This time of year has always been a trigger for me to reflect. I think that it’s the same for most people, with the new year looming, and the current about to leave us, we think about all that we’ve done and all that has changed over the past 12 months.
But for me, it goes deeper than that, especially this year. It’s been a mixed bag, and you could argue either way whether there were more ups or downs. I lost a job, but gained a family in the process. We went to Rome and Alicante, moved to a new city, and continue to work through every roadblock put in our way. I got a new job, one that I never thought I would be offered, and that has allowed me to grow exponentially not only as a writer, but as a person. It has taken me to Germany and back, to conferences and events, and has taught me more about the education system (how flawed it is, and yet how powerful it can be) and life in general than I ever knew it would.
The opportunity to write every day, help build a new website, create new avenues of work, build case studies and work with Google is something that would have seemed entirely impossible, even just 12 months ago.
As my final big project winds down, I’ve found myself looking back on the process, and have realised how reflective I have been throughout. Every time I finished a piece of work I’ve thought about when I was nine years old, struggling to read, filled with anxiety and doubt, and covering up with an exuberant and over the top personality. I’ve remembered being told by that learning support teacher that I wouldn’t amount to anything because I was stupid, each time I submitted a story and had it sent off to Google headquarters in San Fransisco. And I am humbled. Humbled that people chose to believe in me, in what I could do, and encourage me to explore the unknown. Almost enough to have me believe in me.
I turned 25 last month, an age that I can’t really believe I am (seriously though, when did that happen?!) and it has made me think about how I’ve spent my life so far, what I’ve achieved, what I regret, and what I would do differently given the chance. Looking back over the past seven years since I left school, when I had no idea what I wanted to do in life, I’ve allowed myself to see how far I’ve come. From that naive 17 year old that thought she had to act like something she wasn’t, to a person who is generally speaking comfortable with who that have become, who they are and what they believe in without fear of rejection. And I’m proud.
Ultimately I’ve realised the extent to which society and cultural norms suffocate us, bare down on us and limit who we think we can be or what we can do. It’s like one big giant competition, and you’ll never be good enough. We are so quick to compare ourselves, our skills, personalities, looks and ability to those beside us. We are too quick to say we’re failing, underperforming, and useless because we are not moving at the same pace as our friends or work colleagues.
Failure is understood as something we must avoid at all costs and that we are not worthy if we don’t succeed first time round. We live in fear of feeling like a let a down, and when we do, it hits like a tonne of bricks and knocks us sideways.
And that’s all just bullshit.
I don’t think I know a single person who likes to blow their own trumpet, not really, and it’s why sometimes we struggle to move forward. Failure is integral to how we grow, it teaches us what doesn’t work, but it shouldn’t ever tell us we’re incapable. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new things, or travel, or apply for that job that you’ll never get in a million years. It doesn’t mean we are any less than the colleague or friend who always seems to succeed. It means we’ve grown, tried one road or idea and seen it fall at the first and last hurdle, and worked through it, and learned from the experience.
And yet, even when we do fulfil expectations, stumble upon a wonderful idea and make it happen, or see something we worked on grow and become something we are oh so quick to brush off our role in this success. And we need to stop.
I’ve not written for myself in months, blaming it on being too busy. But honestly not knowing what kind of ‘blogger’ I wanted or needed to be got the better of me. I was scared of not being good enough (not that I know who would be judging anyway?), of coming across as too much of myself. I forgot that my writing was also for me, a safe space of refuge, and I robbed myself of it.
If this year has taught me anything, it is that I am tougher than I think. And so are you. You can blow your own trumpet because dammit you worked hard to achieve something and how you got there doesn’t really matter, because you did it. It doesn’t matter what someone else thinks of what you have done and if they belittle your achievement, remind yourself that just because it seems silly to them, it is not to you. And ultimately you are the only person you have to listen to.
You are not your anxiety. Neither am I. You are not your failures. You are you because of those failures, and your successes combined. And so am I. You are you, and no one should ever take that away from you. You are the only person who can do you, and you can not be replaced, no matter what else is said. And neither can I.
I have no idea what 2017 will bring, just like every other year of my life. I hope it has more positives, brings more writing, both in terms of work and blogging and that at the end of it all, I leave the year with everyone I have now, still at my side.