy day
📍 Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Many spirals followed after that day, where I saw the inevitable unfold in my mind, but I forced myself to deny it.

Courage

It only took two phone calls to change my life drastically.

I refused to go through with the house waiting for me in the Robin Hood folklore, I moved out of the city I called home [4] for the last three years and I found myself trying to escape by searching for shelter anywhere but there.

I later learned that problems follow you even if you are isolated on a beach with pink, hot sand, crystal-clear waters and incredible landscapes, which sucked.

I still didn’t feel ready to face it all, even when I was forced to return to the UK [5] to clean up debris from the last five years.

The sunset view from my old apartment in Leeds
📍 Leeds

As I picked up the last box of things from my old apartment, it hit me again that this chapter was truly over. Was I still in a state of shock and denial? Maybe. Despite knowing that saying goodbye to the familiar presence that had been by my side for years was the only path forward, I still wept on the drive home and stayed in bed for the rest of that weekend, unable to do anything else.

Drowning in tears at what I had lost, there was a moment when I stopped sobbing, and it all just started to settle in my heart. I gave it my all and couldn’t give any more of myself, I was happy and grateful for it all, but it was finally time to move on.

On the final day of mourning, I opened an old book curated for me on my 21st birthday by my former love.

It was full of words that describe me by my closest circle of friends: zest, full of life, enthusiastic, bubbly, cheerful, and inspiring. Although losing this connection hurt, I realised that the person that was described in that book, whom I had almost lost was much more important.

I vowed that I would never get to that point ever again.

Hope

With one of my life pillars (i.e. romantic relationship) breaking down, the only thing I could do was strengthen the others: 1️⃣ career, 2️⃣ other relationships (family, friends, myself), 3️⃣ health and wellness, 4️⃣ hopes and dreams.

The view from a hike in Croatia
📍 Zadar, Croatia

The good thing about the chaotic breakdown I had earlier in the year was that I could start again. When I took several steps back, the pillar I wanted to double down on was my hopes and dreams. In that bucket was the concept of “designing my ideal life“. Looking back at very old journal entries from 2017, it turns out the ideal life I wanted was the one right in front of me.

Inspired by my accidental meeting with Jacob [6] and other nomads on the road after him, I drank another full glass of courage and decided to travel solo with my whole life packaged up in a 40L backpack [7].

Throughout my solo journey (🇵🇹🇪🇸🇮🇨🇭🇷🇬🇷🇺🇸), I hadn’t felt a stronger sense of another home [8] than I did in Greece, which led me to stay there for 122 days.

The world and its possibilities opened up to me, and for the first time in years, I felt so fucking alive. Taking complete control of my choices and living alone in different countries challenged me in so many ways but also gave me the space to figure out who Pawlean is again.

My confidence skyrocketed; I dined and did coffee runs alone, spoke to strangers, took random island trips on weekends and wasn’t afraid to start again and again AND again as I moved. I started to receive compliments on how I presented myself (internal to external expression should be my next blog post 💡) and my renewed zest for life.

A message from IG reads, "Pauline, I'm really loving this vibe on you! Can't quite explain it... You just seem so free and genuinely having fun haha"
A message on IG

On top of that, I continued to optimise the freedoms of my remote job to my new lifestyle. Even though I moved around a lot, I’m proud of what I achieved last year, including the projects I led and shipped, the promotion I received [9], the incredible team I’m building, and the strong bond we have with our community.

A selfie in Barcelona
📍 Barcelona, Spain

I ended my year of High Hopes with a different reference to what I initially wrote down.

Instead of having high hopes in fixing and saving something that I couldn’t fix alone (it takes two to tango 💃🏻), it shifted to having high hopes in this uncharted territory of running solo and all its terrifying and exciting opportunities.


Back to Square 1 🤷🏻‍♀️

I recently came across Natalie’s words on Instagram which I really related to. It read something like, “it feels like I’m continuing rather than starting again this year.

The New Year often feels like returning to Square 1 to reinvent yourself, which is completely fine! But for the first time in probably ever, a New Year hasn’t inspired me to go back to the drawing board.

Instead, I found myself moving on ahead (hopefully with less chaos [10]), not to Square 1, but Square 242 (the significance of this number is the days since my first ever solo trip 🎒)

Pauline with the view of Crete in the background
📍 Crete, Greece

This is my second year with no formal goals, but I still want some grounding thoughts to help guide me in 2023 [11].

Of course, I have a private journal note detailing every point! If we (hello, reader! I see you! 👋) meet in person this year, ask me what the others are over a coffee. I’d be glad to share some of them with you! ☕️

But in the spirit of privacy and mystery, I’ll only share 3 of them here, in no particular order.

Optimising sunshine

I’m writing this blog post back in Sheffield, where it is currently 7 degrees, windy and rainy. If I’m being honest, I’ve not felt the sun in weeks which heavily affects my mood and general state of well-being more than anything else.

Pauline pulls a funny face in The Peak District
OK, it looks like I’m super happy here, but it’s freezing. 😂

Remember that hopes and dreams pillar? Yeah, I don’t want to feel this cold for weeks. I already know that my winter plans next year will look very different because this is so energy-draining. 🥲

With all the freedom I have, I want to make use of it to optimise for an ideal day every day.

The difficult, internal work that I’ve been avoiding

To quote Taylor Swift (because this isn’t a blog post without a TS reference), “I’ll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror.” This is me attempting not to escape myself but to face the things I don’t want to.

When does the internal work end? Someone told me it never does. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Perhaps spending more time in my head on the road made me realise that I’m still hurting from past experiences that affect me and my relationships today.

Throughout the past few months, I’ve improved at identifying my triggers and delicately handling myself (and others) with care when I’m in a bad mental state.

I’m not perfect – not that I’m trying to be – but healing some of the emotional baggage and trauma is something I hope to make strides in to be a better friend, co-worker, sister, daughter, and partner.

No flakiness from me or others

I couldn’t think of a better heading for this section, but hopefully, this description helps.

A friend has repeatedly told me, people will show you and tell you how they feel about you. When they do this the first time, believe them.

I like to think that I’ve been giving space to new people who aren’t out to hurt me purposefully but unfortunately, I’ve been proved wrong a few times recently [12]. Maybe the events related to this also link to insecurity or deep-rooted fears of being alone, but I want to be done with flakiness and ambiguity.

Note to self: when someone tells you to your face that they are unsure about you, don’t accept it as a challenge for you to change them. With this written down in the open, the internal work point makes sense, huh?

To add to the mix, this also relates to my own flakiness in terms of telling the truth about how I’m feeling about something (i.e. clear communication) and my ability to draw more precise boundaries. For example, if I’m not feeling something, I should be empowered to say it openly instead of sitting on the fence (which in hindsight, is a very British thing to do 🙃)


Looking ahead

Over the last few years, I spent a lot of time focusing on the wrong things that drained my energy, causing an eventual, ugly breakdown.

What’s worse than that? Probably looking back at old photos, seeing the very obvious sadness and misery and not prioritising myself sooner out of fear of the unknown.

I can not even recognise who that person was. I never want to lose myself like that again.

With my laser-focused dedication towards internal healing, today I’m more optimistic than ever. Every new step on a new square of this game of life is an opportunity, and I’m ready.

Let’s go, 2023! Are you ready for me? 🫧

A selfie in Athens
Fun fact: my kumquat socks have started more conversations than I have. 🤷🏻‍♀️ 📍 Athens, Greece

I’ll also leave you with the final playlist I created last year. Enjoy! 🎶

Thanks for reading 🫶

6 responses to “Square 242”

  1. Following your journey via IG has been so much fun over this past year and I’m totally looking forward to hearing, seeing, and reading about your 2023 adventures. Where to next? 😊

    Glad I’m not the only one who’s experienced that change in preference about keeping your life private. One of the reasons that I rarely post content (beside stories) on IG.

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Brandy 🫶

      Where to next? Is a great question! I have a vague direction but will see how things unfold. 😊

  2. It looks like you’re doing a lot better, and are a lot happier. I hope it continues. =3

    1. Thanks Megan, hope you’re well 🫶

  3. It really sounds like your ready to take on 2023, congrats and power to you! I really like the not going back to square one for the new year but rather continuing your journey and moving on. I like that. I need that this year.

    1. Thanks Kadie, appreciate the love 🫶 Wishing you the best 2023!

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