Today I had to get photo's taken for a new passport. Being a UK ex-pat in Canada, this is not as simple as it may seem. No quick jaunt to the drugstore, I have to drive 30 mins to a specialist photo place that specifically deals in UK Passport photo's.
As I was driving there (and back), alone in the car (a rare occurrence), I had time to reflect not just on this year but maybe further back. It was 10 years ago I last had my passport photo taken and I was thinking on who I was, what I was and how I must have been feeling when those last photo's were taken.
I was in my late 20's. I had been recently married and I had no kids. We owned a house, 2 cars and everything we owned was white, clean, undamaged and from IKEA. I had never been outside the UK for any time longer than one week and I had a technical job in a Network Company which was unusual for a woman and higher paid than I had a right to expect. I was not long out of college, all my friends were male and I had no life experience that really counted. I was 15 pounds heavier, did no real exercise, drank too much and kept such bizarre working hours, I had periods where I didn't see daylight for months. I had plans to visit abroad and perhaps live there, but they were dreams and nothing I really had any idea on how to achieve. I had plans but nothing to base it on.
If you told me 10 years ago the things I would do, where I would go and the life I would have, I would have laughed at you before buying you another drink. Clearly we would be in a pub and you would be drunk but not quite drunk enough.
So here I am, 10 years on; getting another passport photo. This time, I require make-up to hide the tiredness and a little hair colour to mask the greys, but essentially I haven't changed. However, I am not sure I can quite say my life had turned out as I would have planned.
I am still married, (something you always aim for on your wedding day, but not necessarily achieve). Not only am I still married 10 years on, but I still love my husband. I still admire him and appreciate him. I still have to stop and remind myself that I am lucky I have managed to spend my life with this loving, generous and intelligent person. Okay, he pisses me off occassionally, but I am fairly sure there are moments he has to bite his tongue and walk away from me too!
I have not only visited other countries, but I have lived in them. I have seen bears, beavers, racoons, eagles, koalas, kangaroo's, deadly spiders, ibis, gum-trees, mountains full of conifers and strange flowers that look like they have come from a sci-fi flick. Three international moves in 4 years was NEVER on my life plan. Three international moves with Children - okay, now we would have been in cuckoo land. I am not sure I would have had the confidence in myself to contemplate one international move, but in the last two cases, organise them myself.
I have children - something I NEVER expected. Don't get me wrong; family was something I had considered, but I always thought my buggered reproductive system would have negated that, instead of creating a home-run on the first attempt. (I have a feeling that the New Years alcohol is creating a TMI situation here!) :D
Having a child who has his own difficulties would not have been there either. Don't get me wrong I love D to bits, but I don't think there is a parent out there who honestly says to themselves at the moment of conception, "We are going to have a kid who can't handle the world as we see it and we will need to battle for everything to enable him to cope!". Truly, if "A day in the life of a Kindergarten special-needs Kid" was a course in the High School, you would find teenage pregnancies down to an all-time low and a huge rise in condom sales. Constant team-meetings with resource co-ordinators, teaching aides, teachers, principals, Behavioural consultants, Interventionists, Occupational therapists, speech therapists and social care workers was not on my list of things I wanted to do. Do I want to do them now? Hell NO. Will I do them? Of course and I will be glad for anything and everything that is offered to me.
Would I have been happy 10 years ago to know I would have spent 6 years out of the workforce? Not really. A "Stay-at-home Mum" (SAHM), was not a job title I aspired to. It was something that a 1950's woman did, not an educated woman in the 21st century. Saying that - would I change it? No. Don't get me wrong, there are days, nay, weeks where I wish I could. There is only so much you can talk about Pokemon, clean up poop, cook meals and run errands. I am lucky however, that I have the chance to spend time with a child that challenges me in more ways than one. He is smart, funny and too vocal for his own good. If I had to spend my days in a house with a kid that only wanted to watch "spiderman" all day, okay, I may concede, a "SAHM" would not be on my list of career choices. But my kid wants to learn about atoms and space. He makes me watch youtube movies about the "large hadron collider" and viruses. I have had to learn to keep up with him. He challenges me in so many ways I cannot be anything but grateful that he is who he is.
Could I have ever have imagined a time where I would choose someone else over my Mum, Dad and sister? When my Mother died this year, I painfully but gladly chose my son over the rest of my family. I knew that here was the best place for him. I know that is what is meant to happen, but ten years ago, my choice would have been very different.
If it wasn't for my life as a SAHM, then I wouldn't have been able to experience other challenges. To not only be able to have a chance to get fit and healthy, but a chance to promote it. I have learnt (if you can do that) to run. Run with nothing on my feet. I have not only run 13 miles, but I have run 13 miles more than once. I am looking now to run further. I know now that if I had to, I could turn around on a moments notice and run into downtown Vancouver from the suburbs. I look at a map when I have to drive somewhere new and catch myself thinking.. "I could run that.. easy!". I have learnt to swim and as I counted myself a land animal for 37 years, this isn't a small feat. I have contemplated new sports, new events, new distances, for no other reason but "I haven't tried that yet".
I have female friends - again, something I never thought I could do. I not only have female friends, but I have friends all over the world. There aren't that many countries in the world where I do not know someone there, (even if it maybe through current acquaintances) - how amazing is that? Over half of my facebook friends are people I have never met. These are people I know, like and admire; people who I speak to on a daily basis and know me better than I know myself sometimes; yet I have never met them. Ten years ago could I have said that?
So as I was driving back from Fraser Valley I took a moment to actually examine where I was. I was looking at the snowy Coast Mountains, overlooking the agricultural plains and the North American farms that were whizzing past. Driving on the "wrong side" of the road, behind Cadillacs and Dodge Caravans. Seeing the rail-road and the slow moving trains with 50 freight cars being pulled behind. Examining the American-esque roadsigns and evaluating the wooden slatted buildings that housed coffee-shops, burger bars and pancake houses.
I found that when I took a moment to fully immerse myself in that moment, the one word that came to mind was "Content". My life hasn't been what I planned. It's had hurdles that I would not have anticipated. Choices I would not have wanted to make. I have had to make career and life choices that would not be ideal in the mind of a Twenty-something "know-it-all". But as I glanced down at my new passport photo's whilst waiting at the red light, I did at that moment feel content.
Now that is not a bad way to end the year...