90. It’s ok to look back sometimes…

(I wrote this before I left but didn’t get chance to post it)

It’s ok to look back sometimes. Try as we might to ignore our past it’s always lingering there, like the elephant in the room. And the truth is it’s good to look back sometimes, if only to see how far you’ve come.

When I went home last weekend to say goodbye to my family, my train journey was like a trip down memory lane. From my current base of Oxford, past Leamington Spa where I lived with Nick post-uni until I got my job at OUP, up to Birmingham where I spent my university days, and finally to Stafford where I grew up. It struck me as I passed through the stations where I had spent so much of my time, that just as I had progressed along the rail route, I’d also progressed as a person. When I left Stafford I had no idea that I’d one day end up in Oxford, and when I was waiting for the train from Leamington Spa to Oxford I could never have imagined that today I’d be moving to New York. Life is like that, it’s random and unpredictable, and whilst it can be daunting, it’s also comforting, as even in the darkest times you know at some point there’ll be a better place just around the corner.

I actually asked about a secondment to NY back in 2007 when I was a PE. The idea was discussed but it never came to anything. I realise now that I just wouldn’t have been ready. I’m so different now to when I joined OUP 5 years ago. More confident, more balanced, more sure of my abilities. When Nick moved out in 2009 I was completely panicked at the thought of having to sort out my own bills as I’d never done it before. And yet now I have just single handedly organised a move to the other side of the atlantic. I’m also much better at making friends now, at holding my own in a conversation. And if at 20 I’d have stayed in the Randolph hotel (as I did last night) I’d have been like a fish out of water. Now, whilst I may not exactly be the typical guest I do have the ability to put on my best Oxford voice and at least pretend like I belong. :) I know that NY will be good for me, and I recognise that when I get back I’ll be different again.

I’m really going to miss my friends here in Oxford, and miss the UK office which has been so good to me. But Oxford has also been a very tough place for me. I often think that looking back at things that hurt you is a bit like poking a swollen gum after you’ve lost a tooth. You know it’s painful and yet you’re still drawn to it, each time checking to see if it still hurts. And one day you’ll try and it’s completely healed. We can never quite understand why bad things happen to us, but at some point you have to stop questioning it and just get on with your life. In some ways the worst things shape us much more than when times are good. And really all you can do is try to salvage some good from the wreckage. I met some great friends through G, he gave me the push to move out of the house I was unhappy in, he encouraged me to write this blog. I still believe that I wouldn’t have finished my MA if he hadn’t been there to support me. I mentioned him in my dissertation dedication, and I wouldn’t remove it now even if I could. It doesn’t undo the hurt, or explain why things have to be so complicated, but it’s something.

But be careful not to look back too frequently or for too long. To quote Alexander Graham Bell ‘When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.’ It’s ok to look back sometimes, but like parents tease their young children about playing cross-eyed…just make sure you don’t get stuck that way.