Old year, New year

Okay, okay, I know it’s a bit late for this post, but who cares? I was busy doing stuff…

I’m not a massive fan of new year as a rule – it’s almost always a huge letdown as a night out, and unless I’m at a houseparty with some good friends I’d frankly rather be at home watching TV like any other night of the year. However I do occasionally like to stop and take the opportunity to reflect on the year that has gone by, and the new one that is coming, and think about all of the good and bad things that have come along, or that might be waiting right around the corner.

2014 was a year of achievements and firsts for me, however, I think on balance 2015 was a fairly crap year in comparison.

I started the year alone in Iraq in a very tough situation, working with some very difficult people, and frankly the first couple of months there were pretty shitty, and caused me some pretty major stress. However, I’m happy to say that things in Iraq did improve significantly as the year went on and certain people left the response, so I don’t feel that it was all bad, and I was able to leave Iraq feeling generally much better about things.

2015 was sadly also a very bad year for the health of the people I love. A number of people close to me were diagnosed with some nasty things, and have been battling and fighting them most of the year.

To give you some examples, my stepmother spent most of 2015 fighting lung cancer through chemo and radiation, and my sister was diagnosed with bowel cancer. She spent the last few months of 2015 having chunks of her bowel and liver removed in a series of fairly major and invasive surgeries. One of my best friends was diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder called Graves Disease, which causes her body to attack itself, and another friend was diagnosed with cancer in her jaw, which resulted in major surgeries to her face, and a series of painful and difficult radiation therapies.

Another of my best friends has been going through a nasty divorce and had to sell her house and move with her young daughter in the process.

And then right at the end of 2015, while on holiday in Thailand, my brother and I saw a horrific motorcycle accident, in which two 15-year old schoolgirls lost control of their scooter after the tire blew out, and came off at speed, with no helmets on. They were badly injured, and when we pulled over and rushed to help, one of them was lying face down on the tarmac, bleeding from her head and convulsing, and I was sure that we were watching her die in front of us. Thankfully the ambulance arrived quickly and I don’t think she actually died right then, but it was an extremely shocking and traumatic way to end the year.

However, I think New Year’s eve might have been one of the best for me personally – I was at the beach in Phuket with my brother and his family, and everyone was letting off hundreds of sky lanterns into the night – it was incredibly beautiful, and we were able to let go of some of the demons of the year. We bought a lantern, and (metaphorically) put all of the bad things from 2015 into it and released it out into the night – it was incredibly cathartic to let it all go!

Then we released one lantern each with all of our hopes and dreams for the new year out into the night – it was really lovely and very special!


And so, rather than dwell on all of the bad things that went on in 2015, which I stood on the beach and watched float away into the night sky, I also think it’s important to reflect on the good things that happened last year, as although it sometimes feels like the bad eclipses the good, there are still plenty of good things to be thankful for.

So here they are:

First of all, my lovely cat Tiggy, who was suffering and in a lot of pain in 2014 due to a mysterious spinal problem that had the vet stumped, is much, much better and seems to have made a full recovery – although we don’t really know why!

My sister, stepmother, and various friends with illnesses are all fighting hard and doing well – and staying cheerful to boot!

I think I came out of Iraq a stronger person than I went in, and I learnt a lot professionally about how to deal with some very tricky situations.

I spent the summer enjoying going to festivals and having a lot of fun catching up with my friends. I’ve had the opportunity to spend some very precious and real quality time with all 5 of my wonderful and unique niblings, who I love dearly and have missed terribly.

I have been finding my new job really interesting, challenging and exciting, and have been feeling truly appreciated by my new team and colleagues. I discovered that for the first time I have a set of skills that are in demand and have been headhunted more than once this year, which was a huge boost to my ego and made me realise I am no longer the poor unemployed soul fighting for a foot in the door. I have spent 7 years working hard to get where I am since I first changed careers and entered the aid sector, and I finally feel that I deserve to be exactly where I am. Always nice to know other people feel that way too!

I’ve had the opportunity to really be there for my friends and family, to support them, love them, make them laugh and show them how much I care about each and every one of them.

So it will be a fresh start for 2016, and I am looking forward to the new and exciting challenges it may bring (apart from the small dog attack in Chiang Mai which we’ll just pretend happened in 2015…).

I have just accepted a longer-term job based in Oxford, with a small amount of travel, but will be spending much more time at home, which will will allow me to focus on restoring my garden to it’s former glory, spend more quality time with my cats, friends and family, explore my new job, new possibilities, and develop some DIY projects, such as converting my loft into a third bedroom and buying a bit more of my house.

Oh yeah, and also eat healthier, exercise more, smoke less, etc etc – all the usual new year’s resolutions are in there too!

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