Twenty sixteen, what a monster you are. It seems there’s been a constant rolling tide of bad news headlines, both in national and world news. It’s been a tough year being Beth, too. I feel like I’ve had my own constant rolling tide of bad news, both professionally (ha ha fuck) and in my personal life.
I recently came to the realisation that this year I’ve almost completely neglected my head in twenty sixteen. It was never an intentional thing, but as I got more and more wrapped up in first finishing my degree and then getting neck-deep in the cesspool that is finding a graduate job, my mental health kind of fell by the wayside. I’m a long way from where I started 2015, with the decision to make my mental health a top priority. This year I relied almost completely on my antidepressants, without doing any work of my own towards better management of my mental illness. Due almost completely to circumstance, this is the best year I’ve had since my anxiety got out of control in 2013. Having a job that starts late in the day and demands little of me in terms of intense labour has been excellent in keeping my stress levels low (stress is a major trigger – I don’t cope with it well). I’m almost ashamed to admit that, though, because it means I still have a lot of work to do if I want to be happy and capable in a challenging full-time job.
My heart’s in a funny place, in terms of where it wants to go and what it wants to do in the coming year. A few days before Christmas I received a letter from university, asking me if I wanted to enrol in the Honours programme for History. I don’t really want to spend another year in school and sink even deeper into the quicksand of student debt. On the other hand, I miss having a concrete goal to work towards, and something to keep my head down and my mind sharp. I’ve got this (not-insignificant) niggle in my head telling me ‘don’t do it, get a job, save some money so you can travel the world before you’re in your 40s‘. I wish I wasn’t so scared of travel, because I desperately want to see other corners of this weird blue world. I wish I wasn’t so scared of making major life decisions in general, because I feel like the latter half of this year has been full of unnecessary stalling. I see so many of my friends moving from student life into successful adult jobs and travelling the world in a way that seems as easy as hopping on a bus to town. I’ve watched people I sat next to in high school classrooms fill their social media with pictures of impossibly big American cities and rugged Irish cliffs while I’ve sat in the bath at my parents’ home and watched tealight candles burn down to nothing. I’ve watched my best friend from high school get married to a man I’d met only once before. I’ve felt ill a lot this year, thinking about how quickly time is passing and how little I’ve been doing to fill it.
Home is a weird word that seems not to have just one meaning to me anymore. It’s the sun-browned hills of Hawke’s Bay where I grew up: the smell of Lush in the bathroom at my parents’ house, my cat curling up at the foot of my bed there, her soft warm fur, wine and movies with Mum and Dad on bitter winter nights. It’s also Wellington, where the streets are slammed with wind and the weather is ten different things in one day: the flat I’ve lived in for three years with its grotesque orange carpets and enormous windows that don’t open even a little, the drunken bottle-smashing crowds that gather in the carpark outside on Friday nights. It’s where I know people, where I have my friends, the streets I understand and the shortcuts I know and the coffee shops I walk into where I’m greeted by name and the cute barista draws flowers on my coffee cup. But home is also nowhere really, and this year I’ve been sinking into unhappiness about it. My flat is not right, it doesn’t feel like a home. Over the past months it feels less and less comfortable; I should get out. My parents’ place is not home, either; there’s nothing in Hastings for me long-term, as much as I love short visits here. So home is something I’m still looking to make for myself, and I’m not quite sure how to do it.
I know that I can’t have the good and the bad separately, no matter how much I might try to control and separate the things that happen to me so they don’t stain or get stained by one another. Twenty sixteen has been so much bad that at times I forget there’s been good. But of course there has: there have been wonderful moments shared with friends, laughing until my tummy hurt or tipsily discussing hard-hitting things we’d never tackle completely sober. There’s been a relationship, which I won’t say much about other than that we do so well for each other and I’m pretty stoked to have him. I’ve watched my best friend smash an internship interview and travel around the world for what she believes in. I graduated (holy wow, that was a thing). My throat hurts thinking about the important moments I’ve shared with important people this year, but it’s a good hurt. It’s good.
So fuck you, tookaysixteen. You did your worst. And here I am: battered, bruised, but alive. Scared as all hell for what the next year might hold, don’t get me wrong. But ready to have a good long quiet think about my head, heart and home and then smash through two thousand and seventeen like I fucking well should.