2012: Thanksgiving Reflections

At the end of each year since 2011, I’ve written a reflective essay looking back at the previous 12 months and ahead to the coming year.
Read notes from 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016.

Yesterday, I cried.

For the first time in a while, I cried tears of overwhelming gratitude and love and appreciation: for my life, the people in my life, and most importantly, for myself.

This week – and it’s only Wednesday – has been a transformative one for me, for many reasons. The events of this week have helped me open myself up to what the universe has to offer me – in its entirety, not just the pick-n-mix I usually focus on.

It’s been a tough couple of months here. Between moving to Italy and struggling to find a rhythm here, continuing to be completely broke most of the time, missing friends and family from my many ‘homes’ around the world, and losing the person I was closest to, there have been many days where I’ve struggled to stay out of bed, and many mornings where I slept until I had to go pick up the kid from school at 1pm.

For anyone who knows me well, they know that isn’t me.

On Will’s birthday, a month ago, he broke up with me. No pity party here: I get it, there are no hard feelings (really!) And I’m sorry, Will, if reading this makes you uncomfortable, but as you eloquently put it a few weeks ago, if people don’t like what’s on my facebook, they don’t have to be friends with me, right? 🙂 (For the record, Will and I are still talking and trying to figure out exactly how we feel and where we stand on a lot of things. Stay tuned, folks.)

Anyway, it just so happens that it was on Will’s birthday, in the hours I spent anxiously awaiting the follow-up to a “we need to talk” message, that I started making my first pieces of (then unbranded) Jade Tree Jewellery. It kept me busy doing something creative and demanding of my attention, at a time when I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on.

So out of an ugly day grew this beautiful thing – the way nature always finds a way to grow despite the obstacles in its way. Like wildflowers growing through the cracks of a dirty pavement, or a tree growing through the concrete of a carpark, trash blowing around its trunk. My tree. A ‘Jade’ Tree.

The jewellery idea was one I’d had soon after I got to Italy – and discovered just how much seaglass and beach pottery could be found here. I decided that, to save some money, I would make everyone’s Christmas presents this year, using the amazing stuff I was finding on the beach to make unique pendants for everyone. As I made my way through my Christmas list, I started wondering if I could maybe sell some extra pieces, make a little money to ease the financial stress I was under. The few people I talked to about it thought it was a great idea, and so, hoping they were being truthful as well as supportive, I set up a Facebook page and then an Etsy shop for my jewellery.

Less than three weeks since those first pieces were made, I ‘opened’ my Etsy shop and hoped for the best. I was getting lots of positive feedback on the Facebook page, but no sales right away. Then Lu, Will’s mom, sent me a message telling me she wanted to order a bunch of pendants for her Christmas gifts to the women and girls in her family – and strongly encouraged me to “add whatever embellishments I wanted and charge her for them” because my prices were “so reasonable.” I was nervous about charging more than a few bucks (or quid, depending on your side of the pond) for each piece – after all, the raw materials were free, given to me by Mother Nature, and my expenses (wire, tools and glue) were few and inexpensive. Labour costs didn’t really occur to me at first – after all, this was something I was doing because it made me feel good. Can I charge for that?

Turns out, yes, I can. And people will pay me! It seems crazy to me, but there are people liking, favourit-ing, and buying MY jewellery. It’s such a rush to see something I made with my own hands, something I love, be loved by someone else so much they want it for themselves. It’s not something I’ve ever experienced, and this feeling alone is enough to make me wax lyrical about my gratitude for the universe – but the money is certainly an added bonus. The UK government screwed me out of £200 of my unemployment benefits back in the summer, and since then I’ve kinda been hoping that my appeal would be granted. Alas, this week, a final decision was made, and my appeal was denied.

Timing is everything. Screw your rejection, UK Gov: I’m makin’ my OWN damn money, without your ‘help’, thank you very much!

Since that first day, I’ve made almost 100 pieces of jewellery, each piece better than the last – and there are many more to come, don’t worry!

I’ve earned over $300 this week. That money – approx. £200 – means a lot. It means I will have somewhere to stay while I’m in Amsterdam for New Year’s Eve. It means I won’t go broke over the Christmas/new year period between finishing this job and starting my new one. It means I can fix or replace my laptop, and my camera, both of which have died since arriving here. It means I can pay for an extra suitcase to bring back lots more seaglass and pottery 🙂

It means that, for the first time in a REALLY long time, I’m going to do my weekly check of my bank balance on Friday with excitement instead of dread.

This week, I earned something that I haven’t had in a while: peace of mind.

And for that – the greatest gift, and the most needed (perhaps the definition of the greatest gift IS the one you need the most) I owe thanks and gestures of gratitude to many friends and members of my family who helped me turn this Christmas gift project into a rewarding and lucrative (albeit tiny) side business:

  • To my mom, thanks for always thinking any hairbrained scheme of ours can make us rich and famous – this one may actually work! 🙂
  • To Lisa, wonderful mother to one of my closest friends Amanda, thank you for being my first customer – and a complete surprise!
  • To Lu, for being the first to commission a bulk order, and for inspiring my mom to do the same. I have lots of great mamas out there, and I appreciate all your support, in this project and in life. I hope the pieces you ordered are perfect for their intended recipient.
  • To Joshua, who was disproportionately excited to hear all about my jewellery making over skype. I miss you so much, buddy. Thank you for being so wonderful even from so far away.
  • To Katie, Arielle, and Nancy, and Emy (and even Davide!) who were there for the immediate fallout last month and were simply incredible friends. Thank you especially to Katie, for helping me put my grief into 90 second windows 🙂
  • To Ariel, and my Auntie Deborah and Uncle Merle, for being there as soon as you could. I love you.
  • To my godparents, who probably think I’m a bit nuts but still love me and support everything I do 100% 🙂
  • To the Fitzgeralds, who continue to be an amazing second family to me, for offering to write letters to the president for me, and for reminding me often just how much I have to be thankful for in my life.
  • To *clears throat* Arielle, Nancy, Sam, Amanda, Aurora, Sean, Lucie, Alli, Karen, Louise, Robyn, Julie, Becca, Sophie, Sarah, Holly, Katie, Justina, Grandmom, Erin, all my friends who liked the Facebook page, and that random girl from China, who have validated this project and been there for me while I go on this creative journey.

I thought I was going to feel lonely and homesick this Thanksgiving. I was often dancing pretty close to the line beyond which lay one of my least favourite feelings: self-pity. This week, that all changed. What do I have to feel sorry for myself about?!

I live in a beautiful country with good people and good food, in a location that happens to keep me endlessly supplied with the materials I need to make jewellery I love for the people I love (and now paying customers too!) My extra ‘job’ requires that I go to the beach at least once or twice a week, and my beach trips have become a vital part of my life here, as they give me a chance to find some peace while combing the beach for its treasures 🙂

I am healthy, I am young, and I am confined only by the limits I put upon myself.

Though I may have spent the last six months being ‘broke’ I still ate cheap and plentiful food multiple times every day, drank clean, free, plentiful (and delicious) water.

I have more people in my life that I love, and who love and care about me, than I can count. I am happy with the way I look, although my hair could use a trim haha. I like my job and who I work for, and have an exciting new job awaiting my arrival in the UK.

The day I fly back, I’m going to see Mumford and Sons, OMG!

I get to spend Christmas with my grandparents, who travel more than I do and so have hardly seen me these last few years. I get to see Lucie, Lili and Iolo right before Christmas, and get to be there on Iolo’s birthday. I’m going to spend New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam, a city I’ve always wanted to visit, and I’m going to ROCK IT.

I have awesome concert plans for the spring, and I’ll be making good money at my new job, which I’m sure will be supplemented nicely by Jade Tree Jewellery, to fund these plans.

I’ll be able to start saving for grad school in 2013.

Sometimes, I’ve felt like 2012 was a lost year for me, one where I wasn’t productive enough, didn’t do enough to better myself, or anything for that matter. I sometimes felt like 2012 was a year of struggling to keep my head above water every day, of moving against a tide that wasn’t letting me get anywhere.

But 2012 wasn’t lost. It was just a year of surprises, a year that didn’t go even remotely according to plan. But in 2012 I reconnected with Lucie, my big sister, and made new friends that I know I’ll be close with for the rest of my life: Lucie, Robyn, Karen, and Louise, I love you Galloping Gourmet Girls so much

I’ve often written these kinds of reflective notes towards the end of the year, academic or calendar, and I suppose Thanksgiving is about as early as I can get away with doing it. After all, I’ve still got over a month of 2012 left. The world could still end!

I apologise if this note sounded super New Age-y. I’ve been reading Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, a gift I was given by a friend before I left Wales to come here, and it’s been a sort of emotional and spiritual roadmap for me here. I’m not about to go running off into the desert to commune with the spirits or start preaching Toltec principles to anyone, but I will say it’s changed the way I look at life, at myself, at my suffering and joy. Mostly, it’s helped me reclaim power, agency, over my decisions and my emotions. Which, when you think about it, is pretty fricking cool.

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