A Brave New Decade: how I am facing into 2020
On the eve of the New Year before the clock strikes midnight in just a few short hours, I find myself wanting to chronicle this past decade and this life journey so far.
A huge ask, given how much long a decade of time makes up.
A decade is a long stretch of time, that much is certain. A great deal can happen, the highs and lows that make up the sum of a life, but so too can growth, fulfillment and success, no matter how large or small.
For starters, at the start of this decade, my body image and mental health were not at their best. My mindfulness journey was only in its infancy, my relationship with food and exercise was not as positive as it could be, and I generally was reluctant to take photos of myself.
I'm happy to say that both have improved by leaps and bounds: the standards I had placed on myself in the beginning of my twenties were absolutely crushing, whether it was to perform at a high level academically or to have the 'perfect' body shape.
It was only with self-reflection and discovering exercise routines that suited me, including yoga and Zumba classes which I still attend, that I was able choose a kinder way to lose weight, with nourishing food, finding a way to combine fitness with fun and an intention that was not geared towards perfection, but towards being comfortable in my own skin.
The confidence to be able to take those full body selfies without critiquing every single part that was in any way flawed was hard fought, but it was well-earned.
To be happy with how I looked is a lesson that I am grateful to have learned. Not even to aspire to be a model or an influencer, but just to feel comfortable with my body, to appreciate it and how strong it can be. Being able to dance a high-energy dance routine, to improve my yoga practice and to let my legs carry me over great distance are what I am proud of.
Another important step was to not be so self critical both in academic life and personally. The self-imposed pressure was not reaping any rewards. To be able to accept my best efforts, to not be an over-achiever but to be proud of my accomplishments.
Though while there have been some peaks of success in this decade, a great deal has also happened that has challenged me in many ways but also helped me to grow as a person. There have been losses, some grief, homesickness and difficult circumstances that have tested my resolve.
Facing into tough professional exams in the pursuit of my dream to be a solicitor left me disheartened and wondering if I was cut out for that career, facing some of my darkest days when the grades did not come so easily, but I came through them with the steadfast support of my family and with persistent determination.
One of the most valuable decisions I have made this decade was joining Junior Chamber International in 2014, both for my personal and professional development and it still holds so much value for me and that I will continue to champion and encourage anyone who wants to improve their public speaking, to have a great network of enthusiastic young professionals and to contribute to fantastic local chamber projects.
The travel opportunities, the flagship projects in the area of community, the inspirational people who work hard to improve their localities and the world gave me a greater appreciation of hard work.
I have met so many amazing people through my involvement with the organization, with friendships that are for life. Being a member has broadened my horizons, made me realise my talents and strengths, and I hope it will continue for many many years.
I make a point not to look back too often, for there may lie regret and ‘should have’s’ and the eternal question 'what if?'
Truthfully, making the move to Dublin to pursue my legal career was a hard choice, given how much Cork was my home. The sentiment still runs deep, and my roots are not forgotten, but now I have chosen to thrive in the capital and to face any challenges head on with perspective and the question 'How can I do better? How can I be even better?'
Even if time travel were possible and even if the opportunity arose to take a trip back to crucial moments in life, the truth is that any decision made on any particular day, in any particular moment, is made with the information, facts and circumstances at the time.
Hindsight is 20/20 after all (there is no better time to make this joke than before this coming year), and can be a wonderful gift, but I would not take back any choice I made,for better or for worse because I know just how lucky I am to have a job in Dublin, my decent health and the love of friends and family.
Just to conclude this piece and give any readers a chance to sip champagne this evening, here is a side by side comparison of where I started at the beginning of this decade and now where I am today. On the left, a smiling University College Cork graduate with a Law and French honours degree. On the right, a delegate of JCI Dublin attending the JCI UK National Convention 2019.
The girl on the left was content with her life. The girl on the right is in a brighter place and still content.
She is still standing and not going anywhere.
So now I offer a mantra which is a nice combination of two separate ethos's as I raise a glass to this New Year: 'Have courage, be kind, do no harm and take no crap'.
Wishing all my readers a peaceful New Year full of possibility.
Let's make 2020 the year of 'I can and I will',