The 2015 Review

2015 was an extremely difficult year: one of lessons, and of facing difficult realities. But I hope, one I will ultimately look back on as something of a game-changer…

1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before? 

  • Ran a 10K and a Half Marathon
  • Fitted into size 8 clothes the other side of puberty
  • Get asked to be a bridesmaid. Twice! (I said yes)
  • Had an anxiety attack on a train
  • …and in Berlin. *sings ‘Angsting all over the world’ to the tune of Status Quo*

2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Let’s see… (*looks back at archive*) Oooh, in fact, yes, I do believe I actually did…

Last year’s resolutions were:

  • Grow all areas of my business Well, it took me until October to actually do what I needed to do to really make this happen, but I’ve had a lovely mentor this year, and more money than I’ve had at the end of the year since 2011, so we can probably call that “grown”. Now, to make it last….
  • Get proper therapy Result! Free and non-time limited counselling. Getting to it takes up most of my Monday, but what price my mental health.
  • Manage procrastination Hmmm. Probably needed to refine this one a bit.
  • Finish The Novel Due to to the election result and other external adversity, I made the difficult decision to put The Novel on indefinite hiatus. But, out of that project came another. Which has just won an Arts Council free read with a lit consultant. Which is rather nice.
  • Run to raise money for mental health charities Yes, this very much happened! £700 for Mind from the London 10K, and I’ve entered the London Marathon, for which I have to raise a minimum of £1,750. Gulp.
  • Launch a successful new mental health blogging project I did. It never really took off, perhaps inevitably given the subject matter. But one of the posts was widely shared (Props to Alastair Campbell for retweeting it…).
  • Make a list of all the unread books on my shelves and work my way through them. Didn’t manage this one. There are still tonnes.
  • If not actually achieve any dramatic change in terms of moving out, travelling or meeting significant new people at least get to a point where any of these things feel a bit more feasible. They do. That’s not saying a lot, but.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Not this year. Give it eighteen months after all after the engagements/weddings…

4. Did anyone close to you die? Mercifully, no. I want a ten year moratorium on death, so to speak.

5. What countries did you visit? Germany.

6. What would you like to have had in 2015 that you lacked? Money, mainly. Happily I have some of that now for the moment.

7. What date from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 

Certain sentimental trips I made in April and June. Getting drunk with an old friend, and the photoshoot. My Berlin trip. The dates of my big runs, obviously.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Although I was quite unwell in parts, and it didn’t often feel like it, there were quite a lot:

  • The 10K, half marathon and entering the London Marathon
  • Gaining financial support and business mentoring
  • Also, finding counselling that was free and not time limited
  • Becoming a charity trustee
  • Getting an Arts Council-funded read of my book
  • I’m not sure this qualifies as an “achievement” as such, but two people who don’t know me from a hole in the wall have recently offered to meet me for a drink and a chat related to last year’s tragedy. I don’t know whether this will actually happen because it rests on a bit of logistics and involves communication with two strangers, one of whom sounds keener than the other. But I wasn’t hopeful of a response at all (and frankly, finding them was a better show of my journalistic acumen than most of my actual journalism since 2011, so there’s that…).
  • Going to a media shindig outside my field by myself (shouldn’t be a big deal but it was in October, and given my record at social things for the rest of the year, a considerable achievement).
  • My short play Who To Follow, about political differences, awkward tensions, and Twitter.
  • Though I say it myself, a few of the lines from said play:

HENRY: You work for skint nobodies; how do you know all this boardroom gossip, little Mattie Storin?

ALEX: Never underestimate the curiosity of a skint nobody.

and

ALEX: I don’t eat meat. I think it’s immoral.

HENRY (loaded): You have a peculiar moral compass…

ALEX: Don’t we all.

9. What was your biggest failure?

  • Not making it to a couple of friends’ parties because of anxiety attacks (I have since made up for it, I think/hope).
  • Appearing to have rather over-estimated a friendship, or the potential for one. And not knowing whether this is just a reflection of life’s ebb and flow and different circumstances or something more personal than that. And not having any way of finding out which isn’t rather awkward, or can just be ignored…

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? See above.

11. What was the best thing you bought? My mum’s 60th birthday present, which she’s getting on Monday.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration? There are a handful in particular, who I’ve told privately at length, or I will do before the end of the year. Most of all, those who are open, honest and decisive in their dealings with me, rather than sapping up emotional energy that could be going somewhere more productive. Also, the actress and writer, who I won’t name, but who very sweetly replied to an emotional fan letter I wrote to her after re-reading her book and finding it comforting at a difficult time.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? The knee-jerking and whataboutery of all political hues on social media in reaction to terrorist atrocities upsets me. It is very difficult to explain to anyone until and unless you have known anyone die a sudden and violent death so I won’t try in this amount of space.

14. Where did most of your money go? Train journeys. Though again, work paid for the most expensive of them so not complaining.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? My first 10K and half Marathon.

16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2015? Paloma Faith’s Only Love Can Hurt Like This, L.I.F.E G.O.E.S O.N by Noah and the Whale, Tulip by Jesca Hoop (Beautiful voice. The internet tells me nothing about her except that she was once Peter Gabriel’s backing singer. Cheers, internet). Changes by Faul/Wad Ad, Lean On by Major Lazer, Shake It Off by Taylor Swift, I Know Him So Well by Elaine Paige (I listened to the lyrics properly for the first time this year. Wah). Too Young To Remember by Florrie (my running song). All my running playlists.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you…?

– Happier or sadder? Happier. I couldn’t really be sadder.

– Thinner or fatter? Put it this way, the last time I wore size-8 dayglo patterned leggings before this October was the mid-90s. The payoff for running like a demon to distract you from searing mental pain is losing weight and being spared all the ritual food-guilt nonsense.

– Richer or poorer? Richer. As in, I don’t feel physically ill if I spend more than £10 in one go, and the bank send me offers, not nasty letters.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Travelling abroad.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Feeling controlled by anxiety.

20. How will you be spending New Year? With family, as I won’t be seeing them for four months afterwards.

21. Did you fall in love in 2015? Does it sound like it?

22. How many one-night stands? For the effort required I may as well plan my wedding (See also: point number one of this post).

23. What was your favourite TV programme? I got completely hooked on the box set of the original House of Cards series in the spring and summer. In fact, I may watch it again over Christmas.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Not that I can think of.

25. Do you like anyone now that you didn’t like this time last year? As above.

26. What was the best book you read? About 20 years late, Helena Kennedy’s Eve Was Framed. Also saw her lead a panel at the Art Newspaper’s 25th birthday party.

27. What was your greatest musical discovery? Jesca Hoop.

28. What did you want and get? Out of the woods financially. For now, and hopefully for good.

29. What did you want and not get? Enough certainty of anything.

30. What was your favourite film of this year? Can’t remember, but I saw Carol recently, and liked it.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I was 31 and it was probably the first or second rainy birthday I’ve ever had. I saw the Henley Regatta. The following week I went to see Kylie in Hyde Park.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Things that involve an alternate universe, so are not really worth going into.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?  Black clothes and a forlorn expression teamed with bright blue eyeshadow. Also a fan of this look. 

34. Who kept you sane? My mum’s suggestion that I take up running almost literally saved my life, so I think that counts…

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Can’t remember.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?  Other than the ones that do every year, the treatment of Syrian refugees.

37. Who did you miss? The obviouses.

38. Who was the best new person you met? Reconnected with a very old friend.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015

  • That some people exist to one as life lessons.
  • That I will not devote another nano-second of my life to analysing somebody’s ambiguous behaviour. I may never be able to stop myself doing it in relation to current and past people but I’ll never put myself through it with anyone new. As a wise friend said: “The most important thing you can take from certain interactions is what they teach you about the interactions you want.”
  • That the right to know what’s happening in certain people’s heads or their histories is not one I’ve earned.
  • That people who might be described as outgoing/social/good at parties/able to talk to anybody can be quite rubbish/evasive when it comes to talking about things which are emotive, awkward or personal – particularly around grief or mental health. Not learned this year, learned a decade or more ago, but by God it hit home this year.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up 2015:  

“And you won’t see me surrender, you won’t hear me confess; ’cause you’ve left me with nothing, but I’ve worked with less.”  Dilate, by good old Ani DiFranco

Also, this doesn’t, unfortunately, “sum up 2015” but I love it very much…:

“So, welcome to our winning streak, no broken bones or old deceits, just you and me versus this little town. We’re the rag dolls in the gutter; we’re the curses that they’ll mutter. And you will still be trying on my heart just like a crown. And we’ll tear it all down…” Tear It All Down – Thea Gilmore.

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