• Crystelle

A year on - 5 lessons learned from the worst year of my life.

I never used to like birthdays. Probably because I’m not a big fan of attention, and that birthdays often reminded me of how far I HAVEN'T come. Usually I think, “by my (insert number)-th birthday, I’ll be happier, wealthier, etc.”

When this year’s birthday rolled around, it got me reflecting on what has happened in the past 12 months.


I’ve had some bad spells in my life, but last year was one of the worst.


I won’t bore you with the details, but short version is I started a new job, moved into a new place and created a new life for myself. It was all going according to plan (ha!). Then my mom got sick. Really sick. I chose to leave that life behind and take care of her. Being alone in caring for her was hard. Seeing her suffer was hard. Not knowing when (or if) she will get better was hard.


Here's what I learned from it all ...


1. You have NO idea what’s around the corner.

I was travelling for work and visiting my sister abroad when I heard things weren’t going well at home. In my job I had other work trips planned, and saw my future mapped out. Suddenly I had no idea what was going to happen next. This might be scary, but it can also be good. You don’t know what can happen tomorrow - what opportunities, or people can come over your path. It’s made me realise to live more in a realm of possibility and expectancy - of good things coming and happening to me.


2. You always have a choice.


Though there weren’t many options of people to care for my mother, the most important thing I realised was that I had a choice. Choosing to look after her was easy (she’s my mother after all), but feeling forced into it wouldn’t have helped her nor me. Once I made the decision to do it for the foreseeable future, I felt more in control and the time spent with her felt more purposeful.


3. You have to decide what’s best for you, AND others.


When I made my decision, I had to choose what was best for my mom, myself and my job. I had to take the whole system into account. I could have taken an indefinite leave of absence, but that wouldn’t have been fair to the company. They were very gracious and understanding, but I had no idea how long I would be away. So, I evaluated my decision against what was the best possible outcome for all parties. Not easy, not always popular, but it helped me to make a conscious decision and the best one I knew how.


4. Support comes from the weirdest places.


Though the journey of recovery was (and is) still slow, I received amazing support. From my colleagues at that time, from friends, from family, even from people at the pharmacy. Though my parents are divorced, my dad really stepped in to help me cope.


5. Life isn’t linear. There are off-ramps along the way.


I didn’t think I would move in with my mom again, and leave my job and my life in the city. I realised that we may have this one direction or dream in life that we’re working towards, and that’s fine. Sometimes things happen where we need to press pause on this direction or path we're on, and tend to something else, and that’s okay too. We can get back on the highway to our dreams eventually. It’s not a train smash.



As I look back, I can’t believe where I am today. I’ve started my own business (a lifelong dream of mine), I figured out where my WHY, passions, and skills meet and my mom is on the road to recovery and able to function independently. My life is far from perfect, but I have a sense of being closer to the life I have envisioned for myself.

I guess the detours aren't always detours, but actually part of the road - if that makes sense.


PS. If you are stuck too long on an off-ramp, or don't know what direction you want to take your life in, let's talk and get you back on track.


+27 76 381 0884

Based in Stellenbosch, but if you've got internet access I can help you wherever you are. 

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