I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: 2016 was balls.
On a personal, national and international stage.
You’ve heard most of it before: I got divorced, struggled with money, adopted and de-adopted a dog, lost friendships along with the will to do anything other than sleep and watch Netflix.
Then BREXIT passed, Trump was elected and Le Pen drew ever-closer to a Presidential term. Hope for the future was replaced by a sort of desperate nostalgia for years passed.
Professionally however, I led a full scale HR Transformation Project in a change-averse environment. In a foreign country, in a language that was not my own. If you’re not passionate about HR, this will not mean much to you. If you are passionate about HR or are looking for people who are passionate about HR, you know where to find me… (Kidding, kidding!)
Anyway, we called it Project Phoenix, and set about burning sh*t down and rebuilding from the ashes.
Amazingly, the parallel with my personal life escaped me, until now.
The burning down of stuff was easier than I imagined. A marriage without children or real estate or real personal wealth is surprisingly simple to end. (On paper, that is.) Moving out of our shared apartment (thanks to a bunch of amazing friends) was relatively easy.
The rebuilding was harder. Much harder.
I had to figure out basic stuff like how to manage a budget and how to cook for one. I had to work out how to stay legally in the country, and how to sleep alone. I’d lived in France for over 4 years but I’d never dealt with tax forms on my own. I had to learn how to be alone, and how to be lonely. How to fill my weekends, and later, how to love the quiet un-structuredness of my Sundays.
I had to decide what my life would look like.
What I would eat for breakfast, who I would drink wine on Monday nights with, what hobbies I would try or abandon. The ways in which I’d occupy my hours and days and weeks. The principles I’d live by. The degree of flexibility I’d permit myself. The number of fuck-ups I was allowed. The things I’d fight for, not back down for. The battles I’d pick. The ideal amount of sleep I needed in order to be a whole person. The things I’d spend my money on. If buying flowers every week was frivolous or crucial. If I had the stomach for casual relationships, if I had the audacity to look for more. What that would even look like. If I’d even want to.
And the biggest decision of all: who am I?
If we can leave relationships (and our status as ‘wife’), if we can change jobs and titles and friendship groups and postcodes and our opinion on cats, what then, defines us?
If we thought we were good (good friend, good wife, good employee, good eater, good runner, good egg) but then it turns out actually we were bad, and we loved our friends and our husbands but it wasn’t enough to stop us hurting them, and ourselves: then who do we become? What adjectives remain?