Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016: A Year in Review


2016 has gone and got itself a bad reputation. The loss of some national, and international treasures; continuous reports of global unrest, terror and disaster; and some pretty unexpected and tragic votes and elections. There are plenty of people who will be glad to see the back of 2016, to turn their backs on it, and to do their best to forget it. But not me. Because global, political, cultural and social tragedies aside, in a very selfish way, I've had a pretty excellent year. When I think about this time last year, and how things have gradually changed, progressed, throughout the year, I realise how different it all is - and how much happier I am, both to be here and have been through it all. 

This time last year I was in the midsts of dissertation and coursework; I was preparing for my final proper term at university, and quite frankly counting the days, months, weeks I had left. I was in a constant battle between wanting to work hard and do really well to make sure I had done everything I could to make the most of my degree, and also just pretty fed up of it all, and thinking about all the things I could have spent the last 3 years doing instead. But I did it. I handed in my dissertation, and I was happy with it. I sat my finals, and achieved the grade I felt like I deserved. It was a feeling of freedom, and relief that took a while to adjust to, but one I've become accustomed to and feels like a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. I graduated with my friends, and surrounded by my wonderful family. I said goodbye to UCL forever, more than ready for the next chapter. 

And I was lucky that this next chapter simply presented itself to me, unexpectedly. I started my first graduate job in September, and I have successfully completed 3 months of adulting. If you'd told me 12 years ago, when I was pretty much bed-ridden, living off a diet of sausage rolls and gingernut biscuits that I'd be doing 12 hour days, with only 4 weeks holiday a year, I don't think I would have believed you. Being offered, and starting, a new job is a huge achievement for anyone. It's an adjustment, but it's exciting and rewarding too. For me, it feels like an even bigger accomplishment: a lifestyle I feared I'd never be able to cope is now one I've simply become accustomed to. It's taught me that I'm capable of more than I expected, and to focus on what I want to do, what I can do, rather than what I can't do. 

I moved into a really nice flat with Simon, and spent my first paycheck primarily on homeware. For the first time in forever, I feel like I have two homes, two places I love being in, and feel relaxed in, rather than a multiplicity of houses that I flit between. I spend my free time on the phone to Tesco customer service complaining about my delivery, or to Foxtons about why I'm being scalded every time I turn the tap on. But it's kind of ok, because people treat you like a grown up, with rights and reasonable requests, rather than the bratty self-entitled student label you acquired by many at university. We have somewhere we love coming home to every evening; and somewhere we can chill at the weekends. Gradually it's becoming more and more homely, full of knick knacks and photos and memories, and it's really bloody cosy. 

2016 was to be the year I travelled more. I went to Copenhagen and Croatia, and made the terrifying decision to spend a month volunteering in South Africa. Now, it feels like a distant memory, like it never really happened - but I know I'm a braver person for having gone. Sure, I was terrified but a couple of years ago I never would have gone. I got on a plane (crying) and I went. There were great bits and there were not so great bits, but I can definitely look back on it with rose-tinted spectacles and remember all the great times, and all the amazing people that I was so lucky to meet. I did the thing I was really scared to do, to prove I could do it, and I am so glad I did. 

 I developed more, better, perspective. I feel like I know much better what is important to me, and who is important to me. What I want for now, for 2017, and for even further into the future; and who I want to be there with me, to spend time with, and to really invest in. I feel like I have one of the biggest support networks I've had for a long time, and I am so lucky to have lots of kind and caring people around me. I'm also having more fun. I have less free time than ever, but somehow I am happier, and more productive, and more carefree than I've been for a while. 

2016 has certainly not been everyone's year, but it's been mine. 
2017, you've got some serious competition.

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