Every year, on January 1st, I see social media ablaze with promises of this being the “perfect year” with weight loss plans and fitness memes promising the perfect body. I hear january-1conversations about how last year was a difficult time for someone and that if they could only start again, or that this is the year they are going to put the fire back into their relationships, or start that Masters degree course again: that this year they will be the perfect husband or mother or colleague.

Why do we need the 1st of January to convince ourselves to be better only to disappoint ourselves annually by the end of the first week and spend the rest of the year planning to be better in the following year to come?

I call “BULLSHIT!”

There is no doubt in my mind of the last 15057 days of my life, the most recent 630 days have been the worst of them combined. Of course, I want things to be better and I have cefa1975f1626154a46d36c3c9c8809db5rtainly tried to do so personally by removing myself from bad situations, going to therapy, taking up exercise and eating more healthily. I have bought the self-help books and read daily devotions, I have taken walks along the beach and felt gratitude for the sunrise and all of creation, I have hugged my family more and told them “I love you”, I have checked my attitude and made sure that I have left things that would weigh me down in the past as I look ahead into my wonderfully positive future, just like those Facebook messages told me to do.

So, how do I know that this will be “the best year of my life”?

 I don’t.

I can start by getting through today without making promises that I know I cannot keep. I can focus on making my breakfast and taking the dog a walk despite the freezing cold temperatures and frost on the ground or that I have lost my gloves – again. After that, I can enjoy reading a few pages of my new book or an episode of that new TV show on Netflix. I can have that afternoon nap, because today I am still on vacation and the dishwasher can do my dishes and I don’t have to worry about ironing that shirt today.

i-can-do-it-thisone1I need this to be a better year – emotionally, personally, socially, financially, mentally, in fact in every sphere I can imagine. I would love to catch a break and live a life on the crest of a wave from now until next year rather than in the depths of the lowest valley. But I sure as hell am not willing to fake smile my way through crap any more and give myself little “pep talks” to tell me that it is right around the corner or that a little New Years resolution will make it all better, knowing that in the next week I will fail to do those 30 squats a day or forget to say my morning affirmation by Joel Osteen or Deepak Choprah.

I am learning that life is not a block of 365 days at a time. It is a fluid, dynamic and organic thing that grows and sometimes stagnates because of a series of choices we each make – every choice with a consequence that may be good or bad or simply indifferent. It is something that is a result of being brave every day and facing countless unknowns, because (let’s face it) none of us has this thing figured out.broken-promise

I want this year to be great and easy and full of good
things, but I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow. I can try to make good choices, but there is no guarantee that I will get it right. All I can do is face it head on and hope for the best, without making myself promises I know I won’t be able to keep.

So, here goes…

 

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This is the first timg_1048ime since starting to write these missives that I have not wanted to write anything at all. As most of you will agree, 2016 has been a difficult year and I would prefer to look forward to 2017 with hope and determination after my very own annus horibillis…

But here I am and I will do what I must to reflect on this terrible year in order to move forward in confidence and determination, because “nothing will keep the old boy down”!

I ended last year in a mix of emotions and felt that despite the year being a difficult one, I had so much to look forward to. Well, sadly that was not to be as I initially hit the ground. Hard. With my face. Sliding on the gravel. Into a wall.

Long story, short: My American Dream was coming to an end with the sudden eimg_0507nd of my relationship with my partner and a tenuous position at work due to incredibly bad management, and FBI investigation and a vengeful colleague. This cocktail mix of bad luck was the way I met 2016 and it was a massive shock to the system. How much easier it would have been to stay in bed at that point and hibernated until 2017, but alas, life needs to be lived, and sometimes that means facing everything – all at once.

By the end of February it had been decided that I would no longer stay in the USA despite a valid Green Card. I conceded that it was easier to throw my hands in the air and admit defeat. Dreams are wonderful things, and for those of you who know me well, this was one dream that I had had for my whole life, but I have learned through experience, that a dream can be something that takes you to the next part of your journey. A dream is not a destination and living in the USA was only a part of that journey which was clearly coming to an end. Surprisingly, I am still quite comfortable with this – although I was very hurt and disappointed at the time.

Finley of course, being the seasoned traveller was ever-willing to take part in this new adventure with me and it was not long before we were saying our goodbyes to Texas and winging our way from the USA in search of something somewhere else.

img_0236I will always be grateful for family and the chance to heal and lick wounds. March and April was mostly about that and finding out what I wanted to do in the next chapter of life. I needed time to just “be” and to talk my way around what had happened. It was a very difficult time and very raw emotionally, but I had some great people around me and I spent many hours walking the beach with Finley happily running beside me – that made me feel very glad because he was oblivious img_0193to recent events and reminded me that I would one day not feel so sad anymore and run just like him with wild abandon…

As an international educator, I have been very fortunate in seeing many parts of the world and had many adventures on my travels. I continued to look at opportunities worldwide from Singapore to Switzerland and interviewed with many schools from Cayman Islands to Canada, but something had changed as a result of my recent professional experience and I was left feeling very uncertain about my future.

I try not to let the grass grow beneath my feet too long and I needed to pull myself together and move on with my life and make some adult decisions and it was not too long before I came to a decision to move to a little town outside of Venice in the North East of Italy. At the time of choosing to come here, I needed to earn a living and get back on the proverbial horse; I was not sure what to expect when I decided to do this, but after a few months of being here, I have been reminded that I am a good person who has gone through a rough spot and despite being faced with more challenges than I anticipated, I can say that I have lived in Italy and that I still have my sanity…barely.fullsizeoutput_2c2This year has taught me the difference between living life and existing. I have done my fair share of both. It has taught me that I have loved…hard, even if it was the wrong person. This year has taught me that I can be kicked down and dragged through hell, but that I am so much stronger than I give myself credit for, because I can still hold my head high and walk all the way through the valley of the shadow of death and come out the other side.

This year has taught me that as a professional, I am still learning, but that I have already learned so much and that I am so much further along than I ever thought. I have the respect and esteem of my colleagues and that I am far more resilient than my reserves allow me to believe. This year has taught me that there are people in life who tell you that they love you or that they will forever be your friend and stand by you in good and bad, but trauma has a way of rooting out wheat from chaff – and there has been plenty of that.
I have chosen to reflect on this year briefly because this has, without doubt, been the most traumatic and painful year of my life. I don’t want to give any more power than I need to to a time that could have ripped me apart.

So, I had a bad year: “Get over it!”

I still choose to believe that there will be better years ahead with adventures to remind me that life is for living and “nothing will keep the old boy down”…

Happy New Year and a blessed 2017, see you on the other side…img_0067

Treviso: August Part 2

Posted: August 24, 2016 in Snapshot
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I don’t know what excites me more: the church bells on the hour or the fact that the cobbled streets are so uneven that the slightest misstep will send me back into the emergency room with another broken ankle! Needless to say, I am taking my chances and venturing out into my new town: Treviso.

For now I am housed in what can only be described as a commune for old people and the odd overseas teacher. I think that most of the guests have been sworn to a vow of silence because I am tip-toeing around with the fear of God in me that if I make a sound, someone (probably a nun) will come out and “shh!” me. But it is nice to be here and have this enforced silence surround me as I reflect on my adventure ahead. Breakfast here, however, leaves much to be desired. I think I had a corn-flake type product this morning sans sugar and the milk was UHT, all of this tasted strangely like styrofoam – which is never the best for consumption. But I am in Italy! I should have been eating fresh fruit from a local market and sampling pastries and salami, but I got machine coffee sludge and old folk with blue hair and walking sticks staring at the “Inglese”. I have decided that I clearly look non-Italian with my Ayrean blonde hair , fair skin and blue eyes. There is nothing Mediterranean about me, and so I must accept the fact that I will stand out for the duration of my stay here. (The fact I sound like an outsider compounds this lack of Italian-ness).
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I have been here for three days now and despite the travel injuries I have endured, I have managed to explore so much of this gorgeous little town with its confusing little narrow streets and ancient buildings. It is clearly an ancient city with its distinct lack of order and structure, which is what makes it so charming. There are little shops which sell the most random of “stuff” like lavender or old books to the more modern stores we all know and expect. Absolutely everyone rides a street bike and combined with the church bells, the air is filled with the trill little sound of the bicycle bells as the riders pedal nonchalantly by.

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But one of the best parts of wandering around this city is the access tho the most beautiful little canals and bridges – even the likes of Danté have lent their names to! I have spent hours walking around this little town completely lost and in awe at the sense of history and artistry. It is simply stunning! Despite the hustle and bustle of everyday life, there seems to be an innate peace here. People are calm and friendly – even to those who struggle with the language. And I get the impression that what does not happen today, someone will get to tomorrow the next day – a concept that my Type A personality will take some time to adjust to. Around 1pm without warning there is a distinct hush over the city and I am not too sure where everyone goes, but it becomes eerily silent and desolate. Shops are not open and even the few al fresco eateries that do remain open serve very few customers – no doubt tourists. The city settles into riposo as everyone goes home for lunch and a snooze…Now we’re talking!

Of course one cannot write about Italy without discussing its cuisine! I have already had one Italian home cooked meal upon my arrival and it is simply what you imagine it to be. Simple. Effective. Delicious. In my wandering around the city, I was shocked and secretly appalled (but at the same time a little vindicated) to find out that whilst dining al fresco, most Italians eat their pizzas with a knife and fork! All my life friends have teased me for doing this and have ridiculed me and pointed fingers, laughing! Well the joke’s on them! But pizza here is unintentionally an art form and probably taken for granted by the common Italian. It is hardly your vulgar Pizza Hut or Dominos. I stopped at a tiny little alley way restaurant and helped myself to pizza by the slice and found it in a word: sublime…

 

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Ciao!

So, I admit, I am glutton for punishment and will not let the green grass grow for long under my feet before I am off again to some far flung place to live a new adventure and traumatize my poor family back “home”. I say “home” because it hasn’t really been that for me for many a year now and although I guess I keep going back there, it is never for very long. Perhaps to replenish and revive, or just to remind me that there is a great big world out there and it needs to be seen (and there are so many ironies in that statement that I will need a whole other blog to write about it – and more on that later), there is something inside me that makes me not want to settle down in one place – or at least until I have found ‘the’ place – if it, in fact, even exists.

And so, through a series of (un)fortunate events in the soap opera that has become my life, I find myself venturing away from what I thought was the “last one” and, once again, I find myself sitting in a random B’n B in a strange land about to embark on another adventure. This time it feels very different, because I did not really ask for this one or even seek it out in the ways I have done before. And as a result, I have approached this adventure of living in a different country with a sense of indifference and a wholeheartedly lackluster attitude. That is not to say that I am not grateful for the new adventures about to befall me, or that I don’t want this to happen, it just means that it is not quite what I was expecting…whatever that means!

So here I am in this random little B’n B in a city I don’t know yet, thinking to myself “Here we go again!” (And you get to come along, dear reader, for the ride!)

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La Dolce Vita?

Italy. Land of “La Dolce Vita” and gelato. Ancient, boot-like in shape, gorgeous sculpted men, beautifully attired women, waiving hands and Vespas. It is not important how I came to be here, although it is for the same reasons as every other move I have made: simply to give you, dear reader, something to read and to allow you to live and travel vicariously though me (and for the odd few, a holiday destination with free accommodation). But regardless, it is here that I find myself, desperately underprepared in linguistic ability and over-anxious for the experience.

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A very unhappy luggage-hating Finn.

So it wouldn’t be an experience like mine unless there was some drama involved. (Why else would I be writing this blog?) So whether it was having to pack and re-pack and further pack again my every belonging into as few suitcases as possible while trying to conserve as much weight for flying, or trying to find another pet carrier for Finley who would provide door-to-door service, I was certainly expecting something to go slightly awry. So far so good, right? What could possibly go wrong…?

Sunday. 5am. Glasgow Airport.

Upon arrival, I genuinely thought we had met with the Apocalypse. Hoards of people decided that today was clearly the best day to fly…anywhere, which in itself is not a bad thing until you factor into the equation that three people were hired to staff the British Airways front desk while all of Glasgow lined up in zigzags outside the airport entrance. (Thank goodness for Business Class lines, eh?). But alas, after the lofty heights of Business Class, I came crashing down though security where it would seem that two people were on hand to pat every single person in Scotland down. And I had 10 minutes to get to my now boarding flight! If my anxiety levels were borderline before this, you can imagine the red alerts going on in my brain now! And of course, Scottish people clearly do not understand the concept of Ziplock bags and 150ml bottles of liquid in our ubër-security conscious culture. A pair of scissors, anyone?

After losing the will to live and moments from collapsing on the dirty airport floor in an anxious, dread-filled heap, I made it though with seconds to spare. But it is at this point that I need to tell you that my plane was (naturally) the furthest gate away, and I was in possession of one back-pack filled to capacity, a carry-on bag that would house the contents of a small African village and my computer briefcase filled with every tech gadget Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have competed against!  Oh yes, and then there was all of Glasgow traveling too. I would hardly call what I did to get to my plane running, but it was nothing short of Olympic walking standard, mixed with a dash of chest pain and profuse armpit action (thank goodness for anti-perspirant).

Blisters. 11am. Gatwick Airport. Blood.

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Trusty Converse sneaks

Change of shoes (replacing the brand new, trendy, but now blood-soaked suede brogues) and finally Business Class lounge (notice that I have managed to mention my level of travel TWICE). I am not sure if I remember what it was like being a plebeian traveller, but I am very glad that free breakfast and coffee in an actual ceramic cup was availed me. My only disappointment was that there was no one there to peel my grapes and fan me with a massive ostrich feather…

Ho hum.

After a brief respite and fully sated, the next leg of my flight was as you would expect and, which of course, in my case included: screaming toddlers on take-off and landing that not even noise-canceling earbuds could cope with!

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Obligatory shot from plane on landing in Venice.

So now once again, I have left what is my “home” and I am starting a new life. I may appear blasé, and trite, but I have done this more than a few times and have earned the right to sound bored with the newness of it all. I will of course, continue to humor each of you when you tell me how jealous you are and when you threaten to come visit, but don’t.

Stay tuned for more of my adventures: there are bound to be a few…

 

Ciao

 

 

Source: 13 Things To Remember When You Love A Person Who Has Depression

What Self-Love Means

Posted: February 14, 2016 in Snapshot

Source: What Self-Love Means: 20+ Ways to be Good to Yourself

Letter for 2015

Posted: December 31, 2015 in Snapshot
Tags:

Another year gone! More reflections…and, as always, many events to look back on with fondness. Each year I write these letters

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Skip and Gray

I realize how far away my life is from most of you reading these and how much of your lives I am missing, but the memories we have together is the reason why you still receive these annual “catch-ups”. Wherever you are, I hope that you are blessed and happy and that as you prepare for a new year filled with resolutions and promises, you remember who you are and where you come from.

2015 for me has been a whirlwind (as usual) and I have to say that I am ready for this year to be over. It has not been the worst year of my life, but it certainly has been a year of change and growth – with many challenges, but I am grateful for the opportunity to use these experiences for the better.

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Mum, Gray and Skip 

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Anti-Wedding 

January of 2015 began with me being a newly married man to an amazing partner in crime – Skip. My mum had travelled to be with us for the “anti”-wedding of 2014 which was a lot of fun – but very low-key (by choice). We celebrated New Year together with Skip’s family and solidified a bond between the two families. Sadly, as mum was leaving Skip’s father had been ill and passed away. Much like my own experience with my father, Skip was privileged enough to be with him as he passed, but it proved to be a very difficult time as goodbyes were said and brought back many painful memories for me. I am learning that this is as much a part of life as living is and it is never easy to say goodbye, but it has to happen. It was not the perfect way to meet Skip’s extended family, but it was lovely to see a large family like his close in on each other and support each other with loving memories and much laughter.

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Finley walks himself in winter

Beginning the year in Indianapolis meant that I had to prepare for another brutal winter, which of course, it was. I was so nervous on the icy sidewalks minus my walking cane, but apartment life demands that an 80 pound Labrador gets at least two walks a day and Finley made sure I made good on that! Socially, winters ensure that people don’t get out much – especially in the mid-west, so we hibernated for much of winter and watched too much Netflix and ate loads of junk food. We were so lazy that many weekends were spent in pyjamas (and a few visits to the local Chik-fil-A). Of course winter wouldn’t be winter without a good bout of manflu, which hit us with a vengeance at the same time this year. We were two VERY sick puppies and were miserable! But winter wasn’t all doom and gloom, we got to dress up and go to a very snazzy gala in our newly purchased tuxedos
– we danced the night away and made a few good memories – I had no i

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Tuxedo Fun

dea Skip was such a great dancer. He led the dance floor on quite a few dances and became a sensation! Of course a few weeks later, we were back in our tuxedos for the Senior Prom – but this time feeling more like awkward dads dancing on the dance floor with the young kids…seriously awkward!

March marked the great “SelfieGate” saga. I innocently too

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“Selfie-gate”

k a morning selfie on my drive to work and it resulted in something not unlike a Donald Trump news event! The number of comments on how terrible and tired and old I looked nearly shut down Facebook – and reminded me that approaching 40 was going to be harder than I thought! Yes people, I am getting older and obviously not as fresh faced as I once was! I guess Santa Claus will have to bring me Botox for Christmas!

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Back on the boards

2015 marked a return to the stage for Mr Galloway. I had the opportunity to sing a few ditties with a talented student of mine (and for a brief moment my singing duo “MilesAway” was a hit!). I also got the opportunity to direct a long-standing favourite sho

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Crooning

w of mine: “The Compleet wurks of William Shakspear”. It was great fun directing this insanely difficult show with an ensemble cast of truly talented and crazy kids – so many great memories made making me wish that I had stayed the course and followed my dreams all those many years ago

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Skip broke himself

Of course all this time Skip and I knew that our time in Indianapolis was clearly drawing to a close as I had accepted a significant post in an exclusive private school in Houston, Texas. We were saying goodbye to the old and beginning afresh in an exciting new city and state! This was supposed to be an easy move, but proved to be the most difficult experience I have had moving to date! Packing up boxes and loading trucks became a challenge after Skip damaged his bicep and ripped his tendons leaving him practically immobile! He had an uphill battle of recovery over a few months, surgery and a lot of pain medication!

Thanks to a handful of my recently graduated seniors, we were able to get all the boxed safely dispatched in the moving truck – minus Skip who had to stay in Indianapolis due to a massive mistake made by the new school regarding my visa. We ended up having to make an emergency application to the US government for my green card (this normally takes around 8 months) in order for me to start working in July.

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Texan Teacher

Frustratingly, Skip was required to be employed in order to sponsor my green card and that meant him staying in Indiana while I took up residence in Texas all alone! What was supposed to be an exciting time for us became a very isolating separation for a newly married couple. At least some good news for us was that Skip managed to start a new job in an exciting directorship and I started working in executive leadership here in Texas. My new job has been incredibly demanding, but rewarding and I have enjoyed the challenges that I face daily. My staff are wonderful and although I am working less with the students and more with the teachers, I am learning new things about education and from a totally different perspective.

Navigating a new huge city on my own is something I am used to and I have enjoyed the challenges that this brings, however it was not the best start being forcefully separated from my husband. Further challenges included having my identity stolen by a disgruntled member of staff who had been fired, resulting in some awkward breaches of my personal security, only to discover that the FBI were involved with this person and almost putting my green card application in jeopardy! It was a very stressful time and when my visa interview finally arrived, I was very doubtful and expected to be packing my bags and moving back to the UK with my tail between my legs. Fortunately, after an excruciating interview (which made me wish I was having root canal surgery instead) I was granted my long-awaited green card, making me a semi-permanent resident of the USA! And my gift: a brand new Audi TT! Well done me!

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Mad Hatter Re-boot

So as I draw to a close this 2015, I am still very uncertain what will be faced in the new year. I am excited that Skip will finally be able to join me in Houston by the end of January and I am sure that professionally we will both be expecting to grow immensely. I have done a lot of growing up this year and turning 40 had allowed me to see what I have done with my life and what I still want to accomplish. Next year I will be focusing on my health and on really settling into my life in the USA, knowing that for the first time in many years, I don’t have to leave (thanks green card). The thing that I have not been able to do for so long is start collecting books and having a decent personal library – a reaction to moving countries so often. Being a literature teacher means that I have a passion for books and I have given so many away, now I get to indulge and collect ‘till my heart’s content!

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Bowties and Waistcoats

Wherever you are, I pray God’s blessing on you and yours and hope that 2016 brings you what you have been dreaming for. I know that I have dreamed many years and it seemed that they would never come true, but sometimes, when you are not looking, they do.

Much love

G x