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January 1, 2024 8 min read

My post on 2022 feels like it was written in the distant past. I had to re-read it to remind myself what I had actually written about.

In short, I had concluded that 2022 was a good year and I'd learnt a lot, picked up some good habits and had signed off with a positive outlook going into 2023.

2023 has rocketed right on by. There were slices of the year that felt sedentary, time set to half playback speed. However, as the year comes to a close, it undeniably feels as though on the whole it has passed swiftly.

So then how was the year?

In a few words, 2023 was a battle.

Moving to the UK was tough. I've spoken about a few of the challenges in this post.

I went to war with myself a few times. I found myself dancing between many emotional highs and lows. I found my small frustrations amplified and most notable victories and achievements disregarded. For the majority of the year my outlook was negative. I consider myself positive, but I found myself consistently seeing the world through a negative lens.

For long periods of 2023 I struggled to speak positively about things or to see the silver lining in things. This disagreeable mindset I believe stemmed from a number of things.

The weather

"It's just weather" is only said by those who haven't experienced great weather or people on copium. Even knowing what I was getting myself into couldn't prepare me for the cold and dark. "This must be beautiful in Summer" seemed to be the catch phrase when visiting places Autumn and Winter,

Right now we're in Winter in the UK and it is definitely more bearable than when I arrived. I've certainly adjusted to the weather (a bit) and got the right kit to stay warm. I think I getting used to it and not letting it get to me as much.

Lack of purpose

Upon arriving in the UK, I struggled to find a strong sense of purpose. Specifically with regards to my career. I had come from a job in South Africa where I was championing the growth of the business and empowered to make changes and build the business. I understood the rules, the etiquette and such. Moreover, there was a sense of urgency and importance in the work I was doing that fuelled me and kept me going.

This was missing for me when I arrived in the UK. A new environment required new understanding. I initially felt like an outsider, struggling to find my voice and position within my new role. I felt like I had started as an apprentice all over again, learning the ropes, cultural and social rules norms. I had to feel for boundaries and relearn my place in the workspace.

With time I've relearnt all of this, helped largely by feedback and observation. My mandate has been sharpened and I've connected with what I'm doing. It took a while, but this has brought about a great sense of purpose in the work I do.

Loss of freedom

Yes, I know how dramatic that sounds. I never lost my actual freedom. Life in South Africa was easy for me. I had space, getting around was easy, things don't work as intended but we manage to make it work. It is challenging to explain if you haven't experienced it but essentially I wasn't bound by many external factors.

The UK offered a sharp contrast. There is less space, with London at times being suffocating and capable of creating a feeling of a mental gridlock. Whilst it is not difficult living here, it is not easy (or wasn't initially).

There are a few more steps involved in getting things done, rules and regulations enable operational functionality but stifle fluidity and velocity. There is a less of a focus on the individual driving outcomes and rather systems.

Things all take a little while, but it also feels like my free time has evaporated with each day often melting into the next.

Over the course of the year I've slowly gotten used to most of this (or cultivated mechanisms for dealing with it).

I still find myself frustrated by checkbox exercises, but it is certainly something I can live with.

I've learnt to relinquish feelings of frustrations tied to things I can't control, to embrace the good that sound systems enable. This doesn't mean one should turn into a mindless robot but rather to know where to put your energy.

I now try make the most of the buzz of London and when I feel cramped, step into a park to enjoy the freedom and space they offer.

I now do more things to break up the days in a week. These 'things' create clear outlines between days and remind me to be present. What these 'things' are varies. Maybe a get-together, a change in scenery, mixing up my routine/trying something new, etc. The point is they are checkpoints within the week that cause me to take stock.

Not wasting time has also become more important than ever. There is less time for things here (with more noisy things consuming your time in the UK compared to South Africa) so being intentional about where you spend your time is required.

No family in the UK

I grew up in a loving, closely knit family. I knew I would miss them when moving to the UK, but that didn't make it any easier. We were able to see each other this year which was amazing, yet reminded me how much I miss spending time with them.

There's no real substitute for quality family time and making plans to see them as often as feasible is the action I've taken here.

Looking beyond the bleak

My mood throughout the majority of the year was melancholic. It was only once I began to understand the UK itself and my place within it, that my state of mind improved. I can't pinpoint the exact moment, but there was a point where things all sort of came together. I began to find a rhythm in my job and a strong understanding of my role which gave me a sense of purpose in my day to day. The gripes and frustrations from the change brought on by the move began to shrink as I grew more comfortable with the differences between the two worlds.

Welcoming the change instead of shunning brought about a shift.

It was almost spontaneous, but at some point in November (I think) I just no longer felt the need to feel sorry for myself or to justify my lack of direction (or purpose) through apathy. I no longer felt the need to ring fence my happiness. For reasons I'm sure Jung and Adler can unpack better than me, once I stopped being a victim, everything improved dramatically.

I allowed myself to be upbeat, to see the good in things and speak positively without shooting off a neutralising negative comment.

Things have settled nicely.

I've begun to live more courageously, not using uncertainty as a crutch but rather a motivator. I feel like I'm back to the same mindset of that which I had prior to departing South Africa (or close to it).

Wrapping up

It is frustrating that my courage vanished quite suddenly when arriving in the UK, after being so fired up about doing something new. But that is now in the past, I've grown more understanding of myself and learnt a great deal.

I think I've won the battle that was 2023, or at the very least there is a ceasefire.

I am eager for 2024.

I hope to master, love, build and learn more in the year ahead.

I want to get better at what I do, be it work or hobbies. And I want to be the best, not just better.

I want to focus on the amazing friendships and relationships in my life, to give more to the people that mean so much to me and add so much to my life.

I want to build, be it something virtual or physical. Creating is a creative outlet and one I've neglected.

And I want to learn more. I love to learn and can't wait to digest the knowledge and wisdom the year ahead has in store for me.