Monday, 31 December 2012

Awesome 2012

Just yesterday I was flicking through my 2012 diary, looking back over the year. The retrospective view of some of these entries is so incredible it can warp whole moments; how life was and how it then comes to be, subtly reflected in the quick scrawls of appointments and deadlines in a slim pocket Moleskine.

Saturday 28th January, 10:30am - mortgage appointment became the possibility of returning to York
Saturday 4th February 12:00 - Butcher Terrace, 13:15 H Street brought us here, sitting on our sofa in this wonderful corner of the city we call home
Sunday 11th March - PECO @ Otley Chevin was the race I never attended. Daniel proposed to me that afternoon

And so it goes. The diary shows the admin, the arrangements and appointments (both attended and otherwise) that brought us on that fantastic journey that was 2012. I decided this time last year that 2012 would be the Year of Awesome. Somehow, whether it was divine assistance, coincidence or sheer determination, it totally was awesome.

My 2012 began on a mountainside, drinking champagne while we watched the Lakeland skies light up with celebration. There were a few bleak weeks of crying into my breakfast cereals, writing frantically without any real hope of success. I submitted a paper to a journal, sent desperate emails to academics all over the country and the world, and wrote my cause in as many different ways as I could muster. I got signed off sick from doing a job that I hated, but I carried on turning up every day regardless, taking long walks in my lunch breaks to obsessively plan my way out. I ran away from it with serious training, getting up at 5am to do frosty 11-milers or hill sprints before work. We visited York in the snow and fell in love with the perfect house on the perfect street, waiting outside for the estate agent in the freezing cold, planning a future that felt within our grasp after months of dreaming. I was checking my emails illicitly and obsessively, waiting for the news that I needed while remaining cheerfully pessimistic about the fact that it wasn't going to happen. I had Plans B, C, D and E at the ready, but secretly my world depended on Plan A. On 9th March at 14:40 I unexpectedly received that email. I opened it flippantly, without hope or even urgency, to find that I'd succeeded, PhD funding was mine. Two days later, Daniel proposed to me on York city walls while two teenagers looked on eating a tube of Pringles. The daffodils were out, the skies were blue, we were slightly drunk and the world was my own to enjoy. I laughed and laughed and laughed before finally saying yes - and I would have always said yes - because the joy was just too big to fit into one moment.

The weeks that followed now look like a dream. We completed buying our house and left work early to collect the keys, taking the 2-hour journey to York. Opening the door with our own set of keys was one of the most special moments of my life; the house was cold and smelt of fennel, and we walked around every empty room excitedly planning what would go where, and what colour each should be. Wrapped in our coats, we sat on the carpet in the empty living room and ate a Marks and Spencers picnic, before deciding to take the long journey back to our flat in Saltaire. I handed in my notice at work, packed up my life for the twelfth time in seven years, and prepared to start again completely from scratch. I set about starting my own small business of teaching and editing, which is still going today, got a part time job in a running shop, and treated myself to a long bike ride through the Yorkshire Wolds every Monday morning. In May I ran my third Keswick half marathon with Daniel (his first half marathon), then two weeks later I completed my first marathon; I can still remember the crunch of my knee as I ran down a curb in Ambleside, and the soft rope matting underfoot as I completed the last 10 metres of the run, before collapsing in the grass just short of the finish line. My 25th birthday started with champagne at St Pancras and finished with pizza on the Champs Elysees, followed a couple of weeks later by a weekend in Keswick with my family, where I ran knee-deep through marshes and climbed 4 mountains in the sunshine. Then, October 7th came and I was a student again, and it was scary to find how much I'd changed during my few years in the workplace. I was nervous, unsure of myself, had no idea where to start. The first 5 weeks were strange and difficult, like swimming haphazardly through a sea of sleeping sharks. I ran my first ever sub-2 hours half marathon, do-si-doed at the wedding of a brilliant friend, and worked like mad to justify to myself what I was doing. Then I went to Stockholm, where I found something of myself, or maybe where I shone light on a part of myself that had always been. Somewhere in the white corridors of Stockholm University I discovered what it was that I was doing, and now I'm doing it, and it feels like my own thing, at last.


So there we have it, 2012. Some of the most exciting things that will ever happen took place this year, and I know that it will be a hard one to beat. But I needed it, having almost given up on things after a hard year in 2011. I realise now that we become more of ourselves in those times when we are weakest; it's a matter of survival, it has to be. 2012 had some dark days, that's for sure, and it has remained challenging throughout, but the challenge has, for the most part, been the essence of the awesomeness that was.

What for 2013, then? More challenge, that's for sure, starting Wednesday when I brave my work for the first time in over a week. It's sure to be a busy year, with too many travel plans, assignments and papers and a conference for which I am co-chairing the committee. Then, of course, there's my wedding, and the millions of things that seem to demand attention in order to pull it off. We'll see. With all this in mind, I'm being careful not to resolve too passionately to better myself this year - too much unnecessary pressure for such a busy time. Instead, I'm intending to work hard and be kinder to myself and to others: two intentions which I hope will complement each other nicely.

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