It’s the last day of the year and 2018 has been quite the year. It was always going to be a memorable one but turned out not to be for the reason I had planned. Funny old thing life isn’t it? There have been incredible highs and unfathomable lows but here I am at the end of it; a bit battered, a bit bruised but having learned many lessons and looking ahead to the next 365 days hopeful, as we have to.
You see, when you make a life changing decision, an unpopular life changing decision, a decision that not only changes your life but the course of someone else’s, it’s painful. There are always people who get it and people who don’t. Judgements will be made and sides will be taken. It’s inevitable. I made a seemingly rash and precarious decision that was messy, traumatic and unfair – people were hurt, and it’s only right that being the one who did that I should bear the consequences. But blame aside, I also lost a hefty chunk of my world this year and given I didn’t have many people in my world to start with, it was a very significant loss and harder than I ever imagined.
I’ve been lonely. There’s been times where I have felt like no-one in the world understood me, that no-one in the world cared and that everyone hated me. I’ve had nights where I have drunk myself in to oblivion to silence the sadness, I’ve had nights where I have sat on the floor and drawn blood to numb the pain and I’ve had nights where I have allowed people to make me feel like I am completely worthless just to feel anything at all.
Yet from all that self-serving desolation has come many positives too. What I lost in friends and acquaintances I reaffirmed in other friendships and started some new ones. I invested time in things that I had forgotten about and people I had let slip by. And this post is for them – the cast of thousands (not actually thousands) that got me through what has been one of the worst years of my life.
We can’t choose them. But if we could, I would still choose this motley crew to be honest. Despite being geographically far away they are always there for me. Always checking up on me, always reassuring me and more importantly always showing me love. It’s not easy reading some of the stuff I write, especially for my parents but their unbridled support always means the world to me.
Mum, now you’ve got an iPad your regular dog pics really do make my day and always remind me, even if I’m having the worst of days that you’re there. Dad, your never-ending DIY support and mouse proofing skills are second to none and you’ve made the transition to living alone so much easier, teaching me how to fix things and whatnot.
Paul and Matt, my brothers. You’ll both hate it if I write anything too gushing about you, so I won’t. But just know that you’re both the best and I feel extremely privileged to be the annoying middle sister. Shout out to my sister-in-law Gemma, here too – you’re the sister I never had and knowing you’re back home keeping an eye on everyone makes being so far away that little bit easier.
And last but by no means least, my darling niece Cara. What can I say. You make everyone’s life so much better. Your smile and laugh provide pure joy and being with you, fills me with so much love I think I may burst.
Yes, my dog gets her own bit and if you’re not a dog person, you should probably skip this one. My faithful best friend. Everyone knows that dogs are great, but there’s something innate in Miley that just knows how to read people and how to give you exactly what you need. The unconditional, unwavering love she shows me is one of the things I treasure most in life. Always by my side when I go home, her calming, soothing nature is better than any therapy session.
Special mention to my brother’s dog Annie here too; the playful pup whose lust for life and titbits always raise the biggest smile.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that I don’t have any friends but I do, honest. My longest standing and most treasured being Jess who I have known for 30 years now. We’re very much the polar opposite of one another – she’s blonde, tough, and confident and has always been fiercely independent and strong. I’ve always admired her tenacity and courage, having been thrown many curveballs in her life. Whereas some people would have been dealt those cards and hardened to life, she did the opposite and became the biggest beacon of kindness and goodness imaginable.
She’s always been there to pick me up (quite literally when I used to faint all the time at secondary school) and none more so than this year. Jess is getting married in March and I can’t imagine how hard it must have been for her to be there for me, a friend who has called off their own wedding, when she is excitedly preparing for her own. But she has and I’m so very grateful. I just hope it’s not too late and I can help be there for her in the next 3 months and not miss out on all the precious memories of my best friend’s big day.
Talking of courageous young women; there’s Erika, another of my dearest friends who is also getting married this year. We met fundraising for Mind 4 years ago and have been friends ever since. She, like Jess, is one of a kind. One of those rare people who don’t come around very often. She has had an unimaginably tough year, losing her mum, yet still she has been there with positivity, hugs and gentleness for me. Erika has always just got it and having people like that in your life is ineffable.
Jema, thank you for all the South London loving, the delicious meals, coffees and listening and Ross thank you for keeping me company during the “drinking months”, checking I got home okay and for all the cups of tea and sympathy. Work isn’t the same without you.
Then there’s all the other people I most definitely consider friends but have been rubbish at keeping in touch with or meeting up with this year. Please don’t ever think I don’t value your kindness in reaching out and trying to get me to do things, it’s never you I don’t want to see. All I can say is, please don’t give up on me, I promise to make good my promises of hanging out very soon.
4. The IT Crowd
I’ve loved and lost a lot of people at work this year with many going on to pastures new which at times has felt horrible, especially given work is where I spend most of my time and where 99% of my social interactions occur. But there’s a group of guys that are still knocking about that have become my second family. I like to call them The IT Crowd as all but one of them work in IT, but they more commonly go by the names of Niall, Andrew, Ash, Joe and Chris.
Niall, who I have mentioned before, is my boss and probably the best boss you could ask for – caring and funny, but more importantly Irish. Andrew is the Bill Nighy of the team, a fellow red who shares a love for all things Manchester and music. Ash is the snappy dresser baller who likes the finer things in life, Joe likes to ply us with Krispy Kremes and Chris who is much like a younger brother constantly arguing the toss but annoyingly endearing with it.
We all sit together and as cheesy as it sounds, it makes work so much more enjoyable. Yes you come to work to work but given you’re here over 8hrs a day there has to be some fun too. We all have a similar sense of humour and take the piss out of one another and it’s nice. We all try to look out for one another and I know they have my back, which can sometimes be rare in a work setting.
I’m not a lover of Christmas time but these guys made it a lot more fun and dare I say it I ended up enjoying it. Ash arranged little surprise breakfasts and lunches, we all mucked in for the office Christmas party and had some evenings in the pub. I felt part of something and for the first time in a long time I didn’t feel alone.
5. Cyber friends
I wasn’t sure what to call this one, but I wanted to say thank you to all the people I have chatted to online, whether that be via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or email. So many people have been in touch off the back of various things I have written or been part of this year and at times it has been quite overwhelming. I haven’t been able to reply to as many people as I have wanted as sometimes it’s hard to know what to say but it doesn’t mean I haven’t appreciated it.
The Internet and social media gets a lot of bad press and yes it can be absolutely abhorrent and soul-destroying at times but there’s also a lot of kindness out there. Sometimes a simple tweet or a comment can really turn a day around and there have been many of those occasions this year so thank you.
Probably the least affectionate label for you all but I had to settle on one as otherwise we would have been here all night.
There have been a few occasions this year where I have had fun, yes I said it, I have had fun, and that would not have been possible without some great bands and great event organisers, so this one’s for you. All Points East and Festival No.6 provided some much-needed frivolity as did Arctic Monkeys at the Manchester Arena. It’s only when watching my favourite bands like The National that I really feel alive, carefree and understood. The respite they provided from a tiring Summer was invaluable.
I’d also like to thank Italy. Yep, I’m thanking a country now, well more specifically a city; Naples and the adjourning Amalfi Coast. I fled to the arms of the ocean earlier this year on the weekend where I should have been getting married for my first solo trip. And I could not have picked a more fitting place. So scenic it stirred so many things in me and helped me fathom so many things out – it will always hold a very special place in my heart, as will the Italian tour guide who waltzed me around the piazza in Ravello whilst singing That’s Amore.
There’s also some people who came in to my life this year for a short while and are no longer in it for one reason or another. I always think that this sort of thing happens for a reason, and that certain people teach you things at a certain time and it’s only with hindsight that you realise it. That’s definitely been the case this year. One person in particular taught me a great deal about myself and I’ll always be very grateful for that.
And a thank you post could not be complete without a huge thank you to Mind. The work I have been part of with you this year has undoubtedly helped me through. It’s opened up so many opportunities for me to talk about so many things that I feel passionately about and allowed me to feel pride when I have had very little else to feel proud about.
…..and with that I’m going to wrap this up as it’s becoming a bit of an essay. I guess the point of this was to say THANK YOU. Thank you to everyone who has been there for me this year. I’ve not been an easy person to be around, I’ve not been a reliable person and I’ve not always been the nicest person so those who have stuck around, your medal is in the post.
Ultimately, we are all trying to do our best, sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we don’t act the way people want us to, and sometimes we appear mean when actually we are just trying to get by. I like to think that none of us go out of our way to be unkind or hurt people, we’re just human – flawed and vulnerable but basically, all in this together.
Wishing you all a very happy and healthy 2019.