Reflections on 2013 & my hopes for 2014

As December ends, I start to think about the past year and my achievements. When I first thought about my 2013, I originally thought I had not achieved that much. However, a random comment on facebook (thanks Danny!) made me look at my year in review and this revealed a bigger picture of my achievements both big and small.

On New Year’s eve, I created and posted on fb a list of the key things I achieved and enjoyed in 2013:

*had an amazing new year in Bruges

After a lifetime of NYE in London, three years ago I decided to spend new year in a foreign/ new city. I have celebrated in Edinburgh, Bruges and this year Liverpool. I find being away from home psychologically helps me to feel like I am starting a new year afresh and the experience of discovering a new place makes me more positive about the coming year and what I will achieve in it.

*moved house

It seems commonplace to write about but after two months of stressful looking, in March 2013 I moved in with my landlady Julia and two cats. I have gained a new home and a new friend.

*started swimming lessons & progressed well

This is one of my biggest achievements of 2013. I am pretty much terrified of water and it took all the patience of my swimming teacher Katy to get me in the adult pool, let alone learn how to tread water and take my first stroke of swimming unaided. I now can’t believe I progressed as much as I did in such a short time and will be resuming my lessons soon.

*helped to organise a fab 30th bday for one of my oldest friends

This is a small achievement but I’m glad that I was able to have some input and contribute to one of oldest friends 30th birthday. Particularly as I was not there to celebrate in person. Knowing that she was happy and thoroughly enjoyed herself made me glad.

*travelled to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi & Mozambique

This is my biggest achievement of 2013. Myself and Fu travelled overland from Kenya to Mozambique in 6.5 weeks, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I’ve always wanted to do some ‘proper travelling’ and see more of the motherland, but it was in July 2013 that I finally got to realise that dream and surprised myself by how much I got into backpacking. I met some lovely people in the most varied of circumstances; saw some of the most beautiful places in the world and just lived for the moment. I have definitely been bitten by the travel bug and plan to have some more adventures in 2014.

*celebrated my 31st birthday

This isn’t really an achievement, but after having some considerable angst about turning 30, I am pleased that I was able to celebrate being 31 with equanimity. (and with lots of friends, alcohol, dancing and excellent food!) I also find that I am more self aware, more committed to taking responsibility for my life and financially stable, all of which I strived for in my 20s and which I have learnt is an ongoing process.

*organised another great Black History Month event at school.

For two years I have organised and hosted a Black History Month event at my school, celebrating the achievements of those from the black diaspora and those students whose academic excellence should be celebrated. It was a great night and highlighted both of these with lots of positive feedback from parents.

*helped to set up a feminist society at school

I am a feminist. I think feminism is important and benefits both men and women. I discussed this with a like minded teacher at school and a feminist group has been started. The group have already taken part in the ‘I need feminism because’ campaign. In a world where gender stereotypes are rife and media portrayals of women often focus on their relative attractiveness, we need to give young people the tools to deal with this crap.
On New Year’s day I thought about what did I want to achieve in 2014 and how was I realistically going to achieve my goals.

My biggest commitment this year is to continue to aim for more positive mental health. I am using the term mental health deliberately because there is unnecessary stigma about the term. I started this blog because I want to become a more positive person, and what I actually meant was – I wanted to be able to see my world in a different way and be more appreciative of what I have. A change in my mind set- an improvement in my mental health. As a coach and educator, I know having a positive mind set and understanding your goals and motivations are key to achieving any goal. By having more positive mental health this will enable me to achieve all my other goals. How am I going to achieve this goal? By surrounding myself with positive & supportive people; by reading more- A road less travelled and books on mindfulness are on my reading list and by starting samba classes (Sundays @ Islington Arts Factory if you fancy it!) . Doing what you love is also a powerful motivator so I will continue to tend to my mini garden and read lots.

This brings me to one of my other goals. I recently read an interesting article about a woman who is only going to read books by writers of colour in 2014. As a black woman who reads voraciously, I am aware that whilst I have read books by writers of colour, I have never made a conscious effort to do so and so my knowledge of literature is mostly western, with the occasional foray into the literature of the country I am visiting and writers of magic realism. I have also been a bit concerned about the lack of diversity in both the characters and writers in one of my favourite genre’s- fantasy. I had a quick scan of the books I now own and this confirmed to me that whilst there was some diversity, most of my books were written by white, western authors. So inspired by the article, book suggestions found in fantasy threads and my amazon wish list, I went to the Islington library catalogue and came up with a list of books to read in 2014:

  • Coolie Woman/ Gaiutra Bahadur (Indo- Guyanese)
  • Pride of Carthage & Acacia: War with the Mein Bk. 1 / David Anthony Durham (African American)
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance Trilogy 1) / N. K. Jemisin (African American)
  • The bastard of Istanbul & The gaze / Elif Shafak (Turkish)
  • The museum of innocence : a novel / Orhan Pamuk (Turkish)
  • Fictions / Jorge Luis Borges  (Argentinian)
  • The fall of the stone city & The Palace of Dreams / Ismail Kadare (Albanian)
  • Arabian nights and days / Naguib Mahfouz (Egyptian)
  • Sugar in the blood : a family’s story of slavery and empire / Andrea Stuart (Bajan/Barbadian)
  • Witchbroom & Light falling on bamboo/ Lawrence Scott (Trinidadian)
  • When the Only Light Is Fire / Saeed Jones (African American/ LGBT)
  • The brief wondrous life of Oscar Wao & This is how you lose her / Junot Diáz (Dominican)
  • We need new names / NoViolet Bulawayo (Zimbabwean)
  • Ghana must go / Tayie Selasi ( Ghananian)
  • Sounds Like London: 100 Years of Black Music in the Capital / Lloyd Bradley (Black British)
  • Twelve Tribes of Hattie / Ayana Mathis (African American)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God / Zora Neale Hurston (African American)

Wish me luck with my epic reading list and my quest to be a more positive, healthy person this year. I hope to have more good times with old friends and new and fit in at least one travel adventure. This will also be the year I learn to swim! Here is my final thought for what i want in 2014:

 

New Year, so far


I love New Year, I think I love New Year almost as much as I love birthdays, in fact I know I love it more than many other celebrations because I love the idea of a fresh start, a blank slate AND that everyone can celebrate the New Year together.

In 2011 I decided that I wanted to celebrate New Year in a different country or outside of London, as a 30 year old Londoner, there is a limit to the house parties/ clubs/ bars that I can freshly celebrate in. So last year I went with two old friends to Edinburgh, a city I had wanted to visit for AGES, and saw 2012 in with old friends and new on Arthur’s seat with a cascade of fireworks surrounding us. A fantastic start to the year. This year I was in Bruges with some newer friends, and celebrated in the pouring rain with great bonhomie, champers and dancing to Gangnam style. Another amazing start to a new year.

This year is one of changes for me and as such, I only set one resolution which I detailed in my previous post. I felt so great from my excursion to Bruges that I decided to create a list of tasks starting the next day. Note I mention tasks, not resolutions. These are things I want to get done now. And they are:

1) Book a night photography workshop
Those of you that know me well will know I enjoy taking photos and have a photoblog  (somewhat neglected of late, I will rectify)  and I have had this voucher since my birthday in October and had been ignoring it really. But I love taking photos. I enjoy the technical aspect of using a SLR.  And I can borrow the equipment I need. So I put a appointment  in my calendar with all the details and today gave the photographer a call. He was lovely and said he would send me some dates that suited me. Mission accomplished.

2) Start dating
This is an interesting one because I often feel as though I need to be some kind of perfect to start dating someone – ‘Oh when I get that job, I’ll be ready’, ‘When I’ve moved house and am more settled, then I can join a dating site’, ‘When I’ve finished this, then would be a good time’. However a few recent unsuccessful romantic entanglements made me realise that whilst I am putting my romantic life on hold, I am wasting time; and also perhaps I’ll never feel ready. So I decided that I would just bite the bullet and start online dating. So far I’ve created my profile, which is a positive step and is at least opening up the possibility of dating someone.

3) Find a new home
Unfortunately my lovely housemates and I are going our separate ways and I made the decision to move into a new flatshare for a variety of reasons. However moving to a new flat, with new people makes me more than a little bit nervous and it is the sheer fear of having no where to live in a weeks time that has prompted me to action. However, I have already viewed two flats and have several more lined up. Doing something is better than doing nothing and having done some viewings already, I feel calmer about the ones to come.

4) Start blogging again
I started off really well with this blog but towards the end of last year, my blogging dwindled. I think that this is a great space and resource for myself and others (judging by the positive feedback I get!) and so I decided to start again, pushing myself to blog on Jan 1st, telling myself it is better to write for 10 minutes than to not write at all.  Ditto with this post, its better to write a post here than to spend an hour aimlessly surfing the net.

I hope that you find something of inspiration in my words. Drop me a comment below. 🙂

Michelle

New Year’s resolutions 2013- ‘F**k It’!

I am writing this sitting on my sofa after a wonderful 36 hours in Bruge celebrating the New Year with old and new friends. I have been neglecting my writing of late and kept on putting ‘write blog post’ on my to do list, but I never seemed to have the time… However energised by my lovely time away, I decided to post about my New Year’s resolutions. I love the idea of resolutions, but find it hard to follow them through. However this year I have one main resolution- to say ‘F**k It’ more often. This was inspired by a book of the same name given to me by a very good friend for my 30th birthday. I am a worrier and an over thinker and I feel that I could learn a lot; let go more; and make decisions better for myself by adopting this attitude.

Watch this space for further details.

Happy New Year 2013!

Love,

Michelle

The first blog of 2012

I have not wrote here for a while for a number of reasons- lack of internet, the whirl of festivities, traveling from Wales to London, then London to Scotland and back again; and partly just getting back into the sway of things. Today was my first day back at work and I am grateful for a lightness of spirit that comes from a restful break.
As some of you know, I spent the Christmas in Wales which was lovely; my stepdad had decorated the entire house and covered the front room with fairy lights. I am grateful that I had a lovely time with my family; my annual watching of Eastenders took place with my sisters and mum; we drank lots of Baileys and I learnt that my youngest brother is a massive Star Wars fan. I got lots of lovely Christmas messages when we went out of the valleys.
In Edinburgh, I was grateful to the very generous Kate who gave over her room for myself, Sam and Devina to share. Her hospitality seemed to know no bounds as she walked us over town, cooked for us and took us to see the most amazing firework display on Carlton Hill. I spent New Year with friends that I love and believe that the amazing fireworks were a positive omen for a wonderful, sparkly 2012.
And finally, having thought about the highlights of 2011 which were many, I have  decided to make this year one of the best in my life, well when I say best, I mean to challenge myself and survive.
I want to go to South America and volunteer there. I would love to go to Brazil but maybe will go to Venezuela so I can get to Trinidad and finally see some of my Caribbean heritage; or Colombia because I can and it would be interesting. 
Therefore I will need to learn some Portuguese or some Spanish- if you can help, let me know.
I definitely want to go back to Gambia in November to help build the clinic. Therefore saving lots and being frugal is definitely a big part of this year.

The main other resolution is to get fit through dance and I mean to take a dance class each week with my lovely friends, as I know it is the only way I’ll go. I’ve already had a very positive response, so fingers crossed this is one resolution that I keep to!