I recently picked up a copy of Daniel Pink’s excellent read, When. An excellent book that explores the science of perfect timing. How do we get it perfect? Can we manifest a ‘right time, right place’ scenario?
Among its numerous lessons, the book teaches how to get the most out of your morning coffee and breaks during the workday. Plus, the importance of understanding your own chronotype (that is when you are most energetic and lethargic each day).
Do we overemphasise endings?
One concept, in particular, made me think: his discussion about how as a society we tend to overemphasise the importance of endings.
Studies show that when we face an ending of some sort (including people falling into an age that has a 9 on the end of it, me when I wrote this). This tendency is to display extreme behaviour like choosing to take unnecessary risks or sabotaging relationships.
The psychology of it indicates we are innately grasping for a happy ending. And not just happy, but purposeful.
When references films like Pixar’s Up that perfectly capture the essence of this human condition. These movies make us cry while feeling sentimental at the same time.
Pink explains that in knowing this about ourselves, we can take steps to make our endings more gratifying.
Have a chat with your future self
A beautiful example of how to do this, is sending a message to your future self.
This might be a letter, vlog, blog or audio recording. Whatever format, put it away for five years.
The proposition made me a little teary.
What would I tell my future self?
I think I would start by saying I hope she lets loved ones know they are valued – always (and that she’s continued to do better on that front, as I intend to do from now on).
I want her to live without regret, anger and bitterness – good lives are wasted on such things.
I do hope she drinks less wine (possibly).
There should be dogs, everywhere.
And music, plus adventure.
I’d say that I hope she’s invested in creativity and travel; to remember that life has taught that things do get better; bring the light, be the light and look for it in others.
That’s all served me well so far. Finally, I would include a quote from tinybuddha.com, because it’s perfect:
‘Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and the thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself’.
This is the abridged version, and I’m not sure what I’ll think of it in 2023.
Perhaps I’ll be moved by the experience and progress made. Or sadly by naivety, disappointments not yet known, and challenges overcome.
Your time is now
When advocates that action like this serves to bridge the gap between past and present, this is one of the best ways to find substance in our own lives.
However, Pink made me think about the feeling of satisfaction that’s possible when ‘me now’ feels close to ‘me’ past and future.
This exercise removes the detachment we feel from the future self and enables us to make better choices that help her/him when that future arrives.
‘Time’ is complicated in terms of life, love and the dreams we envision, and many of us know a soul or two who have detrimentally gotten lost in it.
I hope I can impart to you some timeless insight which I took from Pink’s work; that is, by taking control of our time, and understanding how our past, present and future relate, we can vastly improve our experiences now.
Think I’ll include that wisdom in my note to future me too. But for now, over to you…
Saying goodbye to a loved one takes many forms when you’re an expat and traveller. But should we take a chance for ‘goodbye’ lightly? There’s a song I’ve been listening to on repeat recently by a great group out of Glasgow, Chvrches. The track is called Asking For a Friend and is the lead song from their 2021 album release Screen Violence. A lyric near the beginning strikes me every time: “I’m no good at goodbyes”. Those few words resonate strongly and have reminded me lately about the value of “‘goodbye”.
As I write this and reflect, I realise I should add context before continuing with my story. This is the first post on our site in well over a year. While the world stood still this past year thanks to a nasty virus that’s taken over our lives and plans, it seems our website also got the memo to pause on proceedings. We have been plagued by errors and technical issues that rendered much of the back-end useless. But without the motivation to create, it didn’t matter anyway.
Say goodbye, without saying goodbye
This leads me back to my “goodbyes”, or lack thereof. I’ve said a lot of “see you laters” in my life. Perpetually chasing the next travel plan and living as an expat necessitates this strategy. Plus, “goodbye” has always felt so final. I’ve never been one for dramatic departures. I’d rather make it swift, rip it off like a band-aid, so to speak (then have a good cry in the airplane toilets and not to make a scene). I never wanted a fuss made, especially if I was on my way to where I needed to be. It’s just part of life’s rich tapestry, as my Dad would say.
2020 gave me more perspective on all of this though, and has made me wonder, is there more value in a proper “goodbye” than I’d previously given credence to?
Ignoring an opportunity for a heartfelt goodbye is perhaps underplaying how important it might have been for the person on the receiving end of my goodbye. And, perhaps it was sticking my nose up at a privilege that I should have been grateful for. After all, we hear stories each day of heartbreak where we can safely assume that the loved-ones involved had no chance for “goodbyes”. That, my friends, is ever so sad.
No chance to say goodbye to people or place
Last year… oh wait, I lose track of time… Going on nearly two years ago, we sat at an apocalyptically empty Heathrow Airport. We were forced, for a number of reasons, to leave somewhere that was without a shadow of a doubt, home. We had to pick up in Australia and start everything all over again. When we left England, there was no opportunity for goodbye. COVID was in full flight, the entire world was shut down.
We could not say goodbye to our loved ones there, nor our life. As dejected as I was sitting at that deserted airport late in March 2020 (eerie given Heathrow is usually heaving with commuters and people hurriedly shopping up a storm in Harrods or if you’re me, Accessorize), I never imagined in my wildest dreams that we’d still not be allowed to go back even now. I’m in Queensland, Australia, and still now we have no clear roadmap on how to travel freely around Australia, let alone internationally.
It all makes the fact we could not say goodbye even more difficult to take. It does not get easier. People have explained to us that we still mourn our life in London because we did not get to say goodbye. There was never an end. No closure that we can acknowledge.
Saying goodbye to a loved one, for good
There was a poignant goodbye in 2020. An actual moment saying goodbye to a loved one, forever. One painful moment, but one that was better to have happened than not.
It was Wednesday 6 May when my Dad said he wanted to tell my brother, Josh, and I, that it was “time for him to say goodbye”. He’d been lying in a bed for weeks. His body slowly, painfully and cruelly deteriorated. A once active and proud father, business owner and globe-trotter himself, now rotting away from cancer – unable to move, eat, drink, live. Stubborn to the end, his body held on – too long.
On that day, Josh and I sat with him on his bed. In a very odd twist, we both smelled death in that room that day. We both described it like that to each other later on. I can’t tell you how we knew, but we did. It was a telling and foreboding sense – very hard to process and accept as ‘true’, but it was clear to us.
By this point, our Dad had real trouble talking. He’d all but lost his voice and had zero energy. But he told us that he now needed to go, and that he wanted to say goodbye that day. In floods of tears filled with love, gratitude, regrets and fear about pretty much everything coming from that point on, we did just that. We said goodbye to our ultimate loved one, and for me, I faced my first permanent, real, and excruciatingly raw goodbye.
It’s October 2021 and I can only just bring myself to think about this moment. It was the last time I saw my Dad in this realm. I know he’s still around, but that’s a story for another time.
Hello, what’s next? :)
I stand by my original sentiment on “goodbyes” – they suck. Especially when they’re directed at people, places or experiences that mean the world to you. There is something to be said about having them though.
Since researching this topic and becoming aware of times when I’ve avoided goodbyes in the past, I have discovered some helpful resources and discussions. One is here, on The Five Reasons to Say Goodbye, and another from The American Psychological Association on why goodbyes are so important, whether it be to a person or a stage in your life. I now know I’m not alone: it’s difficult subject matter to talk about sometimes, and even harder to act on. But the awareness that we should go deeper, is really important.
We’re currently still stuck in an unrealistic and unreasonable travel ban throughout Queensland and Australia. I do hope we’re all rid of it soon (I’ll be very happy to say goodbye to many COVID rules, if I’m honest – get vaccinated, people – seriously). I’m hopeful we’ve got many “hellos” in our near future, and while they may be brimming with tears, they’ll be happy ones, as we are reunited with the people and places we never got to say “goodbye” to all those months (years) ago.
If you come across this post, drop me a line in the comments. How do you see it? I’m, you know, asking for a friend…
It began with something called a ‘happy planner’ that promised to keep me on track with my life goals list. The year, that is – I started off so well, planning ahead in my bright yellow hard-covered book that’s trimmed with gold and artistically decorated with beautiful landscape photography.
I spent time working through my planner’s activities which included noting intentions, and rating my happiness in various areas of life with a view to taking action on anything that felt lacking. On a glance back, I see I also filled in the ‘reverse bucketlist’ pages, where instead of writing down all the things I wish to achieve, I listed those things I was already proud of accomplishing (a very nice activity, if you need a boost today).
While I did initially make the most of my ‘happy planner’, it has actually been sitting on top of a pile of half-read books since May!
The bright yellow HAPPY cover serves as a reminder each morning of the possibilities ahead. But in the evenings, it came to prompt panic over all I’d intended to do but not yet acted upon.
According to the internet, this is now a thing – ‘FOMOMG’ (fear of missing out [on] my goals).
What on earth is FOMOMG?
What to do then, if we feel like we’re not where we intended to be now? That is, if we haven’t saved the money we wanted to, got the job, bought the house, discovered the romance, finished (or started) a project we’d hoped to have in hand.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and like we’re missing out, and some might agree it’s especially so at this time of year. Keen to not fall victim to this so-called FOMOMG, I resolved to lessen the pressure I admitted placing on myself.
Types of goal setting, not goal-setting or indeed not giving a f*ck!
I’ve been reading some of Sarah Knight’s work – she’s the author of the No F*cks Given guides and presenter of a TED talk on the ‘magic of not giving a f*ck’ that’s reached over four million people. Clearly, many are curious to know if it’s ok to shed our excess ‘stuff’, and Sarah’s now famous for spreading the word on how to let go of things you really don’t need to care about.
Akin to decluttering your home, we’re encouraged to do the same with our minds. You can start this today by writing down a list of all the things that are taking up space in your head, then carefully considering which items you don’t need to care about. Really. For example, are you worrying that you’re not as caught up in your career as your friends are (well apparently, according to Instagram)? Let it go. It’s likely to work out the moment you begin to clean up your thoughts and focus on the things that truly matter.
Life goals to set for yourself: choose wonder not worry
I’ve also been dipping into Amber Rae’s Choose Wonder over Worry (another one stashed in my bedside pile of books). She helpfully points out that it’s not the things we don’t care about that are hard to let go of, but it’s letting go of all those things we DO want to achieve, plan for or create, that is so hard. To choose ‘wonder over worry’, means doing just that – letting some of the stress and pressure go, and focussing on the thing that is the most important to you.
Make time for a festive break; consider the good in your world, and your achievements; play with your kids or pets; focus on ONE thing you’re looking forward to pursuing next year. Let go of the clutter and embrace with me the understanding that setting goals is one thing, but realising those goals can change is the real key to happiness.
How do you see it – do you set goals anymore, or focus on intentions? I’d love to know – please drop me a line in the comments.
First published in the December 2018 issue of Get it Magazine, getit-magazine.com.au
Competition for a roof over your head continues to be high in many places, and out of naïve fear I’d accepted the first unaffordable rental a real estate agent sold me on.
This apartment block housed a young, international set, mostly fortunate students who curiously didn’t work but had way more fun-funds than I did.
The experience wasn’t the homeliest I’ve had, and my pay packet stretched only as far as rent and a bit of food.
Trash, treasure and a splash of glamour
That’s why the communal corridor near the ‘bin room’ was such a treat.
You see, every time this transient crowd shifted in and out of the building, they’d leave unwanted goods in that space. Furniture, towels, blankets, cushions, kitchenware, shoes, lamps, kettles, storage boxes, trinkets and clothes would appear every few weeks. All in good condition, nearly-new! The little hallway offered a treasure trove of goodies that saved me loads of money.
One special day I was on my way to work when I spotted a fresh pile of pretty things left for the picking. Sure I needed to catch the train, like, ten minutes prior, however, I was captivated.
Unceremoniously dumped amongst a pile of women’s accessories, was a stylish black leather Kate Spade tote bag!
A Google search later indicated it would retail for more than (AU)$700. My bag’s former owner (someone with more money than sense) had abandoned it still full of her old gum wrappers, crumpled tissues, used cosmetics, and it was stained on the inside with what looked like leaked nail varnish. With a loving clean, it was nearly good as new.
Not saving your best for special occasions: living a glamorous life now
From that moment on, my Kate Spade tote and I were inseparable. I’d never owned an expensive bag before. I’m a fairly low-maintenance kinda girl, however carrying it around made me feel glamorous. It was just a bag that I’d retrieved from the trash, but it did add sparkle to my days.
Indeed, the word ‘glamour’ is derived from Scots (the old English language as spoken in Scotland), when in the early 1700s, the Scottish altered the English word ‘grammar’ to create ‘glamer’ or ‘glamour’, meaning ‘a magic spell’.
What is glamour?
Glamour. A little bit of magic, a feeling that things are in the flow and all eyes are on a sassy version of you. Enchanting, don’t you think?
More reasons to not be saving your best for special occasions, like weddings, formals, awards shows or a jaunt through Vienna.
Glamour can be accessed every day. My Kate Spade handbag made me realise that the spell is in the detail, if that detail is special to me. I still don’t seek designer gear, but I make sure that I implement touches of glamour in my life that serve as a cue to walk tall and approach my to-do list with grace and ease.
Glamour cue: be your happiest today
Your daily dose of glamour might mean ensuring your nails are manicured, wearing a fabulous hair accessory, getting fit and healthy, or brightening up your home with fresh flowers. Maybe the glamorous life to you, means the removal of excess, making space for calm, simplicity and the got-it-together confident you.
When the tragic news of designer Kate Spade’s death popped up as a notification on my phone in June, I recalled how the creation that bore her logo had brought me joy. That bag was my icon of glamour, the reminder to smile warmly, flick my hair a little, and to radiate the bright energy I intend to share with the world. Little had I known, I did not need a big budget or to be in attendance at a fancy event in order to ‘be’ glamorous.
In a reflection on the meaning of glamour, Financial Times journalist Susie Boyt says that, “your best self is not about pampering, but working on that song-in-your-heart mood”. How charming, and true. Find your glamour cues this month, and access daily, because a reality we can all agree on, is that life’s too short to save our best things for ‘special occasions’.
Read the latest issue of Get it Magazine, getit-magazine.com.au
It was late one afternoon last week when a friend and colleague, Erika, popped over to my desk to have a chat. Bright and bubbly, full of fun dreams and goals, I enjoy her visits, tea in hand and the promise of gossip in her eyes.
I knew she’d had a tough month where some of those aforementioned dreams and goals had been rocked, predominantly because of the insensitive actions of a boy who did not deserve her affection.
Dreams and goals – careful of comparison
In her usual style, she wandered over to me with a warm smile, perched on my desk and commenced with a monologue about how she saw herself, saying she’d been thinking a lot lately about how by now she should be ‘more successful and further ahead in her life and career’.
I objected, not just on the grounds that I’m her friend, but because of my own burning question: ‘What is the definition of being ahead?’
Predictably the response involved comparisons to what fellow university graduates from the recent class of 201…? are doing, and her reflections on the aforementioned relationship that went cold.
As someone (vaguely) older looking at her situation, I’ve seen Erika secure an excellent job in a respected business where she started working as a temp; she impressed people personally and professionally, put in a lot of hard work and has in a short space of time developed into a PR pro. She learns every day, as we all do, but continues to ride the wave gracefully.
I believe Erika’s story is impressive. For her to tell me she feels disappointed about the success that I can see clearly, well, I had to give her a loving nudge! Aside from the proud job situation, she’d also completed a Master’s degree in the past year, and diligently dealt with personal life challenges.
With age arguably comes wisdom, and I’m going to stick with that logic. I shared with Erika that from my perspective there are two important things you can use to ‘measure your success’: how happy you are, and your ability to cover expenses. Yes, if these elements need to be addressed, then do so! But when all was said and done, Erika admitted she’s happy, and can cover her rent plus purchase wine on the weekend.
‘Success’ at any age is not about comparison to what your friends are doing.
Social media poses a problem for many on this front, and if you relate, switch if off for a while. If we did the same thing at the same time as our contemporaries, would we necessarily love life? No.
In my humble view, success is being happy. It is simple. It is your gratitude for life and acceptance of choices.
It is not ‘how far ahead you are’ – whatever that is supposed to mean.
Someone said to me not so long ago that I should be further ahead in my career. While I respect their opinion, that view is narrow. Granted, it is one that is still understood by a wide range of education, media, and corporate types, but it’s not relevant, especially in 2018.
I’m incredibly proud of everything I’ve done – the cool, the crazy, the difficult, the brave moves that have meant my ‘career’ path has not been linear. Confidently I declare that it’s been liberating and exciting and varied.
I’ve been happy. And I pay my debts, just like a Lannister (apologies, couldn’t resist).
So, I write to “Erika” here, that aspirations are amazing and reveal passion and drive, things I stand for in life.
Go after what lights you up; but turn comparison and an immediate feeling that you want more, into intention. This will bring awesome things to you in good time.
For now live in the moment, embrace it. Think about what life presently holds that you love, nurture that, and you’ll get ahead for sure.
Welcome! We are Sarah + Cooper, Aussie expats living in the UK with our Westie dog, London. We like to inspire on how to travel for longer and to live and work from anywhere. Our most popular content here is about seeing the world with your pet, remote working & digital nomadism, and house + pet sitting. Create a global life of your dreams at any age! Subscribe to find out more :)