I don’t really make new year’s resolutions, because I don’t find them particularly useful. I’m fairly constantly working on something or other in my life; becoming vegan, saving money, getting fitter, being a better friend, working harder… whatever it is, if it’s worth doing then I’ll already have started trying to do it.
However, I do find this time of year useful as a chance to look over the previous year and figure out what broad lessons I can learn for the new one. It’s also a fairly logical time to sit down and review how the things I’ve been working on are going, and decide whether there’s anything I want to add to the list.
I’ve just read through all my blog posts from 2013, to get a sense of how I felt the year went at the time. My problem is that I am bad at drawing a big picture on this kind of thing: generally, if someone says “how was your day?” I’ll tell them how I felt during the last couple of hours, and if they say “how was your summer?” I will be genuinely stumped because I won’t remember. So reading through all my posts, which weren’t as numerous as I’d have liked, helped me get some perspective.
A few observations about 2013 before I make use of the meme that’s going round the blogosphere: it’s been a year of planned change. I think the only year which could touch it for variability would be 2011, when I had unexpectedly left uni, suddenly moved to France, moved back in with my mum, went on the dole, volunteered in two new places, restarted my degree, joined a choir and took up three jobs. 2013 involved almost as much moving, just as many jobs and the start of a new degree but it was all as a result of careful planning rather than events beyond my control. I definitely prefer it this way!
Pending any more unexpected disasters, 2014 should be a lot more stable. I can basically already say what I’ll be doing at any given point in the year, although beyond mid-March the details are a little hazier as my timetable hasn’t been released yet. I’ll not be moving out of this flat, or at least I’m not planning on it, and I’m pretty well established with all the things I’ll be doing with my time: my degree, the community shop (which will be morphing into something else at Easter; we haven’t determined quite what that will be, but since I’m on the committee I’ll be involved whatever it is), running, church, tutoring and babysitting.
Actually one of the useful things I did in Norway was to sit down and sketch out a plan for what we’ll be studying during every single tutoring lesson for the next nine months. The overall idea is that we’ll take a virtual tour round Britain, visiting different towns and learning about them – their history, or their geography, their culture, special things that happen or have happened there, people from there… essentially it’s a hook on which to hang a broader study of English stuff. I’d been rather stuck for ideas for the last few months so it was wonderful to have that sudden inspiration, and very reassuring to know I’ve started on the planning rather than being thrown into panic every week.
OK, this is getting to be a very long post and I haven’t even started on the questions! I think my plans for next year will have to wait until another day.
1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
So many things! Most of them relating to my midwifery degree, like taking blood pressures, giving breastfeeding support, watching someone suture a perineal tear (don’t google it if you’re squeamish) etc but also I graduated, moved into a real flat instead of student halls, and ran a half marathon.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
As I’ve said earlier, no to both! During the year, I did make a few resolutions which I’ve managed to keep with varying success rates: to sleep in more of a sensible pattern, which I manage some of the time but not all, to drink more water, which is a constant quest, and to keep up with the washing up, which I have never achieved.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Physically close – yes, all the time on my delivery suite placement, although I’ve still not witnessed a birth! Close emotionally, not really. A few friends had babies but they were friends I’d sort of lost touch with.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
My great-aunt, although I’d never known her well. I wasn’t able to go to the funeral since she lived in northern Scotland.
5. What countries did you visit?
Just Norway this year. I say “just” because I seem to do quite a lot of travelling!
6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?
Stability. I don’t just mean financial and physical stability in the sense of living in the same place all year and doing the same things, but the mental stability which, for me at least, is very closely related to that.
7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Without cheating by looking back at my blog post, the day on which I finished writing my dissertation and also found out that I’d got a place on the midwifery degree. It was memorable for being a very positive, achievement-filled day and also because of the reaction of a close friend when she found out. She couldn’t have celebrated more if it had been her own success, and it was heart-warming.
Also, June 28th, which was two days before my graduation but the day when it really struck me that I was leaving, forever, permanently, and nothing was ever going to be the same. I was at the leavers’ Evensong service and cried quite a lot. That entire fortnight was a pretty big one in terms of memories really.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
On paper, probably graduating with a 2.i from my law degree and getting onto a midwifery course first time round, or perhaps completing the half marathon. But for me, it’s the smaller achievements which are in some ways bigger: the times I did something and then realised that in the past I wouldn’t have reacted that way. It’s hard to put into words but I’ve got better at caring for myself and my mental wellbeing this year.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Hmm. I don’t think I really did fail at anything exactly, or at least not anything that I wish I had succeeded with. I was rejected from four universities, but I got into the fifth and my favourite. I was dumped in the first week of January, but it was a relationship which I had always known was doomed to failure (not through any fault of his – we just weren’t well-suited, and I was in no fit state to be dating although I didn’t realise that until I already was).
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing on the scale of the infamous adlib gap year illness. I had a few colds, continued to stuggle with my nemesis (aka my digestive system, which is trying to kill me from the inside) and pulled a few muscles but nothing of note.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Hmm. That is an interesting question, I’m not actually sure I have bought anything which I would celebrate above everything else this year. I acquired some very useful things – my Thermos food flask, my incredibly comfortable shoes for placement, a set of new kitchen knives – and I spent money on some great stuff, like the rent on my very own flat, tickets to travel various places and a serious of cookery lessons, but I can’t point to any one thing that was my Favourite Purchase of 2013.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
It’s a cliche but I’m so glad to have a handful of good friends who have stayed in touch despite the fact that I have now spent an entire year without Facebook, moved away and stopped seeing them regularly. My family have also been supportive and caring, especially during the months when I didn’t know whether I would be starting midwifery that year and was anxiously facing a totally blank page of future.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Without a doubt, 2013 was the year I have been angriest about politics so far. Some of the things that have had me alternately spitting feathers and crying were the imposition of the “bedroom tax” (for non-UK readers, this was a cut to the social welfare housing payment which is paid to people on very low incomes, and was slashed for anyone with a “spare bedroom” – a policy which assumes that same-gendered children should share a bedroom – despite the fact that the majority of people receiving housing benefit were placed in their house by the council and weren’t able to move to a smaller property, because there aren’t any, because they were all sold in the 80s to make profit for the councils), the 11% pay rise on an already astronomically-high salary for Members of Parliament, the dramatic increase in food bank usage and the flat-out refusal of the current government to investigate the cause of this rise or do anything about it (of particular note were the politicians who claimed that the reason more people were turning to food banks wasn’t because they had suddenly found themselves having to pay for the shortfall in their rent due to the bedroom tax or because everyone else’s salary has failed to rise even in line with inflation, but because “people like free stuff”)… oh man. I can feel my blood pressure rising, so let’s move on. Suffice it to say that I have been completely, 100% disappointed in the party for whom I voted at the last election, and have shifted my allegiances.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent, probably. I haven’t counted, but I seriously doubt I’m spending more than that on anything else each month. I’ve also spent a fair amount on clothes this year; more than I would usually spend, and more than I’ll spend again in the near future, but I needed clothes which were suitable for my new circumstances and which would last a bit longer. Food has been a big chunk, predominantly because I don’t really spend much on anything else but really enjoy cooking, and travel hasn’t been cheap.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Midwifery! I’m still excited about it really, although the daily grind of lectures has dulled the shine a little.
16. What song will always remind you of 2013?
Probably Wake Me Up by Avicii. To be honest I’m not sure why; it doesn’t really sum up the year or anything, but I heard it first on a blog post and then heard it a few times elsewhere (I don’t listen to the radio much, so new music finds me completely by chance) and just got hooked on it. And perhaps it does rather sum up some aspects of my year, especially my experience of counselling which I started in October without having realised quite how much I needed it.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Difficult question. More content, I think. More mentally stable. Fewer lows, but also fewer highs.
b) thinner or fatter? Thinner, but not by design. Certainly I’m more comfortable with my body, and my vegan diet and running keeps me healthier.
c) richer or poorer? About the same really. It’s hard to tell, since I didn’t have a clear handle on my income during 2013 – it was made up of student loans, grants, bursaries, babysitting money, tutoring pay and the odd extra job like proofreading and my summer job. This year my income is probably slightly lower (the NHS bursary has never been described as generous, but for me at least it’s sufficient in conjunction with a small student loan) but my outgoings are also lower and more regular. My savings have stayed fairly steady.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Creative pursuits like writing, knitting, sketching etc. I’m not a particularly artistic person but I do enjoy those things and somehow have let them get sidelined. I did a lot of singing in the first half of 2013 and I wish the second half had contained more of that, but sadly my schedule doesn’t allow for it.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Spending money unnecessarily; I don’t do that much but I wish I didn’t do it at all. Worrying about the future – it has always worked out ok in the end, and last year in particular everything I was worried about turned out to be completely perfect.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
In Norway, with friends who treated me as if I were part of their family. But I’m not, so I spent most of the actual days of celebration trying to guess at what people were saying in Norwegian and failing to remember who everyone was!
21. Did you fall in love in 2013?
Not really. I met people who I have grown to love, but I think this question is asking about romantic love.
22. What was your favorite TV program?
Doc Martin, probably. I don’t watch a lot of TV on a regular basis (I go on binges of crime dramas sometimes) but that is one I did watch whenever I could.
23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Not anyone I know personally. But see question 13 for a rough idea of who makes my blood boil.
24. What was the best book you read?
I read so many good books it’s easier to say that the best author I read was Jane Austen. I don’t keep a good enough track of what I read, and a lot of it is re-reading old favourites or just reading easy-read rubbish, but I’ve been making more effort to read good quality classic literature, partly as an education for myself as a writer.
25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I didn’t make any musical discoveries.
26. What did you want and get?
I wanted a place on a midwifery degree and a flat of my own, and I got both of those.
27. What did you want and not get?
A functional romantic relationship, although it’s not quite accurate to say I actively wanted that. But I am getting to a stage/age where I’d like to think about settling down in the next few years, and I spent almost the entirety of 2013 single.
28. What was your favorite film of this year?
Lincoln – I didn’t see many films released this year, to be honest, but I did love that one.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 22, and my mum came to visit for the weekend which was nice. We had afternoon tea with a couple of friends from my law degree, and then went for cocktails with a few friends from chapel. Otherwise it was a regular Sunday, but Sundays in Cambridge were my favourite days so it was enjoyable.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Having someone to share it with. I guess that’s what’s behind my answer to question 27. I like living alone, but it’s a little lonely at times. Even having a cat would have helped.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?
32. What kept you sane?
I’m not sure that’s really an accurate description of my mental health during 2013 to be honest, but what helped me not go into complete meltdown was the cognitive behavioural therapy I had in February and March, and the counselling I started in October, as well as close supportive friends. My mental health issues aren’t something I talk about here much – in fact, this might be the first time I’ve ever mentioned them – but they were constantly present on a low simmer and intermittently boiled up.
33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Ugh, I dislike the word “fancy”, but I will admit to a whopping great crush on the beautiful Jack Monroe, who as well as being visually and personally lovely is also an inspirational campaigner on the sort of issues I was ranting about twenty questions earlier.
34. What political issue stirred you the most?
We’ve covered this, I feel!
35. Who did you miss?
My family, at various low points (but I have seen them more in the latter half of 2013 than probably at any point since late 2009, thanks to moving much closer to them) and my friends from Cambridge. I’ll be visiting for a few days later this month, though, which will be nice.
36. Who was the best new person you met?
I’ve met a lot of great people in 2013, particularly following my move to Birmingham when everyone was new, but people I’m particularly thankful for are Susannah from church, Linda from running, and a handful of people I’ve only recently met via a couple of Meetup.com groups but who have provided me with a much-needed social life with people my own age who live nearby.
37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.
Friends come and go, but family are permanent, so it’s important to build a good relationship with them.
38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I hate questions like this because I can never think of one! There isn’t a lyric really. I don’t think of my life in terms of songs, for me it’s about people and they’re harder to summarise.