A couple of weeks ago, I met up with three of my friends to set fire to 2016. In the garden, under the full moon, with candles. We each wrote down what we want to leave behind in 2016, and what we welcome for 2017, then we read them out to one another and set fire to them. It was cleansing and very good to focus our attention on something tangible, rather than howling at the horrors of the year (though that is also valid and important). Now, as the sun sets on New Year’s Eve, I wish I could say I’m feeling cheerful and ready for the year to come, but I’ve got a disgusting cold and have had to cancel my plans, as I’m unlikely to be awake at midnight. My impulse is to try to counter that with relentless positivity, but even I can’t manage that on its own, so I’m trying to look at the year in balance.
It’s been a weird one, so much has happened. The seemingly endless onslaught of celebrity deaths has been horrible: many of us have lost a hero this year (Victoria Wood and Carrie Fisher hit me particularly hard), and seen our friends lose theirs. The EU referendum, and subsequent rise of Theresa May, and the US presidential election have taken their toll, and while the full consequences remain to be seen, from what has happened so far, the outlook is bleak. The Orlando massacre struck the LGBT community, a reminder that plenty of people still don’t want us around. People I love have been ill, seriously ill, and that hit me hard. Lots of awful, awful things have happened.
But, it hasn’t been all bad. I’ve seen a lot of articles going round about good things that have happened this year, such as this one and this one. My life, too, has had more good in it than bad: I know this, because I write a list, every night, of good things that happened in my day, to remind me that even bad days have a glimmer of good in them.
My brother graduated from university, and although getting his dissertation done was a struggle, I couldn’t be more proud. He got a job, and seems happy there. My mum was so unhappy in her job for months on end that she quit in May. This has turned out great for her, but I wish she hadn’t had to go through that misery. My Nan had her hip replacement replaced, which took a long time for her to recover from but is a massive improvement on the pain she was in before it. The second half of 2015 was, for me, overshadowed by the breakup I went through, so the earlier months of this year were a continuation of that, but in a positive way. I’ve come out to more people this year, and now almost everyone I know knows, including at work, which is so freeing and good, and I’ve had some brilliant conversations about it. Coming out has been one of the best things I’ve done.
I’ve been on a lot of adventures. Getting better and more confident at driving has meant I’ve been able to go further afield without worrying about train times, so I’ve visited friends and gone to National Trust properties and generally had a lovely time. I went interrailing with Lauren, which was marvellous, and scary, and fun, and brave, and I saw so much. I went to Scotland with my family, and it was spectacular in so many ways. It was a pretty damn good summer. I saw lots of exciting birds and other wildlife this year, read some terrific books and seen some wonderful theatre and music. I wrote some really good things here, and I look forward to writing more, and better.
I’ve made a lot of new friends, and been brave and gone to things where I’ve never met any of the other people before, and I’ve been to more parties this year than since university, and in return I’ve met some fantastic people. I’m trying to be less shy, and this has been an exercise in fake-it-til-you-make-it, and I’m definitely making progress! Although I’ve only done Spinster Walking Club once, I have high hopes for its progression next year, and I look forward to friends bringing friends. I joined my first ever book club, and met new people there, too. I’ve been trying really hard to ignore my insecurities and instead be trusting and hopeful in my friendships, and working hard to maintain them. Now I really feel that I’m surrounded by good, kind, fun people who support me and make me happy and expand my view of the world.
Without my chosen family – my friends, the relatives who I actually connect with – this year would have been dull, and bad. So in 2017, let’s show up for ourselves and others. Fight fascism, do good where we can, be brave. Love fiercely, and loudly. It’s the only way to get through what’s to come.
what better picture to illustrate a positive look back on 2016, than an excellent selfie in which I have a ribbon printed with JOY JOY JOY round my head?