2020 vision: a reflection of what’s been and a speculation as to what will come

A bathroom selfie from my first week at work, feeling indestructible!

Against all odds, I started a new job in November. It was significant and ultra scary after a year of unemployment, plus it had only been a few months since the final end of my master’s course. I was without direction and honestly lacking a sense of my own identity, with everything having changed so majorly. So it was pretty overwhelming, thinking about the fact I’d miraculously landed my first full-time job after the successful completion of uni. I got my own desk. I got my own laptop. I got my own telephone number on the company directory. It was surreal.

The commutes were great initially (let’s not talk about the train timetable changes in December…). The colleagues in the office were lovely and very patient with me. My family were supportive and encouraging, proud that I was settling in. It was really good.

However, the irony is that around the time I started the job, I stopped practicing all of the amazing self-care routines that I’d spent the summer creating. Yoga, healthy eating, daily workouts, hypnotherapy tapes at night, regular meditation etc. It was like, at the first sight of normality, I regressed into all of the bad habits that I knew had led me to ultimately feeling so low earlier in 2019. I threw myself into work whole-heartedly and did my usual self-destructive thing: juggling as much as humanly possible (finishing a distance-learning course alongside a full time job), working longer hours than I was contracted to (unpaid, might I add) and being silly enough to work straight through lunch breaks (taking no time to stop and do something recreational for myself). I bailed on plans with friends several times and beat myself up about it, constantly. I was drinking a lot of alcohol again and deeming it acceptable because I deserved it, after a hard day at work.

As a result of numerous stressors, predominantly ones designed by yours truly, I felt quite low during my last week at work and had a bit of a spontaneous cry at the office. I was exhausted. I also began to realise that even with numerous drastic changes in my life, for the positive, I was still feeling not so great. I think I’d felt guilty for a few weeks, constantly telling that internal voice to shut-up and stop being sad. I was starting to get my life together, so why was I feeling so bad? Why was it that, even with gratitude leaking out of every pore, it was still possible to feel so horrible and possess such a cripplingly low self-esteem? It turns out that depression and anxiety don’t just disappear overnight. They’re not purely situational diagnoses’ and they sure as heck defy sense. You can have all the components of a perfect existence under your belt and that won’t make a difference, if you have depression and/or anxiety. This is the sad truth yet when acknowledged, it can also be a liberating one. Sometimes resistance is futile and its more empowering to accept that you’re not where you want to be just yet, but you will be some day. That’s enough. Whilst I’d made undeniable progress in my journey to recovery, there was still so much more left to overcome. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s okay! There’s no bloody deadline date! It’s a lifelong commitment to preserve myself and be less of an asshole, where possible. I have to learn and I have to grow, yet to do both I also have to suffer sometimes because life can’t just be rainbows and butterflies. Humans aren’t infallible- they break and they bend and need to go through stressful environments and situations in order to take a stronger form.

Over Christmas, a busy period of time spent catching up with a never-ending conveyor belt of family faces, I realised that I had to commit to change. It was so nice to be able to savour the time with loved ones and it gave me a much needed reality-check in time for the new year. There’s no point putting so much time and effort into self-care if it’s only being done in an opportunistic window. You have to fight to change your lifestyle and to ingrain the practices that keep you grounded into your daily routine, at any cost. You have to appreciate your efforts, whether they bloom into what you wanted or fail, because at least you tried.

So my goal for 2020 is to really push for balance. A career is great but not without down-time and personal commitments. I want to manifest a vision of strong physical and mental health, confidence in my abilities as a writer and singer, an abundance of financial gain (earned through persistence and hard work) as well as an improvement in self-worth. I want to see my friends and truly treasure them, so that they go to bed every night with no doubt that they are loved and cherished. I want to finally accept that I am deserving of respect and that I am entitled to space from people and situations that are toxic.

2020 will also be the year I finally make philanthropy a priority. I want to give time and whatever resources I possess to various causes, local and beyond. It is no secret that our world is riddled with social and environmental concerns that need to be addressed with activism, fundraising and awareness. I want to be part of that fight and I want to be part of some positive change, even if its for only one person.

Those are my intentions. Those are my primary focuses in 2020. Though things are looking and feeling pretty scary, I am determined that things are going to get better.

On a final note, despite all my woes in 2019, I also have to acknowledge that it was a year of many victories, even if I didn’t have the capacity to truly appreciate them at the time. I:

  • Handed in my master’s thesis with minor corrections (literally grammar and punctuation changes were suggested).
  • Started a very candid and open conversation about mental health, which has been extremely challenging in previous years. I received lots and lots of supports from loved ones and strangers, far and wide.
  • Got to spend a lot of quality time with my family for the first time in many, many years.
  • Went to therapy and also overcame my aversion to medication, trying antidepressants at the recommendation of my amazing GP.
  • Started blogging again, making an active effort to post on a weekly basis.
  • Read, and enjoyed, way more books than in previous years.
  • Completed a distance-learning course in Mental Health Awareness.
  • Bagged a guest spot on a website about female worth.
  • Graduated again.
  • Started an enjoyable job that actually has some relation to the degree I did.

I mean, that’s pretty damn impressive for somebody who had effectively given up on life and spent around 6 months physically unable to leave the house. If that’s what I managed whilst fully incapacitated, I can only wonder how much potentials this year holds!

I hope that I will look back at this post in the future and feel some gratification, in knowing that I acted on all of this. I also hope that you, dear reader, will be doing all that you can to manifest a brighter 2020 for yourself and your world💜🌍

The Trials and Tribulations of Turning 24

24 is my favourite number (I was born on 24/10/1994 at 12:51am) and I’d been looking forward to my 24th birthday for years. For most people, it’s the conventional milestones that seem like achievements but for me, it’s always been 24. It’s a silly superstition that I’ve held onto since childhood, always feeling as though the relevance of the number is auspicious. Even when I try to ignore it, it crops up. A few years ago, we went for a flat viewing and realised that the apartment we liked the look of was Flat 24- this seemed like a reassuring sign. Naturally, I figured that my 24th year would bring an abundance of good omens.

It seemed peachy, initially. It was 2018. There were props everywhere. The party was grandiose and consisted of many merry friends, fab fancy dress outfits and my first ever scavenger hunt for 24 very thoughtful gifts (planted around the house). All seemed well but then about a week later, everything began to disintegrate and here I am, a whole year on, reflecting on the whirlwind that my 24th year gave me.

Sometimes life gives you these obstacles that loom so large, they totally obscure your view of the future. In a lot of ways, I feel like this year has been a cloud in that I’ve been totally engorged in a haze for most of it. The first part involved burying my head in my thesis, then there was The Great Depression (my good friend believes 2019 in its entirety should be renamed this) and the latter part involved taking baby steps to find myself again, to find a new ‘normal’, since the old one has been shed like snake skin.

I’ve had to face a lot of truths- truths that have been systematically buried over the years, truths that have been too uncomfortable to acknowledge in the past, truths that have led to explosive confrontations, the deterioration of dead-weight friendships and a gratitude for all the small things I’ve taken for granted.

I don’t know, truthfully, exactly what I expected to find this year. Security? Prosperity? Independence? Because these concepts seem alien to me right now as I am a ward at my parents’ home, unemployed and still not entirely sure how far away I am from feeling less wobbly out in the real world. Yet despite this, I also feel a weird contentedness for having been on a weird and wacky journey of revelation. The things that once seemed important have been picked apart (I’ve had lots of time) and they just don’t seem that important anymore. I was living a certain way out of stubborn pride and above all else, out of fear. I’ve spent a lot of my life being afraid, making decisions that protect me from having to deal with rejection, visibility and vulnerability. That wasn’t taught to me- it was always there. So now I’m having to un-teach myself and embrace that I am real, I deserve to be seen, I deserve to be loved and I’m entitled to feel exhaustion after years and years of believing otherwise.

I fucking love my life. It’s totally imperfect and I have no idea what I’m doing, where I’m going or who I am. What I do know is that I’m surrounded by lots of beautiful people and that despite never feeling capable, all of the things I thought I wouldn’t survive have been survived. Now I’m just making an active effort to remember that and focus on where I’ve been during the dark times this year because I sure as hell have made progress in the meanwhile.

Thesis? Done. Reconnecting with family after living under a rock for more than half a year? Doing it. Letting my friends know how utterly awesome they are? Every damn day- doing it. Resurrecting the hobbies I’ve shelved for academia and employment over the last ten years? Hell yeah, that’s what this blog is about.

I’m 25 now. That means 30 is looming closer and perhaps that scared me a tad before, but it really doesn’t now.

Another year closer to what? Purpose? Happiness?

Why have my goals always been reserved for future pursuits, with the assumption that I’ll be faster, wiser, stronger or generally more capable then?

Why do I have to wait for something to come when I could just reach for it now?

I don’t have to wait till the next birthday to reflect or want to better myself. I have the option of waking up every day and making it a goal to change my practices, to look at the things that aren’t working for me and find ways to make them work, instead.

I wake up most mornings and take some time to programme my silly brain with new truths, the ones I couldn’t hear before over the noise of my anxiety. I tell myself that we’re all fallible humans and there’s nothing wrong with embracing that. I tell myself that taking care of yourself is not a crime- it’s a necessity and I deserve to dedicate time to maintaining myself, physically and emotionally. I tell myself that it’s easier to remember, and to cling onto, the negative times and the hurts but that it’s equally as important to run through all of the great things that have happened.

Maybe in a weird way, 24 really was a good omen because it got me here, to a place where I can breathe a little easier. The only new game I play is noting 25 things that I’m already grateful to have before I leave bed. It’s a good game- I’m in a good place and that’s before the new day, with all its possibilities, has even truly begun.