Above: friends and family photos from my UK visit
I’m just back from a two-week trip to England. I haven’t seen most of my friends and family since 2006. In fact, I haven’t seen some of the people pictured above in almost 20 years.
The visit taught me much more than I expected. It made me realise some important things about life and who I am.
I turn 40 next year too which might explain why I’m about to go all introspective on you.
CANADA IS HOME
I’ve been in Canada for 10 years. I sound British and still identify with all things British.
I had a real hankering to visit my country of birth. I needed to feed my soul.
But something unexpected happened as soon as I stepped off the plane at Heathrow. I knew England was no longer ‘home.’ I didn’t feel like I belonged there anymore.
Everything looked and felt different. It didn’t feel familiar or comforting. It felt foreign.
It wasn’t helped by the fact that I was travelling on my Canadian passport and treated like a foreigner by UK Border Control.
It was nice to hear British accents everywhere I went but it quickly lost its charm. In fact, the day before I left I was on the train next to two American women (no offense to my Canadian friends) and their voices calmed me. Who’d have thought it!
To use a familiar cliché: home really is where the heart is. I missed my husband and my dog and so much about my life in Canada.
I’M GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING
The mother of a close friend of mine was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year. I’m sad that such a terrible event is responsible for my personal gratitude but it really helped put things in perspective.
I’ve always tried to live in the moment but it’s easier said than done. For some reason I’ve found myself being more ‘present’ than ever this year.
Most of us battle with inner dialogue that repeatedly tells us we’re not rich enough / pretty enough / clever enough etc. I’ve realised I am. We are.
I’M (MOSTLY) LED BY GUT INSTINCT
I’ve always known this about myself but, for some reason, this year I’ve heard myself saying it out loud to a number of people.
I’m very instinctual and sometimes what I do might not make sense but I know it’s usually the right thing.
BEING A MOTHER IS THE HARDEST JOB IN THE WORLD
I realised quite some time ago that I don’t want to have children but I’ve never been more sure of my decision.
I’m step-monster to twin 13 year old boys and I love them as if they were my own but I have no desire to create one.
Being a mother is the hardest job in the world. I truly believe that.
More and more of my friends have babies or young children and I’m completely in awe of the work they put into raising their families.
I’m astonished that anyone would say a mother doesn’t have a real job. The skill that goes into getting through a day when you have children is immeasurable.
And if that mother is also holding down a full- or part-time job then I’m blown away.
I couldn’t do it.
A DOG IS THE BEST ANTI-DEPRESSANT
My two-week holiday to the UK was the longest I’d ever been away from my dog, Sadie Shih Tzu. And every time I saw a dog in England I asked its owner for a dog-fix and immediately felt better.
I’m sure you’ve read these kinds of studies / articles so you know I’m not just making this stuff up.
THE UNIVERSE CONSPIRES TO GIVE YOU THINGS YOU NEED
This is true on so many levels but I’m specifically referring to a new friend I made this year. She’s 10 years older than me and one of the wisest people I know.
She lives in Canada but was also in the UK at the same time as me. We met up for just a couple of hours. And in that time I was so grateful for her perspective on life.
I hope she realises how important she is to me. Who knew a work contact would become so much more at such an important point in my life.
THE SHITTY BITS OF LIFE ARE ESSENTIAL
Earlier this year I read a thing on Facebook which went something like: you know those challenges you face? That’s called living.