For the past two years, the one semi-consistent thing I’ve done with this blog is write myself a letter at the end of each year. A letter explaining how I’m dealing with life mentally and physically, and what the past three hundred and sixty-five days have brought me. It started in 2014 and carried on in 2015. I wanted to monitor my progression and see just what a difference a year can truly make. So here I am again, about to read over what I had to say for myself when 2016 was just around the corner and reflect on what a year it’s been. This one’s for you, Alice of 2017.
It’s safe to say 2016 has been pretty turbulent, both from a personal perspective and in the grand scheme of our world. Between Brexit and Donald Trump, the many heartbreaking deaths of some of our most iconic heroes, and the upheaval and injustices all around the world, it has quite literally felt like hell on Earth. A shit storm, if you will. And that’s not mentioning 2016 Alice’s own rollercoaster of a year. (I hate, hate, hate that metaphor, but I can never think of anything better. Maybe you can, future me.)
A lot has happened and I want to list some of the highlights, because goddamn we need some positivity up in here. So. Highlights… (We can focus on the negatives a bit later.)
- 5-1oth Jan: The magical trip to Paris (including Disney) finally happened with Sarah.
- 29th Jan: I got my first teeny tiny tattoo!
- 6th March: A new main man came into my life, my nephew Finley.
- April: Got my first writing job at Maximum Pop!
- 2nd May: Dissertation hand in day (it was the 3rd, but gurl got this), and 27th May, the day I found out a solid 12,000+ words had earned me a First. Cue lots of excitable jumping up and down whilst screaming.
- May-June: The post-finishing-all-uni-work-ever-but-still-living-in-London days were the best ever, filled with sunny pedalo dates and BBQs and generally getting slozzled with some of the best people I know.
- 16th June: Uni results: First Class Honours, baby!
- 23rd June: Decided to take up book blogging (which is where you are right now, hello blog!)
- 11th July: Graduation, which I wrote all about.
- 24th-31st Aug: I got to hang with my favourite Canadian for a week for the second time and show her the wonders of Bath, Wells and Bristol.
- 16th Sep: Making the dreaded step back to retail work and realising I don’t utterly hate everything about it. I’m earning money for the ~future~ and the people are nice. Swings and roundabouts.
- 31st Dec: New Years Eve reunited with my uni chums, Pippa and Daisy! (I’m preemptively putting this in, because it’s going to be amazing regardless.)
Skeletally, put out neatly like that, it sounds like a fairly good year. That’s the great thing about highlights; they can make almost anything look epic, set to just the right music with exceptional cutaways.
Admittedly, End of 2016 Alice is being particularly cynical right now. 2016 has been good. The first six months at least. In the 2015 letter Past Alice talked about how amazing second year turned out to be and how third year of university was shaping up to be even busier and more fun, with a lot of hard work crammed in between. And it was that. The dreaded dissertation was a hurdle that — shock horror — you actually began to really enjoy… Once you’d made the executive decision to completely ignore your imbecile of a personal tutor and go with your gut, that is. And the passion and effort you put into every last word truly paid off. Actually, all of your worries and stresses and existential questions seemed to draw to a positive conclusion in the form of your rather sparkly First Class degree. (Never going to tire of saying that, to be honest. Sorry, not sorry.)
Academically, you’re the most proud of yourself you’ve ever been. Both Past, Present and Futre Alice know that you’ve (I’ve? This is weird) never been a high achiever until that exhilarating day in June, in which your mum excitedly shoved a helium ‘graduate’ balloon into your hand, along with a bottle of your first love, Prosecco. That was probably the biggest high (excuse the pun) of 2016. You just weren’t exactly ready for the fall afterwards. Because, Future Alice, back here at the end of 2016, you’re feeling a level of sad and lonely that seems a little deeper than you’ve ever felt it before. Because, even though you have a job that’s not all bad and aspirations to go places and mould yourself into the writer you want to be, life after university isn’t easy. You’re struggling. You miss your friends there; you miss the bustling hum of London, and every time you make a day trip back your heart just feels somehow… bigger, fuller. You’re more alive there. And I think that’s a mix of not just the place, but those people who, in 2015, you talked about bringing out the best in you. Life living at home with your parents is kind of sucking the happiness out of you. Not that they’re dementors or anything… It’s just hard going from that level of independence to being treated like a child and not being respected or even appreciated the way you deserve a lot of the time.
You’re also dwelling on a lot of things that went on in third year and university as a whole. It’s probably only right to reminisce, even if it wasn’t six months ago you were graduating in the first place. Never too early to miss something, right? Especially something so entirely responsible for shaping who you are, who you’re becoming right this moment in time. But currently I’m questioning a lot. Wishing I’d gone with it here and said a little less there. And wondering, more importantly, what exactly happens next and will I inevitably lose the people I thought were It for me and my life. It’s sad and scary and feels a lot like being plunged into deep, dark open water i.e. my actual worst nightmare.
To a degree, then, it does feel an awful lot like the perks of 2016 have been largely overshadowed by the last six months where everything has got increasingly worse, especially in regards to your/my mental health. But I’m hoping things can only go up from here and that, as always, the ups and downs of life are huge learning curves; both as reminders that I can do this, and that I’ve picked myself up from being somewhere like it before. And, to end on a positive (because Present Alice needs that), through all these past challenges your learning to accept and even love yourself has become stronger and stronger. Yes, there are bad days, but you finally see your worth now. I see it and that’s all that really matters.