The year of putting one foot in front of the other

2013 was the year of putting one foot in front of the other – and not always doing a very good job at it. The days and weeks seemed so strenuously long when I was caught up in the midst of it that it feels bizarre how quickly the new year has come around.

Earlier this evening, I jogged past a cafe just around the corner that made me smile the entire way back home. It was at this cafe that I toiled over my Rhodes Scholarship application, one month after my mother passed away and each day discovering that yes, it is possible to feel more exhausted than the day before, despite sleeping 12 hours a day and otherwise doing very little with my time. All this made for a lot of frustration and some serious writer’s block. There were many days where I would sit in the cafe and leave after a few hours, with nothing to show for it. Only an empty cup and the assortment of scrunched up serviettes could testify to my presence.

2013 was the year of countless mornings where being asleep felt infinitely better than the reality of being awake. Yet some part of me knew that if I could pull myself out of bed and into that cafe, somehow things would all turn out okay. Showing up was the first step; the rest – however daunting – would follow.

A lot of people believe that success is achieved through possessing extraordinary talent or having a secret “formula” to getting things done. I’m convinced that it’s actually the complete opposite. Turning up to that cafe every day and giving myself the space and patience to stare out the window for however long it took to start writing makes for a rather uninspiring story, but it got the job done – and getting it done was enough. It’s funny to think that of all the experiences I’ve had this year, it is the rather mundane memories like these that I treasure the most.

The new year ushers in a new bundle of uncertainty and opportunity, which is exhilarating yet also quite frightening in equal measure. I’ll be moving bases twice – down to Wellington at the end of the month and then to Oxford (all the way to the other side of the world) in September. I’m hoping that 2014 will be slightly less eventful, but perhaps the universe will disagree with me!

When we say things like “People don’t change” it drives scientists crazy. Because change is literally the only constant in all of science. Energy, matter, it’s always changing. Morphing. Merging. Growing. Dying. It’s the way people try not to change that’s unnatural. The way we cling to what things were instead of letting them be what they are. The way we cling to old memories instead of forming new ones. The way we insist on believing, despite every scientific indication, that anything in this lifetime is permanent. Change is constant. How we experience change, that’s up to us. It can feel like death, or it can feel like a second chance at life. If we open our fingers, loosen our grips, go with it, it can feel like pure adrenaline.

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