EVERY YEAR, on social media, I see people talking about how terrible the year was. Normally, they assume it was a collective experience: it’s impossible that anybody out of the 7.4 billion people in the world possibly had an ounce of happiness.
I find it exhausting. Yes, life is hard. Yes, every year will be hard. Yes, as we grow older, we notice all the awful things happening more than we used to, especially with politics, equal rights, economics, etc…
However, we’re here ONCE. And I, personally, intend to enjoy it. So even though I had some really awful moments in 2017, and so did everyone (probably), it’s absolutely untrue (and a really bad attitude) to assume that every single person had a bad year.
I’m at that weird in-between stage in my life where my education is finally finished and now I get to decide how I move forward. Not feeling quite ready to settle into a permanent career, but needing to somehow make a decent income, I made some really risky decisions this year. I also made some emotional achievements. Overall, I had a good year (TAKE THAT TWITTER) and so here I am sharing some of my favourite achievements.
- I GRADUATED UNIVERSITY WITH A 2:1.
University feels like a lifetime ago at this stage.
I did not particularly enjoy university. It didn’t live up to my expectations and I wasn’t who I imagined I would be during it. I thought I’d suddenly become this really outgoing popular nerdy kind of girl when I joined a bunch of like-minded literature loving classmates but instead, I was still shy little old me.
It took 4 years to be okay with that. I felt so insecure at university. I watched all these people constantly communicating, going out, chatting across campus, sitting with groups of people in the library and I felt like… an outcast.
Then, as soon as I left campus for the day, I was me again. I went home to my husband, I spent hours and hours laughing with my friends, I caught up with family, I was in musicals, I was busy. But the next morning, when I woke up and cycled to uni, I felt unlike myself again.
So I am so glad it is over. So glad.
And from the 4 years, I left with two incredible friends who make me feel more myself than I could ever ask for. So all those moments feeling unlike me were worth it when I was with them. This contrast taught me that I will never be the person that is going to have dozens of friends because my personality doesn’t suit that. It won’t work. So, now, I am so grateful for the handful of friends I do have because while they’re small in numbers, they’re massive in friendship.
The education side of it was… interesting, too.
I studied Creative Writing, Journalism and English Literature. While I am 100% sure that this was the exact course I needed to do, I do feel like my university did not invest in this course as they should have. I feel absolutely unequipped to ever be a journalist, I have no idea how the publishing industry works (as well as having to teach myself to write a novel as the longest piece we ever wrote in creative writing was 3,000 words) and if I ever wanted to go into a career with my English Literature degree, I would most likely have to do another year of education to be specifically qualified for whatever it is I am to choose.
However, it was still a very challenging course, I learned a lot about literature, history and myself, I became a more rounded person with concrete opinions based on fact and evidence and I definitely became a better writer.
Graduating with a 2:1 was miraculous, especially since the whole entire year I thought the grading system was completely different than originally explained to us at the beginning of term. I am so thankful that I achieved my goal and it will hopefully open up a lot of doors for me in the future.
2. I started my own business.
Since Christmas 2016, I had this wild dream of creating my own candle company. I watched all these American/Canadian companies launch their bookish businesses and I had a strong sense of belonging. I wanted to buy everything in their shops but there were 2 problems: a) shipping prices and b) they didn’t capture all the fiction works that I was interested in.
It seemed obvious that this was something I had to give a go. Having no experience in business whatsoever, I realise that it did seem absolutely crazy.
I created the shop Madame Fiction (link: here) which, at the moment, specialises in candles inspired by books, TV shows and movies (such as Harry Potter, Gilmore Girls and Hamilton) but I have also dipped my toes in creating sugar scrubs, coasters and Christmas tree ornaments.
It was a rocky start. I had no idea what I was doing. I invested ALL of my personal savings into the business and was totally stressing as I watched my bank account drain as I made more and more mistakes in the actual making of my candles. I probably wasted hundreds of pounds on stupid mistakes. But October came and I finally broke even (4 months after starting) and since then, the shop has been so busy and everything I make now is a profit which is an absolute blessing and I do feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
3. I went back to Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.
This might seem like a weird achievement but to me, it was a huge milestone.
A tragic event brought me back to Minnesota and I can’t say I enjoyed my time out there but it was so important for me to engage with the feelings I left there.
The last time I was in Minnesota was difficult. It brought back all the memories of June 24th, 2010, the day I left my childhood home and had to move across the world. The day, to me, has connotations of complete loss. I felt like I lost my friends, my future, my home, my neighborhood, my memories and all the things I was working so hard for.
Going back to Inver Grove Heights had me feeling sick but as soon as we landed, I had an overwhelming sense of peace. I was able to connect myself, as a stronger and emotionally healthier adult, to all the things that broke me.
I met up with my middle school best friends, people that meant the world to me, and I was myself. I was who I used to be. We laughed, we were honest with each other, we were still friends. I left that night feeling elated, important, confident.
I went back to the place where I felt I lost myself. Being there, I found myself again and managed to bring me home.
4. I finished the second draft of my novel.
I have been writing my novel for two and a half years, on and off. Finishing university, I was able to fly through it and I finished the majority of the first draft and the entirety of the second draft in 6 months (which I think is pretty quick).
My novel is like my baby. It means so much to me. I’m extremely happy with the result I have at the moment and am hoping it can only improve from here.
I even gave it to family members a few days ago (still waiting on them to finish + feedback…) but it’s all been positive so far which both breaks my heart and fills it. To show something so personal to people is so difficult, so scary, almost mortifying but the right thing to do.
The next step is to edit the third draft according to feedback and also email a bunch of literary agents and hopefully get on the right track to get the book published.
So, that was my year. Well, parts of it. In and out of those achievements, there were lots of little ones: going to the gym more regularly, opening up with my friends about my feelings so our friendship can be stronger, reading 50 novels, discovering Hamilton, growing closer to my family, laughing a lot, visiting new churches, learning how to cook really good meals, standing up for myself.
I am excited for 2018 and all it might bring.