Long ago I learnt to say no to other people. I learnt to fight for what I wanted with a passion and determination that I’m proud of. And with time, I’ve learnt to do this a little more quietly, gracefully and peacefully (I’m still working on this aspect!). But it’s taken me ever so much longer to learn to say no to myself.
I’m not talking about saying no to a slice of cake or an extra glass of wine or another serving of pasta- I don’t believe in being overly restrictively with my diet (disclaimer- I love vegetables and simple, unprocessed food, so eating well comes easily to me) and from an early age I learnt how to listen to my body, exercising when I felt I needed it and resting when I was tired.
What I’ve struggled with, is how to say no to my mind and desires- to all the thoughts that rush through my consciousness and all the things I want to do, before work, after sport, on the weekend, in my life! I want so much from life and have incredibly high expectations and standards of what I want to achieve, see, do and create with my time on earth. I have an extremely broad set of interests- reading, travel, sports (so many kinds), outdoorsyness, festivals and music, cooking, creating, crafting, photography, writing, blogging, coding – the list goes on. And on. I love spending time with family and friends, but I also relish time alone to do creative things, exercise or just be.
Growing up in a county region of Tasmania, with no public transport for miles and miles (and even then no trains, trams or metro- just an hour long bus ride to the city), I was immersed in nature and learnt to spend my time playing and creating- inside crafting and playing computer games or outside making forts and cubbies, running, swimming and bike riding. It was a time before mobile phones and the internet and I rarely planned out my days. My brother and neighbours and I would just have fun doing whatever we wanted in that moment.
Somewhere in my 20s I became depressed and anxious if I didn’t have a list of activities lined up during the week after work or on weekends. This was fueled by an often intense study regime and later by a work culture of long hours and crazy social events- around Australia and abroad. It was truly a lifestyle of work hard, party harder, and while it was a hectic, fun and rarely boring, I quickly became addicted to the pace and novelty.
This mentality cumulated in the final months of my PhD, where I was struggling to finish my thesis whilst working 3 jobs to support myself financially and gain the necessary experience to be successful in applying for research positions overseas. I also had considerable commitments to my sports club, as the captain of the women’s team, and tried to spend as much time as possible with my large Australian/Italian family and with my boyfriend. It was a lot to take on and I often felt exhausted.
It’s not surprising that when I moved to Finland in 2017, I felt a big vacuum in my life. In time I filled this void with more commitments, activities and travel around Europe. Recently I’ve begun to feel overwhelmed again. As an introvert, spending time alone is incredibly important to my well being. But establishing and maintaining quality social connections around me is also vital to my happiness. So achieving the right balance between these two aspects and allowing enough time to “do nothing” is a challenge I am still striving to meet.
But for now it’s enough for me to realise that I have been taking on too much and that it’s ok to have weekday evenings with no sport or meet-ups and weekends where I don’t have a million events planned. I’m looking forward to more moments of random fun and exploring in nature, like I did as a kid.
I hope that through sharing these thoughts you may also feel like it’s ok to take on a little less and experience more❣️