I FaceTimed with my mom and grandma in Hong Kong when I was at work the other day (it was 1 a.m. in Hong Kong and towards the end of my work day, so I thought I'd take advantage of the rare opportunity to speak to my 94 (?)-year-old grandma face-to-face). And as we were chatting and I was showing her my new (faux) fur hat, which looks uncannily similar to her (real) fur hat, I thought how extraordinary it was that the internet had connected three generations of women in one brief moment; the ability to transcend time zones and close physical distance makes me ever hopeful for a future where I'll spend less time missing my friends and loved ones who are far away and spending more time with them instead - regardless of where we live.
As I approach my 30th birthday, I have a lot to be thankful for. I've been reading peoples' lists on Facebook and they've really struck a chord with me, so here are my top ten:
1. Our wedding celebrations this summer - there was one point in Seattle (I think it was the day before or day after our dinner reception at Hotel Andra) when I was surrounded by my family and friends, and I looked at my mom and said, without any hesitation or reservations, "Mom, I'm so happy right now." And I meant it. I felt the same way when we were in Oxford, showing my mom and dad where John and I had met, where I had studied for six months. I loved the way that John and I got married (i.e. with just the two of us, over one weekend in Wales), but I loved celebrating with my best friends even more.
2. My life in London - I was having a look at my Instagram photos the other day and marvelling at all the amazing restaurants, events, and productions I've been able to experience in the past year (and years!) that I've lived in London. It's certainly not the norm for many people, I know, and sometimes I catch myself thinking that it is the norm. But then I realize I live my life here nearly to excess - and I really feel like I'm living life to the fullest. I'm very lucky.
3. My friends, both near and far - a few weeks ago, I was feeling sad. I called Udita on a Sunday afternoon and she talked to me for half an hour while parked in a Best Buy parking lot in Houston, listening to me cry, vent, and just blabber on. She didn't rush me. She just listened and was there. On Monday, Alice ran up the stairs to my desk at work and excitedly told me that her dinner plans had been cancelled and how would I like it if she came over and we ordered take-out and watched bad TV until late? I loved it. Then that evening, Lauren and Bindy invited me over for dinner later that week for a home-cooked meal (which I sadly couldn't attend), but it just warmed my heart that they were thinking of me. My friends are THE BEST.
4. FaceTime - it's truly amazing. I was able to "enjoy" tapas with John at his hotel in Madrid on Tuesday when he was there for work, then hang up with him and immediately "step into" my grandma's apartment in Hong Kong to talk to my parents, who had just landed and were experiencing a combination of excitement and jet-lag - I loved seeing my dad propped up in bed reading a Mario Puzo novel! I don't know why - it's just what stuck with me. I slept really well that night knowing that my loved ones were safe and well. And when my parents are at home, it's great to "talk" to my dad over the dinner table - even if he's eating breakfast and I'm making dinner. I can almost smell the ham he's frying up or the cinnamon sugar he always knows to add to my toast.
5. Our (rented) flat - I remember bursting into tears on a random street in Islington this summer when I was walking home from the pub with John. I was so fed up of moving every time our landlords decided to sell the property. We've moved FOUR times in the four years that we've lived together! We put an offer in on what looked like our dream house in London this summer, but were outbid by over £120,000. It seems impossible to get on the property ladder at the moment but I feel too old to be renting still (plus, ironically, mortgage repayments are cheaper than paying rent every month). My parents left the day before we moved into the place we're currently living in and I remember being an emotional mess at seeing them go and having to leave an apartment that I really, really liked for once. But as I stepped through the door of our flat the other day, I thought how lucky I was to be living in a really nice apartment, on a really nice street, in a really nice part of London - and that I should be grateful for this. Especially as I had passed some rough sleepers in a doorway just hours ago. Reality check.
6. My job - at a book launch last night, someone asked me if I'd always wanted to "be in publishing". And I laughed, because my introduction to publishing was totally by chance. I was really lucky as I didn't have to do any unpaid internships or gain an MA in Publishing in order to move into a management position quite quickly. So whenever I get down on myself on how "little" I have achieved with my life compared to other alumnae of my college, for example, I think of the 17-year-old girl in her bedroom in Small Town, USA. I imagine walking through my door now, and saying, "Hi, I'm you from the future. I just wanted to let you know that in 13 years, you'll be living in London, working for a famous book publishing company, with an amazing husband (you eloped, don't worry - nothing traditional) and friends. You'll eat in really nice restaurants, travel the world, carry a designer handbag and have a nice wardrobe sourced primarily from eBay." And I wouldn't have believed it. Except for maybe the eBay part, because I'm always after a bargain.
7. My travels - I can't believe I was on a cockroach-infested train, hurtling through rice fields during sunrise in Vietnam nine months ago. Nor can I believe I went snorkelling in Thailand, watched the sun set at a winery in Santorini, ate German apple cake in Berlin, or saw the ballet in Budapest, after sitting in a spa for a day. When I was little, I didn't dream of my wedding - I dreamed of travelling the world. And my dreams have absolutely come true. I am so fortunate to be able to travel as much and as far as I do. I realize that it's a rare position to be in.
8. My family - a few friends my age have lost a parent recently - either suddenly or to long-standing illnesses - and it has been devastating to hear. I try and communicate with my parents as much as possible, even if I can't be there in person, mostly because I miss their company but also because I thank my lucky stars they're still (touch wood) okay. You know that saying, "Live every day as if it could be your last?" I try and think that about my loved ones ... every day is special with them. I wish more than anything in the world I could have my grandparents back.
9. My (infrequent) yoga practice - I don't know where I'd be without my yoga practice, which has, admittedly, waned as I've become busier. I don't practice as often as I should or used to, but every time I attend a class - whether it's Lauren's or a flow class taught at Yoga on the Lane in Dalston - I'm so very grateful for the benefits yoga gives to me both on and off the mat. I think I've learned to live a little calmer and with more clarity, intention, and patience than I ever have before. While that probably has a little to do with maturity, I think practicing yoga has helped immensely as well.
10. My partner-in-crime - John. Who's always so supportive and gentle and kind and funny and understanding and all good things a best friend should be. Thank you.