Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What A Difference A Decade Makes

Autumn is a very reflective time of year for me.  Like a lot of people who have passed through the education system, it tends to mark milestones of beginnings and ends- new institutions, jobs, changes and time served.

It's 10 years this week since I started university proper and I honestly had no idea how my life would look on graduating from university or if I'd even make it to that sometimes, let alone what to expect a decade later when I'd be closer to 30 than 25.



18 year old Chloe was a bit fragile, a bit awkward and didn't know where she belonged in the world. In the decade since cheap vodka and dodgy nightclubs, that's sometimes still true, but a lot of things have changed...


My 18th birthday

I cut my hair and owned darker lipstick... My hair used to be super long and I loved it- it was low effort- no need to blowdry and easy to pull up into a messy bun, but a couple of years ago I realised it didn't really have a style and was making me look younger in a not so great way. Whilst I miss the days of being able to leave the house after air drying my hair, I love having more 'grown up' hair. As for the lipstick, now I just feel like I look washed out without it. Sometimes you just need to find the right colour!



In the past 10 years I've lived in 4 different countries and called 11 different rooms, flats & houses home. The flat Tom & I share in North London we've been in for two and a half years and it's the longest either of us has lived anywhere since 2007.

Talking of Faceache, I'm not sure 18 year old Chloe ever thought she would be cut out for a forever relationship. A lot of that has to do with my own self worth but Tom & I have been together for 7 of the last 10 years and we're in it for the long haul.


Stupid grins before the Parathletics Champs this year

Taking about family and the one Tom and I have created for ourselves, there was the year I decided to let go of toxic family relationships too. A lot of the issues I was struggling with a decade ago stemmed from an unhealthy relationship with my biological father. Letting go of that and making the decision to walk away remains the single best thing I could have done for myself and although it took several years for me to process that and learn to feel worthwhile, that decision changed my life for for the better. I wrote about my recent experiences with estrangement and the affect of a death within that circle and you can read about there HERE

And that leads me nicely into self worth and something that definitely wasn't on my radar 10 years ago...



Sports.


I have cycled countless miles including the 100 mile RideLondon, I've run hundreds of miles including a marathon, 2 half marathons and a 24 hour endurance run. I've tried everything from Clubbercise to circuit training and I now can't imagine my life without activity. This month I was even part of a Runners World magazine feature, well, my t-shirt and my story were.




Sports gave me the empowerment that nothing else in my life, even Tom, has been able to- cycle to work is not only a more enjoyable experience than London Underground but it's also a reminder of my own independence. Running has it's trials and troubles (remember that marathon....) but it also gives me an enormous sense of power- it makes me feel strong, in control of my own body and my own destiny. It's brought me closer to other people and provided me with a social circle that is diverse and that inspires me to do more and be better in all aspects of my life.




I dabbled a little with a bit of swimming and a few trials at different sports clubs at uni but overall, not my thing. after some pretty horrendous accidents taking part in PE at school, which I wasn't that interested in anyway, I wasn't all that keen. My kind of power hour turned out to be the kind where I took a shot of more-vodka-than-tonic every minute for an hour. I got serious about being more active when I thought about joining the Air Force to work in intelligence after my undergrad degree but didn't pass my medical due to sight issues and I didn't engage with sport again until late 2012/early 2013. Sports was something I never felt engaged with- it didn't speak to me. Even when I did pick up cycling as a way to get to work and save money as well as trying to keep my weight stable, it wasn't for joy, it was for purpose. I learned to love cycle commuting but my intro to running a few years later was much the same- it was a means to an end as opposed to v3.1.5.7.5 or whatever we're on of Chloe. I choose cycle commuting because getting on the tube everyday is grim. I run with a club for joy and purpose. I plan my weekends around races I want to run and I drag my friends along to classes that I think sound like fun.

My career was the biggest thing I was working towards at 18- I went to university as a means to getting a job, I wish I'd understood better what other options might have been available to me, but ultimately I had no idea what I wanted to do and when I finished university 4 and 5 years later it was still a struggle. What I wanted proved to be out of reach and I worked with what I had- having started what has the potential to essentially be my dream job this September seems a little serendipitous or perhaps synchronous. Perhaps it's this that has made me so reflective of the decade that has passed.

A few other little things I've ticked off in the last 10 years:

- Travelled - I've visited and loved some amazing places including Vietnam, Leipzig, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Las Vegas, Valencia, Carcassonne, Nigeria and Madeira to name a few

- Educated - Those who missed the years of dodgy outfit posts taken in my room in halls might not know that I have a BA Hons degree which is equally weighted across 3 languages making it a triple major and I have a Graduate Diploma in Law as well as having taken courses specific to marketing, speedwriting, recruitment, HR and most recently I qualified as a Ride Leader with British Cycling. I also learned more than I could ever have taught as a guest lecturer on a very memorable week long trip to Nigeria.

- Partied - as a sucker for a freebie I've spent a lot of Sunday morning dawns waiting for a nightbus after a night watching world class DJs whilst a family member managed Ministry of Sound

- Coffee AND Wine - 18 year old Chloe didn't like either, these days they are 2 of my main food groups...

Have I done anything exceptional in the last decade? No, not really. I am in many ways unremarkable- I can't tell you stories of making the world a better place or overcoming extreme adversity but what I do know is that working out who you are and what you stand for and being comfortable with that will stand you in good stead to spread good karma- be that letting someone past you in the supermarket queue, donating your organs, making an academic breakthrough, it's for sure easier to see the opportunities to make the world a bit brighter if you can honestly say- I am who I am.












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