The Camino Journey – 12mths On

My plan all week was to write a post tonight to commemorate 12mths today since I took my first steps on the Camino, to reflect on my journey since finishing this amazing pilgrimage in honour of Bree. Yet here I have sat for the last 5mins, trying to contemplate how to even start explaining the last 12mths. Even this takes me back to that very first day where I sat in my room, feeling overwhelmed and wondering how I could start. I had to laugh when I saw a Facebook post of a Camino friend doing her own 12mth reflection, proud of being up at Orisson by 9:30am. I hadn’t even left St Jean Pied de Port by that stage!

When I returned home, I had many people tell me how much they enjoyed the blog (very chuffed with this) and that my writing made them feel like they got to know me and got an insight into my head. What a scary thought for them! The reality is though, it was me, in every word. I truly have no filter, have a terrible tendency to overshare (just ask Riley), and the thoughts in my head were put straight out there.

So, to help take you on my journey from the Camino to now, I thought I would use visual aids.

When I returned home from the Camino, this is exactly how I felt..

Suddenly, being confined in a room with 15 people chatting away felt like sensory overload. I went from being an extrovert to an introvert. I had spent six weeks with space and time slowly floating by and was suddenly thrust back into a pace of life that completely freaked me out. The first time I turned my car on, I cried because I couldn’t remember how to put it in reverse! When I pulled my boots on to go hiking though, that’s when I felt at peace. Pulling those boots on was like welcoming an old friend.

Re-engaging with the “normal” world was hard work. It had to be done though. I needed a new job and within two months of being home, was knee deep into renovating an apartment to be ready to move in. This in itself is a huge accomplishment for me as it is my very first home. I am so very proud of this and it was going to kick off 2020 as a great year. 😐

In the midst of this, the world watched on in horror as Australia was decimated by fire. We were choked by a smoky haze, preventing me from being able to continue to walk. Sadly, a number of my dear Camino families on the other side of the world are facing this same scenario now.

So, I was getting up at ridiculously early hours to let tradespeople into the apartment (and by now, everyone knows how much I hate early mornings), working at one job, trying to find another job, going back to the apartment at the end of the day to check on things before travelling home.

Needless to say, this is how I was in those early months…

On the job front, I really wanted to try something different and I wanted a challenge. I put in an application for a job that had caught my eye five days before Christmas and mere hours before taking myself off to Christmas drinks with my dear Ladybirds. Or so I thought.

A few weeks into the new year, I pulled out my laptop to apply for another job, while secretly thinking I should be receiving a call soon to interview for the job I applied for at Christmas. I was THAT confidant it was the perfect role for me. Within minutes of the laptop firing up, I received an email stating “this is an automated response acknowledging your email. Someone will get back to you” kind of thing. At first, I looked at this email thinking, I haven’t sent an email.

Oh, the horror I felt when I realised it was from the organisation I thought I had submitted the application to last year. For some reason, my email had sat in the outbox and released when I turned my laptop back on, sending the job application to them nearly two weeks late! I wanted to cry.

A week later, I received an email from the manager thanking me for my application, already interviewing, best of luck etc etc. You could almost hear this guy thinking, “what kind of idiot sends a job application in two weeks late?!” Still, I responded (in my usual unfiltered way), essentially acknowledging I was an idiot, I had wanted to cry when I realised and wished him luck with his contenders.

Somehow, I got called in for an interview and this is my next brain fade moment. Interview felt like it was going well and I got asked about my hobbies. Ran through a few of the things I loved like hiking etc, and then my unfiltered brain allowed the words “oh, and I love cocktails” to come out. I think I may have babbled a bit more nervously, realising I had just talked about alcohol in a job interview! When I went home and told Riley I had essentially told a potential employer I was an alcoholic, he just looked at me, shook his head and said “you’re an idiot.” Yep.

Well, it turns out I was right, the job was perfect for me and I got the job.

I had wanted something different. No policing background, limited industrial relations knowledge and started a role at The Police Association, the Union that supports police members. Tick.

I had wanted a challenge. Started a new job and 10 days later, started working at home by myself, in the middle of a pandemic, having no idea what I was doing. Double tick.

And this is how I was for the next few months…

Which quickly turned to this…

Before turning into this…

I’d been in isolation for months due to Coronavirus and I barely left home, let alone walked anywhere.  While there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t feel incredibly grateful I was able to complete my pilgrimage last year, knowing heartbreakingly how many people were set to go this year and had that dream taken away, it all felt like a distant memory. I lost all motivation for everything and went into a downward spiral.

Just when we had glimpses of life returning to normal, the world came crashing down. Coronavirus cases blew up and we were back in a hard lockdown, only allowed to leave the house for basic necessities and allowed out once a day for an hour of exercise. Ironically, it was this that snapped me out of my slump. My brain couldn’t comprehend having the ability to walk whenever I wanted taken away and suddenly, I needed to walk.

For the first time since I completed the Camino, I have walked every day for the last six weeks for my allowed hour. There was even a day where it was pouring with rain and I did laps of the covered carpark next door to me, dealing with the guy collecting trolleys giving me weird looks, just so I could get my hour. Unfortunately, our lockdown has been extended for another two weeks, but I’m okay. I look forward to eventually seeing people and I figure I will have a housewarming party on the 12mth anniversary of moving into my home, but the Camino gave me the ability to take all of this in my stride.

What is the absolute one thing I took away from the Camino and still guides me now? The Camino provides.

It may not be in ways you appreciate, like the time I wanted to be away from the crowds of people on the trail and next moment my water bottle was leaking through my bag, or wanting a challenge and having a pandemic hit the world when you start a new job, but somehow, the Universe will provide me what I need in my life and I have faith in that.

In a weird coincidence, today marks 12mths since I started on a journey that has brought me to this point, right now, which also happens to mark passing my six-month probation for a job that, for all intents and purposes, I would never ordinarily have been selected for. If that doesn’t say ‘meant to be’ I don’t know what will.

Most importantly though, is that my ability to talk about Bree without hesitation has remained. I may not have had many opportunities to do so this year, but I love that what I set out to achieve on the Camino has survived. I will continue to share stories of Bree here and they will come when the time is right and I am okay with that too.

In another weird coincidence, I am finishing up this blog at the French time that I was arriving at Refuge Orisson, completing my first day on the Camino.

In the catch cry of 2020, stay safe and Buen Camino x

12 thoughts on “The Camino Journey – 12mths On

  1. Karen, I was so privileged to follow your Camino, hear about your beautiful Bree And then meet you in person at Lysterfield. You should be so proud of your achievements, you are one strong woman.

    1. Thank you Suzanne. I still remember meeting you at Lysterfield and how gentle and at ease you were talking about Bree. This is a beautiful gift you have. I look forward to finally getting back out there with you. 😊

  2. So good to hear about all that is happening in your life and the strength, resilience and sense of perspective the Camino has given you.

    Fantastic you are mostly enjoying your new job and have bought your first home. I enjoyed your picture comments too! I suspect many of us reading could relate to at least a few. I could relate to the people crush feeling. I had sensory overload returning after the GOW and have craved open spaces ever since even though that was only a week away!

    I am so glad you are finding a path out of the house and back toward those open and green spaces. This is such a horrific and difficult year for nearly everyone, but time doesn’t wait when tragedy strikes as you know with Bree. Stories call out to be shared and finding good pathways back to joy and hope are essential to our health and happiness. So, I hope we will cross paths out there again each carrying our own burdens, but finding solace in putting one foot in front of the other, especially with others sharing a similar purpose.

    As for filters, I think life is better when you let yourself be real. I admire your bravery in being vulnerable. Brenee Brown wrote a great book called “Braving the wilderness” that changed my perspective . Essentially as humans we may live very different lives, but the emotions we experience are shared and common among us all. So, it is in being vulnerable and sharing them that we have the best chance of truly finding our tribe and being a beacon of hope for others. Keep up the great work! x

    1. I cannot tell you how much what you said here resonated with me and I know from many conversations I have had with people, how similar we have all been in our struggles this year. It is good to put it out there to know you are not alone. Really looking forward to catching up soon. xx

  3. Thank you for sharing your reflections on the journey there and insights since Karen. This story has a very nice meditative feel and depth of self understanding. Lovely writing and life lessons learnt. Bree continues to march with you. The idiot part is not about you, but these computers we use, they don’t deserve our trust, so always check things have gone. I’ve learnt that lesson. And check junk mail for things you didn’t receive. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with technology.
    Take care and stay strong and safe.. keep writing, despite its frustrations, its good therapy. 🙂

  4. Enjoyed reading your blog Karen. Happy to hear about your job. Before we went into lockdown, I did wonder what happened to you as I hadn’t seen you on any walks for ages.
    Until we meet again, stay safe. Blessings
    Adrienne Ward

    1. I think despite all the things I was juggling, I think there was an element of me losing a bit of desire to walk, even then. I felt so out of place, my heart wasn’t in it. I am so happy to think now I am chomping at the bit for the day we can travel more than 5kms and I can throw my boots on and be back on the trails!

  5. Wonderful reflections Karen. Having followed your walk last year it’s so good to see that you continue to benefit from the gifts the Camino has given you. 😘😘

    1. I look forward to following you Jacqui when you get to the Camino. It has definitely had a lasting impact and has given me a sense of calm, despite everything else. Everything we are going through now is just another one of Andrea’s bloody big hills! 🤣

  6. Thoroughly enjoyed your story. Can’t wait to hear more about Bree when you are ready. Stay safe and Buen Camino!

    1. Thank you Judith, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I can’t wait to share more either. I realised last night how much I missed writing!

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