Sitting here on New Year’s Day I find myself a little reflective about the past ten years. Whilst I am not usually one to look to the past, I have succumbed to the current trend on social media to do just that. But not to fear - there will be no before and after photos!
In 2010 I had just stopped working. Up until that time i had a BIG career. I had worked for a multinational oil and gas company and travelled/lived all over the world. Progressing quickly through the ranks in my thirties, I found myself at the executive level, leading a large team and dealing with very large sums of money. On top of that I had three kids and one (very absent) husband who worked abroad. I remember people calling me “superwoman”. At the time I was proud of that title. But now I despise it. In my view a super-woman is one that that does it all, not has it all.
What this led to was a collapse both physically and mentally. Having recently moved to London, I found myself with no work, no hobbies, no friends and no extended family. My whole identity at the time was based on my career and without that I fell into a huge abyss. Where there was once superwoman Kirsten, in 2010 I felt like I was nothing.
I spent the next five years working from the ground up. I learnt what I liked and who I liked. And I made mistakes along the way. My family served as a very solid foundation, but I had some way to go to being a good wife and mum.
But perhaps the biggest part of that journey was learning that I need to spend time doing things I enjoy. So in an attempt to remedy this and “become assertive to my own needs” (psychologist talk here!) I took up pottery, learnt to sew and joined the local bootcamp.
I distinctly remember my first bootcamp session. I put the beginners blue bib on, set off with great, confident strides...and after about 10 minutes felt like I was going to die. I couldn’t even run half a mile. After the session every muscle in my body hurt.
But I had achieved something - I had completed the session. That was enough.
Over the following six years I gradually built up my fitness. Teaching my body to move after nearly 40 years of not moving took time, patience and effort. If I tried to advance too quickly I ended up injured.
By the time I went back to full time work in 2016 I was able to complete a 10 km run and at a real push complete a half marathon. I had also proudly fitted out my house with homemade curtains and found my creative side - I could make a pot!
Today I continue to work full time and on the whole enjoy it. Life is super busy. But this time it is the right type of busy - working hard, but outside of that spending a whole lot of time doing things that I enjoy. My kids are a little older and I am fortunate enough to be able to outsource some of those tedious jobs such as cleaning the house. I am a far cry from being a superwoman as I have a brilliant support network and achieve nothing on my own. But this is how I am most happy.
Research has shown that a large part of happiness is setting targets, learning along the way and (hopefully) achieving those milestones . And it is not about the size of the target - ten years ago it was all about running without stopping my first 5 kilometres. It took a month of pain, but the joy of eventually getting there was vast.
In my thirties my targets were all work related. And whilst I still have such targets, these are just a ”nice to achieve” . This is because unlike the goals in my personal life, I accept that success in work is often out of my control. So not a good one to base my self-esteem on.
My year of insane challenges is rooted in complete sanity. It isn’t about me being the best out there. It is about working hard and overcoming physical and mental barriers to achieve something extraordinary. It is about being surrounded by fabulous friends, family and the very supportive crew at Rat Race. There will be times I crash and burn. But unlike in 2010 when I was so empty I couldn’t get up again, physical challenges continue to teach me that I can keep going even when the anguish is overwhelming.
Wishing you all a fulfilling and very happy 2020.