2016 review – (and surviving semester 1 as a Journalism student)

Most years I have written a year review to some kind of fashion, but this year I didn’t feel like writing one. Social media is awful for anyone with even a hint of mental health problems, and with the world basically falling apart for much of 2016, I’ve spent most of the year hiding from social media and under many blankets. Although on the day after Trump, we did have a massive debate at uni instead of discussing the finance of magazines, this restored my faith in humanity a bit. Whoever wants to discuss finance anyways, regardless of whether there’s been a major election or not? I have also been reminded that there are positives to 2016 in amongst the political and worldwide grief, there are good things too. And on a more personal level, 2016 has not been as bad as 2014 was for me – so that’s something.

This year marked one of my biggest achievements – starting (and getting a place on) my second Masters degree, in magazine Journalism. I’ve met like minded people who love to write as much as me – I didn’t think that would ever be possible. I’ve written about journalism here and here if you’re interested in that part of my life.

‘You’re bonkers for doing another one’ as I was recently told. I am, but this time it’s a good kind of bonkers. As Semester 1 ends, and I’m buried under revision and assignment deadlines, I know more than anything that this was most definitely the right decision.

This year I moved a step forward with finding out who I am –  a bit of an odd one because I always thought that I knew what I wanted and where I wanted to go, but turning my attention to writing came much later than it probably should have. I’ve always known that writing was one of my strengths, but I hadn’t considered pursuing it until a couple of years ago when I sat down and had a ‘what the fuck am I doing with my life?’ moment, after a major mental health slump. I’ve been qualified as a youth worker since 2013 and as much as I love my job, I know that I’m not as good at it as I am when I can create things with words. Short of proving someone right (not in the being complimentary about my writing kind of way) who is bad for my life and brain, this part of who I am has really come to the surface this year. But then again I’m still only 28. Plenty of time for working out the career that is right for me.

Another memorable moment this year, has been meeting people who are most definitely going to change my life forever. Not to be named here, but I hope that I’ve spoken to and thanked them all individually, or am about to. Towards the end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, I was just starting to accept my Dyspraxia properly for the first time, whilst also writing this blog. Prior to this I’d be able to talk about mental health until the cows came home, but I couldn’t even utter the word ‘Dyspraxia’ to myself, alone in a room. That I tell you, is worse than the anxiety attacks, not being listened to by a doctor aged seventeen and feeling suicidal when I was eight years old. Being able to accept who I am is something, although I am still working on – I’m so much better at than I was a few years ago, or even a year ago.Image may contain: one or more people and people standing  I’ve attended as many Dyspraxia conferences as I could (which ended up being a Dyspraxic tour of the country), went for coffees and talked about this and unrelated stuff, got as involved in DF youth as I can and despite terrible wisdom tooth pain at the time sent in my contribution to the Dyspraxia Foundation youth video.

After spending years blogging about other things elsewhere, it hadn’t dawned on me that I should write about the most important part of me I could ever talk about – what makes me, me. Doing that has lead onto everything else. This year I’ve made friends, who have shaped who I am, and more importantly made me realise that I am most definitely  not alone – life is so much better now that they are part of it. This year, a group I set up so that others could have what I have has really blossomed. I decided that I am going to give Dyspraxic teenagers, what I have now in my 20’s – acceptance and understanding. So I founded a local Dyspraxia support group for young people and in doing so have been appreciated by their parents more than I would have ever imagined. In the summer I organised a trip to the beach, even making a cake but not expecting much – and somehow the whole world turned up.Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor We ate ice cream, played rounders, shared cake and it was wonderful. I then organised a meal before Christmas, with similar success and the feeling that I have done something small to make the lives better for those young people. We’re planning to get a train to Durham next, to help with their sense of direction and travelling on public transport – and Durham is clearly the place to take people who haven’t caught a train independently before…

 

 

If you follow me on twitter or instagram, you’ll know all about the addition of two kittens into my life this year (sorry for all the cat photos you’ve been subjected to.) I took on Biscuit and Amber in September after their mother had been abandoned and threatened with drowning, and they really have transformed mine and my families lives. If there was one positive thing I’ve done for my mental health this year, it’s to get cats. (Just don’t ask me about the extra anxiety I’ve developed about their safety – mental health lies to you, even if you have cats) I dread to think what I’d be like if I ever became a parent. But Biscuit and Amber have really settled in, and I couldn’t imagine my life without them.

Image may contain: cat and indoor

I spent one of the last days of 2016 with one of my favourite groups of people. When I was growing up Gateshead youth assembly became particularly important for my acceptance and the feeling that I could fit in. For the last couple of years, I’ve been one half of a duo who’ve organised a reunion for everyone whose left the youth assembly, and this years was just as successful as the last.

So, 2016 for me can be summed as the development of friendships (old and new) that really do outweigh all the crap ones.

Things I want in 2017?

  1. No-one to die or to get diagnosed with scary illnesses.
  2. To pass my Masters degree
  3. To get paid for writing WORDS
  4. For my little Dyspraxia group to grow, so that they are self run and lead, without me always being there or offering the lead.
  5. To see more of my friends, more often – simply because they are all wonderful and I don’t thank them enough. Get in touch to get in the diary.
  6. To learn to drive, I have a driving instructor, now I just need the motivation (and not to be terrified of anything on four wheels)
  7. Finish the book (yes, I’m writing a book and have been for a while – it will get finished soon, providing there are no more major life distractions, although a masters is probably one…)
  8. For MH to bugger off on holiday (not going to happen I know, but I can only dream…)
  9. Go to a friends wedding without anxiety coming too.
  10. Have enough money to be able to move out (given that all of my career attempts don’t tend to be well paid, this could be a few years off yet..)

Thank you to everyone who has been part of my 2016 and to those who haven’t ran away when it all seemed to fall apart, get in touch so I can make number five happen…

 

 

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