Goodbye 2016 – and good riddance

long-beachLike many of you, I cannot wait to see the back of 2016 – annus horribilis both personally and politically. I know the world doesn’t magically change just with the transition of one calendar year into another but it’s a soothing thought that a new year could be a new opportunity to do things better.

It’s been a while since I last wrote anything but I wanted to conclude this year of rather sporadic and at times somewhat erratic blogging with one more post. It’s at this time of year that WordPress charges me for the renewal of my domain name which makes me think back to Christmas 2013 when I first established this blog in anticipation of handing in my notice at work. It seems like eons ago. Yes, the site probably needs an overhaul in terms of design and yes I really should sort my images out and tidy them up and yes I really should post a bit more frequently – my original aim of weekly posts has long gone out the window. But, well, it is what it is. My life is pretty busy right now, and I like to keep it that way because being busy is a good way to stop yourself from being maudlin.

I’ve been embracing various new experiences recently – some of which suitable for publication and some of which less so – in an attempt to keep busy, and to distract myself. I’ve written before about how in recent times I have tried to become less cautious and risk-averse and more open to challenging previously held ideas about what I do and don’t do. At the same time I get anxious sometimes about trying too hard, doing things for the sake of being different or appearing cool or interesting, or just doing things to run away from the reality of my life. I realise that to some of my friends who are married and settled with children who are growing up fast, my exploits probably seem a bit baffling at times and quite far removed from their everyday experience. The truth is, I hugely admire them and their ability to find excitement and joy in something constant, and to make that work over the long term. I suppose that they must sometimes long for the type of freedom and lack of responsibilities that I get to enjoy, which is what drives me to want to make the most of it.

So back in September I bought Art for the first time, which seemed like a hugely decadent, middle-class and grown-up thing to do. The Art in question is two paintings by my crazy talented friend Aimee Brigginshaw, do check out her work. The process of deliberating and choosing and framing and hanging was really enjoyable and I feel happier with this purchase than most other things I have ever spent money on.

At the end of October I had a not insignificantly-sized tattoo of an owl placed on my back. This was not an impulsive thing as I’d been thinking about it for years, but still somewhat drastic given that my skin was previously unchartered territory in terms of ink. I am terrible with pain so the actual tattooing was a bit taxing – particularly given the location of the thing across my spine – but I am extremely happy with it. Even my mother, who erupted in fits of nervous laughter when I first told her I was getting one and was quick to check it would be in a place that I could cover up, conceded it was very beautifully done.

Then I decided to book a trip to Thailand, leaving on Christmas Day, travelling alone. I once went cycling in Co. Clare on my own for a few days and spent a day or so in Athens by myself, but other than that I am not a seasoned lone traveller, or a seasoned traveller full stop really. I booked it almost defiantly, without dwelling too much on what it would actually be like. Then I was too busy to do much detailed planning, and then it got to being about a week before my departure date and I was suddenly struck by sheer terror at finding myself halfway across the world without anyone there to help me not get lost. My sense of direction is abysmal. And I can be too gullible. And I burn really quickly and won’t be able to ask anyone to put sunscreen on my back without looking very weird.

Anyway, it’s too late now as I am catching a coach to Heathrow in a matter of hours and although today is the first Christmas Day I have ever spent on my own, it really has been a lot less difficult than I thought it might be. I went for a run, ate some mince pies and currently have Bach’s Christmas Oratorio playing at full volume with my bags pretty much packed. I realise how ridiculously lucky I am to be able to do this and that the odds are relatively favourable in terms of having a good time (the picture is one I found online of Ko Lanta by the way, where I will be spending New Year’s Eve). So you can put your violins away and dry your eyes now people, I think I’ll live.

In the middle of all of this I also decided to register for the Brighton Half Marathon in February. Again, I had been toying with it for a while and suddenly decided it would be a good idea. So now I am regularly running 8k before breakfast and going out at weekends to run to Rottingdean and back and taking my running gear with me on holiday so I can keep up the training and having boring conversations with other people who run about average pace per kilometre. My school PE teacher would eat his rounders bat.

So yes, I am trying new things and just trying to make sure I keep being carried along on a wave of busy work and social things and personal challenges and new experiences. It’s not a bad thing I suppose. And although generally it has been a shitty year with lots of dark moments, I am concluding it with something amazingly positive – namely that from January I will be working at Blast Theory again as Development Manager for two days a week. Anyone who has followed this blog, or my social media, over the last two years, or who has basically spent any time with me at all will know how much I love them and how much this means to me. I am a lucky bastard and I know it. Merry Christmas to you all, I’m off to Bangkok.

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