2015 was a big year. Not because it was longer (not even a leap year), but because I experienced much, much more than I normally do. Time is very much elastic and subjective.
In late 2014, I went back to Denmark, my country of birth to reconnect with my first culture, to have a foot on the ground in the country I chose to leave behind 24 years ago and to connect with my growing family.
Since I moved to Australia in 1991, I have of course had other big years. I had babies, I bought and built and moved houses, I changed jobs and I experienced the drought and flood of Queensland’s extreme weather. But the initial joy and puzzlement of experiencing a new country, different natural environments and new cultures soon settled into normal, just like being a mum, home-owner and Director did.
For too long life seemed like a hamster wheel of routine, while wondering what its purpose really is. I read books on happiness, on finding my passion, on living the good life. The blink of an eye that is a single person’s life is over in a flash and it is self-indulging to imagine a higher purpose to fulfil or a deeper meaning with our life exists. Two things emerged from my exploration: Finding purpose in life is about meaningful relationships with the people you love. And about the freedom of creative expression to make meaning of it all. Furthermore, in spite of society’s infatuation with happiness, it is not a destination, but a journey that involves spikes of elation and dips into sadness. Happiness may even be the absence of unhappiness or simply contentment.
I realised that people I love live on two continents. While my children and in-laws are in Australia, Europe is the abode of my siblings and extended family. Friends live in both places.
With sadness I watched from afar as my mother, her siblings and my grandparents picked off, one by one, by the end of life. We are next in line, said my father when his mother died in 2003. In 2013 this prophesy came true for him. A voice rang in my ears: It is the in between that matters. Not the date of birth or the date of death. It is what is in between you have to make count. And I wanted to be part of my family’s lives, before it was too late, because that is what gives me meaning.
The sadness of having wasted my parents living years in Australia, set me on a path to experience 2015 in Denmark. Taking a gap year at the age of 48 was a road less travelled for most and though sometimes the concept was met with some puzzlement, it mostly was cheered.
2015 gave me time, time, time with my family, my little and not so little nieces and nephews, my siblings and their partners, some of my extended family on both sides. Only quantity time gives birth to quality time. My challenge is now to continue to find quantity time to keep these relationships meaningful.
2015 gave me cultural immersion in Denmark of 2015. This is a different place to the one I left in 1991. I enjoyed castles, galleries, museums, festivals, well-used public spaces, urban architecture and design, language, culture and richer-than-expected natural environment. 2015 helped me realise I am neither Danish nor Australian. I am a hybrid of Danish and Australian cultures. I may never be completely comfortable being entirely one or the other. Who is? There probably is no singularity about identity that is tied to a nation state, recently made up notions as they are.
2015 gave me time to read. At the beginning of the year, I set out to read one book a week in 2015. I exceeded my goal, reading 57 books and counting. I hope to keep it up in 2016.
2015 also gave me creative expression through writing, spurned on by reading that much classic and contemporary works of literature. I realised how much I like expressing myself creatively through the written word. I like the creative process, the playing with characters, plot, narrative arcs and endings. More than anything else, creative writing helps explore and express meaning in ways that might make sense to others.
2015 let me realise how important creative writing is to me. I may never be a best-selling author, but I am proud to call me self an author. I even signed up to a five-year membership at the Queensland Writers Centre and intend to use every opportunity to access their support. Perhaps the excellence of contemporary Queensland writers can rub off a bit.
I have reflected on 2015 before. I think made the very most of it.
My challenge for 2016 and beyond is to find a way to keep my relationships on both sides of the world rich and to keep writing what I want to write.
Thanks for reading. It means a lot to me.