Hi everyone, it’s been a while. To be honest, the intention to write has always been with me; but sometimes, the time, other times the motivation and mental capacity to write have not. This post has actually been inspired by a very wholesome Messenger chat shared by my friends and I recently about our ‘highlights’ of 2021.
Like every year preceding it and every year that will follow it, 2021 has been an up-and-down-side-to-side-back-to-front rollercoaster. However, as humans, it seems inherent in our nature to focus on the negatives. Placing more emphasis on the adverse events and unpleasant experiences is by no means healthy; yet something I am very well-versed in as a chronic over-thinker. Therefore, I thought it might be beneficial for myself to make a note of my ‘best bits’ from the past year. I know there is a lot of stigma in relation to people only showing their ‘highlight reel’ on social media, and I do agree that it creates an unhealthy view of how ‘the rest of the world’ lives, as well as sets expectations of what life should be like which are unattainable for the majority of the population. That is not what I’m selling. I’m not ignoring the shadows, storms and demons of 2021. Far from it. I often give them too much attention, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. As a combative measure to give myself a better internal balance and a more evenly represented account of my life over this past year, I simply thought that listing the positives (and I don’t mean Covid-19 tests) may be a good way to start.
1. My dad very recently – and without any warning – collapsed at work due to a ruptured brain aneurysm, which also caused a couple of seizures. The ruptured aneurysm caused a subarachnoid hemorrhage (basically, this means there is bleeding in the space that surrounds the brain which can cause severe irritation). This lead to vasospasms (when the arteries narrow/constrict which can reduce the blood flow and so can be very serious if not dealt with immediately). Despite these past few weeks being the most terrifying times in my life so far, we got incredibly lucky in that my dad – the unbelievable fighter that he is – exceeded the doctor’s expectations and after 3 weeks, was well enough to be released home to us in time for Christmas. He truly has been our Christmas miracle and my family will be eternally grateful. For obvious reasons, the worst part of my year shortly lead to the best part of my year (although, I would’ve rathered we’d skipped the critical illness altogether and he’d remained healthy throughout – but since that’s not an option, I’m overwhelmingly relieved that he should make a full recovery after lots of rest).
2. Being reunited with my dad’s side of the family – my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins down in England after around 15 months of lockdowns and travel restrictions was a true blessing. We’d never been apart for so long, and with the world being such an uncertain and scary place throughout the duration of separation, finally being able to hold them again, laugh with them in person and tell them we love them face-to-face meant everything to us all – as I’m sure similar reunions across the globe did to others too.
3. The girls in my friends group developed a much closer bond over this past year. Some of us were close or even very close, but we’d all joined the group at different stages and knew each other through other people so some of us were more like acquaintances. I’m very thankful that we’ve made more of an effort to get to know one another better and realised how well we all click. It’s special knowing you have more girls at your side whom you can trust and who are ready to fight your corner should you ever need them to – after all, as the saying goes: “It’s a man’s world.”
4. My cousin’s fiancé, Roz, asked my other cousin (her best friend) Maddy and I to be her bridesmaids this year. I was truly honoured to be asked to be part of such a special day for her and my cousin, especially as it’s like gaining another sister instead of a ‘cousin-in-law’. I can’t wait for their big day in 2023!
5. I pushed myself out of the comfort of my safe and cosy nest this year to climb Ben Nevis to raise money for a charity in memory of my late gran – the Alzheimer’s Society. I travelled through to Fort William, explored the town and stayed on my own, then tackled the mountain as good as solo too – it was an organised event but a lot of participants had enrolled with friends or family members. I met some incredible people, the views were stunning and I’d love to set myself another charity challenge in 2022.
6. My mum and I reunited with my first ever best friend and her mum on a weekend in Newcastle during the summer. My friend and I met at just 2 years old – her family from Manchester and mine from Glasgow – whilst on holiday in Majorca! Although we’d been in touch on and off through social media for years, Daryl and I had not seen one another in person since we were around 11 years old! It was the most special weekend and the two of us clicked as if we’d only been apart for a week. That’s when you know that those friends are in fact your family.
7. My mum celebrated her big 5-0 in July! Thankfully, the covid-restrictions preventing us from leaving Glasgow were no longer in place and we managed a wholesome family holiday for a week down in East Sussex staying on a beautiful nature reserve. Although the weather was not particularly pleasant at times, it remained warm and we visited some stunning places in the surrounding areas and saw beautiful wildlife.
8. As well as Fort William, East Sussex and the surrounding areas such as Brighton, Hastings and Eastbourne where we walked the Seven Sisters Cliffs, I got to visit some other really beautiful places this year: Glen Coe – particularly The Lost Valley; Edinburgh; Tenerife; The Isle of Arran; and I climbed a couple of Munros at Crianlarich and Loch Earn. I also did an inflatable obstacle course on a lake in England with my family as a surprise celebration for my aunt’s 60th, which is something I never thought I’d do or enjoy – I HATE being cold and wet! But, it was a brilliant laugh and as a bonus, it wasn’t even particularly cold!
9. My holiday to Playa de Las Americas in Tenerife with my bestie was definitely a highlight. Leaving Scotland after around 18 months of being stuck at home in lockdowns, with travel restrictions, being forced to stay away from loved ones and uncertainty about when we’d ever be able to reclaim any form of normality back from the virus, stepping off the plane in Tenerife felt surreal in the best way. We explored beautiful beaches, witnessed the most beautiful sunset on Mount Teide, went to bars and nightclubs, out for delicious meals and had an absolute blast at the water park. Oddly enough, our horrifyingly hilarious encounter with a skateboard-sized cockroach in my suitcase became a traumatic highlight of the holiday due to the sheer combined state of panic, laughter and fear we were in. This set us up for round two when another cockroach resurrected itself outside our front door. Of course, sod’s law would have it that we had an audience of three very confused Spanish guys across the road as we ‘handled’ the situation (a.k.a. Hannah dramtically and bravely jumping on it and scooting it away with a fully-extended selfie stick). One of the poor guys started coming over to check on us before we closed the door. I wonder what they thought was going on? Poor lads.
10. My bestie, Hannah, surprised me with a day out for my birthday – I wasn’t given any details, I was only told a time and to meet her at the train station. After guessing we were heading through to the capital, another of my besties met us in Glasgow to get the train through. This was a lovely surprise in itself, but when another four of my best girls were sat waiting for me in Las Iguanas in Edinburgh later that day, my mind was blown. I was truly humbled that these girls had taken the time out of their weekend to travel through there as a surprise for me. It lead to a few too many cocktails and shots – and a nightclub in Glasgow for the last 4 of us standing (which meant it was 5am the next morning before I returned home). My friends really are the best.
11. My family adopted the cat (Bruce) of a close friend of mine who was returning to live in Australia with her family and couldn’t take him. As sad as I was to see her go, taking him in has felt like a silver lining. He’s fit right in with my family (I’m currently his favourite although I don’t actually live there…), except him and our other cat, Oscar, who have yet to become besties. I hope this is on the cards one day, but they’re fine with each other as is. Having him around has been a real comfort for us over the past few weeks while my dad was critically ill due to his loving nature and his crazy antics which kept us entertained.
12. One of my fascinations is with the night sky. The stars and planets on a clear night have always mesmorised me and I spent many nights wrapped in blankets lying in my parents’ back garden watching out for shooting stars. This year, whilst on a trip up Mount Teide, we stopped to witness the Milky Way in all her glory. The tour guide pointed out constellations and planets and told us stories and facts about our galaxy. A few weeks later when I was on the Isle of Arran (Scotland), I was fortunate enough to witness the milky way again on a magical night with my family. We even spotted a shooting star or two. Experiences like these really do mean so much more to me than anything money can buy.
13. One of my grandparents’ favourite places is the Isle of Arran. Before they had to give up driving, they used to make annual trips there. My aunt and her friend brought them up from Nottingham in October and we joined them for a few days on the beautiful island. Spending time with them in a place so important to them was incredibly special and one of those trips I will always cherish. Whilst in Arran, I FINALLY saw a golden eagle in the wild – a dream I’ve been obsessed with for many years! I saw it from afar through binoculars and through my dad’s camera lens, but it was magnificent all the same. Due to the distance, the photos weren’t particularly good quality, but it’s clear enough proof that it’s an eagle! My dad, aunt, brother and I also tackled the biggest Corbett on the island – Goat Fell – which was brilliant despite the wind, and the views were absolutely worth the trek. My grandparents’ love for the island has rubbed off on me without a doubt and I can’t wait to visit again.
14. Over the past year, I’ve become a bit more content and confident in myself through learning more about who I am and the kind of person I want to be. In part, this has helped me to develop the confidence to share some of my writing – such as this blog. This is colossal progress for me as although writing is something I’m passionate about, I’m also extremely self-conscious about it, which means I struggle to share it through fear of failure and criticism. Again, this is not a particularly healthy mindset to have, but I am working on it – and making this blog public was a big step in the right direction for me at the start of 2021.
15. This year, I have started becoming more comfortable in my own skin. For as long as I can remember, I’ve never been satisfied with my appearance. I’ve always idolised ‘beautiful’ celebrities who had completely flat stomachs or washboard abs all year round; who’s skin was always flawless, and who were highly regarded in the media for their ‘natural’ beauty. It sounds sad, and I guess it is, but I’ve never felt ‘good enough’. I’ve never felt ‘thin enough’; ‘pretty enough’; ‘smart enough’; or ‘popular enough’. However, this year, I’ve started to accept myself, and my body for what it is. I work hard in the gym to keep myself strong and fit, and it helps my mental wellbeing too. I generally eat a balanced diet (excluding Christmas… and Easter, holidays and birthdays…) but whilst trying to maintain an equilibrium which allows me to enjoy myself. I’ve began to accept that it’s okay, in fact, normal to have some body fat. It’s normal to have scars, cellulite and some ‘wobbly’ bits. Any time I’ve achieved or been close to my ‘goal’ body composition, it’s generally been at the expense of having a social life or enjoying the meals and snacks that I love. As I’m getting older, I’m realising that aiming for visible abs to look like celebrities and fitness models year-round are not worth missing out on life for. I’m learning to be okay with these things. I’ll be honest, it’s a slow process, and I still have days where I feel bad about myself, but I believe that’s common too. Perfection isn’t attainable, it’s not a goal. Just be yourself, do your best and treat yourself well like you would treat your loved ones. I’m working on being happily imperfect.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read my random wafflings. I know these are the positives from my 2021 and they’ll likely be very different from other people’s; but I challenge you to make your own list. It can be solely for yourself, you don’t have to show anyone, but I think it is a good way to gain another perspective and it may make you feel a little bit better if you’re having ‘one of those days’.