It started with a lockdown, saw England reach their first final of a major football tournament since 1996 and, on a personal level, I picked up the biggest achievement of my life so far when I ran the London Marathon for Mind.
I’m one of the biggest grinches on the planet when it comes to New Year’s Eve. I have been for a number of years. For me the pressure is too immense to have a good time. Plus, over the years I feel the whole thing has become the equivalent of a tourist trap. Costs of flights and hotels drastically increase and nightclubs double their entry fee for one night only, simply because it’s the last of the year. Give me Halloween any day of the week.
When I look back over the years, I’m typically happier if I start the year well instead of see it out with a bang. That’s just the way I am. I think part of it is because I’m worn out by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around courtesy of all the Christmas parties and other festivities.
For me, New Year’s Day typically consists of something like a West Ham game or even a Park Run. As for this year, I’m working. Which means, just like when 2015 became 2016, I’ll be in bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve. The only difference is I’ll be in Essex, England instead of Christchurch, New Zealand.
As for 2021, a lot has happened over the last twelve months. Some of it good, some of it not so good. But I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say at least it was a step up from 2020.
Privacy is peace
Despite living something of an eccentric life I’ve always seen myself as an introvert. I’ve taken a lot more notice of it this year and it’s something I want to get more comfortable with.
Going back to the pre lockdown portion of 2020. My mental health was the worst it had been for a number of years. With the benefit of hindsight – and what I gained from therapy as a result – I think one of the main contributing factors is clear. My privacy wasn’t respected and I couldn’t do anything about it.
We all know what happened for the remaining three quarters of the year. Lockdowns, masks, social distancing, new variants and not a lot of fun. During this time I was in lockdown by myself and I just fell back into my comfort zone.
As an introvert struggling with his mental health, being told to stay at home wasn’t the worst thing. It gave me a chance to reset. Obviously I wish the circumstances were completely different.
My biggest takeaway from that time was how much I value my privacy. I know that may seem hypocritical coming from someone who blogs about their mental health the way I do. However, the only things I publish about myself are things I believe will help others in some way.
When it comes to my social media content. I no longer feel the need to let the world know where I am for dinner or what my pint looks like.
As for my marathon (soon to be Ironman) account, that originally started as a way of me saying ‘If you want to follow my marathon journey, here it is.’ Similar to my travel blog from way back when. But over time it transitioned into a positive community of people supporting one another through the gruelling task of training for a marathon as well as other fitness and wellbeing journeys.
To be honest with you. The only thing I really do on my personal account these days is communicate with friends, share this blog, look at memes and unfollow people.
I’m not saying I’ll never post anything on there ever again. It’s just a case of I value my privacy a lot more as a result of connecting with my introvert persona.
How I define wealth
During 2021 I made good progress in identifying the things that don’t matter to me. I’ve reduced my social media consumption, I no longer invest in a name brand stacked wardrobe and I’m so much happier for it.
When I started working full-time in 2012, I saw wealth as a six figure salary and to drive a nice car. Ten years later – I’ve had better paid jobs than I currently have and I don’t own a car. Am I happier? abso-f*cking-lutely. So experience tells me those things won’t make me happy. I also know that my naive definition of wealth when I was 17 was a common one.
Over the years I’ve grasped a better idea of what wealth means to me. And a big one is investing in relationships – not just on a romantic level. Investing in relationships with friends, family, and – most importantly of them all – myself.
To some, the idea of putting ourselves first may come across as selfish. Which it can be. However, there is nothing at all selfish about simply doing what we want to do instead of what others want us to do.
Since the start of my mental health journey in 2014 I’ve devoted a lot of time to developing my independence. Something which comes naturally when investing in yourself. In that time I’ve traveled to where I wanted to travel. Lived where I want to live and had a career change to name a few. Sure, money was required to achieve all of those things, it is with everything in this world, but I can assure you I don’t earn anything close to six figures.
Over the last 12 months I feel I’ve ticked numerous boxes in developing my definition of wealth. Most notably my work/life balance. But others include my strong relationships and mental resilience.
All in all it’s been a successful year in that sense, which has done wonders for my anxiety. However, there is still work to be done, simply because there always will be.
2022 and beyond – living generously
I’ve always tried to live my life generously. However, sometimes I’ve taken it too far and have been a people pleaser. I’ll be the first to admit that. I feel I’ve gradually reduced the way in which I people please and to be honest the process was simple. I focused more on what I wanted to do – because if I won’t, who will?.
Anyone that knows me or knows this blog will know what that consisted of. I did some traveling, lived in London for a little while before buying my first home in Essex. I did all those things – and many others – for me.
However, I still wanted to continue to live a generous life. Which is very easily done. Once I stopped traveling I started this blog and it has become one of my favourite things to do. The countless messages I receive from people saying they took something from this blog is truly heartwarming.
Obviously I don’t like hearing how many people are struggling with their mental health. But the fact they are speaking out about what they are feeling, as they would a game of football or what they are watching on Netflix, is a positive sign of progression in normalising it.
I’m very proud of the journey this blog has been on so far. And I’m equally as excited, if not more so, about what the future holds for it. However, for a number of years I wanted to do a bit of fundraising to go with it. For me, raising money for charity is the ultimate way in which I can live generously.
Which is where the London Marathon fell perfectly on my lap.
When Mind, the UK mental health charity, offered me a place on their London Marathon team during the November 2020 lockdown I couldn’t say yes fast enough. They were the perfect charity for me to represent and fundraise on behalf of while taking on a challenge as gruelling as a full marathon.
It took me 4:19:41 to run my first marathon which is a superb personal achievement and one of I’m very proud of. However, what will always stand out above that is the money we raised. Almost £8000 for a mental health charity, during a time filled with anxiety, will forever be one of the most fantastic experiences of my life.
The whole marathon journey created so much more for me than I ever imagined it would. And it all started because I wanted to live generously – which is something I want to do more of.
I have Ironman aspirations in 2023 which will involve fundraising. And I also want to do some volunteer work over the festive period in the years to come.
By living generously I’m thinking of myself less, without thinking less of myself.
Thank you for reading in 2021!
There we have it. We’re a matter of days away from the start of a brand new year. I’m going to kick things off with a January veganuary challenge while my training for the Brighton Marathon gets started.
I’m not really a resolutions kind of person. However, I want to be more active on the blog for a start. I also want to keep living generously and to take less notice of the kind of people who can only make their candle burn brighter by blowing yours out.
2022 will see some changes to the blog. But I do want to make it clear early on that the primary message/subject will remain the same – for better mental health.
See you in the new year!
My most read posts of 2021 (click to read)
Why I swiped left on online dating and deleted Tinder for good
I tried the Wim Hof method for a month
Five weeks of therapy
Mental breakdown anniversary: seven years of self-esteem building
My relationship with alcohol over the last ten years