Happy birthday to me.
Every year, I write something for my birthday, reflecting on how I’ve developed over the past year and how I hope to improve for the next year.
Last year, I answered two questions – Do I love myself? and what am I grateful for?
I can say I love myself more for the positive changes I’ve managed to make to my health. Even if I’m still dealing with a substantial amount of pain daily, I’ve maintained a regular swimming and yoga habit. There’s still a long way to go with overall self-compassion though.
I was grateful for a number of things. Many of them including friendships, the ability to exercise, charity, vegetables (yes, really) and books.
These still hold true. I believe I am extremely lucky for the friends and family that I have. I still exercise, read and donate to charity. But…
Let me tell you something about vegetables.
One sunny day in July I went to a vegan market in Hackney. It was pretty small considering how large some markets in London can be. However, there were peanut butter blondies so I was sure that all was going to be OK regardless if my lunch sucked (it didn’t).
I had a burger that was remarkably sloppy and literally, everything fell out into the little paper that was holding it. I got some on the floor and I dirtied my jeans. The tiny napkin they gave me barely cleaned my pinky finger.
At the same time all of this was happening, I was slowly, but surely, tipping towards the floor because I weigh a lot and the bench I was sat on was very wobbly. Everyone else on this table, while regular-sized humans, were all smaller than me.
I was in a perpetual state of fear that I’d fall over and embarrass myself.
I did not fall over. However, one of the leaflets I used to clean myself , was a Challenge22+ leaflet (what is shame? I do not know.)
The aim of this challenge was to go vegan for 22 days, join the facebook group and have the chance to talk nutritionists and other people trying out this vegan hype. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to complete the challenge. If I didn’t, I’d just continue on as normal.
22 days came and went and I was transferred to the Challenge22+ graduate’s group. Cool. Nothing special but cool.
40 days came and went. If this was for lent, I’d ironically win a milk chocolate Easter egg or something.
Then 50, 60, 70… all the way up to today. I’m still going and let me tell you – it’s brilliant.
During that time, I’ve learned a lot about the treatment of animals, the impact of animal products on our likelihood for chronic diseases and on the environment.
Last year, when I said I was grateful for vegetables because they’re like an automatic rainbow for your plate, I guess I didn’t know how much I like rainbows.
Cooking in the kitchen is a different challenge now and now my tastebuds are regularly blessed with new flavours and textures. I also get complimented on how healthy my shopping trolley looks in Tesco.
Little do they know, all of the junk food is hidden underneath the spinach.
So thank you, everyone, over at Challenge22+. This is the most significant change I’ve had over the past year and any time I reflect on it, I’m grateful. My attitude toward animals has changed completely and I believe I’m more in line with being compassionate towards others – even if they don’t have big toes or thumbs.
JUST LOOK AT JOSHUA AND HAROUN. JOSHUA IS MY LIFE MASCOT. HE’S JUST THE BEST.
If they make it, we’re all gonna make it.
I have composed myself. We can move on.
My values and self-improvement
When I first started these birthday posts, I would write about the values that I try to live with and act in accordance with.
Without going into detail of various shortcomings I feel I have had over the past year, I think the overall problem that can be taken from that is that, yes these values are good to live in accordance to. But that’s about it – they’re good and nice to have.
I spent more time thinking about the values themselves than how I’m going to do that.
I can look back on the year but I have nothing concrete to measure it against. My journal entries exist but they are not focused on these values in particular.
This doesn’t mean I will sit down each day with a checklist in my hand saying things like “Did I improve with compassion?” or “Did I give myself permission to be content?” Nah, we all know that isn’t going to happen.
After the first few days, I’d probably misplace my pen by a few centimetres and use that as an excuse to not bother.
I will not try to quantify every aspect of my life because 1) who has time for that, 2) who wants to have time for that, and 3) that won’t help.
However, I think more regular reflection would go a long way. Maybe I’ll share that with you all here. Maybe.
Lastly, a word on self-improvement.
To the extra attentive folk reading, the last post I made was in 2018… for my birthday.
This failure to write started off as standard procrastination. Then it extended into something different. I fell out of love with self-improvement.
I stopped reading self-improvement articles because I felt as though many articles simply lacked context. Both in terms of the author appreciating the context in which they are writing from and the potential context from which their audience is reading from.
If the advice needs to reach as many people as possible, then it needs to be extremely general and watered down. Overall, a lot of it became boring to read and there was nothing for me to contribute to the genre.
I still enjoy writing but haven’t had the confidence to post anything as a result.
I’m not saying goodbye to my blog but I may try to explore different interests. Who knows – if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year – there’s always more to learn about yourself.
As always, thank you for reading.
Me when I was younger: