New Year: Older, wiser, newly improved you

I’ve reached the end of the year feeling a little lost. I’ve let myself get comfortable in what I am doing right now, which is unfamiliar territory for me and therefore a little unnerving. It’s times like these we need a reminder of what we’ve achieved, what we’ve weathered and what we’ve enjoyed. Looking over and really considering the past helps me work out what the next step could be. Thinking about what I hated, loved or could have done better in the past helps me work out what I want next: what I want to do and what I want to be. Only one thing remains firm in my mind: I have no regrets and no guilt.

2k13 has been a hectic, unpredictable and somewhat scary year for me. It’s been full of surprises, changes and challenges, but I have met all head-on and enjoyed the ride.

Thinking now about measuring my year, such a thing poses all sorts of issues. How do you measure a year? The characters of Rent advise us to measure our lives in love. I have fallen in love countless times, had my heart trampled a little and broken at least one heart (and for that I am sorry). But that’s pretty inconclusive.

If I wanted to represent my year on a graph or chart, I’d need figures with a fairly high numerical value, so I might attempt to measure my life in cups of tea or units of alcohol consumed, minutes spent exercising or orgasms. That’s straight up impersonal, but the personal things that come in smaller numbers – like hairstyles, boyfriends, births or deaths – don’t quite cut it either.

What makes life fun is the stories that come with the experiences. This year doesn’t boil down to highlights, so here’s my year in numbers:

9. Nine in a boat:

Rowing © Jonathan Moore

I competed in BUCS Head at Boston in February, in a Women’s Beginners 8 with Royal Holloway Boat Club. We came 23rd, coming in at 11:25.9 – a minute faster than our boys. It was my first and only race, and only our second outing on the water as a team (remember the floods, this time last year?) The eight of us pulled together really well, and I will always remember it fondly, despite the immense pain and Faye’s piercing scream. We can’t be forgetting our cox and the new Women’s captain, Jenny. That makes nine.

8. I have lived in eight homes:

The family home in Norwich where I started my year, but won’t be ending it;

My drafty but impressively huge turret room in Founders at Royal Holloway;

A cold little spare room at 41 Harvest Road, where I learnt to cook bacon and watched Lost every evening while spending days in the library (re-)writing my dissertation;

Sian’s empty room at 41 North Street, where I did Michael Caine impressions with James and got burnt while sunbathing in the garden, two minutes from my workplace;

My family came to see me graduate while I was living at The Fungalow, where I sheltered from the heat-wave with great friends and hid from an angry Greek housemate;

Fifteen of us spent three weeks in a five bedroom flat on Melville Terrace, Edinburgh, where I shared a bed with a new best friend, and had the time of my life at the Fringe;

My sister put me up at her student house on Gellatly road, for my first two weeks working in London;

I moved into Maryland Road one lunchbreak in early November, with just a camp bed and one big bag, but now, sharing with four lovely geeks, I’ve made it home.

7. I’ve been inspired (and surprised) by seven friends, all of whom I feel closer to now than a year ago:

Bella has become one of my most trusted friends in the past year. We worked together at Unique Fruit every week for months, but we got to know each other much better when, as the costume mistress for Rope, Bella did my hair (beautifully) every night for a few days. Bella and I became very close throughout our Edinburgh experiences, creating Australian alteregos Patsy and Ruth on a particularly memorable evening. We have laughed a lot, shared secrets and supported one another ever since. May 2k14 bring more please!

I barely knew James this time last year, but his generosity, humour and good advice have been timed perfectly. James invited me to stay with him when I needed a home for a few weeks and was a very amusing host. The last time I saw him he said just the right thing to get my brain whirring with ambition once again.

Although I rarely get to see her, Nadia is possibly the most relaxed friend I have (not only because she’s a Canadian) and her presence (in the UK in July, and over Skype whenever I need her) always has a calming and reassuring effect upon me. She’s the least judgmental person in my life and I am grateful for her.

My sister in the Women’s boat with RHULBC, Tash not only got me through many a training session, but knew when we finalists needed a wine-filled evening away from our desks, visited us in Edinburgh and appeared, out of the blue, for my birthday. Her timing was impeccable on every occasion, and always seems she has immense faith in me. In turn, I’m always impressed by her determination and dedication to everything she does.

I haven’t seen Nandita once this year, New York City and Chennai both being rather too far from London, but her sense of humour is entirely unique, and we always laugh for hours when we speak on Skype. Nandita said something that has stuck with me since the last time we spoke, something along the lines of “what I love about you is that you don’t care what people think.” Not everyone would agree, but it’s certainly buoyed me up a few times of late.

After graduating on the same day and spending the summer together, Emily’s sarcastic texts and mock-hopelessness about job-hunting helped me through the process more than she could ever know.

Probably the coolest person in my graduating class, and certainly the most interesting poet I know of, Daisy utterly surprised me when she burned me Patti Smith CDs. Not only is she an inspiration in herself, but she helped me be inspired by Land and Banga, and gave me a person to talk it through with. Our texts mainly consist of favourite quotes, mine being: “I have no guilt.”

I consider myself pretty damned lucky to know and have spent time with these seven people in the past year. I hope I can be as uplifting to them as they have been to me.

6. I’ve worked six jobs this year:

I began the year volunteering at Oxfam for three hours every Monday morning, where I sorted and stacked second-hand books for three months, but it was the first thing to go when I pared down my extra-curricular stuff in favour of my dissertation;

I returned to Unique Fruit, my oh so casual job at the weekly university fruit and vegetable market, for a final term this year;

My first full-time job out of university was at the Foresters Arms, a pub in Egham, where the landlord and locals made me feel at home in an instant, but I was gone just as quickly, favouring the world of theatre;

I was Fundraising Officer for Intwothewings Theatre Company, making sure we broke even on our first venture to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival;

The Stationery Office was my first ever office job, and I learnt something new all through the four weeks I worked there;

I am now the dance representative for event listings website, writing and commissioning articles and reviews being my favourite bit.

5. I made my first fiver in the world of theatre! I became one of fifteen members of Intwothewings, a new independent theatre company. We received a small grant from the university, but had to make most of the money through fundraising events and hope we would break even on ticket sales. We all put months of hard work and determination into the production, but it paid off – we not only broke even but made enough for everyone to take home £5.

4. I’ve performed in four plays this year: I played Leila Arden in Patrick Hamilton’s Rope (March) and Cecily Cardew in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest (June), both RHUL Drama Society productions; I understudied Girl in Intwothewings’ production of Josh King’s A Writer’s Lot (August); and I joined By Jove as ensemble member and choreographer for Pride and Prejudice: the Panto at the Cockpit Theatre (December).

3. I am now writing for three websites: Bachtrack, Aliljoy, my own blog. I’ve written eight reviews and one article for Bachtrack, two articles for Aliljoy, and I’ve been running this blog for five months.

2. I traveled to two cities I’d always wanted to get to know, and got to know them. In May, I spent seven days in Beijing for a student forum, funded by the British Council. I got to know the city through the eyes of the eight Chinese students also participating in the forum, got to explore in a unique way, and got to meet a wide array of different people living and working in Beijing. It was a wonderful experience, and I look forward to going back.

I later spent three weeks in Edinburgh, participating in the Fringe Festival with Intwothewings. Within days I knew my way around the city’s venues, shopping hubs, tourist attractions and bars (and my way home from them). I loved soaking up the good vibes of the city, full of people visiting for the festival, and I just hope I am lucky enough to return in 2014.

My next challenge is to get to grips with London, my new home.

1. I graduated with a first class degree: the major challenge of 2013, the one thing I desperately wanted and doubted my ability to achieve in equal measures. It’s true, I spent five days solid writing 80% of my dissertation, and then three weeks re-writing it after having it dismissed by my supervisor. I managed to write my final English Literature essay on my favourite fictional trilogy His Dark Materials and I spent a lot more time stressing than I did actually writing. The sleepless nights were worth it. I could hardly believe it. I got a first class degree!

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It’s impossible to tell where life will take you, and it’s often easy to doubt your ability or resolve to get where you’re going, but of one thing I am sure. What makes life great is the people who inspire you.

My mantra for 2014 is: Keep reading, keep meeting new people, keep searching for inspiration, and never stop challenging yourself.

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