2016 was really terrible for a lot of people. We lost some great people like George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Prince and David Bowie. We had Brexit, we had Trump elected president and for god's sake we even got a trailer for the horror movie that would have been the whole year. Things were so crazy that with only a few remaining days in December we had Fund Me accounts set up to protect Betty White from 2016.
In all fairness, I've had worse years than 2016. Worse New Years Eve's perhaps not, but by far I've had some craptastic years in the past.
2016 for me was kind of a long list of firsts; new experiences, new people, new friends and so many memories I can't even begin to count them. It was varied, it had colours and it was a great year for me as I was settling into my new life in Sydney.
2017 on the other hand seems to feel a lot like it was more of a blue/grey. At least when I reflect on it today.
So, to get this thing started, let's start with the biggest thing that I learnt in 2017:
1. Finding someone to love will not solve your issues with insecurity.
I know that this seems super obvious, and in truth I always sort of knew that this was true already, but this is the first year that I have ever really had any real experience with a relationship. I am in the first proper relationship I have ever been in (romantically, I mean) and so with that have come the very real adjustments I have had to make as a result.
Don't get me wrong, I love the person that I am with. I hope he doesn't read this and freak out, but I can really see a future with him. I feel, for the first time in a long time and in a different way, that I am finally feeling something that I have spent my entire life hoping to feel. I feel loved and loved in return. But he isn't a unicorn - he can't instantly fix all of my problems irrespective of whether they are external or internal, and that I suppose is something I have never truly appreciated before now.
My biggest issue with commitment stems from my own insecurities. I am forever terrified that I will never be enough. I will never be the smartest, have the best body, be the most fun, or be the most relaxed. I may never be the best in bed, I may be dramatic and I may even be clingy from time to time. I will always do my best to be above my fears and to be the best person that I can be, but for god's sake I will never be perfect.
The most important lesson that I have learnt relating my insecurities and for handling that anxiety, at least personally, is that sometimes you just have to keep calm and carry on. Really, that's what you have to do.
My fear is that he will find someone he thinks is better and he will leave me - that's terrifying for me. Its happened to me before and it hurt like hell - and that was a much lower level of care from me back then. I will survive if it happened, but I really don't want to have to because in 27 years I genuinely feel like I've had my share of that kind of hurt.
So, I have to trust. Be positive, be honest, communicate and just trust.
I'm on a new planet, this is new to me.
2. Sometimes you have to fall and its hard to get over it.
Something that I started in 2016, in my year of epic firsts, was pole dancing. It has been phenomenal for my strength and fitness but also for my self confidence. In 2017 I have managed to do a lot of things that I never would have been able to before; things like film myself doing a Chair and Lap dance routine that made me feel really sexy and I had fun doing, in spite of how my body looks in reality.
I do technically have the body of Venus (see Botticelli), though that isn't what is considered beautiful in 2017 and it has taken 27 years of working on it for me to be ok with that. And so I am.
But what I found in 2017 after diving right into the world of Pole with a passion, is that when you fall you can hit a plateau in learning and that is so hard to move past.
During practice on a move I had done plenty of times before, I fell from an inverted position and although I didn't really hurt myself much more than my pride, what has been the most affected is my fear of falling. This very real problem has been obstructive for me in pushing through and reaching new heights and nailing new positions.
I am not over it still even though the fall itself was months ago and I am increasingly frustrated by my stilted ability to progress more. Unlike Martial Arts there is no test or new belt earnt, though in Pole there are pre-requisites for each higher level that really just aim to gauge where you at in your learning and how you will fare in the higher levels. You can't be a beginning in a level 5 class, and you wouldn't want to be because if you're anything like me you will probably just feel embarrassed. No one wants to be the worst student in the class.
But every time I go to practice I remind myself that I won't feel this way forever. Eventually, if I keep trying and keep working hard, I will overcome that fear of falling. It is all in my head, after all.
3. My desire to read was strongly linked to my need to escape.
It is not as if 2017 as a year has been much busier or with more going on than usual that I was stuck into, but one thing I have noticed even if times were hard was that I always felt like I was actually living. Whilst 2016 still had that romantic element of being new in Sydney and touring, by 2017 I was established here - this was my life now, the real world.
Every single year since I was in single digit age, I have read heaps of books. I've been tallying the amount over about the last 10 years and on average I can read anywhere from 50 to 100 books - depending on what I read and how long it takes me. In a year that I read a larger book, take Stephen King's IT, for example, which takes me an entire month to get through it may be towards the lower end of the scale. But this year, 2017, I will be stretching to read even 35 books for the entire year - that is an incredibly low amount for someone like me.
For the first time in my life, even if things weren't always great, it always felt like I was living. This was life. With the exception of 2016 and 2014 when I lived in perpetual Wonderland, every other year has mostly felt like just waiting for my life to begin.
When you feel like you're living in Limbo, it isn't strange to reach for books about fantastic far off places, or passionate romances, or even horrifying subject matter to make you feel more alive. There is a reason that the concept of 'living vicariously' exists and it really is to experience things that you otherwise wouldn't.
2017 might not have been the best year I've ever had, and it definitely wasn't the worst, but it was but for whatever reason it never really felt like I wasn't living. Almost ironically in some cases, to tell the truth. Nonetheless however I did not read anywhere near as much as I usually would and even though the why of that makes some sense to me, I am still a bit ashamed of that. I don't like that I didn't read - that is not who I am.
I might have to try a little harder coming into 2018.
4. It hurts to be bullied, alienated and to lose friends at any age.
I have been bullied before. I'm that sort of person, I can be submissive and I have more than once been a target for manipulative and dominant personalities to bully and occasionally push into doing things I don't want to. I don't mean doing bad things or taking drugs I don't want to take, not that sort of things. I mean apologising when I shouldn't have to, being made to feel guilty when I don't deserve it and being upset for the way that I am treated. I can name at least a handful of people in my past that fit the criteria.
This year the bully in question is someone that I genuinely used to like, admire and respect. Not so much anymore. Or rather I think they are an absolute wanker and I have zero nice things to say about them personally.
The frustrating thing is that the reason they have decided that I deserve to be bullied and treated poorly isn't even to do with me. They decided to hate on me because someone that both the bully and I were close to had a falling out with said bully. Not because of me, but because of the relationship dynamic between them. Apparently simply by association, and by misinformation of something I supposedly said (I guarantee you it was out of context), I'm copping the backlash and have become an outsider at my own place of work. However true it turns out to be or not, I am additionally feeling as if I have lost friends that I used to feel close to. That really sucks, especially when I don't deserve it.
Even at 27, being bullied and being alienated (especially at work) takes a big toll. The past few weeks have been digging me into a depression that I am frantically trying to backpedal away from. I can't change those peoples' opinions of me, I can't force them to like me again or be my friends again, and I probably will never feel as comfortable at work again. But what I can do, or at least try to do, is to let it go.
It doesn't feel easy right now especially when people I used to feel so close to seem to not want much to do with me, and that's a hard pill to swallow, but what else can I do?
Now, just a note regarding the bullying aspect in the workplace - bullying is never ok irrespective of whether it happens at work, school or socially. I did speak to someone about it and that has been helpful, but the reason I mention it is because no matter how much you rally against it the damage is usually already done. Bullying is psychologically damaging no matter how you look at it and it is no less so for an adult than a child, nor is it any more acceptable to lose friends and alienate people in the process.
5. I am still not ready for children.
When my mum was the age that I am now she already had me and was probably pregnant with my younger brother, and I'm only 27. That doesn't seem super strange as an age historically, but in 2017 when statistically people are waiting longer to start families that seems so young to me.
My mum got married at 23 and had me by the time she was 25. I'm 27 and I don't have any clue what to do with babies when people had them to me. It gives me anxiety just thinking about it and over the past few years my initially nonchalant fear of pregnancy has increased at least tenfold. Not the least perpetuated by the sudden amount of women around me with babies or pregnant that seem to be popping out of the woodwork. I'm very happy for all of them, but I can't deny that it is freaking me out.
I have pretty much always wanted to have kids. I am not always maternal and I rarely feel 'clucky', but I have always considered that I would have my own children someday when I was ready for it and with the right person. Secretly I am hopeful that I found the right person but I am so far from ready I don't even really know where to begin.
I don't really see myself as an adult all the time. Though steamrolling towards 30, I don't feel like the kind of adult I always thought I would need to be before I had my own kids. At most I feel like I'm masquerading as an adult and when they realise that I'm a fraud maybe I'll get into some trouble. I can't be trusted to raise a child - I feel like I still am one! I'd argue that my generation has had the most extended childhood in history and that that is not inherently a bad thing, but it is simultaneously concerning to me that I feel like I am reaching an age that I should do things that I am really not ready to do.
Mixed with the fact that I am already arguably pretty young for my age I wonder when I will be ready to have kids and if I should start to be worried by the way that I feel.
It is not all my inability to 'adult' that makes me feel so unready, but also the fact that my job isn't very satisfying, I don't have much money saved, and that I live in a share house that also logically makes pregnancy seem like a bad idea. I am not financially stable to support myself and another human on my sole income, I'll have to find somewhere else to live if I have a baby and I don't have someone to babysit when I go back to work. I can't go on maternity leave at half pay - I can't afford to pay my rent let alone by any food!
I change my mind every week but what frightens me really ranges between the thought that I don't want a baby yet, that I should be more mature, that I could be running out of time now, and that I am not established enough for my age. The thought of unplanned pregnancy gives me some wicked anxiety but then I don't think that's changed much over time.
6. You can become afraid of illness.
I've been sick and injured quite a bit this year, like a lot more so than other previous years and I worry that I might have become a buddy hypochondriac in response. I practically live at Chemist Warehouse and I'm obsessed with taking vitamins now in a way I never have been before. I want to become bionic and impervious to sickness and pain which logically is impossible without becoming part actual cyborg. Not a logical solution.
For the first half of the year I was sick alot. What started as a cold morphed into a long lasting lite flu and eventually became a chest infection and apparently now I have asthma. No, really.
The worst time for this sickness really was back in May/June whilst I was away in Jordan and Israel. I wasn't 100% before I left but Jordan especially was really difficult and I experienced one of the toughest days travelling in my entire life that I genuinely did not think that I would be able to continue on. I was in Petra, one of the seven wonders of the archaeological world, and I felt so ill and defeated that I did not think that I would be able to make it.
It was hard but I forced myself in the end and it was worth it even if it didn't do much for my recovery. I took so many painkillers and anti-inflammatory tablets over the course of the week that I started to feel kind of sick in a different way and I had so many mouth ulcers I could barely eat.
When I got back I had the antibiotics and then the probiotics and the asthma medication. I had x-rays and sleep medication because I'd become lightly insomniac too. Plus all the medications for the other medical things I don't really want to mention because they're embarrassing. Then all the pole-related muscle injuries, the tail bone injury from falling down the stairs and the really fun weekend I spent in agony with back muscle spasms.
My mum tells me that every now and then the body will just take a bit of a hit and you will have streams of bad luck with health. I may have suffered a bit but at least the issues that I've had haven't been permanent or fundamentally damaging. Painful, inconvenient and frustrating for sure, but at least I am still alive and I haven't crippled myself just yet.
7. Show business extends further than you think.
Back in about April I had the misfortune of being picked out of the crowd to, what I would later come to understand, be the villain for a radio reality piece.
I've never spoken about it publicly except on the radio because it was a pretty horrible experience at the time, but I had to make the decision to take or give a sum of money. I spent a very stressful 48 hours thinking it over and seeking advice, only to have to make the hard decision to keep the money. Weighing up all of my options I realised that I could use the money to help more people, not just myself, than if I gave it away. I was also informed prior to giving my decision that no matter what I decided that the other person was going to be looked after, and I made it part of my agenda to also offer them support as well.
Of course, doing something like that will divide a lot of people in the public and for about a week or two after the broadcast I strongly avoided the radio stations posts. I did not want to see the nasty comments that I heard second hand were there. Really nasty things too like the suggestion that I should jump of a bridge or do myself similar harm.
As much of a villain I may have come across to the public who lacked context, the other person came off much better and managed to crowd fund significantly more money than they would have received from me. They also were made to look like a complete angel and/or victim in comparison to my supposed selfishness. What most people don't know is that I gave away most of the money that I received which had been my goal in taking it at all - I managed to help people that I hadn't been able to before and that made a huge difference for them. And though I did keep some for myself it felt more like feeble payment for the pain the entire social experiment had caused me, or rather a little blood money for playing the role they'd cast for me. I wasn't the hero, giving the money up wouldn't have made me look great to a bunch of strangers, but being the villain allowed me to help more people including the person that on the surface it seemed I was taking from.
My point here is that take anything you see or hear in the media that purports to be 'reality' with a grain of salt. Its very easy to assume and to run your mouth off about someone you don't know without knowing their context. I had to learn that the hard way though it was certainly once in a lifetime experience!
8. I don't know what I want from life.
Growing up I used to know the basic things and the fantasy things that I wanted in life: To fall in love, get married, have a daughter, have my own place like Bridget Jones' apartment, be a kick-ass archaeologist working at the British Museum who got to go on adventures not unlike Indiana Jones.
Being an adult now I have no idea what I am supposed to be doing, how or when. Should I have kids and be married by now? Is it ok to not be working in archaeology anymore, and if so, what else do I want to be doing?
I'm not satisfied with my job these days and in all honesty it is because, with all honesty, I feel it is a little beneath me. I think that I am smart, I definitely work hard, and I want to make a difference in some way. I'm also passionate at the core so by not feeling passionate about what I do feels like a big waste to me. I'm sure the feeling is not unknown to my generation, but its hard not to feel like my creativity, passion and intellect that I've worked so hard to have and am so proud of is kind of wasted in my job. I wish that I knew what I wanted to do for work now but whatever is right for me needs to leave me with at least a little satisfaction.
Considering how many hours a week we spend at work I don't think its wrong to want to be satisfied, at least sometimes, even if you can't always enjoy your job.
I just don't know what the hell I want to do anymore and maybe I need something like a spirit quest to figure that out.
9. Credit cards aren't as scary as I thought.
I have never had a credit card before this year and considering I have been scared by the concept of debt and debt collectors, other people's bad credit card experiences and the portrayal of them in films its not really that bizarre that I never had one before. Easy debt by spending money that belonged to the bank, and not myself, seemed like a really bad idea that could so easily get out of hand. What if I got into big debt? What if they repossessed my car?
Well, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and I actually kind of like my credit card. So far it seems to be making me life a bit easier. I've done my Christmas shopping already and on my way to paying it off the quickest I can. Combined with my fantastic new budget, having the credit card has actually given me the ability to better control not only my spending but also my life a bit better. Of course, assuming that I don't happen to freak out and make it rain on something I don't really need unless its a legitimate emergency.
10. Christmas really is magical.
I've always loved Christmas, and it has always had that magic quality to it when it comes to December no matter where I was in the world.
I've spent years away from home though this year I am excited to go back. I do need the time away from all the BS that I have been through lately.
There really is a reason that so many Christmas movies are based around learning lessons, recapturing the meaning of Christmas or love or family, and dreams coming true. Christmas is clean, wholesome fun in most respects and something about it always fills me with excitement and a sort of sense of renewal and rejuvenation. Think of it as reverting to your inner child for a bit of a wash and dry before going back out into the world for a new year and giving it another good try.
Its also why people who hate Christmas or have traumatic Christmas memories or are family-less or homeless are so heartbreaking. Christmas is for miracles and heartwarming experiences, not misery. Its a very different holiday to Halloween and that's part of why I like them both so much.
Somehow no matter how old I get it still feels magical to me. This year especially since the season is barely beginning and most of the stress and anxiety of Christmas shopping is over, I have my little tree up and I added some new Christmas songs to my growing collection.
I also really feel like I need it; Christmas feels like a warm blanket coming over me on a cold night - its comforting and helpful. I hope that it never changes for me.
It is November now and I am crawling towards the end of the year like a wounded dog with my tail between my legs. I feel physically and psychologically beaten, desperate for the sweet relief of the Christmas season and very prepared to turn over a new leaf for 2018.
I cant change what has happened this year and it absolutely wouldn't be right to do so. I can shake off the trauma of this year, bury the dead relationships I couldn't save, and welcome the birth of a new opportunity to continue my everlasting tradition of attempting to better myself and be a good person.
As premature as it seems with still about 6 weeks of the year to go, here are some goals for 2018:
- Make a new friend
- Find a new job / a new career passion
- Don't let bullies get to me
- Continue to learn from my mistakes
- Work to overcome my fear of falling/hurting myself and progress with Pole
- Work to be less fearful of my health (but continue to look after myself)
- Manage my insecurities and how they affect my relationships
- Learn a new skill
- Read more
- Write more
- Save money for my future (whatever that may be)
The list is pretty open to some creative interpretation in some areas, but I hope it makes a bit of sense. I'm not a perfect person, as I'll never cease to say, but I'll never stop trying to be the best me that I can be regardless of how hard, at times, life can get me down.
I'm a Gemini after all - I'm a dual personality. If you think you have me figured out, then guess again.