I'm back from a very alcoholic week up north with family and friends. I need a liver transplant. But during the general merriment of ringing in the New Year - including dance offs and yoga at 1am in leopard print PJs (don't ask) - I took a small moment to reflect on the year just gone.
In short, it was an utterly crazy year, but a very fitting way to round off what has got to be an unprecedented decade. I cannot imagine another decade in my lifetime during which I will experience quite so many major milestones.
So here's a summary of a jam-packed 10 years - if for no other reason than so I have it catalogued for my dotage when my mind has gone and the years all jumble into each other:
It started with my then boyfriend (now husband) and I being on standby PR duty for Microsoft - one of our clients - in case the world should end with the Y2K meltdown. Funnily, the world didn't melt down. And even if it had, I'm not too sure how we were supposed to do anything about it from a PR point of view without working computers or phones. So despite supposedly being glued to our mobiles, ready for action wearing ghost buster style suits, we didn't stay sober that night either as we celebrated a new millenium.
We spent most of this year living together in our first three apartments (we moved a lot), building our careers, living the highlife and going on numerous safaris (we lived in South Africa) and other exotic holidays. Maldives anyone?
Then in September, I bid farewell to my home country and we moved to Boston in the US.
We had an utter ball living in the heart of Boston earning big salaries and having no dependents (I'm trying not to weep too hard while I type this). We visited all sorts of lovely places - Cape Cod, Bermuda, Washington DC, Vermont - and it was at this last place that we got engaged. On the side of an idyllic lake, after hours of stalling, my beloved stuttered out those fateful words: Will you marry me?
The rest of the year was spent in a flurry of wedding planning - and then almost exactly a year after we moved to Boston, we decamped to New York City. Right to the heart of Manhattan. We moved there exactly one week after September 11th. It was a strange time to go there, but it was an utterly fantastic place to live. Our apartment overlooked the Empire State Building, the Met Life and Chrysler Building. And in our pre-wedding romance, we spent our evenings dancing to Frank Sinatra while gazing at our awesome view.
The big year. The year we got married. In South Africa. Organising a wedding from New York to take place in a pretty remote part of SA with friends and family flying in from the UK, Europe and New Zealand, was crazy. But it was a spectacularly happy year. While on our honeymoon in Tanzania, we took another big decision. To move to the UK. Sometimes I still wonder whether this was the right decision but, it was one we made very fast and with a lot of finality.
We bid farewell to the USA by driving all the way across the Southern states, seeing everything from deep fried turkeys in Louisiana to tumbleweeds in Texas, the Grand Canyon, the madness of Vegas and the yah-fully-hey-shoowow coolness of California. Driving from the Atlantic to the Pacific was incredible and it felt like we'd really got to see a good chunk of the country. It also very much felt that we were saying farewell to the reckless days of no responsibility.
We moved to the UK and spent 6 months trying to get used to the blahness of the UK office vs the get-up-and-go oomph we'd experienced in the US. We also spent months trying to find our first house to buy. We managed to squeeze in one more African safari before signing on the dotted line and entering the world of mortgages. The day we finally moved into our house was the day we discovered I was pregnant with number 1. The rest of this year was spent trying to get our heads around becoming parents whilst getting used to living in a sleepy village in England after the mad bustle of New York.
In February Son 1 arrived. We were terrified, awestruck and in love with him in equal measure. We spent all of this year trying to get him to sleep and stop crying. I spent many, many days in a darkened room doing pat shush. I learnt to live on almost zero sleep. I also set up my own business and attempted to remember what I did in a previous life that seemed eons ago, all in a bid to save my sanity. We finally braved leaving our house to visit family in Ireland that Christmas. During this visit, while showing off our 10 month old son, I discovered that I was pregnant with number 2. We were a little shocked to say the least, not least because neither of us could really remember being awake enough EVER to conceive another child.
I spent most of this year juggling a toddler, a bump and a business. We did manage one brief holiday to Turkey and pretended that our lives were still normal by trying to hold dinner parties, but mainly we slept when we could. In September, son 2 arrived. I have no memory of him as a baby, as I tried to juggle him with a 19 month old who was not renowned for his easy going temperament. We did manage to go to South Africa for a holiday to visit family. Let's just say that I wouldn't recommend a long haul flight with a 3 month old baby and an almost 2 year old, unless you have a large stash of valium with you.
In April I decided that I needed to do something other that look after children, because as much as I love them, I just don't have the patience required to be a fulltime stay at home mum. So I started a new business. Quite by accident really, but there you are. Peekaboo Communications was born and I retrained myself to do PR in an entirely new sector.
And because living in a house that fronted a busy road and had no garden wasn't ideal for a family with two young boys, we moved house. The rest of this year was spent in a blur of trying to move, renovate, build a business, find childcare, look after children and attempt to start again with building a network in the local community.
For a brief time, things were normal. Husband was busy with work. I was busy with work. The kids were in a routine. We weren't renovating. And while we weren't doing anything spectacularly exciting like going on exotic trips, we were also not adding anything new or extreme. And given we were pretty tired by this point, this was ok. But in July, we were one of the many families in the UK who were flooded. Cue further chaos and disruption as we had to move out of our house for 6 months while it was gutted and restored, all the while juggling kids and work.
No drama. No house moves. Nothing other than the hamster wheel of life. I found this year hard. It felt very much the same as many of the previous years, only without any real incidents to colour it. The only real milestone was son 1 starting big school in September. Which made me realise how quickly it all goes...
Waking up in January, I couldn't face another year like 2008 where I was just spinning wheels and juggling. So I signed up for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race - as catalogued on my other blog - http://www.moretolifethanlaundry.com/ - and spent the year being trained up to be an ocean going sailor, trying desperately to raise funds, and put in place all the practical day to day life bits and pieces so that I could head out to sea. Which I finally did in September, spending 6 weeks sailing from Hull to Rio. It was an amazing experience and it felt fabulous to be doing something out of the ordinary.
I know reading this list of milestones and experiences from the last decade, I can't complain about life being ordinary. I think it's been an utterly remarkable 10 years, yet probably no different from millions of other people who go through the right of passage from single young jet setters to knackered parents facing a mortgage.
But I find it astonishing that it all happened in just 10 short years, very neatly packaged in a single decade. From leaving my home country, moving to two new countries (3 cities), travelling, building a career, getting engaged, married, buying a house, having two children, setting up a business and sailing across the sea. I'd say that's a fair amount to do in a not very long space of time. And I can honestly say that looking back it's been fantastic. And terrifying. But definitely not a waste. And I guess that's what's important. Making your life count.
I do wonder what the next 10 will hold. In 2020, where will we be living? What will I be doing? How will things have changed? So many of life's big experiences happened in the last decade that this decade feels as though it simply has to be more repetitive, a slow burn peppered with the odd new experience (like watching our boys grow into teenagers!) But some how or other, I don't think I'm going to accept ordinary.
I'm hoping our soon-to-start au pair will help give my husband and I the chance to catch up with each other again after what feels like a 5 year absence. I hope that at some point this decade I'll figure out my true calling. And I hope that I'll eventually find a place that feels absolutely like home. Other than that, I'm open to ideas!
Life is what you make of it. So here's to just an exhilirating next ten. I hope yours is everything you hope it will be too.