On the saving graces of 2016

I’m writing this with a dwindling packet of Lockets to my left, a wad of snotty loo roll to my right, and a kitchen full of food waiting to be turned into for my ace flatmate to turn it into tasty canapés ahead of the neighbours arriving for New Year’s Eve. I’m multi-tasking, taking stock as I prep a party playlist for this evening’s probably-bigger-than-anticipated festivities. And I’m sitting on the brink of a new year, trying to cling to the loveliness of 2016 wherever I can find it.

Aside from the despair felt on a global scale this year, 2016 sucked personally, too – from the detachment and depression that kicked in for me around February, to the loss of a true giant of a man in August – the last of my grandparents – and the subsequent unravelling of a family. Loss and hopelessness have shaped the past 12 months. But it wouldn’t be a new year for me without an attempt to salvage some goodness from the one just past. To look back and try to make sense of the good, the bad and the in-between. To set some intentions and aspirations for the year ahead – whether they’re destined to materialise or not.

This year, above anything else, was the year I saw the most beloved of men be ravaged by illness – his skin be turned to paper, his body scarily thinned, his voice silenced – and then be snatched away, quicker than I ever thought possible. But I’m left with constant reminders of my Grandad Charlie’s life. Cards, letters, photographs, the beginnings of a book manuscript, and a swallow-shaped tribute forever etched into my skin. Yep, in 2016, I got my first tattoo. I say ‘first’ because I sensed the impending addiction as soon as I walked into the tattoo studio. I’m still formulating ideas for my next piece, and I won’t go ahead willy-nilly with a design that doesn’t shout at me with pure certainty, but hey, watch this space. For now, I’m still pretty much obsessed with my first one.

In January, I took a short course in DJing. I bought my own decks soon after and genuinely can’t remember a time I’ve been so delighted, either before or since. I squealed and jumped around my living room, for god’s sake. I’m not exactly about to take to the stage at Ministry of Sound or anything, but it feels good to have found something that makes me excited to lose myself in it and learn.

This year, I did lots of running. I mean, I’ve been a runner for almost my entire 20s, but I’ve not run this much in a while. I ran four half-marathons, scored a 10k PB AND joined an actual running club. I start training with them next week. I was a bit beside myself when they accepted me as a new member, to be honest.

I visited another new country. Me and my flatmate somewhat spontaneously booked ourselves some autumn sunshine on the Greek island of Kefalonia. I spent an entire afternoon on a beach, doing absolutely nothing but napping and reading and eating foreign snacks. And I never do that. It was delicious. My bank balance will dictate how much more travelling I can do in 2017, but I hope it’s at least some. This girl and her ever-expanding mind are forever seeking new cities and sunsets and stories.

Other cool things that happened this year: I expanded my yoga practice beyond YouTube videos, found a teacher whose classes I adore and finally got to grips with Crow. I got taken to Paris for the day. I went on my first girls’ holiday. I swam outdoors. I developed a serious liking for coffee and red wine. I ate a lot of brunch. I interviewed footballers and Formula One drivers on camera and got paid for it. I read more books this year than in the past three years combined. I learnt how to make cocktails (well, two). I went to concerts and theatre shows and stuff all by myself. I had a sleepover with my sister, went to a hip-hop club with my brother and got drunk with my new-to-London younger cousin. And I referred myself for therapy.

And as for other wonderful things that weren’t directly my things but were wonderful nonetheless? I celebrated my little brother becoming a fully fledged firefighter and I saw one of my best friends from childhood get married on a day that swept me up in its pure awesomeness like nothing else could.

So, 2016, you did your worst. But it would seem that I’m leaving you a wiser, fitter (minus the lurgy), wider-read and further-travelled woman than when I met you, with richer experiences under my belt and better friends and close family than I could ever dare hope for. I’m clearer on what’s important and where I want to go. And more than anything, I’m learning to be OK with what is. To appreciate what’s in front of my face, accept when things aren’t great and trust in my own ability to make them better. 2017 better watch it, that’s all I can say.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there are some uncooked meatballs that need cocktail stick-ing and a Betty Crocker brownie mix with my name on it.