I can’t tell you the last time I found myself awake in the wee hours of the morning, tiptoeing around in the darkness to find my laptop for a good old ramble. Tonight something just seemed to tell me it was the right time to have a bit of a reflection and so here I am. It’s been a while, but it feels just like the old days.
I find myself sitting here approximately three years after I made the rather spontaneous decision to come to Greece. Three years of experiences and stories that I could never have imagined would feature in my lifetime. With the next chapter, perhaps the greatest plot twist that I am sure no one ever imagined, the Big Fat Greek Wedding just a few weeks away.
I always think it’s important to take a step back and reflect when there are big events happening in your life. For me, writing has always been a mechanism to sort through my thoughts to find the message underneath all the noise in my brain. My blogs in Greece helped me understand some of the most challenging moments I faced, they didn’t always give me the answer or the solution but they helped clear things up in terms of what direction I was going.
Three years ago my life was so far from where it is now, and I could never ever have predicted what was coming next. I was 25 and very caught up in the concept of my quarter life crisis. I didn’t write about important world events or commentary on the darker side of our modern history, no, I had a blog about comedic failed attempts at Tinder dating.
My life before Greece had settled itself into a routine, something I have never been very good at. I had a good job in Edinburgh, my first grown-up job out of uni, I volunteered when I could in various community groups, something I’d done since I was a teen although it became a little harder when I decided to move back in with my Mum to save money. When I moved out of the city, my work day included a six hour commute, six hours. Six hours of my day spent on public transport, desperately trying not to fall asleep on strangers shoulders. When I think about that now, six hours of wasted life every day, I genuinely find the idea horrifying.
I woke up, I traveled to work, I worked, I traveled home, I slept. I never kept up with friends very much, I see many of them more now than I did back then when I lived just around the corner rather than thousands of miles away. On Fridays, I had lunch with the Romanian Big Issue seller who worked outside my office, ham and mustard sandwiches and orange juice with no bits.
The routine went as it did, week in, week out and I knew I wanted something different but I just didn’t know what. Then a series of events, I guess I see now looking back, triggered the need to do something more. I wouldn’t say I was miserable at that time, but I certainly couldn’t say I was happy. Then one of my best friends passed away, and another dear friend, who is the same age as me, was diagnosed with cancer. I guess subconsciously it shook me up a bit to change my situation.
I applied for a work programme in Armenia and quit my job, but my Armenian plans fell through at the last minute and I had no idea what to do next. Looking back now I see it was a blessing, a blank page with some perspective on how life needed to be lived, but at the time it felt like the Quarter-life crisis was reaching a peak.
I had been following the events unfolding in Greece for some months by this point, and then the world took notice after the picture none of us will ever forget of Alan Kurdi filled our screens and covered our newspapers. I said to my mum that I was thinking about going to Greece for a week to join one of the volunteer groups, I’d found a cheap flight and had reached out to some groups through Facebook who needed volunteers. I fully expected her, like on the many times I’ve come up with some far-flung idea, to tell me I was crazy (like when I told her I was going to move to Armenia) but it was the opposite, she said to go for it. I doubted myself and whether I could actually be of any use in Greece but every time I told someone I was thinking of going they couldn’t have been more supportive.
So I booked that flight, to spend a week on the island of Kos, and here I am three years later about to become Mrs Greek.
I guess the reason I had that story in my head tonight is that people keep telling me how happy I look. I’ve never really been one for accepting compliments well but this one is something that really means a lot and I think I wanted to take a minute to see where I had come from, to this moment, to see why there has been such a change. I never noticed three years ago how unhappy I was, I was just living a life that I thought I should be living. But, in all honesty, a lot of it really didn’t have much meaning.
These last years have taught me so much about life, about the world, and about happiness.
The last few months, well most of this year really, I’ve been feeling pretty selfish. After being involved in the humanitarian field in Greece for the two and a half years previous I needed some time out to process, and with big life events also going on I have felt a little me, me, me of late. I do feel guilty for taking some time out, but I also think it was really necessary to give me some perspective. The first few years here were tough, really tough at times and the world became something I didn’t recognise anymore.
When I got on that plane to Greece I had no idea what I was letting myself in for, and I was terrified as I didn’t know how I could be useful, I just knew I had to try. Over these years I’ve found myself in different roles, in different situations where I have definitely not been the most qualified or the most useful person to be there in that moment. I have also held responsibility so far above my station it felt entirely overwhelming. But in all these situations, at the end of the day, I just had to get on with it and do my best.
I hope that I did the best for those who needed support, although I know at times I wasn’t the right person, at the right time, and that I made mistakes. At all times though, I had the best intentions at heart and I did the best that I could do as me, and that was all I could do.
I say these years were difficult for me but I say this with a complete understanding of the privilege I have to say this. I have not faced anything like the kind of unimaginable devastation that those I have met on this journey in Greece have and I have nothing but admiration for those who have shown me what true humanity is and the incredible strength and resilience of the human spirit. I am honoured to have shared these experiences with so many truly inspiring people who have shown me never to take anything for granted. You never know what will happen tomorrow.
I do find it interesting now after these last years, living the most difficult moments I’ve personally ever had to face, that I find myself now the happiest I’ve ever been.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I think it comes from the biggest lesson I learned during my time here in Greece, the importance of love in our lives.
I don’t mean specifically finding love, although this has been an extremely welcome surprise.
I mean love in the sense of human connection, the importance of family, and I don’t necessarily mean family by blood but family by your own definition, the importance of friends, the importance of community.
You can lose your home, your job, your money, your belongings, the clothes from your back. These things are not what makes us human. It’s the connection to others. It’s the strength that comes from loving and being loved that keeps us alive.
I always thought my job title, how much money I had, whether I had a partner, what I looked like, what people thought about me were the most important things. They are not.
Loving the people in your life is important, and being loved is important.
And you know what’s just as important, learning to love yourself because you know what Ru Paul says “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”
I have a sneaky suspicion this may be the last blog I write here, as I have been trying to put together a little bit of a more substantial story offline that I would love to turn it into that book I always promised everyone I’d write since I was kid, but who knows, I’ll leave this blog here for now, maybe I’ll be back, never say never.
Hey, I said I’d never get married and now we know how that turned out!
Whatever happens next, we all know the world is not the most comforting place to live at the moment, everything seems like a never-ending Black Mirror episode, and things just seem to get worse day by day. Be kind. Look after yourself and look after one another. Maybe we don’t have the power to change the world overnight but we can all make a difference if we keep believing that as human beings, we can be better than this.
Love will win.
We can all make tiny changes to earth.
If you’ve just stumbled upon this blog and want to check out my stories from the beginning of this journey you can find all my original ramblings here –