Gratitude. It’s something heralded by many as a great way to change your perspective and therefore change your life.
And, I tend to agree.
After I read Oprah’s book What I Know For Sure, I started a gratitude journal.
Sure, it looked more like a journal about what I ate that day but I found it a nice way to end the day.
So I thought it would be an excellent way to end my trip.
Here it goes:
I am grateful that I am a citizen of a country that gives me the freedom to travel to a lot of places without being hounded or spending a fortune on visas.
I am grateful that I quit my job and decided to do this, travel, now.
And for all the family and friends and random acquaintances that said, ‘You go girl!’
For the same family and friends that said ‘I’m going to miss you’ and that I have missed along the way.
And those people that wrote me messages to say ‘Keep going’ or were encouraging by way of saying they liked reading this here blog.
I am grateful for the family that sent me messages to tell me if I had a spelling mistake on the blog.
And for the fact that each of them added in a part to let me know they weren’t being critical or trying to drag me down – I must have a reputation for being sensitive or something.
I am grateful for whoever or whatever created the gorgeous landscapes I got to see.
Nature, you are a beautiful beast and I need to appreciate you more.
I am grateful for the recommendations on what to see and do that I received from all manner of people along the way.
I am grateful for all the people I met and especially for the ones that said, ‘You’re going the wrong way. Here let me show you where it is.’
I am grateful for the man that woke me up when I fell asleep on a bench at Settle train station (Settle, it does what it says it will do).
I am grateful for trains. They are such a nice way to get to places and I only wish there were more passenger trains in Australia.
I am so grateful for Peter and Anne at Oxenfoord Organics – their kind souls and purchase of Scottish cream made my first three weeks in Scotland wonderful.
For meeting Davie, and for all that he did entertaining me with his stories, showing me around the place I’ll get married and always making sure I didn’t have to walk home from bingo.
For bingo and Anne and Joe, who always bought me a cider, and Eck and everyone else there – you were excellent competition.
For Celia and Ben, who understand the pitfalls of HelpX and fellow helpers’ hygiene and who made me laugh so hard! And, I’m so grateful we got to meet up again in Spain, laugh more and share a whole day of thanks together.
I am grateful for Clodagh for visiting me in Edinburgh and being a vehicle for a good night out.
I am grateful for Hansel for simply being a vehicle (and one that only broke down once, okay twice if you include the ditch incident).
For the men that helped me get Hansel out of a ditch.
The bar staff that never shooed me away when I was chewing through their Free Wifi without chewing on much of anything else they had to offer.
For Scotland, her wild and sexy ways, and her incredibly open policy on wild camping.
For all the sheep that made me go ‘Naawwww’ and the roads that made me go, ‘Ugggghhh’.
For Dylan, the kid who told me all about life on Balmoral Estate, you are the Ashton to my Demi, at least one day, maybe.
I am grateful for the nun who gave me jumper leads to restart Hansel and the man that actually got him going again.
For the person that sat next to me on the overnight bus for the fact her presence wasn’t annoying as it could have been.
I am grateful for Sean and his acts of kindness that all started with sitting across me in McDonalds.
I am grateful for Toby and Hannah and Karen (Bob) and Godfrey and Jack for giving me an unforgettable Kentish experience.
And for Bob washing my clothes for me.
I am grateful for Clay and Hannah and their incredible care of me in Warsaw. For serendipity in general and specifically for a reunion with my tour guide Martina in Warsaw.
For the old woman that I squished on the train by accident with poor balance and an abrupt stop.
For my cousin Lachy and our chats about the profane and the profound in Krakow.
For the Irish couple that made me laugh so hard on the way to and from Auschwitz.
And for Mitch vomiting when we arrived at Auschwitz and making sure we were all in the mood for the tour.
For people who tell history and preserve it and share it – your impact is eternity.
I am so so grateful for the Spanish family that chose me and for the fact that I chose them too.
For Marisa and her mothering of me and for living kindness and teaching her kids that saying sorry is hard and it’s okay to cry.
For Javier and his incredible cooking, for always making sure I felt safe, and for breaking out of the friend zone and marrying Marisa.
For Sara and her love of English, her love of dancing to Meghan Trainor, her sassiness and the voices she puts on when telling a story. I have no idea what she’s saying, but heck it’s entertaining.
For Sergio and his love of nature and science, his desire to explore and his determination to not give up on trying to figure out how something works, and most of all, for eating his ice cream as fast as I do. Kindred spirits we are.
For this blog, and the space to write down my thoughts.
For my own determination and dedication to keep writing even after I tasted how easy it is to miss a day.
For words, when I write them, I feel more understanding, and when I read them, I feel more understood.
For a family that I have so much to thank for – I am grateful I am so indebted to you all for the love you give. And I’m so grateful that I get to pay that debt back in love.
For friends that feel like family. Friends that love words as much as me, friends that ask as many questions as me about the world, friends that understand travel and work as much as me, friends that get emotions as much as me, friends that are also travel agents and have yo' back and the friends that have grown in every way with me.
And friends that, no matter what or where, continue to check in and catch up.
For dogs that miss you so terribly they act out by running away – mama’s coming home Spence!
For you guys that read these articles that are more like essays.
For how easy it is for me to be thankful because of how rich my life is with people and stories.
For storytelling – you are as dear as a friend and as frustrating as family. Don’t ever change.
And there you have it: a short list of my gratitude. Very short. And yet, while it was long, I want to finish with one more thought.
Everyone is always saying they want to write a book. Why is that? I think it is because ‘a book is one man’s soul is another man’s hands’ (not my words). That is, we all want to tell our story and know someone else has read it. We want reassurance that our experience mattered and that someone else felt the same way as us. That’s why I think people write books. (That and the fact they get to write acknowledgments and make their own grateful list.) I’m so grateful for the people who have held a bit of my soul in their hands, or on their screens.
Now to Australia, a place I am grateful to call home.
But first, an ending to this article, something I’m sure you’re grateful for.Read more link text
That’s right, you heard me.
I’m a lass who loves her independence, but is also realising more and more how much nicer life is when I admit I need help.
To concede I’m not perfect.
And just for the record, needing help and crying are not synonymous with weakness.
It may sound ridiculous to actually have to state that as fact, but unfortunately for me I really do.
But, it’s okay. I know I’m not alone; I have first-hand accounts and mounting evidence my high expectations of who I should be are not solely Megan-esque.
In fact, I’ve witnessed many other women break down because they can’t keep up the pretence any longer of everything being okay. Including me.
I’ve heard women end discussing a problem with, “But I’ll pull myself together.” Me too.
I’ve seen less of this from men, but that’s not to say I haven’t seen it or that this is a problem exclusive to women.
I think it’s more pervasive in women because of our place in society through the ages:
‘I totally could have killed a bigger lion, I’m so sorry honey’.
‘Oh I don’t bother rock painting – no one would want to see what I have to say.’
‘These aren’t tears, the gazelle I caught earlier was just super sweaty and it flung all over me.’
I can almost hear my ancestors say.
We’re still fighting the good fight, great-great-great….great-great-great gran!
There are times when I’m like a pro-cowgirl, lassoing every perfectionist tendency, should, must, and independence-building thought that comes my ways.
There are other days when I’m the one caught in the rope trapped.
My expectation of where I should be financially right now has a particularly thick rope and good stronghold.
My idea of the kind of career woman I should be, the body I should have, the level of togetherness I should possess are all frontrunners as well.
The thing about this rodeo that goes on in my mind is that for a long time I wasn’t even aware it was happening.
I thought it was normal to just do life to fit the expectations of others, whether the others were society in general or more specifically, my parents and anyone in between.
It didn’t matter if I didn’t know you, what you said or how you looked only reinforced my ideas of who I should be.
Then one day, a horse escaped the rodeo and I was like, “What the heck are you doing here?”
He led me back to the rodeo, which was about to celebrate its 20th anniversary and I stood in shock.
This had been going on the whole time and I had no clue.
The rodeo is still running, but I’ve managed to free a few more horses every year. Sometimes they come back and I have to remind them that they need to go.
Travel has been a catalyst for helping me see the rodeo grounds more clearly.
And, to be honest, the more I see of it, the further I see it extends.
The more answers I find out about myself, the more questions I have.
But that’s okay. I am full of paradoxes and am comfortable with them.
I think we all are.
Some of us are perhaps a little too comfortable (Me).
And some of us are not comfortable enough (aka stressed chickens; yes, the rodeo grounds includes a barn filled with animals). Also me.
At the moment, my skills as a cowgirl are limited to roping down what I can and trying to let go of all the animals there.
That’s to say, I can’t offer some kind of easy solution.
I wish I could.
For now, all I can offer you is that you aren’t alone.
I’d love to normalise and validate our entire perfectionist, must-live-up-to-society’s-impression-of-success/good woman/good man tendencies.
To hear and then recount stories of women and men the world over about when they realised they had a rodeo going on in their own mind.
What happened that made them think, “I have to do this on my own with as little negative emotion as possible.”
And who or what helped them overcome that and not be who they thought they should but whoever they thought they might like to be.
If that day comes, I think I might just call it ‘I’m A Strong Independent Woman Who Needs Help & Cries A Lot.’
Or, 'Megan-esque: It's An Epidemic.'
I'm undecided. As always.Read more link text
I am going to write 100 blog posts by the end of 2016.
I don’t know when I decided that was my goal, but it definitely wasn’t my aim when I set up Me’anda.
As you can read here, the why of Me’anda was all about sharing my thoughts and maybe, just maybe, some people might read my thoughts and think, ‘It’s not just me, I’m not alone’.
That was the goal. Or, rather that was my intention, because it’s not really measurable.
But somewhere along the way I decided to make it measurable. 100 would do it.
As it stands now, this is my 76th post. That’s an insane number of thoughts and a crazy number of days to commit to sit down, write something and find Wi-Fi to make it accessible for y’all. At least I think it is. And if you disagree, you must really love my whacky, long essays of thoughts.
Ain’t nobody got time for excuses
I am proud of the amount of work that I have produced, but more than that I am so stoked to have given myself time to reconnect with writing and do it for the sole purpose of enjoyment.
Not to try and sell it to an audience, or to help sell a newspaper, or to build up an organisation’s profile.
It’s been a pleasant change; a change that has also rejigged my perspective.
Since I started Me’anda, I’ve learned discipline to make time for the things I actually like doing rather than discipline solely for the sake of getting through the to-do list that makes me go ‘ugh’.
It seems strange that I would need discipline (third time saying it in a really short space so let’s all shout it, DISCIPLINE) to do something I love, but I’ve found myself lacking the necessary discipline too often at home in Australia.
Instead, it was always “I’m too tired,” or “I’m still hashing out ideas,” or “It’s just not a great time for me right now” or some other lame excuse covered in that sickly syrup, fear.
But since I left Australia back in late July, I’ve discovered that if you want to do something you love, you’ve got to eat those excuses and just make time for it.
When you make time for it, then you can start. And that’s scary in itself but people aren’t lying when they say it gets easier; the more I wrote, the less I cared how perfect it was.
Clicking publish for the first time, my heart was beating, adrenaline pumping. Now, I click publish with the blood pressure of an octogenarian.
I just feel relief that I’m creating something.
Probably the biggest game changer for me – aside from discipline, of course – has been realising what a small amount of time it can take to write something, upload it and a few photos and hit publish.
Before this trip, I was constantly saying how I didn’t have time to pursue writing and have a full-time career.
Now I have lived full-time travel with writing on the side, I see that’s just not true and is just another excuse.
It makes writing a play or a novel or a children’s book or anything seem possible.
And this is what I’ve learned from just 75.75 articles.
So why was I, even up until yesterday, fixated on writing 100 blog posts before the end of 2016?
The answer is the same one it always is for me: achievement. 100 is such a nice, whole, big, juicy number to flaunt, isn’t it?
“What did you do this summer?” *hair swish and plum in mouth, she nonchalantly replies* “Wrote 100 blog posts in just over 100 days.”
Oh, sweet, sweet Megan. Who cares?!
I’d much rather reply, ‘Got lost a bunch of times in the Scottish Highlands – those roads are a bitch let me tell you.’
So, why do I feel like I have to have achieved something quantifiable?
I think it probably has something to do with me bullying myself about never finishing anything. It’s a story I’ve started to tell myself the last few years and there’s plenty of evidence to support it, particularly when you look at the number of jobs I started and never finished.
You might be nodding in agreement – oh yeah Megan, you never finish anything – and if you are my Mum, you definitely will; less about careers and more about a childhood infatuation with changing my bedroom every three months or so. What can I say, I’ve always liked seeing places in a new way.
But for the rest of you, you know what, I’m flawed.
I’m a crazy, weird, naïve, idealistic, whingeing, whining, neurotic human.
And I’m just like you.
At least, I hope I’m not alone in the fact that I like to create stories about what I think am and define myself by those stories, which aren’t even real.
In fact, I know I’m not.
I was talking to a friend recently and he had two friends that were dealing with an issue in the workplace. Both called him. One said, “She said X and she just needs to…” while the other said, “She said Y and I know that means…”
They both thought they knew what the other was thinking, but they were both wrong in their assumptions and so he did something brilliant. He called them out on it and told them to actually talk to each other to hear what the other felt.
Just because that happened between two people doesn’t mean it can’t happen between just one. Me.
So I call myself out on the stories I create. Sometimes. Some days are better than others.
I’ve found keeping my mind in check is like looking after two 8-year-old boys who want to play and destroy everything – sometimes you get through to them and other days you say ‘Fine, but can you try to contain the mess to this wall? Thanks.’
So, what’s this post all about then? I get that’s it been a mish-mash of thoughts. Imperfect. Kind of like my whole blog.
But I love its shaky bones.
It reminds me of Jenga – how tall can I build this tower of unstable foundations without it crumbling? And I’m very good at Jenga.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is several fold but comes down to one thing:
Being kinder to yourself.
Achievements are great, setting goals and obtaining them serve a wonderful purpose.
Yet, for me, I’m starting to see a different way of doing the things I love.
A way that still lets me get at all the meaty parts and not at the expense of my own self-worth.
A way that allows me to not cop out with lame excuses, but also lets me say, ‘This has served its purpose, it’s time to let it go’ even if I haven’t reached a big, whole juicy number like 100.
Maybe I’ll write 100 posts before we see in 2017. I certainly am not abandoning Me’anda any time soon. But, maybe I won’t.
And I’m okay with that.
I’m okay with not finishing yet another thing because I know it doesn’t detract from the fact that I am a hard working, disciplined, productive person.
And if I wanted validation, I know all my former bosses would agree.
But, I don’t need their validation – my future employers might – because I know it.
I got that discipline and I intend to use it.Read more link text
One of the first exercises we had to do as journalism undergraduates at university was read out our work and have it constructively criticised in front of the whole class.
It was one of those moments when fear struck and the words ‘I am not good enough’ hung in the air above all 20 of us.
Not only did the atmosphere above us change, but I also think I heard all of our stomachs hit the floor and stay there.
We all pleaded with our eyes, ‘Please don’t be too harsh.’
But, you know what, our lecturer was pretty harsh and it was a valuable lesson.
Sure, it wasn’t fun hearing your lead was sloppy or that your story sounded more like a novel than fact.
But that’s how we all learned. We learned how to write better, we learned how to build a safe space to share, laugh and encourage one another.
And, most importantly, we learned how to handle criticism.
Because when you write something and put it out for the world to read, people are going to say something about it.
In fact, you want them to talk about it.
Of course, what you really want is for them to talk about it, at worst, kindly and, at best, with reverence.
But writing is subjective and kind of like a coin – it’s always 50:50 how someone is going to react to your work. Like, or don’t like.
I could argue I learned the lesson even earlier when my high school English teacher wrote ‘Ugh’ repeatedly on my work, except I didn’t because all I could see then was a cruel three-letter-word and not his motivations to help me write better.
I still hold that there are better, kinder ways of motivating people and teaching them how to handle criticism.
But the point is, I did learn.
And yet, that didn’t stop my ears from burning and the tears from flowing the first time I published an opinion piece about the live export industry and animal welfare.
I was confronted with comments telling me how stupid I was, I had no clue what I was writing about, that my opinion was nonsense and I had zero credibility.
It was like that nasty voice in my head – my inner critic – had escaped and taken on multiple real-life human personas. Nasty. Cruel. Ugh.
That was when I really learned how to handle criticism.
Blast from the past: criticism today
So, yesterday when one of my blog posts was published by news.com.au (you can read it here) and the negative comments started reeling in, my first impulse was to laugh.
‘Oh, I forgot about this part of it all’, I thought to myself.
And I was just so darned excited to see other people commenting and tagging friends, ‘This is me. This is us.’
That was so cool.
What was even cooler – actually, I’m going to switch adjectives here to beautiful – was the messages that flowed in from my family and friends checking in to make sure I was okay.
To ensure I didn’t believe any of the brazen comments and describing how the comments made them feel. They were feeling pain and anger and hurt for me.
One person even started justifying what I had written: “But, you were just saying…don’t they get that?!”
I felt so loved in that moment.
How could I be angry with the mean commentators when they had brought me all this extra kindness?
I mean, really, how could I?
Well, it turns out, I could. I could definitely get angry. Or, at least a bit miffed.
You see, I went back a few times to see if there were more nice comments and had to scroll past the nasty ones, which incidentally meant I reread them and saw how many extra likes a particularly mean comment had gotten since my last check in.
After about the third time, I started hearing a voice in my head, and although it was soft, I knew it’s familiar deadbeat drum and decided to log out and enjoy my day.
Only the damage had already been done. I had primed my day with negativity and found my patience even shorter than usual as I was squished between thousands of people at a flea market, and pushed and shoved.
And this was after me, a learned criticism-handler let’s remember, had repeatedly assured everyone that mean commentary had more to do with the people commenting than it did about me.
After all, I figured, you’ve got to be hurting quite a bit to sit down on a Sunday afternoon and contribute bad juju into the world.
Reminding myself of that and getting the heck out of that infestation of humans at the flea market brought me back to even keel.
I certainly wasn’t going to perpetuate the cycle of nastiness by transferring my annoyance to the woman who just shoulder barged me.
And, you know what, I ended up having a really nice day.
I soon forgot about the article entirely and that people could even say mean things.
It’s your job, get over it
Criticism is part and parcel of journalism, I get that, and I willingly take it on and agree to deal with it if it means I get to publish work that I think matters, or work that I think is fun, or work that is just verbose and personal.
But, there’s a difference between criticism and bullying.
I don’t feel bullied by anything that people wrote on my article, not at all, but I have felt and been bullied before.
And, I don’t want this article to make anyone feel like they just have to deal when they are hurting from what another person has said to them.
Even if it is part and parcel of your job.
And I was reminded of that today by none other than Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat Pray Love).
On one of her podcast episodes (it’s called Magic Lessons and it’s awesome), Liz said even she doesn’t read her reviews because she feels like it won’t serve her to potentially be cut by glass.
The universe knew what I needed to hear and what I needed to tell others and sent directly to my iPod (a message from Steve Jobs if you will).
If a best-selling novelist who has a tonne of life experience and is a mindfulness master isn’t even willing to be cut by someone else’s words*, than you definitely don’t have to either. Neither do I.
If you do happen to read something awful, what I will say is that accepting who I am and not needing other people to affirm that they also accept me helps.
It helps take away the sting like nothing else can.
*I say mean words specifically because I am still building this muscle when it comes to working with people who undermine me.
If this post was far too wordy and whingey and filled with too many first world problems for you, I’ve summarised it below in a song.
You should go and love yourself
When Justin Bieber’s song Love Yourself came out, I thought it was so powerful. A guy making space for his ex to go and work on herself and learn to love who she is? Right on. It turns out that’s not exactly what he meant. I was sharing my passion for the song with my friends when they enlightened me that love yourself is a bit of a more literal turn of phrase and should be read more as go f*$% yourself. Oh. But, for the purposes of any bullies, trolls, or mean commentary you’re dealing with right now, or in the past or in the future, I want you to sing** this modified version of Bieber’s song with my original analysis of its meaning in mind. Honestly, some lines didn’t have to be changed at all – they work perfectly as is. I knew Bieber had more than one reason for writing this song!
For all the times that you rain on my parade
And all the abuse you write using my name
You think you broke my heart, oh girl, for goodness sake
You think I’m crying on my own, well I ain’t.
And I didn’t want to write this post
‘Cause I didn’t want anyone thinking I still care
But you still hit my phone up.
And honey I’ve been moving on,
And I think you should be someone
Whose got your friends’ back.
Maybe you should know that…
My mama don’t like you and she likes everyone
But don’t worry that doesn’t have to be for long
And I’ve been so caught up in my joy
Didn’t see what’s going on
But now I know, I’m better helping you on your throne.
‘Cause if you like the way you troll that much, oh baby
You should go and love yourself
And if you think that I’m a threat to you and who you are
You should go and love yourself
When you told me that you hated my post
The only problem was with you needin’ a boast
And every time you told me my opinion was wrong
And tried to make me forget where I come from
…Love yourself. Love yourself. LOVE YOURSELF!
*Singing is great and all, but also don’t feel like you have to be brave and just get over something that hurts. Please reach out to somebody and let yourself be reminded how much you are loved.Read more link text
I am those knots in your stomach.
Those sweaty palms.
Thump, thump, thump.
That’s me, making your heart beat faster. Work harder.
I’m that nervous tic, that furrowed brow, that biting at your lip.
I am the unseen.
That voice. Those unrelenting thoughts.
I am fear.
And I am here for very good reasons.
I remind you about your responsibilities and how people judge what you do.
‘This is different and different takes a lot of work,’ I say. ‘Not everyone likes different. That’s why we don’t do different.’
I am a cloak of security and comfort and familiarity.
Some say I’m a cloak of darkness, but that seems ironic coming from people who hark vulnerability as one of the great pillars of humanity.
Now, that’s real darkness. Vulnerability. Ugh. Showing people you are sad; that there are cracks in your façade.
Talk about ugly. And we can’t afford to be anything other than beautiful.
I’m also here to make sure you don’t burden anyone else with your ideas, your opinions.
I definitely want to make sure you don’t worry others with your problems and ask for help like a beggar. No way.
How am I ever going to find you someone to love if you just burden people like that?
I know better than anyone else that you can’t survive alone.
Isolated. Unsecure. Uncomfortable. Terrified.
I’m keeping you from these things.
Not that you ever thank me.
That’s okay. I’ll never leave you.
You can’t kill me.
“But, what if I can?”
A dim light in the darkness I wear.
But you’re going to have to work harder than that.
You’re going to have to make a lot more noise than me.
You’re going to have to question yourself and what you know. A lot.
It’s too much work for you. I don’t think you can do it. You’re too stupid.
“But, what if I’m not?”
More light streams through the first tear.
“Who are you to tell me I can’t?”
“How can I stay like this and never know if there is another way?”
“I need you to look after me, fear, but I also need to explore. To discover. To wonder.”
Suddenly, the sun rises.
But, just like each and every day, the night will come again.
Darkness will come.
I will come.
And we’ll start this conversation all over again.
Do you have what it takes?Read more link text