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What. A. Year.

I think I join pretty much everyone in breathing a sigh of relief that this year is finally coming to an end. It’s been a never ending journey full of tears and death, joy and laughter, all bundled into this single year. A rollercoaster of emotions and a tidal wave of hurdle after hurdle. Yet, here we are, we made it through.

I didn’t think the year could get any worse after how it started. If I think back to this time last year, it began with not one but two funerals. We said goodbye to my grandpa and my great uncle. The Christmas period then had been hell – spent by my brother’s bedside as he recovered from two strokes and pneumonia as a result of meningitis, whilst at the same time we were grieving for our grandpa. That was bad.

You would think then, that this year could only get better right? I remember at the time thinking I wouldn’t make any new year’s resolutions because the goal was merely to get through every day. My best friend and I always write cards to each other with the saying “this year will be your year”. Inevitably, in each year for both of us there seems to be some major, life changing event, but nonetheless, we repeat the phrase every single year because we never lose hope. Let’s be honest, 2020 has chucked us so many low points. Lockdowns, Covid, job losses, death. My aunts passed away, my grandma passed away. The hardest thing for me personally was knowing my grandma died alone in a care home.. and then having to film and edit her funeral – well let’s just say having to watch a funeral over and over again is not the most warming experience. Having to do it for your grandma is even worse.

Despite that, despite all of those lows – this year has also shown true spirit, true values, true love and true friendship. The high points have been really high. My brother is now back at uni, his meningitis almost a distant memory. My art business took off in ways I couldn’t have imagined. The scariest thing I did was to leave a job I was comfortable in… and move hundreds of miles away on my own for a brand-new opportunity. Moving to a city I didn’t know, where none of my friends or close family were. Taking a leap of faith is one thing. Taking a leap of faith the day before the country went into a national lockdown? Slightly different. But I did it. I found my voice too and started writing. Something I never thought I would do, but when I started writing I found, I couldn’t stop. Doing new things, different things has given me joy, purpose.

As the pandemic took over the world, people still found a reason to smile, to laugh, to live. I have spent so much time on my own, yet in that time I have made new connections, whether that’s a new friend in the employer brand space or a fellow artist. People willing to stop and have a conversation about what they love the most. Walking around my new home up north (Manchester for you curious kittens), is wonderful and gives me so much pleasure. Gone are the days when I would plug in headphones as soon as I walked out the door. Now, I leave them behind. People here are so friendly. Yesterday when I went out for a walk, even with the tier 4 news looming, there was so much happiness in the air. People busking away. There were these two little boys singing on the corner, one on his guitar which made everyone walking by stop and smile. It makes a stark difference to the coldness of London, where I lived before, a city I love for all its glory and architecture, but it is cold. I once did this challenge where I smiled and said good morning to a different person every day on the underground for 100 days. I think the majority of people thought I was on something, mad, or a bit of both. Up here, I haven’t gone out once without someone saying hello, or ‘hello love’. Even the concierge, whom I am pretty sure thinks I am a pest with the amount of parcels I get, always has a smile and a kind word. People make this city wonderful.

And, I have also gained so much too, from my friends. I feel lucky to have friends around the world, and don’t care about the hour when I am chatting over Facetime to my girlfriends in Atlanta or Houston. Leaving my last job turned colleagues into friends and in one case, someone who I nickname my surrogate big sister (you know who you are). On Facetime, I love seeing my friend’s kids play up to the camera, whether it’s a big toothy grin or waving at Aunty Claire or showing me some rather interesting moves. I love it all. Relationships have never been so powerful as they have been this year, nor so important.

When at the 11th hour I found out I would be alone for Christmas, my family and friends rallied round me, reminding me why I love them so much in the first place. I have done many murder mysteries (for some reason always playing the character of a stinking rich, flamboyant, nude-painting artist, is someone trying to tell me something?) been involved in plenty of quizzes (I never win) and eaten so much I am starting to become as round as the Terry’s Chocolate Oranges I love a little too fondly. I miss seeing my friends and family in actual person, of course I do and I doubt I will see them for months. But I don’t feel alone even if I physically am right now.

It has been a strange year. When my mum was Facetiming me last night as I picked her far more knowledgeable brains on how to make an Indian rice dish when I didn’t have the right ingredients (typical me, but it still tasted wonderful), she commented that I looked really happy. And that’s because weirdly, I am. I might be physically alone and isolated and having another party for one on New Year’s Eve. (I am getting good at the solo party thing, I have done solo Easter, solo Christmas, now NYE. I may make it a thing). But it’s also been a year where I have just embraced everything that life has thrown at me. A year where I have started enjoying ironing and hoovering thanks to the very cool iron I have and a stick hoover that makes me feel like a child when doing the housework because I zoom around the flat (I never thought I would find myself writing a sentence where I admit I like ironing, my mother would be proud.) A year where I dance around my flat like no one’s watching to loud, super cheesy music (mainly Kylie Minogue, she’s a queen) because no one is watching. Well except perhaps the neighbour who can see right into my living room, thank goodness tier 4 means I can’t meet him. Yet for all of the strangeness, I feel oddly content. Because this year has given me clarity on what’s truly important in life – how I live my life, and who is in it.

2020 might have been the biggest pile of poop – but it reminded me of how great the people are in my life and given me perspective on what matters most. So to all those people – thank you for being there, and for being you.

I am going into 2021 not making resolutions, but making plans for things I have to do. Books on my shelf waiting to be read, ideas waiting to be drawn, stories ready to be written and not a diet in sight.

Whatever 2021 might throw at us, I feel ready.

So I wish you all the most wonderful new year ahead. I hope you feel as ready as I do. And if not, just enjoy the ride.


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