I will begin by saying that this has been one of the most incredible years of my life. As far as life-changing events go, spending a year on exchange in Holland when I was a teenager was certainly formative. However, the last year has been life-changing in the discovering myself and taking charge of my own destiny sense.
The most obvious change this year has been physical. A photograph of me taken at French Farm in Banks Peninsula in January this year shows a slightly uncomfortable Pip, around 14kgs heavier than now. I wasn't necessarily unhappy, but I wasn't settled in my skin, and I wasn't that fit.
Leonie will protest that it was ultimately my decision, but it was she who got me off the sofa and into the Special K duathlon training squad. I turned up at the first training session fairly shaking with nervousness. That first session we ran from Te Papa to Ferg's Kayaks and back. Sarah took off, and I nearly killed myself trying to keep up with everyone. I finished feeling depressed by how unfit I was, but, to my credit, I did not give up.
Formative moments from that first squad? The first bike ride, where I got separated from the pack, rode to the turnoff to the airport before deciding I should probably turn around, and arrived back at the gym jubilant, having cycled around 12km on my very first outing on Lola. The run where I nearly died trying to run up a flight of stairs on the side of Mt Victoria, and ran out of gas on the return leg. Further on, the run where we sprinted up the Dixon Street steps and I found myself storming up The Terrace to the Terrace gym. Then there was the training session where we first jumped on the RPM bikes. After a hard-out hill track we raced back to the Taranaki Street gym on handicap. I remember whooping with adrenalin as I ran down the Terrace gym stairs and sprinted out onto the road, before sprinting the whole way back to the finish. Finally the day of the duathlon arrived. I made it over the finish-line, hand in hand with Leonie, in just over 59 minutes. Target achieved.
After that there was the first Jog Squad, where we trained for the Shoe Clinic 10km event, the second Jog Squad, where we trained for the Wairarapa Country Marathon, and the third Jog Squad, where we just trained for the fun of it. There was also Women's Multis. Along the way there were huge successes, and there were failures. There were great runs, and there were injuries. At the same time I continued to train with Duck, losing a heap of weight, gaining a heap more muscle, and increasing my fitness beyond my wildest dreams. I also conquered one of my biggest fears and finally started the laborious process of learning to swim.
So where does that leave me? Thinner, fitter, yes. Happier? Undoubtedly. However the most important change is more significant than that. To a certain extent I am a different person. I have a new belief in myself. I have learned not to put limits on what I can achieve, because what I can achieve is greater than I would ever have imagined. I have a confidence and security in myself that I have never had before.
So, in response to the Sunday Scribblings theme for last week, if you were to ask me whether it is possible to change, I would say yes, undoubtedly. However ...
A few weeks ago our Department had our Christmas party, and a group of us dressed up as 80s pop stars. In an inspired move, someone decided to stick 'VIP' stickers on our building swipe cards, so that they looked like back-stage passes. Our swipe cards all have our digital photos on them. Mine was taken in January. By the time the sticker idea was dreamed up I had already consumed a few glasses of wine. I remember telling my team leader to put my sticker over the horrible photo. As I said this I puffed up my cheeks to signify that I thought I looked bloated.
A couple of days later I picked up my swipe card and felt horrible. I felt like I was dishonouring that person that I had been, who, after all, had been doing the best she could and had never borne any malice towards anyone. I ended up carefully scraping away the sticker covering my photo, and apologising to myself.
So, lesson learned. Change is all very well, but not if it means discrediting the path taken to become my current self. Which brings me to gratitude...
There are so many things I feel grateful for. Let's get the obvious out of the way first:
- I am grateful for fitness, for the various training squads I have been involved in this year, for my wonderful trainer, for the wonderful women I have trained with, and for the fact that several have become my friends and not just my training partners.
- Following my instincts and returning to my former employer. As a result I am now engaged in a job I enjoy, with a wonderful, sociable team;
- Being involved in the Hihi monitoring programme at the Karori Sanctuary. It's a privilege to be involved in something that contributes to the survival of an amazing native bird, and to be doing something that enables me to feel like I am giving back to the planet;
- My wonderful husband, who has supported me through this crazy year. Hamish has quietly and without protest put up with my life revolving around training. Thanks for all the dinners and for putting up with the house being in a general state of disorder;
- The wonderful friends we have here in Wellington with us. In particular, those living within staggering distance of us;
- Living in this wonderful city, with its beguiling mix of wilderness and culture, its friendly people, and its huge heart;
- In turn, living in this fantastic, largely liberal and peace-loving country. In a world centred around war and disruption those of us luck enough to live here are secure enough to pursue our own dreams;
- My three cats - Ede, Gaffer and Tissy. They provide me with affection and entertainment in equal measures;
- Regaining the gift of writing. My muse disappeared for far too long;
- Parents on both my and Hamish's side who are still in relatively good health and still together;
- Music - particularly live music listened to outdoors in hidden valleys cradled by sun and sky;
- The promise of the years to follow, with new people to meet, existing friends to strengthen ties with, and new goals for the taking.