Well, 2017 certainly was quite a year! In some ways, it felt like it would never end. That’s if you pay attention to the news, anyway. But in other ways, it went by in a flash. I look back at the year feeling pretty darn lucky, actually. And that probably has a lot to do with starting this blog.
Looking back at my first post, I’m surprised. Surprised that for the first time in my whole life, I feel like I’ve followed through on my goals for the year and achieved everything I set out to accomplish.
By sitting down and actually giving thought to what type of person I want to be – how to spend my time, who to spend my time with, the values that I want to embody – and then sharing it with you here, I held myself more accountable than I ever have before. It didn’t matter if only Mike read my posts. The simple action of writing about how I want to start my mornings, about being more present, about traveling with purpose, meant that I was more likely to do those things.
I’m almost embarrassed to say that before starting this blog, I was probably going through many of the motions in life and taking them for granted. Waking up each morning in a comfortable bed in a heated apartment with clothes on my back and food in my fridge to consume – that was all just a given. Having a healthy body that allowed me to not only walk and breath but run and jump and climb mountains if I wanted to, well, that’s ‘normal’ right? So why should I give it a second thought?
The more I thought about what topics to write about here, the more deeply I considered just how lucky I am to go through all of those aforementioned motions in my life.
When I climbed of Sgurr Nan Gobhar on the Isle of Skye in April, I didn’t just put one foot in front of the other to get to a peak to snap a photo and head home like I would have in the past. Instead, as I stood on the piles of icy scree, I spun around looking at the vibrant blues and greens and let the frigid air pelt my face and the piercing wind whip through my hat and was aware of just how cool it was I was breathing the air up there.
When Mike and I wake up early in the morning to enjoy our coffee together, I no longer think of it as a given. Instead, I’m acutely aware of just how incredibly lucky we are to be able to spend that time together because many families aren’t as fortunate.
I think that I’m more acutely aware of how lucky I am to experience these things now – the adventures and the daily routines – because I’ve been sharing them with you here. So I want to look back at some of the goals from 2017 that really stick out to me in hindsight because of how they’ve impacted the rest of my choices, and I’m going to share what I’d like to focus on in 2018, in the hopes that I continue to follow through on my promises to myself!
Spend More Time Outside
At the beginning of 2017, Mike and I made a promise to each other: to spend at least one weekend per month getting outside somehow. What seemed like a simple but perhaps unachievable goal given just what a pain in the butt it is to get out of Greater London actually wound up changing my life.
Not only did we get outside at least once per month, we spent more nights sleeping on the dirt and under the stars than I have in the rest of my life combined. The promise turned into a year of adventures – to Wales, Cornwall, Scotland’s Isle of Skye, Israel, and Slovenia, and even around our own neighborhood in South London. We’ve climbed the Brecon Beacons, Blabhen, and Triglav; swam in the Dead Sea and camped in a blizzard.
And during all of that time outside, the most important thing wasn’t the cool photos we took or another check on the bucket list. It was the time spent with each other, present, connected, making memories.
So I challenge myself (and you!) to get outside even more in 2018. I’m aiming to spend time outside every single day, even if it’s just a walk around my local park. I think we’d all benefit from enjoying and appreciating our natural surroundings a bit more!
Take the Challenging Path
The year 2017 began with me standing at a crossroads.
Down one road – a well paved double track with a lane divider, and sign markers strung along the side. “Apply to new jobs online!” “Network to get these jobs posted online!” “Land one of these great new office jobs!”
Down the other – a dirt path. One of those two-way one-laners, like the ones we’ve grown so fond of driving on in the Welsh back country. No sign markers. Just me in the drivers seat making up the rules of the road as I go.
Just before the holidays last year, I left my full time job to work for myself. And if I’m being honest, I was quietly stewing in my anxiety during Christmas and New Year’s about that decision. What had I done, leaving a steady job and paycheck? Did I really feel comfortable with Mike supporting us both while I navigated the self-employed map (what map??) to bring in my own income?
But here I sit, one full year later. Part way down the unpaved road with no sign markers, in the drivers’ seat of a mud spattered old beater. I’ve hit some potholes on the self-employed journey. Some days I pull the car over and sit, parked in the grass, questioning my decision to take this road at all! But for the most part, it’s been remarkable to be in control of my own milestones.
Before I officially turned down that dirt road, Mike and I sat down and wrote my goals for self-employed life. I would give myself a full year to get things off the ground. I wanted to replace the income of my previous job within a year. I wanted to not only work on new projects to bring in that income, but also work for myself so that I could manage my own schedule and ensure I had time and flexibility to do things I enjoyed, like writing here to all of you.
I’m proud to say that all of those things have happened. And the most important milestone that sticks out to me from taking that path isn’t the fact that I achieved my financial goal. It’s that I stood at the fork in the road and took the more challenging path, not knowing what it would look like at the end. Hopefully that gives me the confidence to choose the more difficult, and likely more rewarding paths, in years to come!
Live Life More Intentionally
This is unquestionably the biggest one. When we sat down before the start of 2017, we were unsure of what to call this blog. Cuttings Across the Pond? Cuttings’ Corner? Many ideas came to mind. But somehow, we landed on Intentionally Good Life, and it just fit.
We were already thinking more about how we wanted to spend our time together, and concepts like ‘experiences over things’. It didn’t matter if no one else wanted to read about Intentional Living. We were confident we would enjoy writing about it, and would benefit from practicing what we preach in our own lives, so off we went.
Such a seemingly inconsequential decision – what to name our blog – has had astounding ramifications. By writing about topics related to ‘intentional living’ on here, I’m acutely aware of the decisions I’m making in my life on a daily basis. And maybe, some of what I’ve shared on here has resonated with you too! (Or you’ve just rolled your eyes at everything, that’s OK too. I’m learning not to take others’ opinions too personally.)
Which spills into my goals for 2018:
Live Less Wastefully
We’ve been fortunate enough to visit some pretty beautiful beaches this year. But on nearly every single beach, every single remote beach, we’ve seen a sickening amount of trash. Never, in my life, have I seen as much trash in nature as I did on a beach on the Isle of Skye, miles away from any road or other signs of human life.
Witnessing this trash in these otherwise natural wonders of the world has forced Mike and I to wake up to how much waste we produce in our own lives, and consider steps we can take to reduce our footprint on the earth. I suspect I’ll be writing about this topic more this year, and sharing our ideas about how to live less wastefully.
Appreciate My Healthy Body
I’ll be honest – there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t have a negative thought about my appearance, at least a small one. Body positivity is something I’ve been working on for a long time. But, for me at least, that’s easier said than done.
This year, I’m really going to make this one a priority. I’m going to exercise because I enjoy it – not because I look in the mirror and want to be one dress size smaller. I’m going to climb rocky trails because that’s how I like putting my healthy, working body to use – not because I want to look better in a swimsuit by June. And every time I start to have a negative thought about my appearance, I’m going to try to replace it with a positive one.
Give Back to Others
I look up to my parents for many reasons, but one of the most important examples they’ve set for me is their dedication to helping other people. Whether it’s a favor for a neighbor, helping out at my and my brother’s schools, or volunteering in their community, they frequently go above and beyond for other people.
It’s about time I start emulating these actions more. This year, in addition to whatever endeavors we undertake, I also want to dedicate more of my own time to giving back to the community around me.
Replace Negativity with Positivity
Just last night, when I was taking a break from writing this post, I came across a letter a 27 year old woman named Holly Butcher wrote to her family. She shared it online, and with her family and friends, just before she passed away on 4 January 2018.
Her letter really resonated with me. Partly because she was almost exactly my age when she died, but also because she writes to her loved ones about all of the things I’ve come to think about and care about, especially in the past year. The biggest one? Stop complaining and start living!
Those times you are whinging about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s okay to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively effect other people’s days.
Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that – breathe.
– Holly Butcher
On that note, I’m grateful to all of you for embarking on this journey with me. Whether you’ve read all 54 (woah!) posts, or have popped in and out from time to time, your support and engagement has meant the world to me. And I’m excited to share the next steps in our adventures through an intentional life with you!