― Lao Tzu
I’m not one to make a fuss about my birthday. I’m not into presents or parties, but I like to indulge myself with my favourites: exercise, a little champagne, good coffee and listening to Chopin’s Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, No. 1. Whilst my country was mourning (it’s not coming home…), I curled up with a bowl of my favourite fruit and the book I’ve been trying to read for the past few months. Simple pleasures.
As my passport attests, it’s been an enriching year of diverse travel. I finally made it to China, where I studied Mandarin and (again) noted how dissimilar negative Western perceptions were from my personal experiences (I loved the coexistence of tradition and modernity in Shanghai); I visited my father in Jamaica and was reminded of how happy life with coconuts is; had a very Parisian New Year; I returned to Istanbul where I bought all the Turkish Delight in the city and realised my inner emotional strength (long story…); I fulfilled a dream of visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and made some life-changing decisions whilst sipping pomegranate juice at the heavenly Four Seasons. I also went kayaking again as part of my feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway lifestyle. The first time was in Halong Bay in 2015. I thought I was going to die – I didn’t feel safe at all with speedboats and ships around me. Terrifying. In Abu Dhabi, however, it was so peaceful on the Eastern Mangrove.
As my new year begins, I am heading to Greece. I’ve never been there before, but I understand they have halva so I’m pretty sure we’ll get along. I’m keen to explore, but I’ll be taking my work with me. The never-ending thesis… Mostly, I’m just looking forward to not taking the Tube or listening to the excessive use of profanity my people seem to have embraced. I’ll be back in my glorious city for a few days before hopping across to Paris for a dose of
debauchery art and champagne, and then heading to Russia before it gets too cold. All being well, I’ll be off to Africa for the first time: Ethiopia awaits (and given the recent developments, I may even pop over to Eritrea for a few days). And, big news, returning to Japan (after 4+ years) for sakura season. Let the Kanji cramming begin! I also want to fit Morocco, Oman and Egypt in at some point. Oh, and Scotland too… More weeks in the year, please!
My thesis is almost finished. I want the deadlines and 12,492 pages of reading every week to stop, but I am evermore captivated my research field. The more I read, the further I delve into the philosophical concepts surrounding my thesis question, the more excited I become. Geeking out with my supervisor about Foucauldian concepts of imperialism in relation to IHL has been one of this week’s highlights. Yet, it’s been a painful few months as I have become disillusioned with the entire human rights discourse and have lost belief in the ability of international institutions to do the basics: help people. And wider society is no better: we only ‘care’ when it offends/impacts us. I don’t know what this feeling means for my career, but I’m still excited about my research and hope to keep the momentum going. So, I’m figuring it all out…
My mum recently asked me ‘don’t you want to settle down?’. Much to her confusion, I replied ‘I am settled’. I think she’s in the majority: being settled means buying a house, being married and having children and living that life, which is incredibly enriching for many. For years I thought that was the life I would have and, particularly in relation to children, I convinced myself that the disquiet I felt was a normal reaction to the thought of change or because my childhood had been a struggle. I allowed myself to be consumed by the ideals dictated by society, rather than following what I knew to be true. I was weak. It’s unfortunate that often our self-evolution is intricately-entwined with the lives of others, and the process can be quite damaging to them and their ideals.
Despite my life (thankfully) being decidedly different to what I had imagined, but I have never felt more internally-grounded. I’m at a place in my life that I never knew would be possible for me: I’m content. The combination of a more intentional yoga practice and spending more time in my happy place (my church), I’ve become more balanced mentally (and physically) and am constantly reminded to let go of what doesn’t serve me. I am healthy, live in relative freedom and able to recognise my privilege. Yes, I long to eat more delicious strawberries, silence on the underground, more ballet outings and to see more of the world but, in terms of the big things, there is nothing I crave or need. I feel incredibly positive and grateful for each experience. So, this is how my year begins: a heart filled with love and gratitude, trust in the universe, and a sense of adventure for the big changes coming my way this year. Life is amazing!