It’s no secret 2016 has been a difficult year for many, and downright craptastic for some of us. My year falls into the latter category for a myriad of reasons. I’ve been doing Susannah Conway’s yearly Unravelling workbook, which has prompted a lot of reflection on 2016 - the good, the bad, and everything in between.
I don’t think I did a yearly recap last year, but I wanted to do one this year because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately - a lot of self-reflection, working through some things personally, with family, in my journal, and now I wanted to do it here, albeit on a smaller, slightly less personal level. I guess there’s always that hope that something I say will help someone else, whether it’s to realize they’re not alone in something, or to initiate their own reflection and self-growth. I posted on Instagram about the workbook, and quite a few people said it was something they'd be interested in, so I encourage you to check out Susannah's website if you're interested. She also has a great 2017 calendar, and she has a 5-day course to help you figure out a word for 2017. The best part is all of this awesomeness is free because Susannah is such a kind, lovely soul.
2016 has been a particularly difficult year for my family. At the beginning of the year, my family fell apart spectacularly. I can’t go into specifics, but the actions of one person set off a chain of events that’s still affecting all of us today, and will continue to do so. It’s caused a lot of hurt, anger, feelings of betrayal, confusion, sadness - you name it. Also, I lost two uncles this year, and I wasn’t able to attend their funerals or comfort my aunts and cousins because they live on the other side of the country. My dad’s side of the family - once huge, with sixteen siblings - is getting smaller by the year, and I haven’t seen any of them in years. Haven’t been able to attend a single funeral for the family members I’ve lost. Closer to home, my aunt and uncle on my mum's side both had some major health issues this year that have been a huge concern. It's just been a really shitty, tough year for my whole family.
2016 was also a difficult year for friendships. In 2015 I did a clean sweep of the toxic 'friends' in my life, and I felt much lighter and healthier mentally. Despite consistently playing the victim and attempting to rewrite history and never take responsibility for their actions, these people were hurtful, narcissistic, and at times downright cruel. I knew I was well rid of their toxic energy and presence in my life, and I left them in 2015 without a backward glance. I thought I was set with my friendships. I quickly learned I wasn’t. I also learned I don’t have many people I can count on. This isn’t necessarily something new, but it really hit home this year. When someone who knows you struggle with depression and anxiety hears you’re feeling anxious or depressed, feeling fragile or vulnerable, feeling mixed up and out of sorts, and their reaction is basically ‘that’s too bad’ and then change the subject, or talk about themselves, or never bother to check to see how you’re doing after that initial conversation...it hurts. When someone who knows your messed-up family situation - especially someone who KNOWS your family, has met them, spent time with them, etc - can’t be bothered to check in or show any concern...it hurts. When someone pulls away or even abandons you during one of the most difficult times of your life...it hurts. A lot. And all of that hurt leads to a lot of resentment and anger. Hard feelings, even broken friendships. I’ve known a lot of selfish people in my life, but honestly, there were people in my life this year who took the cake on selfishness. When you get to a point where you feel you have to keep things to yourself - things that are eating you alive, worrying you, causing you mental health issues - because you feel that someone who should care no longer does...it fucking sucks. It hurts a lot. Having someone consistently turn everything back to themselves or not show any concern is irritating at first, then maddening, then...well, then I just stopped caring myself, stopped trying. There’s only so many times you can be shut down, shut up, cast aside, and made to feel like you don’t matter. Like your problems, your family, your mental health don’t matter.
But, all that being said, here’s where something amazing comes in. Something that shows how much I’ve changed and grown. These situations, these hurtful, selfish people, would have brought me down into a deep hole of depression a year or two ago. My self-worth would have been shattered. This year, though? I’ve picked up the pieces of my broken heart, my hurt feelings, my cracked mental health, and I’ve made them into armour. I’ve learned to depend on myself. I’ve learned to love myself. Actually love myself. That’s huge! I’ve learned to enjoy my own company, rely on myself, and I’m stronger now. Really strong. It’s taken all of these events to get me here. I spent a lot of this year stewing in anger. Resentment. Not wanting the responsibilities that were thrust on me. Angry that I had no say in a lot of things and felt like so many things were out of my control. Angry at people who hurt me, especially those who were oblivious to that hurt, or simply didn’t care because they were so wrapped up in their own lives. But in the last month or so, through a lot of hard work and reflection, I’ve seen rays of light in some of these situations. I’ve seen that there are positives in the bad things that happened, that it’s not all darkness.
Professionally, 2016 was a joke. All the crap going on in my life took up so much time and energy at the beginning of the year, I basically had to put my career on hold. I wasn’t able to write - not that I felt like writing anyway. When things calmed down and I had the time to write, I didn’t feel like it. I lost my motivation, lost my creative mojo. The only creative outlet that held my interest was bookstagram. I’d like to talk more about that, but since this post is already getting really long, I’ll just say bookstagram, and the amazing people I met there this year, saved me time and time again. It gave me something fun to do, something to focus on, and a creative outlet when nothing else was working for me. Anyway, going back to writing: I worked a bit on an old story and started three new projects. I suppose now that I think about it, I managed to write tens of thousands of words on various stories this year, which is something, but I wasn’t motivated to finish any of them. I didn’t publish anything new in 2016, which makes me cringe. I started a big project with a friend, spent countless hours preparing and working on it, and it went stagnant. All that hard work will eventually pay off, because we’re working toward resurrecting our plans next year, but it was another disappointment added to the list, and at the time, felt like yet another failure.
I’m not 100% sure what 2017 holds. I know I’m going to be careful about who I let in, who I get close to, who I trust, and who I spend my time and energy on. I’m going to continue to build my armour, but not let it make me hard. I’m going to continue to love the broken pieces of my family, and hold tightly to the good moments.
Professionally...well, I’m still working on that. I’m not quite finished reflecting on 2016 and processing some things. Once I’ve done that, I can concentrate on 2017. I’ll take the things I’ve learned during this difficult year and apply them going forward. I’ll set realistic goals and work hard toward them. I’m still having issues with motivation, but I’m working on that. I’m working on reducing some distractions and eliminating others.
I’m also contemplating the future of this blog. I get decent page views, but very few comments and interactions. Are people actually reading my posts? Do people care what I have to say? I put a lot of work into the blog, but I’m wondering if it’s worth it. I’m not as passionate about it as I used to be, and yet I don’t want to abandon it entirely. I enjoy sharing my thoughts and opinions, getting excited about books, spreading the word about books and authors I love. When someone tells me they’re going to read a book based on my review, it’s the best feeling. But...I can do all of that on bookstagram, with a lot less effort and a lot more interaction. So do I say goodbye to blogging or do I give it one more shot? Change up my review process, come up with new features, be more active in the community and hope it pays off? This is something that’s on my list of things to consider for the new year.
Despite this awful year, I’ve learned a lot. I haven’t let the bad things that have happened break my spirit. If you’d asked me a few months ago if I thought I’d be this well-adjusted and have anything even resembling a positive attitude by the end of the year, I would have laughed in your face. Hard. And it probably would have led to hysterically crying and a lot of swearing. But here I am, smiling as I write this. Hopeful that 2017 is going to be a better year. Willing to work hard, find my lost motivation, and do great things. Make positive changes, and basically overhaul my life. There are a lot of things in my personal and professional life that need to change, and while it’s slightly daunting, I know I’m up to the task. I’m going into 2017 with my head held high, my heart and mind open, eager and excited to see what the future holds.