Now it may not seem too much to be making sure I was getting out one night a month, but between my shifts, Lorraine's shifts and childcare, it was a small step that I could commit to. It allowed me to plan a little bit, and therefore try some new things to see what I might like and what I might not.
I feel like I have learned a few things from the experience, both in terms of what I like and also in regard to what I like to do. However much I may have tried other things (such as a night seeing live stand-up comedy and on one occasion a musical) I cannot get away from the fact that I don't enjoy anything as much as attending live sport. Additionally I have found that there is more to attend than just Football, as I have also especially enjoyed attending both local Ice Hockey and Basketball. In reality that has served as a reminder that I enjoy lots of sports, and also sadly that here in Central Scotland it will always be Football (or the Old Firm, if you prefer) that will be dominant, often at the complete expense of other sports.
For years I took myself to Palace matches by myself, and I therefore felt that I always enjoyed going to games by myself. However the past year has taught me that while attending events by myself is okay, I do prefer attending events with either friends or family. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the things I didn't enjoy as much were the things I did by myself, even a few sporting events which I tried for the first time (sorry Greyhound racing fans, I'll never do that again, that was possibly one of the most miserable events I've ever attended in my life). I suspect I'm not the solitary cat I always thought I was, I do appear to like company, I just need to be less shy about asking if people would like to do things with me.
I have learned there is value in taking a bit of time for yourself. Yesterday I took myself down to Huddersfield to attend Palace's 1-0 defeat at the John Smith's Stadium. Again there was the realisation that "I enjoy this, why don't I do this more often?" Now it wasn't perfect, after all I was making the trip by myself, and the result could have been better, but I seem to enjoy the lack of guarantees that live sport presents. Later this season I'll be flying down to London with Lorraine and Chloe, for my eldest's first trip to see Palace. Now that should be fun. And I should make a point of doing it more often.
I have also learned that sometimes there is value in staying in, or at least in opting out. There were some months where the month was drawing to a close and so I forced myself to go out and try something, and just didn't enjoy it at all. I also found that there are times when there really isn't much taking place, and so the money spent on trying to find something you might enjoy is better saved and later spent on something you know you will enjoy.
Overall though this will continue to be an ongoing process, one which is refined and amended continually, as I both remember what I enjoy and still balance it with the commitments to my job and to my family. As selfish as it sounds though, what I cannot do is to completely ignore my own needs. The need to unwind, the need to do things that put a smile on my face, the need to do things that I'll look forward to. While it feels selfish, the benefits stretch out beyond me and into the lives of the people I care about. People who are happy when I'm happy, and the exact reason why I don't feel guilty any longer about putting myself first every once in a while.