Tuesday, 3 January 2017

2016

It's that time of year again. The big low down of the past 365 days.

Peace Bridge, Calgary, AB

This year has been a strange one. As I always say, there are no good or bad years, there's always a mix of highs and lows, ups and downs and this year has been no exception.

Bow River, Banff, AB
My year began back in the UK with my friend Lollie and her rather large and epic family. We drank cider and ate pizza and had a good laugh. At midnight, I walked back around the corner to my parents house and saw in the New Year with them, drinking one of my dad's homemade pina coladas and chatting on the phone to my drunk brother PJ. Soon enough, I was back on the plane to Calgary, my home away from home.

20th Birthday Celebrations! Calgary, AB
(L-R: Ali, Zara, Micky, Sarah, Me, Frank, Gab, Amanda)
I remember it feeling strange to be back. Life was utterly different with my exchange friends having gone back to their respective countries and only my Canadian friends remained. Me and my flatmate Ali became even closer and ended up doing almost everything together. We joined two gym classes: Spin and Chiseled and had a lot of fun together over the following semester. I made new friends and spent a lot more time doing typical Canadian things like drinking bad beer, seeing hockey games, basketball games, going to a mix of house parties, playing beer pong, going to country style bars and clubs, having a Superbowl party and watching the Oscars, and enjoying our biweekly poker night. And you know, there was the studying aspect too. I did have some awesome classes and spent a hefty amount of time studying and in the comp lab doing GIS work.

Peace Bridge with Zara, Calgary, AB
My twentieth birthday came and went in style with my friend Zara coming over to Calgary for a month. We had such a wonderful time together and she fit in with my friends easy as anything. We explored Calgary more than I had before, went hiking, caught a greyhound up to the mountains and had a couple of days sliding about on the extremely icy trails. I was really sad to say goodbye when she left on her travels.

Favourite restaurant Jamesons, Brentwood, Calgary, AB
Then came the heavy workload. Finals finals finals. Not the most fun period. But term ended with Bermuda Shorts Day and that was sooo much fun. My friends Gabriel, Juan and Frank woke me up at 9am with an Irish coffee with lots of alcohol in it and we played drinking games til 12 with a few people from our floor. We were all sufficiently drunk and I spent the next few hours hanging out, drunk, with Ali until the boys returned and we continued drinking and playing games and went off to a house party in town. It was such a fun day, relaxed day and a sort of goodbye in a way. The last piece of relative calm before the storm.
Icefields Parkway with PJ, AB
Then all too soon it was the end. Saying goodbye to Ali, exams, PJ flying out for our trip together, a manic day driving up and trying to show him all the best parts of Banff, having dinner with some of my closest friends and then going on a wild last night out to Cowboys with the rest of my friends, then packing and cleaning my flat and being out by 11am and then catching a plane to New York at 2pm. It was intense and it all caught up with me on that plane to New York. I tried to enjoy the craziness of NY as much as possible and we had a really good time, went to a small comedy club, saw all the sights, went shopping and saw a Broadway musical but boy oh boy, Toronto was a sigh of relief after the intensity of the previous weeks. Had a beautifully serene time in Ontario hanging out with my uncle and cousin, exploring Toronto, watching a Raptors game, having a bonfire, chilling out in my uncle's Jacuzzi, it was bliss.

New York, New York (from the ferry to Staten Island)

Raptors game, Mississauga, ON
Then we were off on our final leg of the journey, 28 hours in Iceland. This was by far my favourite part of our trip together. I'd finally had a needed breather in Toronto and was in renewed spirits, I was also able to hire a car so I could do the driving which made my brother 150x happier and Iceland is just a beautiful place. There's no way you could feel anything but peace and serenity surrounded by such an awe-inspiring landscape. I will happily go back there again and again because it's truly my happy place.

Gullfoss, Iceland

Reynisfjara, Iceland
Back on English soil, I had a couple of days to get over the jet lag before my cousin Lucinda arrived from Brisbane to spend 3 weeks. We packed our days with every touristy thing imaginable. It was exhausting but it was great to spend the time with her and truly bond. We went to the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio Tour, Thorpe Park, all around Southend and London. We saw family and friends. We saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the musical). We went to France to visit PJ and his girlfriend Andrea. As I said, it was jam packed.

Thorpe Park with the Mumma and the Cuz
Then was a week of dissertation work and seeing friends before I was off to the Orkney Islands to work at Fersness. I've written about that fairly extensively here. So I won't delve too much into that but it was an absolutely incredible experience and one that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I learnt a lot about farming, what it takes to produce that beef and lamb you buy so easily without thought, I got to experience a different culture being so remote an island and I got to experience such a beautiful place full of wildlife.

Eday Island, Orkney
Then next stop: America to return to Turtle Island. First port of call was D.C. where I stayed with my friend Lisa for a couple of days. I really enjoyed my time, it was way too hot for me though and I felt like I was surrounded by a stuffy cloak the whole time. Humidity is not my favourite.

Smithsonian Building, D.C.
Turtle Island was a bit strange this year. The people I'd come to know and love weren't all able to make it so it felt like a big part of it was missing. The actual camp was being run by someone else who I didn't always see eye to eye with and I was in a weird mental place which I was forced to deal with somewhat but didn't necessarily want to. So I didn't exactly love my time there but if there's one thing that being at Turtle Island does, it removes all that clutter and noise of your everyday life and forces introspection. It forces you to think about the things that you've pushed to the back of your mind so you have to begin to deal with them. So as much as my experience was tainted with negativity, overall, the positivity and peaceful nature of Turtle Island did me the world of good. That place. I WILL write about it properly one day.

My Turtle Island Girls - pre 2 day hike/campout, Boone, NC
It was after Turtle Island that life just took a plummet. I had to start thinking about a lot of things and dealing with all these emotions and feeling absolutely miserable just ruined my August and September and resulted in a falling out with someone very close to me. Since returning back to the UK, I feel like there's been this void in my life that I've tried excessively to fill. But truth be told, the axes in my life have changed, my world is on a different course, I'm at a crossroads of life and I have no idea which path to take and what road I want to travel. There is so much uncertainty ahead. And that uncertainty mixed with my desire to be independent has resulted in a lot of worry and stress about the future.

Morecambe Bay
Considering I've been opening up a bit more in these blog posts, my relationships (of a romantic nature) have, upon reflection, been a source unhappiness and in turn my unhappiness has also manifested itself in unhealthy relationships and attachments. 2016 began relatively clean slated and I started liking someone in Calgary who I decided it wouldn't be worth getting involved with. Nevertheless, the semester rolled on and the feelings stubbornly refused to go away despite my adamancy that it would be a bad idea. So ultimately, the semester ended with a realisation that both of us had mutual feelings and absolutely no time to develop them. Well done Candi. That didn't help with my post Calgary slump in the slightest. Around the same time, a person who meant the world to me for a long time sent me a message to inform me that he was getting married and that hit me harder than I thought it would. So I did the cliche thing of running headfirst into a rebound. A rebound that I didn't realise was a rebound until I had time at T.I. to reflect and in what seemed like the quickest turn around of feelings in my life, I was suddenly repulsed by this guy that I was seemingly in adoration of two minutes earlier. I have to admit, it worried me that I could be so blinded by unhappiness that I would run into something that was so wrong for me and not see it for what it was. But thankfully that delusion didn't last for long and I ended the relationship soon afterwards. By this time I was back at university and found myself attracted to the first guy who was not my ex, but this lead nowhere which, as established by Ria and myself, was for the best. Had a bit of fun with someone after that and I finally feel that I'm becoming emotionally ready for a relationship. These are all good signs.

Me and Ria, Morecambe Bay
So back to a more chronologic account. Back to university has been both wonderful and tough. The university experience itself has been a blast. I have the most incredible people around me, I have some great flatmates, I am on top of work, I have a job, I've been embracing my last year as a student, I've been going to the gym, eating healthier, keeping in contact with my friends far and wide, my family. Things generally are good. But there are some big issues in my life that I'm currently dealing with and it's hard, but I feel positive and I don't feel as alone as I did a month ago. I had an incredible Christmas and New Year with some of the most important people in my life and for those that I couldn't see, I am just sincerely grateful that I have them in my life at all. The downside to having your life spread across the world is that you will always leave pieces of your heart along the way and you will never have everyone you love all together at the same time. But that's the beauty of life.

My Nana, myself and my Mumma, Christmas Day
2016 has been tougher emotionally than I ever anticipated, in so many ways, but it's forced me to do a lot of growing and a lot of reshuffling and re evaluating in my life. I can look at my life thus far and divide it into stages; pre-16, 16-19 and now I'm transitioning to a new stage of my life. It's scary and exciting for there is currently no solid plan but nonetheless I am looking forward to seeing what 2017 will bring.

PJ and I, nursing the food baby, Christmas Day
There are people in your life that you feel compelled to give an extra token of appreciation and this year I feel it necessary to thank a few of those who have really made an impact and who have gone above and beyond for me this year. So here goes.

- Firstly, to that beauty above, my dear brother PJ. Is it even possible to love someone as much as I love this human? I am so extremely thankful for the close relationship we share, for the 3 hour skype sessions, the mundane everyday chat over fb, the political discussions, the motivation and the coaching in the gym, the general life advice, the laughs, the memes, the unconditional love. He has been my biggest constant this year and when my main support system changed, he truly stepped up to the plate.

-Here's to Ali, my wonderful roomie who was truly my rock in Calgary. She is an incredible person with a heart of gold and I am so thankful to have met her. She will be a lifelong friend and although I am so sad that we no longer share our everyday lives together, I will always cherish the 8 months of close friendship and connection we shared in Canada. My exchange would not have been half a fantastic without her.

-Here's to Sally. To the nights she stayed up until 4/5 in the morning just so I didn't have to go to bed sad and alone in Calgary. To the hours of skype calls we've shared. I am so thankful for her constant messaging and for always being there when I need a chat. No matter the time or the day, she's always had time for me and she has been such a source of comfort and friendship this year, especially during the homesickness.

-To Zara, for travelling across the world to see me. For being such an inspiration. She has reminded me time and time again to follow my dreams and that it's always possible to do what you love. She made my 20th birthday incredible and I absolutely loved having her stay for almost a month in Calgary with me. She's an incredibly chilled out and calming person with so much infectious excitement.

-To my Mum, for always putting up with me, despite my brattiness and my moodiness. For being there always, despite being constantly pulled in a thousand different directions. She may not always say the right thing, and she may not always want to listen to me rambling but she tries and she does. I'm so thankful for her constant love. I appreciate being able to pick up the phone and talk to her and I never want that to change.

-And finally, here's to Ria. To being such a powerful and positive influence in my life at a time where everything seemed to be changing and falling apart. To all the nights we've stayed up talking, for all the times we've needed a shoulder to cry on, for all the pep talks, for all the brutal honesty, for all the gut wrenching laughter, for all the piss taking, the singing, the gym sessions, the junk food, the dancing, the trash talking, the deep conversations, the heated debates, the outrage, the arguments, the pick me ups, the encouragement and the belief in each other. I am so blessed to have Ria here with me at Lancaster, she's just an absolute babe.

And that's it. Goodbye 2016.

1 comment:

  1. An absolutely wonderful read, showcasing the incredible person you are (and on the way to becoming). Super proud of you x

    ReplyDelete