How do I even begin to explain 2018? Beautifully unexpected? A lot like falling, both in the loveliest of ways and also in the sense that you feel a lot like you’re hurtling head first into stinging nettles without any way of stopping? 2018 has been a right old mix of both some of the best, most wonderful things life has to offer — and also the worst. But ultimately, through it all, I can tell that 23-year-old girl who began the year in tears, feeling completely lost, that by 24 she’d accomplished what seemed then like an unfathomable amount of growth. It hasn’t been an easy year — they rarely are? But I’m ending it and going into 2019 with so much strength and love in me that simply wasn’t there before. This is 2018.
In 2018 I travelled. A lot. (For me, anyway.) National Trust spots, Cardiff, Oxford (twice!), a whole lot of London trips and of course Prague and then later, a huge trip to Vancouver, Canada. Back in 2017 I’d talked about how I wanted to see so much more and make the most of all that is right on our doorstep, even those little plane hops to Europe. That, and the first time I’ve ever been to North America, happened. And I flew that 9 and a half hour flight there and then back again all by myself, might I add. They were trips full of love and memories and also a huge sense of accomplishment that I was taking charge of my life and where it was taking me — quite literally.
There was also that real sense of growing into the independence I always knew I had, but that felt a bit lost in that shift from university to… not. Vancouver felt gigantic and like I was completely out on a limb. Checking the time difference between me and my family at home and realising how the hours and days separated us, but knowing I was safe and having quality time with my favourite Canadian. Canada played its own part in not only being a breather from the rest of life right when I needed it, but also in showing me all I could do and all that was there to adventure through.
2018 was also meant to be about dating, as well as travelling. I had pledged to finally put myself out there and try the whole dating app thing, not just swiping through but actively setting up dates to meet people. We started off well and I had an actual date. And then, as so often is the case, the moment I stopped looking (or, I guess, stopped expecting pure romantic magic) it happened. And it wasn’t over an app and it wasn’t some brand new exciting acquaintance sweeping me off my feet. Instead they came back into my life and I maybe did some of the sweeping, wanting for perhaps the first time in my life to see it through, to see if this maddening thing could work. I guess that’s what they mean when they say you’ll just know.
And it has worked and that’s a heavy dose of that ‘unexpected’ I was talking about in 2018. Beautifully unexpected. I’m… in love. I’m with this person that made me feel comfortable and content from the word go, who makes me laugh and who I miss unfathomably, because — hey, spoiler alert — long distance sucks! But that love thing everyone goes on about. It’s worth it all. I had truly begun to believe I wasn’t destined for it, but here it is and, honestly, it’s been the highlight of this year for me and encourages me, not just in so many of my 2019 aspirations, but in life. Being with someone who motivates you and encourages you to be the best version of yourself? They, in my not so expert opinion, are the ones to hold onto.
Last year felt packed with loss. Losing and letting go, right when maybe I wanted to hold on most. This year is the exact opposite. There has been so much gain in my life that I feel overwhelmingly full. And to top off falling in love with a wonderful, passionate boy who I never tire of listening to even as he goes on about things I don’t necessarily hold any interest in, I’ve also fallen head over heels in love with myself. It will always be an ongoing journey, but being self-conscious and unsure of myself has taken a real step back. It no longer plagues the forefront of my mind. I’m happy in myself.
I’m more confident in my body and yes, some of that comes down to being around someone who is equally in love as he is mesmerised by me. But it’s also in finding myself in the position to put myself out there in the first place; working my body hard so that it can show off all it’s capable of; and realising that not fitting one criteria isn’t everything. I’m shocked to say I can’t actually remember the last time I woke up completely dissatisfied with myself, and they used to be an every other day kind of occurrence. It’s no easy ride, and I doubt I’ll ever be completely confident in me, but you can get closer. And it isn’t just about time, but of really working to shift your mentality. So for those out there struggling, keep trying and unlearning your toxic mentalities. Being happier in yourself is completely possible. I certainly am.
There are also a few other things of note about 2018, which perhaps don’t easily fit into all that travel and love mush. But I want to mention them, because they make me feel proud. This year I took the plunge and started driving lessons and I’m… very nearly there. Surprisingly, I actually kind of love it. I also, quite recently, gave blood for the first time and I didn’t realise how rewarding it would feel to do so. I felt empowered by the possibility of life something so simple could provide, and I’m eager to go again and again and reach milestones over the coming years. It feels amazing and getting updates about blood type and where your lil pint has been issued was kind of… mind-blowing?
2018 has been A Year. And I’m more than a little bit ready for you, 2019.