So, here we are, with just over three weeks left of 2016.
Don't pretend you're not glad.
Being an analytical kind of person, I like to look back over events and work out whether I gained any important life lessons from them, which I can then carry forwards. With that in mind, I thought now would be the perfect time to look back over
this horror show 2016 and see what lessons I gained this year...
1) I have opinions. And I will voice them.
Look, this year has been a big one, politically. And whilst a lot of people are out there, celebrating Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, many of us are doing the exact opposite. Now is not the time for an epic rant about how I feel regarding those two things (although you can read my thoughts on Brexit here and my two cents on Donald Trump here). but my massive reaction to both events proved to me beyond all doubt that I'm someone who has passionate views on the political and social landscape, and my gut reaction was to want to share those views, by writing them down. I didn't just write them here, either. I used my social media accounts to have my say, as well. Someone told me, over on Facebook, that perhaps I should stop talking about it all, because I wasn't going to change anything by doing so. And that went down about as well as a lecture on consensual BDSM given by EL James. Because, no, guys. Nobody gets to tell me what I should or shouldn't say on my own social media. If 2016 taught me one major thing with regards to my opinions, it's that I am comfortable with sharing them and defending them. And in the face of increased racial tension and a higher level of division in the Western world as a result of both Brexit and Trump (Trumpit? Trexit? Brump?!), I will shout about the importance of equality, tolerance and respect as loudly as my lungs will allow. Always.
2) It is NEVER too late to discover a new passion!
In March, I started making YouTube videos. It's now a weekly thing, where I upload a new video every Sunday at 6pm GMT and I am obsessed with it.
I won't go into too much detail, because I've written about my newfound love of being a YouTuber already on this very blog, but suffice to say, I discovered something I absolutely adore this year and I am so, so grateful to everyone who told me to give it a go and to everyone who has subscribed to my channel and who watches my ridiculousness each week. If you haven't ever given one of my videos a watch, you'll find I'm somewhere between being a vlogger and being a general idiot who intends to talk about a particular subject, but ends up donning stupid outfits and filming silly sketches to break up the monotony of my own voice. That's literally the best way I can describe what I do on YouTube...
I love it. I literally could not love it more. I love every second of the process; from making notes about what I want to say and do that week, to actually getting in front of the camera and filming, to editing it all together. I. Am. In. Love.
If you're interested, my latest video is here, by the way *plug*:
Yeah, I always look that sexy on camera. I'm just lucky that way.
Another thing I tried for the first time this year, was archery. I fully expected to be rubbish at it, and... Well, I kind of was. But I had loads of fun discovering that I wasn't very good at it; so much so, that I've done it twice more since my first attempt and I'm planning my fourth go before the year is out.
It turns out that you don't even have to be good at something, in order to take a huge amount of enjoyment out of it. Who knew?!
Bottom line: ALWAYS TRY NEW THINGS! If we're taking life-lessons from 2016, that's got to be a personal biggie.
3) Turns out I'm not completely unattractive to the opposite sex... I just can't pick 'em very well.
So says my online dating profile...
I don't often talk about my romantic life on this blog, because... Well, it's largely fictional. I mean, obviously in my head, I'm married to Phil Lester, but in actuality, I am more flipping single than Bridget Jones ever was.
But, this year, I've had a couple of reminders that I'm not quite as horrendously unappealing to the opposite sex as my state of perpetual singledom would have me believe.
I got serenaded in July. Me. Serenaded. By a guy in an actual band.
I had a flirtation with someone recently that seemed to be heading towards something actually happening (I KNOW - I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO COPE) until it turned out... Well, yeah. Nothing came of it and he's now all loved up with someone he failed to tell me he was interested in, whilst being all flirty with me. Feel free to insert an insult of your choice, here, whilst dramatically rolling your eyes and tutting "men," if you like. It would seem that I still don't have a great radar for spotting guys who are only leading me on. I need to work on that...
I joined a dating site (I'm still not sure why, because it hasn't changed since I was last on one and hated it) and had enough messages to make me think that maybe I'm not going to end up a dried out old husk. I haven't found "The One," but you know what? I'm still open to the idea that I'm going to, someday, somehow. I haven't given up, just yet.
And if all else fails, there's still Phil...
WHY DO YOU LOOK SO AFRAID?! LET ME LOVE YOU!
3) My friendship circle has widened!
I realised this year that I know some seriously awesome people. I work with people who I want to hang out with, outside of office hours. I reconnected with my childhood best friend and we've had a whale of a time, getting to know one another all over again and making up for the time we've spent apart (to the extent that we're off on holiday together for New Year!). And I've definitely been more open to chatting to new people and being more confident in new social situations. Sometimes, you have to step out of your comfort zone and you never know what it will lead to, after all.
And of course, there's an important constant in my life, in terms of friends. My bestie is still my bestie.
4) I've realised the importance of openness.
I've talked a lot on my blog about having been in an abusive relationship and how it affected me. One of the big things that has changed about me, in the five years since, is the way in which I handle my relationships - of all kinds. I need honesty. I need people to be honest and open with me. Sure, I am also a sensitive little thing and I don't want tactlessness, but neither do I want anyone keeping things from me. If you need to tell me something, tell me. I've realised, this year more than ever, that I am able to tell people how I feel. If I think the world of you, I will tell you. If I feel I've done something wrong and I want to apologise, I will say sorry. But - and this is the crucial bit, because this is the bit I never felt able to do in my abusive relationship - if you hurt me, or treat me in a way that I feel is unfair, I will call you on it. Not in an aggressive, horrible manner. But I will tell you how you've made me feel. Because honesty is the only way forwards in any kind of relationship. I will be honest and open with the people in my life and I need to know I will receive complete honesty in return.
5) My glass remains half-full.
So, this year has seen some sucky things happen around the world. It's seen some horrible things happen in my own life, in the last few weeks. And I've felt angry, sad and, at times, completely dejected.
Then, I've given myself a bit of a shake and a stern talking to, and I've realised that, whatever has happened, I still believe in better things happening in the future.
I'm not sure how I became such an optimist, or why I remain one, in the face of so much evidence to the contrary, but the cap still fits, so I'm still wearing it.
I may be 34, single and living in my parents' house, because I'm so broke. I may be going through some unbearably nasty personal stuff, lately. I may be shocked and appalled by the growing number of outspoken
Alt-Right Nazis popping up all over the place, recently. But I believe in better. I believe in the power of good over evil. I believe in love. And I always will.
6) I am much more confident than I give myself credit for.
I firmly believe in trying new things and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. In some ways, that was what starting my YouTube channel (well, I started it years ago, but you know, actually making videos) was about. But I don't give myself enough credit for the confidence I've been quietly growing over the last few years.
There was an incident in my life several months ago, that would once have reduced me to a quivering wreck. Instead, I handled it. I was scared and outnumbered, but I held my ground. Afterwards, someone who'd seen it happen told me they'd "almost wanted to cheer," when they saw how confidently I'd defused the situation.
I've realised I'm pretty good at handling myself, when I find myself in hot water. I've learned that I may be small, but that doesn't mean that I can be walked over.
And having confidence in that aspect of my life has bled into others. I will talk to strangers far more confidently, nowadays (although if there are any kids reading this, don't talk to strangers, obviously...). I can walk into a room where I don't know anyone and sure, I'll be terrified and nervous, but I can handle it.
Not bad for the shy, short kid with unmanageable hair, who barely dared to put her hand up in class, once she got to secondary school...
7) I've realised some loves are here to stay.
I am counting down the days until the Christmas special of Doctor Who.
I am already wondering when the Manic Street Preachers will tour again (despite having seen them twice this year).
I am gazing lovingly at my Dan & Phil advent calendar as I write this.
Yeah, some things inspire me, entertain me and just make me happy. And those things are going nowhere.
8) But I've come to accept that sometimes, situations - and people - change.
Sometimes, in the words of Take That, Everything Changes.
It might be that people grow apart and find they no longer have much in common. It could be that a place you always hung out at, closes down and a time in your life is lost to the past. Perhaps you fall out with someone and it gets so nasty that there's no going back.
Sometimes, things change in your life and it feels like the end of the world, only for it to turn out that new, better opportunities are waiting as a result. Other times, something changes - a relationship breaks down, a job is lost etc - and it really is just something bad that you have to deal with. Either way, you'll eventually reach a point at which you can try to take a lesson or two from the situation. That sounds trite and perhaps even a little holier-than-thou, but I really do think that when life throws you a curveball - as it has me, a couple of times this year - the best thing to do is deal with it, grieve and go through the pain of it (if it's a negative change), then try to learn something from it, if you can. I'm not saying that everything happens for a reason, because sometimes bad stuff just happens. Relationships end, financial crises take place, people you trusted hurt you... It would be gross of me to turn to someone who's just lost everything and shrug "oh, everything happens for a reason!" So, no, not everything does happen for a reason. But, in time, you can try to learn from every situation you go through.
Sometimes, when situations change unexpectedly, you learn what sort of person you are. You learn how resilient you can be and how easily you can adapt. And, in the case of really negative changes that arise from bad situations, you may very well learn what you will and won't tolerate in your life, and what kind of people you want - need - to surround yourself with, whilst you rebuild your world. All of those lessons can serve to make you stronger, however much an unexpected change may knock you for six at the time.
Sometimes, things change back for the better, and the damage of a negative situation can be undone. Sometimes, that doesn't happen, and your life goes off in a different direction to the one you expected it to take. Either way, it's not selfish to put yourself first when you're being hurt by a situation or the people in it. If you genuinely can't see a way to fix the problem, you can only try to fix yourself, after all.
I guess what I'm saying is, occasionally, life will take a turn that you definitely weren't expecting. You'll find yourself in a place you never thought you'd end up, perhaps without someone you thought you'd always have around. And that can be frightening, confusing, upsetting and a whole heap of other, negative "ing" words.
But you'll have you. That's the one constant you'll have throughout your life. So, be the sort of person you want to have on your side. And be honest about that; ask yourself whether the way you're behaving in a situation is the way you would want someone else to behave towards you, if they were on your side of it. No matter what's thrown at you, rise above the bad and build a world for yourself to live in, that you are happy with. Whatever - and however long - it takes.
So, I guess it's been a year of ups and downs in many ways, but I've taken everything I can from all that 2016 has flung at both me and the wider world, and I've hopefully taken on board some major life lessons that I can carry through to 2017 and beyond. And I'd like to think I've grown as a result.
Sadly, just not in height. 😉