11 lessons I learnt in 2022
From knowing when to take your foot off the pedal to letting go of friendships to (re)taking up pilates
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1. It’s OK to cut yourself some slack. (But not too much slack.)
Radical, huh? Really, it shouldn’t have taken 50-odd years to learn this, but there you go. After decades of getting ill, beating myself up for getting ill and then being surprised when I got iller, it still somehow came as surprise that if you don’t give yourself a chance to get better you’ll only get worse. After 15 months of feeling like an iPhone whose battery only ever gets charged to 20% I've finally accepted my own fallibility (messiah complex, me?!) and taken a lesson in recuperation from the brilliant (and blessedly slim!) book Recovery by Dr Gavin Francis (Opens in a new window). The message: the world won’t stop if you get off for a bit. BUT it’s not just knowing when to stop, but when to start again, because I also discovered that once I allowed myself to really turn off, I had zero interest in turning on again. Not while there were books to be read and Netflix to be watched, so knowing when to say ta-ra to the sofa and get back on the hamster wheel is (for me at least) really important.
2. You are more than your job.
Another big one for me. I have been consumed by my career since I first realised I had an embryonic one, age 23. Everything was about learning and growing and getting better, and by extension getting bigger job titles and larger salaries, although I wouldn’t say the latter was the motivating factor – if it was I would have gone and worked in the City. (Assuming there are jobs in the City for people who are crap at maths…) Seriously, for a second, until my early 50s I was my job. And then I wasn’t. And I can’t tell you what a massive ugly shock to the system that was. But here we are. A few years later, with a new iteration of the old job and ditto identity. And while I still love my job, and consider myself lucky to be able to do it, for the first time ever I have a life outside it. Last week a friend came to Edinburgh for work and we layered up against the minus-5s and took ourselves off around the New Town for a walking coffee. (One of my favourite things to do any day.) Roughly the same age as me, she’s just moved out of London for the first time in her adult life. “It’s exciting,” she said, “it’s not just a new house and a new place to live, it’s an opportunity to build a new me.” Nailed it.
3. Some friendships are beyond saving. And that’s OK.
I don’t find making friends that easy. It seems like a thing you’re just instinctively meant to know how to do, and if you don’t, if it’s not in your DNA, (if you’ve just got one of those unfortunate faces that defaults to 'F off', even if what you’re really thinking is, 'Come and talk to me, I don’t know anyone'!) there’s no-one to teach you. So most of my friendships – I mean real, intimate friendships, not just acquaintances – are few and hard won. So losing one, or several, in one go, can induce a bit of a crisis. I know agony aunts are always saying that not all friendships are meant to last; that they can run their course and sometimes you have to let them go. But that can be easier said than done. The temptation is to leave the ailing friendship in limbo, where you neither cling to it, nor let it go, in the hope it will somehow resuscitate itself. That's what I've been doing. But this year I learnt that the only thing to do with a friendship that’s been languishing on life support is to let it go. A sad learning, even if in your heart you’ve known that relationship is long gone for quite some time. The flip, and again a surprise for someone who doesn’t feel like they’re good at forging friendships, is that there are always new ones around the corner. And sometimes those friendships come from the most surprising places and are even more rewarding.
4. Walking is great for your head and your legs. But it does nothing for your abs.
TBF 2022 didn’t teach me this but it did remind me. I learnt this a few years ago when I discovered the immediate impact doing weights had on my menopausal middle. But lockdown did for my fitness and for the brilliant gym that had temporarily changed my body shape (RIP The Bodyclock). Now I walk miles everyday – part exercise, part credit-debit mentality, part sanity preservation – but my body no longer looked like mine. (I know we’re meant to be above all that, but hands up, I’m not.) Then, last month, I was on the tram to the airport when I spotted a reformer pilates centre had opened up barely ten minutes walk from my flat. Three weeks in getting back on the reformer has already transformed my body. (Pointe Ahead Pilates, if you’re interested Edinburgh people.)