It’s been one hell of a year. I’m sitting in my old room in my parents’ house feeling pretty good about life. It seems strange that a mere four months ago I had been sitting in this same room feeling utterly helpless and desperate, waiting for my life to begin. I am gazing at the empty shelf above my desk, the hooks in the wall that no longer have pictures hanging from them and the wardrobe which stands behind me, empty and unused. It wasn’t that long ago that this room was filled with everything that made me who I am: the hairbrushes and make-up tools, the photographs of the people I love, the clothes and shoes which I carefully customised to suit my own tastes. I am still blaring my music into the room, but only because I am sitting here with my laptop writing – Coldplay’s Paradise is currently the soundtrack to my life.
When she was just a girl
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach
So she ran away in her sleep and dreamed of
Para, para, paradise
every time she closed her eyes.
When this year began, I had been hopeful: I had shared a fabulous Bollywood-themed New Year’s Eve with my friends, I was embarking on a romance with a beautiful person and I was looking forward to starting a new full-time job in the local theatre. Skip forward to March and one of my dearest friends had stopped to talking to us, the romance had fallen apart in spectacularly painful fashion and my new job had been cut along with the rest of the arts funding around the UK. 2011 very quickly turned into a difficult year and I was descending into a deep pit of despair.
One of the few things I had been looking forward to had been my trip to China with my friend, Mareike (see my China travel review from earlier, if you want to learn how to injure yourself on holiday in the most undignified way possible). In between trying to find a job and give myself a reason to keep going, I started volunteering with The Salvation Army – it was thanks to the wonderful people I met there that I felt even a tiny bit useful in my day-to-day life. Overall, however, I was stagnating. Living at home with no money, no real job, no prospects and no inclination to pursue a love-life (following the aforementioned painful break-up), I began to give up all hope.
It was then – in my very lowest moment – that I went to see my aunt and decided to tell someone how I was feeling (see The Clumsy Guide to… What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do for a recap). Thanks to her candid advice, I came to realise that life does not just stop – it ain’t over until the fat lady sings and I do not sing. I was given a renewed sense of being and was driven to apply to do a master’s degree at the University of Winchester. I was accepted onto the course immediately and, following my brief sojourn to Asia, I packed up my stuff and moved out.
Arriving in Winchester, I discovered that I had been fortunate in my random choice of student house and would be living with three lovely (and hilariously funny) housemates. Several house meals, four fish, two house parties and a hamster later and I feel like I have never lived anywhere else. My course also turned out to be my life’s vocation: having turned up on my first day hoping to be given some kind of job prospects, I found two lecturers who would change my life and the chance to study a subject that I could become truly impassioned about. My lecturers gave me the beginnings of a real education; they taught me not just to accept the world for what it is, to question everything and seek the facts and to value myself as an individual, both separate from and inextricably linked to the rest of the world. My course filled me with the self-confidence and the belief that I can and will do something meaningful and important with my life. It has only been three months, but they have been three extremely intense months and I have shed blood, sweat and tears to reach this point, the point where I feel I can never go back to being the passive, frightened and unchallenging member of society that I used to be.
I had lunch with an old friend today. She was just as I always think of her: beautiful and graceful, but hilariously funny to listen to as she tells her stories of annoying work colleagues, family trials and tribulations and general life lessons. I am glad to see her again, though I am also relieved to learn that some things will always be as I remember them – my friend being one of them. It seemed to me that she could not say the same about me, though: I am not the same person she knew four months ago, I am somebody new, with a new lease of life, a renewed faith in myself and the belief that my life will turn into something to be proud of. Okay, so I am still jobless, poor and have a total lack of a love life, but I don’t really care because those things are not important to me any more. If those things are worth anything, it is as a point of reference for my old friends when we see each other again so that they may still recognise that I am me (the me that was perenially broke and romantically useless).
A lot can change in a year. Life changes, people change, circumstances and luck can change, but friends and family are forever – that is what I have learned from 2011. There have been a lot of downsides to the last twelve months and I am sure I am not the only person in the world who has had a lot to deal with. However, for me there has also been a massive U-turn and a real change for the better. This year has given me a lot of life lessons that I will keep with me always and I guess that is what every new year is for: finding something worth fighting for and learning something to keep with you as you go through life. What have you found in 2011 that is worth taking with you into 2012? What have you learned that will mean you will do things differently in 2012?
As the new year looms over us, I plan to see it in in style: Mareike and I will be hitting a nightclub in East London (in the most sparkly dresses possible!) and dancing the night away, ready to wave goodbye to the stresses of the last year and say hello to new opportunities. I have no idea what 2012 will bring for me, or anybody else for that matter. Some are saying it will be the end of the world and, though I don’t believe that for a second, I will be making sure I live life to the fullest. I am optimistic that next year will be a good one.
As for that old phrase ‘start as you mean to go on’, I fully intend to do so by sharing it with Mareike, having fun, dancing and celebrating…naturally, this is excluding the crippling hangover I am expecting on 1st January.