One day Alice came to a fork in the road…

“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.”

Today marks the Anniversary of my first visit to New Zealand. “So what?!” I hear you say.

Well, it may not seem like a big thing, but facebook memories reminded me that I touched down in NZ this time a year ago and, since the end of the year is fast approaching, I’ve been using my 20/20 vision (thank you, hindsight) to stop and truly appreciate the labyrinthine year I’ve had.

Much like my namesake, Alice in Wonderland, I’ve felt a bit lost this year and had to make decisions that I felt I wasn’t 100% ready for. But, the more I think about it, the more I appreciate the paths I went down in 2018. Arguably, some of the paths were predetermined, while others were opportunities that I actively decided to take.

I’ve spent most of today watching Charlie Brooker’s new and interactive Black Mirror film, Bandersnatch (which, curiously, is also a Lewis Carroll character). The film robs the protagonist of free will and hands it over to the viewer, allowing them to decide everything from the protagonist’s breakfast cereal and what music they “choose” to listen to right through to deciding whether or not to take a life. I found it quite thought-provoking and it got me wondering whether “free will” is a product of our species’ inherently arrogant nature and whether anything and/or everything is actually predetermined. But, don’t worry; I won’t go down that rabbit hole right now (if you’ll pardon the pun). Give it a watch – it’s on Netflix and I really want to talk about it with someone!

On the subject of free will and alleged destiny, I was joking earlier this week that I was basically Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors. Eventhough the joke fell on deaf ears (it turns out that German people aren’t very familiar with the film), I’ve come to realise that the parallels between the 1998 film and my 2018 life are surprisingly strong.

Much like Gwynnie, I’ve missed many a tube train, leading to what I call “Beverly Knight Syndrome” where I wonder what “shoulda woulda coulda” been. But, of course, we all only ever experience what actually happens. I did (kind of) lose my job and chop all my hair off, so there’s that. I’m not preggo though (which Gwyneth is in both iterations), so don’t start jumping to conclusions.

I digress.

What I’m trying to say is that all the forks in the road I experienced this year have led me to the sofa I’m currently sitting on in the Wairarapa Valley, surrounded by 3 dogs, 2 cats, and the gentle sounds of nature at night. Where would I otherwise be in my previous, london-based life? To be fair, I would normally have been alone and on a sofa, just in a different way. I’d normally be in a first floor flat on the south circular, surrounded by washing, listening (unwillingly) to the irregular interludes of sirens outside my window. I think we both know which sofa I’m happier sitting on.

2018 has been a funny year. To call it a rollercoaster of emotions is an understatement but, weirdly, it’s been one of my favourite years ever. I ran a half marathon, was (f)unemployed for 6 months, renovated my flat, got rid of most of my possessions, ran a full marathon, cycled through Scotland with my brother, turned 30, moved to the other side of the world, broke my foot, chopped all my hair off, got a new job, and made some awesome new kiwi friends. Some of what happened in 2018 was to be expected, but most of it was a surprise and pushed me out of my comfort zone both metaphorically and literally.

I practised much more Yoga when I was unemployed and, in addition to the physical asanas, began to learn about and exercise ‘Aparigraha’ or ‘non-attachment’. Essentially, you take only what you need, keep only what serves you in the moment, and let go when the time is right. It really helped me to stop concerning myself with the outcome of a situation and instead only concern myself with what I’m actually doing right now as I happen to be working towards that outcome. It’s not abandoning ambition. It’s not being careless or mindless. It’s actually quite the opposite; staying mindful of the deserving moment and not allowing the journey to be trumped by the destination. It’s pretty cool and I’m very grateful for having learnt about it.

To explain, here are some examples of where I used it this year:

  • Leaving my job – eventhough I had no idea if my vague plan to “move to NZ” would end well, it got the ball rolling and now here I am!
  • Breaking my foot – it was initially really frustrating, as it meant I had to prematurely end my Te Araroa hiking trip, but it meant I secured an awesome job and spent some time enjoying Wellington and making some really lovely new friends.
  • Accepting a new job in a city I’ve visited for a grand total of 3 hours – Taking this new job now means that I’m moving to Auckland in the new year, which I never thought I was going to do, but I’m saying yes. Why not?!

Who knows where ‘London Alice’ would be right now if I hadn’t taken the paths I took this year? Who knows where ‘Auckland Alice’ will be this time next year?

Much like Alice in Wonderland, I still don’t quite know which road to take, but, then again, I don’t know where I want to go, so I guess it doesn’t matter. I’m taking each day as it comes and am loving it.

Here’s to what 2018 brought and what 2019 has yet to bring. Happy New Year 🙂