A month today, I turn thirty.

So far, I’ve sort-of prided myself on being one of those people that didn’t freak out about this. I’m still not freaking out – I don’t think – I’m still really excited. It’s more that it is just… creeping into my consciousness a bit more than I’d like.

Maybe it’s because I’m now actually next in line of my friends, so it’s less abstract-thing-that’s-happening-to-someone-else and more real-thing-that’s-about-to-happen-to-me.

Maybe it’s because an ex told me he’s met someone new, the first new person since me. Always odd to hear, no matter how good friends you are now (which we are) and no matter how happy you are for them (which I am).

Or maybe it’s because I’m coming out the other side of a heartbreak. The first proper, painful one I’ve experienced in a while. The kind where I forgot to eat for a week and the most exercise I got was opening my MacBook to Skype-cry to my Mum. I knew it was coming yet it still knocked me sideways.

It’s annoying me that this should have any significance now. Would it hurt any more or any less if it was six months earlier or six months later? Probably not. But there’s nothing like being cleanly, totally, back-at-square-one single to make you feel vulnerable, scared and these days, also a little bit older.

Oh, but hang on, what better time to be celebrating my birthday by flying to Ibiza? Turning thirty in the happiest place on earth with my favourite people on earth? Maybe it’s not so bad after all. Put me in a bikini, hand me a beer, play me some house music. I’ll be in heaven. The countdown to the big 3-0 is on…

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So chums, it’s just been my two month Dubai-iversary (can I get away with that? Not sure I can…) Woo! Go me! Etc! And whilst at some point I might do a highly practical guide to uprooting your whole life and moving to a country you’d only previously visited for a total of 48 hours (if you feel so inclined), right now what I feel so inclined to do is to share some of the less expected stuff that’s happened to me in my first 60-ish days in the sandpit. I’ve really taken to calling Dubai that – factual, yet playful, I feel. Anyway…

Various car woes 

Until a couple of weeks ago, I had barely driven a left hand drive, had never driven an automatic and sure as hell had not been in a Nissan Sunny. Now, I do all three on the daily. As well as my many very successful trips – office, hardware store, garden centre – there’s also been:

  • The time I got a parking fine. My manicure got quite expensive that day. But it’s powder pink, makes me look tanned and is still going strong a week and a half later, so it was almost worth it. 
  • The time I got reversed into whilst – surprisingly – I was stationary and minding my own business. 
  • The time(s) I’ve almost run out of petrol. Yeh, you know when you’re doing 100kmh along a five lane wide road and you can just *feel* your poor car is about to give up the ghost? I didn’t like that. Not one bit. 
  • And my favourite so far, the time we drove to the desert to go camping, got lost, it got dark, we got stuck in the sand, my attempt at getting us out only buried the car deeper and we eventually had to flag down three passing men in a pickup to push us out. 

Various bird woes

If you follow me on Instagram, you might’ve seen that I acquired a somewhat unwelcome pet within a day of moving into my apartment. A pigeon (I called her Bob) decided to make my tiny balcony home, and laid two eggs. I freaked out one morning, removed the eggs (I know, I know, I am a terrible person), cried when I watched a panic-stricken Bob come back and have been racked with guilt ever since. Well, Karma (or rather, just Bob) has come back to get me, as whenever I now try to enjoy the view of the Marina in the early evening sunshine, she comes back and terrorises me off my balcony. I’m not even being melodramatic here, at the weekend she hid around the corner then took a dive for my head. She’s smart, that one. I’m also thinking about getting a cat. 

One really big iPhone woe

You know those nights where you ‘go for a couple of beers’ to round off your working week and end up getting in 10 hours later? Well, apparently they still happen to me, wherever I am living. This particular one (in which I also drank bright blue concoctions like I was 19 again – and wouldn’t have the hangover of someone 10 years older) resulted in me almost ruining my brand new pair of white leather pumps, leaving my phone in a taxi and spending the entire rest of the weekend watching it not move on Find my iPhone. Luckily, Dubai is the kinda place where people don’t steal stuff (sensible side note: it genuinely feels really safe here and it’s one of the things I’m really liking. Knowing that there’s pretty much zero chance of someone grabbing your phone out of your hand whilst you’re walking along is actually pretty nice. Or it’s ridiculous that that’s a ‘thing’ in London… but, whatever) so my taxi driver drove it back to me, and only asked for a very reasonable remuneration for his bother.

This isn’t to say I’m not enjoying myself. This is more of a handy reminder that whilst in my head – and on my Instagram – it was going to be all beaches, tanning, brunches and views of tall buildings (there has been a lot of that too), living the dream is also a bit bloody awkward sometimes. There’s loads more of this to come. I’m about to go into my first Dubai summer of 50+ degree heat and stifling humidity. Oh, and I haven’t even ventured onto Tinder yet. Brace yourselves.

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The problem with feelings is that they don’t go away just because you do.

And thanks to the invention of WhatsApp (and to my shock AND embarrassment, Snapchat), aided by Dubai’s near constant provision of WiFi, to begin with it felt like I hadn’t gone anywhere at all.

I’m well versed in long distance relationships. Not recently, but I’ve covered off nearly four years of not residing in the same city as boyfriends in my dating past. It doesn’t bother me. In fact, I think it suits me: a week or two to be as reclusive or as wild as I please (because it’s usually one or the other – or more often – one as a result of the other), followed by heart-hurting longing but ultimately the sweet satisfaction of a reconnection. 

This time, connections are severed. I’m clinging onto already fading memories of jokes shared and conversations spoken, of sleep lost and chemistry felt. Memories that are unlikely to be repeated soon, if at all. It wasn’t even a boyfriend this time, but somehow I’m missing him more than anyone else I left behind.

He’s the only one I feel I’ve flown away from forever. Friends are part of my being, I just won’t be able to go on without them. I might not see them this month, or even next – but I will, and it will be again and again.

But he feels gone – or going, at least. The excitement of possibility dwindles, still leaving only ‘what if’ behind. A question that was never destined to have an answer, but one I still can’t stop asking myself.

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Sod’s law says that if something can go wrong, it will.

But what do you call it when you meet a guy you really like (the first one you’ve liked in ages) only days after you’ve decided to leave the country?

What do you call it when you’ve found someone rare: a decent man that actually texts back, turns up on time and makes the bed without asking? A man that you have genuine chemistry with?

What do you call it when he is the right amount of teasing, but complimentary; of silent, but talkative; of just like you, but totally not at all. 

What do you do when he says the very words you’ve been avoiding thinking for weeks, “I wonder where this could’ve gone?”

So of course, you also wonder, because it could’ve gone nowhere, but it equally could’ve gone somewhere too. You wonder if it could’ve been so much more.

But you know that it doesn’t matter what you wonder, not really. The decision to leave is done, is bigger, is still absolutely the right thing to do.

He is still amazing, it was great whilst it lasted.

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I wrote this post a couple of months ago, before Christmas. It’s sat in my drafts ever since. I didn’t know whether to post it, because it’s boring and it’s old news, but writing this was what made me feel like writing again. So I’m going to tweak it and put it up. Because writing is therapy and this is one thing I need to let go…

I really wish I didn’t feel this way, but Christmas changed for me four years ago. I really, really hate that this is still *a thing* in my life, but – sigh – it is.

The week before Christmas in 2013, my ‘One’* (ha) upped and left. I was stunned. I was bereft. Jeez, I’ve written about this loads. Way too much already. For 11 months of the year, he doesn’t even cross my mind. But for the 11 days leading up to Christmas Day, I can’t help but mark (with a lot of thinking and unfortunately also a lot of drinking) the anniversary of the time my heart smashed and my life changed course.

I’m not sad anymore. I know my life is a million times more interesting, exciting and diverse than it would have been if I were still with him. Born out of that shitty time were incredible female friendships that give me life. I love all of those women more than I ever loved him. But I do mourn for the way in which my attitude towards love and relationships has shifted irreparably ever since.

At that time of year, I always remember the bar we were in when the conversation started, the way we sat next to each other on the District line as the conversation progressed. The shouting and the sobbing. The going back home to Norfolk for Christmas, the not leaving my bedroom for several days, the devouring endless chick-lit (FYI: not a helpful coping strategy). He was the first man I’d ever managed to persuade to spend Christmas Day with me (which, of course, never happened). He was the first man I’d ever lived with. He was the first man I’d ever sacrificed real, important parts of myself for.

This year, I spent my fourth Christmas single, having resolutely not sacrificed anything for anyone during any of those four Christmases, or any of the time in between. Because why would I?

And that’s the reason the festive season always feels different now. It’s the time of the year I realise most how cynical and fiercely independent I have become. I realise how much it broke me because I spend so much time reminiscing (and a fair number of evenings drinking… did I mention the drinking?). I do my absolute best to be the opposite of what I was. I was settled and ‘normal’ and on the path to coupled up homemaking. Every December I prove how routine-less, how single, how much more fun I now am.

And then January comes around and without the cloud of forced festivity, I remember I don’t need to prove anything. I’m doing just fine on my own. I’m doing just fine with my family and friends and my sense of adventure.

Christmas might have lost it’s magic that Sunday afternoon, but it unleashed so much more.

*I don’t think I’ve ever actually believed in the notion of ‘The One’, but maybe I’ll save that for another post…