OLDER, WISER AND MORE GRATEFUL

Was 2021 a good year? Depends, as most things do, on perspective.

All of us have a cross to bear, but I have learned to carry mine differently. Why worry about tomorrow? Didn’t someone somewhere compare it to a rocking chair?

A new year is around the corner. Set goals, dream big, be ambitious! But live in the moment; life happens one day at a time.

I had the privelage of stumbling upon one of Dave Ramsey’s sermons where something he said clicked for me:

That is why every morning, before I get out of bed, the first thing I do is thank God for the gift of a new day. Because it means I have another chance to get it right.

In unpacking this year I’m keeping the process simple. Which means I haven’t planned, thought of or written down any memorable moments I want to unpack with you today. I post this as spur of the moment as it is, with the intent to publish it as my first post for 2022. Here we go!

ZZZ… Yip, thats right. We slept into the new year. That’s until the clock hits midnight and we wake up with a bang. Crackers and fireworks must be expensive, because the neighbours only carried on for about half an hour. All the dogs had their calming meds, they were snugly in their beds safely in the house with us, and we switched on a fan to help dim some of the noise. Not much happened for the rest of the day, it was a lazy start to 2021.

During the course of January my boss sends a mail asking everyone to send her a breakdown of our job description – she has no idea what is happening in her department so she needs us to tell her who is doing what. All of this is under the guise that top management wants to look at everybody’s workload and redistribute it so that everybody can come to some semblance of a work life balance. This was great news! I immediately stopped what I was doing and promptly sent off my mail to my boss. I also ceased working all overtime, and invested all that extra time into our marriage.

The 1st of Feb fell on a Monday, so we celebrated our anniversary two days early! Yay! This was the first time that we properly got out of the house and took a bit of a road trip, so I really wanted to make it special for my beautiful wife. It turned out to be an awesome day and we had a 5 course gourmet picnic next to a river in Harties. That bit of extra time I invested into our marriage really helped too.

My first real challenge of the year – my boss noticed I didn’t work any overtime. To be specific, she noticed this on the 9th of April. This was a nice strong reaction on her part and an opportunity for me to stretch my patience to keep my mouth shut. That same day I updated my CV and started looking for another job.

What happened to the mail we sent back in January, you ask?

All of my friends I’ve spoken to tell me that as I’m writing this, top management neither looked at any of those mails nor distributed any of the workload.

I have to spend a bit more time on this one. Proverbs says that you only need to do two things to live a long and prosperous life: Stay humble and fear God. It is only with God’s grace and mercy that we, as a family, were able to overcome each and every challenge in 2021.

On the 3rd of May my breakthrough came. Between the 9th and 27th of April I didn’t receive a single response to any of the job adverts I submitted my CV to. Okay, I know it’s only been 2 and a half weeks. What did I expect?

But on the 27th of April (this by the way is a public holiday in South Africa) I found an advert that was totally blank. I wish I took a screen shot so that I could show it to you, but all it had was the company name and title of the position. Strange right? I applied anyway.

20 minutes later I received a phone call. “Can you come for an interview tomorrow?”

Wow! Wait, what? Tomorrow? Tomorrow was a bit tight, salaries and so on. I arranged to be there Monday the 3rd of May at 8:00. At the end of the day I had my resignation letter ready.

I love taking back roads. This time it cost me. I left home at 7:00, timing it so that I would be there 7:45. Halfway there I turn a corner only to find (drum roll please) bumper to bumper traffic. Traffic was creaping along so I decided to wait it out. 7:45 I was close enough to the incident only to realise that a group of residents were protesting and blocked off the entire street. The opportunity was busy slipping through my fingers.

With a dry mouth and sweaty palms I phoned my prospective boss explaining the situation. Her response was unexpected. Don’t worry, we’ll wait for you. Get here safely.

I was pressed for time, and getting back to the highway meant going back all the way home. The only other way was to take the scenic route. I drove straight through the middle of a township. A township where I stood out like a sore thumb, because the residents gave me that look which said: My brother, you are seriously lost.

I rocked up to my interview at 10:00. Only 2 hours late. No biggie. And they still wanted to see me!? By the time I got back to the office my new employer already emailed me my job offer. Need I say more? Miracles do happen.

And what an adventure this was! A solid week on the bike, with my beautiful wife, in the middle of June cruising through the Drakensberg mountains. Let’s change gears (pardon the pun) a bit, and have a look at a short memory from that trip.

A spring wedding! Finally! This was also the first time our family got together from different parts of South Africa. It was an emotionally loaded event as you can imagine, especially that we didn’t have any casualties along the way.

We had such a blast visiting some new as well as old places in Bloemfontein before the wedding, my beautiful wife decided to take a nap afterwards. I only realised that I got the time of the wedding wrong when one of our nephews rocked up to our room at 14:30 asking why weren’t we ready yet – the wedding started at 15:00!

For the first time in a long time I held my beautiful wife in my arms, navigating our way around the dance floor. A profound feeling of peace and contentment settled over me and I knew, all will be well in the world again.

A month later and we’re at another wedding! Only this time I not only had the privelage of being on the other side of the pulpit, I had the responsibility of being master of ceremonies as well. If someone were to ask me how I would spend my time if I had the opportunity to change careers? This is it.

When we started this trip it was a family decision not to pack the spare wheel. I mean we’ve got run flats, what’s the worst that could happen? The one thing I learned from sitting for two hours next to the road in the country side, waiting for a new tyre, is that there are lots of super friendly people. As soon as they spot us they hoot, smile, wave, and carry on driving by. If I remember correctly, one even gave us a thumbs up.

This one was a test on a couple of levels.

The mistake I made was to think that my previous employer (turned customer) would honour our agreement. Turns out it was one big misunderstanding.

For me it’s a learning experience. I’ll just chalk it up to that.

My beautiful wife and I used November to recharge the batteries and spend some quality time together. Middle of December we did the grape escape for a quick weekend in Cape Town, visiting Richard & Senomi a.k.a our wine buddies.

Christmas was small and intimate with us enjoying good food with my beautiful wife’s parents.

New year’s eve. We’re here to ask a simple question:

Was 2021 a good year for #teamdevilliers?

Yes. 2021 challenged us to stretch our faith, proving that God is still on the throne; nothing is a surprise for Him. This year reminded us of the importance of family, relaxing and having fun. It helped us find our sense of humour and to take stock of all we’ve been through. It taught us that adversity is a great teacher and to learn to make peace in every situation. But whatever you do, never give up, keep a positive mindset and always believe in your capabilities.

This brings me then to a second question I can ask:

Am I a better version of myself going into 2022?

Definitely.

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