Tuesday 24 October 2017

31, and Ten Things I'm Thankful For

Usually on friends’ birthdays I ask them what was good about the previous year and what they’re hoping for in the year to come. I had a really fun time celebrating my birthday recently (rare September sunshine, sisters, Aperol+prosecco…) but didn’t really have many ‘proper’ conversations or chances to reflect. And then, as it tends to be, everything happened at once (ie new flat, new jobs, etc... more on that in a moment!) and suddenly a month has gone by. But I think they are important questions, and as I started a list of ‘stuff I’m thankful for’ I was struck by just how much has happened in the past year.

One year ago I turned 30 (no, duh). I left my job with Small Axe and on the same day moved out of London  —having decided to make some big life changes, move back to the South Coast and ‘focus on creative stuff’. I didn’t know what that would all look like at the time, only that I was listening to my gut and hoping for a season of more space, time and growing in my writing and other personal creative ventures.

The plan —as sketchy as it was— has not panned out quite how we thought. Surprise surprise! I keep trying ways to tell the story of the last year in a not-book-length-blog-post and I'm not sure I can. So often recently I've had several writing ideas but then gotten overwhelmed at not knowing where/when to begin and ended up writing nothing. I don't want that to keep happening, so I think I'll go back to my THANKFUL list and let that speak for itself...

10 things I'm grateful for from the past year/being 30

1. The hospitality of my brother-in-law and his wife
—who let us live with them for "three months while we found a place"... which stretched out into a year, and included their own house move! They never made us feel bad for our extended housemate-ship, and while I don't miss the morning bathroom queue or living out of boxes, I do miss watching First Dates with Helen, Basil's Sunday macaroni cheese, Tessa-the-cat's carpet posing and hanging out on the decking.

2. The Arvon writing course
...that I treated myself to last year, a week in rural Devon learning about memoir writing with some brilliant souls, which kicked off the creative process for writing my solo show for Brighton Fringe.

3. Penélope
My niece was born a year ago too and it's been a delight to spend time with her, have sleepy cuddles, watch her grow, see my twin sister be an amazing mother, and have regular cute photos sent to our family WhatsApp group.

4. My family
My mum, dad and sisters are the only people I manage to stay in regular contact with. I'm glad we all continue to make an effort to develop and protect our relationships and learn to understand and appreciate each other better. They were the ones who helped me imagine that life could be different when my heart was not so happy. On top of that though, I'm very grateful too to have aunts, uncles and cousins who've been so encouraging toward my creative endeavours, like travelling across the country to see my show.

5. Brighton Fringe
Having left, well, everything, I needed to set myself some goals to make sure I made the most of my 'year of creativity', being 30, etc. So I signed up to do a show at Brighton Fringe. And I'm so glad I did. The team that run it are super supportive and helpful, I got lucky with a enthusiastic, friendly and encouraging venue, I met great people along the way, I FINALLY WROTE A SHOW, I learned a lot, my friends and family were amazing in coming to see it, making all four shows sell out, I memorised 50 minutes of words, I shared my story. And I enjoyed pretty much every part of it. So win win win :-) Getting to return to Cornwall to perform it in the summer was an added cherry on the top.

Registration is now open for Brighton Fringe, if you're now tempted to have a go!

6. Old friends and new friends
Looking around at the people I celebrated my birthday with reaffirmed that this is home, that I'm so glad we're back. That we have "family" in Shoreham and Brighton. Church people, poetry people, Uni people, yoga people, long-time people. I've also met several new brilliant persons this year that I'm excited to continue journeying with. AND more than ever I appreciate those special people dotted around the country and around the world who keep in touch, who encourage me, who check in on Facebook or email or text or WhatsApp, and who very occassionally I get to see face to face (usually in part to meet their babies!!).

Live a Good Story was one of the way we met some great folk this year. Check it out, might be just what you need for 2018.

7. Shoreham-by-sea
Yeh so despite our intentions we never made it to living in Brighton. I guess Shoreham slowly crept into our hearts without us even realising. To be fair all Llewellyn's best mates live here, so it wasn't a massive surprise, but it's also been the river and the sea and the hills and the sunsets and the cafes-to-write-in and the big sky and the peace that just about won us over. And the regular buses and trains into B-town! Now that we're finally finally in our own place (which is AMAZING) I think it will soon to start to properly feel like home.

8. Jobs!
I left my job last year with no plan as to my next step in earning money. Living in a small room in a shared house took the pressure off a bit financially and I ended up working part time as a support worker over the past year —leaving time to work on my show and take life at a bit of a slower pace. Having moved into our own place, I knew I was going to need a bit more, and suddenly I have more! As well as the support work, I'm now doing some arts marketing work AND some copywriting AND there's various exciting possibilities hovering. I've been paid to take photos and write poems this year. That feels good. Suddenly it feels like things are opening up and I feel excited about what life/work could look like.

9. Scotland 
Having had several amazing trips last year, this year was a lot tamer, to fit with the current budget! But after a bit of a flat, weird couple of months following the fun of May-in-Brighton, we had the best time in Scotland, enjoying Edinburgh and the Fringe and then the contrast of the wildness (and wetness) of Skye. Beautiful beautiful.

10. Llewellyn
I'm grateful every day to be married to a friend who is kind, encouraging, chilled out, equally appreciative of food, and equally up for living a life full of creativity and community. He has been on his own journey this year into more drawing, starting tattooing... watch this space, he's ace! 

Check out Llewellyn's lovely artwork on his website and follow him on Instagram


So yeh, 30 was pretty awesome all in all! There's plenty more I could say but I think this covers a lot of it. I know I don't want this to be the end of this season of creativity, I think it's only just beginning, really! I'm feeling pretty positive about 31 [when I'm not overwhelmed/doubting myself/wondering what the point is!], hoping to build on what's happened in the past few months, hoping to root in deeper, hoping to be more (at) HOME. Let's see what comes...

Meanwhile, you can keep more up-to-date with me on Instagram, Facebook and on my new 'writing' website :-)

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