When I reached what looked like the centre of the bridge, I tentatively placed both my hands on the cold metal bar, leaning into it, to peer meekly over the edge. I’d been told by my tour guide, in his jovial Slovenian-English, that the drop was ‘only’ 10 metres. I was sceptical, it looked much higher. Much higher than a few minutes before when I’d eagerly raised my hand as volunteer to be the first to jump. Glancing back to the crowd standing on the embankment, I could see they were shouting something through the makeshift megaphones they had created with their hands. They could be words of encouragement or impatience I couldn’t tell, any sounds they were making had been stolen by the winds.
I used all my strength to pull myself up, swinging my legs over the bar one at a time and presenting my body outwards to the elements, my arms outstretched behind me. My grip, the only thing between me and the fast-flowing river, nothing to break my fall but the colliding rapids, that looked like they would break my bones sooner than they would cushion my helpless cascade into its depths.
I gripped the bar slightly harder, worried that whilst in a day dream, I might forget to hold on at all. I could hear Future Emma mocking me with a wide-eyed grin, with her fists clenched, chanting ‘Do it! Do it! Do it!’ We’d consulted and agreed that this would be exhilarating and intrinsically rewarding. Instilling in me a renewed sense of adventure and oneness with nature. But now I really wasn’t so sure, I hadn’t anticipated how standing on this side of the bridge would feel. The side of a bridge where, usually, only troubled people stand, with nothing left but a heavy desperation. Once I let go there would be no going back, no changing my mind. I would lose control. Only once I felt the full impact would I know what it felt like, by then it would be too late to change my trajectory.
Should I go feet first to reduce surface area impact or bum first to reduce the amount I sink? Was my hair tied back tight enough, or would it become helplessly entangled in floating debris, so I’d surface looking like Medusa? Would my shoes fall off, I’d need to walk the rest of the hike in makeshift shoes fabricated from the loose roll of duct tape at the bottom of my bag? What if there were rocks, recently washed down from further up the river, in wait like a crocodile, just below the surface? The tour guide seemed confident it was safe to ‘take the plunge’ as it were, even now as I looked to the bank, I saw him nodding enthusiastically and mimicking someone letting go of a bar; assuming I’d forgotten how to do it.
‘‘Ok, I’m gonna go’’ I replied without hope of him hearing. I bent my knees slightly, reducing the 10-metre drop by a few inches, before sniggering with nervous laughter and whispering to myself ‘’Yeah, well done Emma, those two inches are going to save you’’.
My palms ached, I was holding progressively harder, as if the bar might trick me, become suddenly malleable and slip through my fingers.
I could reasonably change my mind, I considered with relief, I didn’t need to go for it. ‘I’m not a confident swimmer’ or ‘actually, these are new trainers, so…’ would be enough to excuse me from a quizzing by encouraging onlookers. But would it be excuse enough for me?
I’d obviously found myself here for a reason, wanting for something that I hoped this experience would fulfil. This wasn’t an accident. It was a series of conscious and subconscious decisions for change, the blind follow of a gut instinct that had rarely failed me. I didn’t know if it would be good; or not. There really was no way to find out, unless I jumped.
So, I let go.
This was the story that flooded my mind the morning that I sat down to my laptop with fresh eyes and a light heart, about to embark on a new opportunity (see last blog!). An opportunity which I knew I would be committed to, as soon as I clicked the ‘send email’ button.
It was an experience that I had forgotten. It was presumably held in a dark, secluded room in my mind, tucked inside a dusty filing cabinet labelled ‘Things I Used to Know but Have Since Forgotten, but Keeping in Case Might be Needed #youneverknow’. Activated by a similar set of stimuli, then making the same journey down the same pathway of neurons until it was retrieved from storage and offered up as a serving suggestion by my brain.
My hand started to ache whilst I revisited this story, my finger already depressed in the mouse button, but ready to navigate away in case I changed my mind and decided not to go for it. Like my fierce grip on the bar.
And so, I let go.
The 1st of January 2019 marked the first day of my six month long unpaid sabbatical. What better opportunity than one that will allow me the space to think about what I really want.
I could be frightened, that three days after I started my sabbatical, I secured a six-figure mortgage. I could be scared that without the white noise of ‘work Emma’ I might discover that my life doesn’t have too much meaning. Or fearful that I’ll miss out on opportunities to progress in my career during my absence; that when I return, I’d have been forgotten about, no longer relevant.
Jumping off that bridge was really frightening, but I still remember the weightless exhilaration of falling through the air, the feeling of being hugged and tousled by the water, the feeling of fullness as I gasped my first breath at the surface. A feeling of survival in the elements. Nature 0:1 Emma.
2018 Goals Annual Review
Before setting 2019 goals I believe it is important to and say ‘Thank You’ to 2018 and clear my mind for what’s next.
The Short Version (in 5 questions)
1. What went well?
- Removing of anchors and simplifying my life.
- Selling and buying a house to free up equity and improve my living conditions.
2. What could I improve?
- Self-discipline, I can’t seem to stop my social media feed scrolling, or arrive anywhere on time, or eat well. Humph.
- Self-Talk. Last bullet is a good example of negative self talk.
- Being myself. This probably sounds daft. But honestly, I am not very well acquainted with who I really am. I am led by the wants and needs of others and I haven’t been sat in the driving seat of my life for a long time.
3. What was the hardest things about achieving my goals in 2018?
- The conflict of interest. When I focused more on one goal, I seemed to lose my grip on the others. I was perpetually sad that I wasn’t keeping up in all areas.
- The things I didn’t see coming. This is epitomised by a day in August where a consultant appointment, I’d attended with my father, resulted in an emergency operation. My eldest sister was also seriously ill in hospital. It was my youngest sisters 19th Birthday and I was in charge of arranging the celebrations for 15 people. Working full time and short on sleep and emotionally energy, when I walked into the house later that day and discovered a burst water pipe there really wasn’t anything I could do but laugh amongst a spattering of tears and mutters of ‘seriously?’
4. What is the thing that I am most proud of?
- My resilience. I’m a forking machine and managed some serious complexity and trauma in 2018.
- Letting go of things I am emotionally attached to. My house, my belongings and shopping as a coping mechanism.
- Making good financial decisions. Uprooting my comfortable life so that I can invest in my future.
- Spending time with my family, especially the hard days.
5. Finally…What are my aspirations and goals for 2019?
Watch this space.
The Longer Version:
By the end of 2018 I will… have removed anchors; anything that is holding me back. Relationships, belongings, beliefs.
– Have moved to a new house, to a nicer area that is larger and closer to my family and transport links.
– Have decluttered my entire house, leaving only the things that I love or need.
– Be spending less time engaging in relationships with people who don’t build me up.
I smashed this, I now have a two bed house that I am currently extending into a three bed, in a great part of town, 1.5 miles from the train station, that was even cheaper than the property I sold. Very proud of myself.
Today at 6pm I will be handing over the final few bags of things I ‘decluttered’ early in 2018. The rule I set myself was that I could take the time to sell these things but under no circumstances would they make it to my new house. I’ve raised ~£1700.
I have been more intentional with who I spend time with. So that I am not spread so thinly and save my energy for the people I really want to invest in.
2. Financial Freedom:
By the end of 2018 I will… not need to work full time, allowing me the opportunity to pursue other goals.
– I will have set up passive income streams that bring in a cash flow equivalent to my current wages. I will be able to manage these streams in less time than my current full-time employment, aspiration is 2 days a week.
– I will have set up the infrastructure for a scalable business idea to be implemented in 2019
I mean, I am currently working 0 hours a week, so…WIN?? Well, no I don’t think that counts, BUT I did try and learned that to invest in passive income streams, I could not also work full time. My decision to take a sabbatical was driven by the idea of freeing up time to focus on this more in 2019 so that it is automated by the time I go back to work.
Selling my house when I did (even though I loved it and didn’t want to!) and moving into temporary accommodation, meant I was chain free and in a good position to take advantage of an uncertain housing market and negotiated £20K off my current property.
By buying a cheaper property I have freed up equity to buy a flat with a potential yield of about 5.42% after offsetting the cost of my mortgage and expenses. Which would be about a quarter of the way to financial freedom. More on this in a later blog.
Business idea, 2018 helped me to realise that I can’t focus on everything at once, yes, I kinda like the idea of being a full-time entrepreneur, but I also want to have passive income and live simply. In 2019 I want to think about if this is the direction I want to go. Besides, isn’t my blog sort of ‘my business’? I find it hard to see it like this, as my primary driver is to share knowledge through story telling and help others improve their lives. Maybe this is the epitome of having a ‘Mission’?
By the end of 2018 I will… be spending meaningful time in the company of people I care about.
– I am not distracted by my next appointment or my phone whilst in their company. I am not ‘too busy’ to support people when needed.
– I am living my best life, I spend time in activities I enjoy and with people who are like minded, meaning I can attract the type of intimate relationships I want.
– I schedule free weekends that will allow for spontaneous fun.
I actively avoid being on my phone whilst with people, though I still sometimes find myself doing it. I want to delve more into the reasons why I feel compelled to do this. Is it simply a habit? Do I need to reduce the amount I have on my plate so I can hold the space for people without worrying about what’s not getting done? Do I enjoy spending time with this person?
I spent some meaningful and important time with my family and in particular my dad before he passed away. I prioritised this over all my other goals, a decision I am happy with and proud of.
I went to a festival last year and found a new group of friends, people that share my values and this feels wonderful.
By the end of 2018 I will… have made incremental improvements to my health in a way that is sustainable
– Have tailored my diet to reduce my intake of foods that I have an intolerance to
– Have built a relationship with a counsellor and be getting longer-term independent support to manage the complex challenges that come about through being a human on this earth. Reminding myself that I am not the finished article, nor should I aspire to be.
-I get fitter every day, as I have the energy and time to take part in the regularity and variety of physical activity that I want.
I built a brilliant relationship with my councillor last year and I’m glad I’m making this investment in myself. I remember when I used to think counselling was something shameful, or only for very disturbed people, like someone who stands on the wrong side of a bridge! But I don’t believe that anymore, I’ve had several bouts of counselling in my life and I really can’t think of anything kinder you can do for yourself then looking after your mental health.
Without having the right conditions to help me eat well I find managing a balanced diet continuously challenging. This I have no doubt I’ll be able to pick up again once I’ve fully moved into my new house and have control over my environment.
My fitness has been poor, and I want to focus on this in 2019. That said, I did take up a wider selection of sports last year to improve my variety of movement, such as going on a climbing course and going roller blading.
I finally took the time to see a physio for some problems I have been having with my back from sitting at a desk the last 7 years. She’s told me to ‘engage my core!’ so if you see me looking strained and short of breath, I’m probably just doing this.
By the end of 2018 I will… have continued to grow as a person; I will have not let a day go by without learning something new and have the courage to continuously challenge my core beliefs, assumptions and values, where needed.
– Regularly take part in active learning by seeking to understand things that I do not know, in a wide variety of subjects, there are no boundaries.
– Have read a book a month, either fiction or non-fiction.
– Finished painting the 60 x 40 cm picture that I sketched out during my annual leave. A visual representation of the challenges of life working in a corporate world, entitled: The Career Trap. It will be framed and hung on the wall, in my new house, as a daily reminder in 2019 that I am doing the right thing.
I have a reading list on my phone of articles to go back to, or words to look up and a ‘good ideas park’; for stuff I’m not sure what to do with yet. I’ll send out a reading list soon for those who have asked me.
2018 was one of incredible growth and change. I’ve got growing pains. As I wrote this, reading back of my blogs from the last year, feeling both the hardships and joys as I revisit them, I flip between wiping away lose tears to laughing out loud. Which is naturally causing some concern to the cafe tables nearest to me, no-one is sure if I am having a good day or not.
But I can tell you I am having a great day, it’s a Wednesday lunchtime in January and the sun is shinning unexpectedly through the window, warming my face. Growing is sometimes uncomfortable, but I find, it’s always worth it for these brief moments of complete peace and contentment. 😊
This concludes the Series of ‘Best to Start at the Beginning’ 2018 goals and my journey into blogging. I’m excited that you are joining me for the next series of blogs, if you haven’t already, sign up for my mailing list.
I also plan to do some stand alone articles for the many people that have approached me during the last year to thank me for my blog and to write on certain areas.
I can’t wait to share 2019 with you.
It’s going to be phenomenal.
How did I get here? Read my previous blogs in this series ‘Best to start at the beginning’ for insight into Entropy Emma and my personal development journey:
Photo credits to Yoann Boyer