As the year draws to an end, we often reflect on our accomplishments and failures of the past 12 months. We might be particularly proud of a promotion, or an engagement or reaching out to a forgotten friend. Or maybe we missed opportunities and look back at the year with a hint of regret, but isn’t hindsight a great thing?
Many exciting things have happened this year, including:
- Scientists showed us the first image of a black hole
- Botswana decriminalised homosexuality
- Phoebe Waller-Bridge won an Emmy
And so many awful things happened, such as:
- The fire in the Notre-Dame
- Reports of terrorist attacks seemed to appear every day
- The Amazon rainforest experienced record-breaking wildfires
- Venice was subjected to record flooding
And in the UK, Theresa May stepped down as Leader of the Conservative Party, Boris Johnson won the Leadership Contest and subsequently the General Election with the largest majority for his Conservative Party since 1987. We won’t argue over which category to put this in.
And so, in the spirit of reflection, and inspired by Elizabeth Day’s podcast How to Fail*, here are some personal successes and failures over my 28 years on this planet.
1) Romantic relationships. This blog is a testament to my failings in romantic relationships. Romantic love has been hard-won. Finding (and keeping) a decent man has been much harder than I thought; I never expected to be turning 28 and not be engaged or married. For most of my twenties, I thought that repeated failures to find love meant I was learning loads about other people, but I’ve recently discovered it’s more about learning about myself and how I react to, and deal with, situations. Whilst I don’t regret any of the relationships I’ve been in, I wonder if I would be married had I not stayed with my first boyfriend for seven years, or had realised earlier how unsuitable my next boyfriend was…
2) Social interactions. I find socialising hard. I’m not sure I’ve ever said (or typed) that sentence because I’ve never wanted to admit it. There are plenty of times I’d rather be at home blogging or reading. Or with a boyfriend or family.
As a confident introvert, I expect to be a social butterfly, flitting around the room engaging in fascinating conversations with everyone. However, the reality is quite different. Like very many people, I love socialising with my friends but not only do I value time to myself, I really need it. Of course, I’m not saying my desire to stay in with a good book is a failure; but it’s the disconnect between how I imagine myself to be in social situations and the reality. There are times I feel disappointed in myself at the end of an evening that I didn’t speak to so-and-so, that I wasn’t more effervescent or that I wanted to head home by 10pm rather than stay out ’til 1am like I used to.
3) Health. In so many ways, I am very privileged and my health could be a lot, lot worse. But Jesus, could it have been better! After a very rocky start in life with open-heart surgery at 3 weeks old, my parents hoped that would be it, but were warned that ‘things might crop up’ as I grow older. And my – how they cropped up! I’m running out of organs to operate on and my body is looking more and more like a relief-map of scars. With outpatient appointments and inpatient operations, hospital visits have characterised my twenties. I read how we should be grateful for what we have and I am – most of the time. But there are days when I feel my body is failing me; chronic pain impacts my work and social life and I let it affect my disposition more than I care to admit.
Thank god my career is a success.
Some people manage to succeed in both their personal and professional lives, other people find they can’t achieve success at work and at home. Naturally, I hope to fall into the former ‘type’ in my thirties (that magical age when I’m hoping everything slots together – because it fucking didn’t at 27!) but for now – I’m the latter kind of person.
Finally, we’re on to successes!
1) Career. At first, I thought leaving teaching was a career failure. Colleagues begged me to stay, some (older colleagues) suggested I was silly to leave a successful career and I thought this at times, too. For all the criticism that falls upon Millennials, our generation has changed the makeup of the career path. We’ve redefined what our working lives should look like and career breaks and changing our minds with
what we want to do who we want to be is becoming increasingly accepted (and sometimes expected). And what a relief that is!
What better way to deem a decision a ‘success’ than through hindsight and subsequent achievement? Since leaving teaching, I’ve been pursuing a career in publishing and wow has it worked out! Moving from class teacher to senior editor has been a fantastic learning curve and I’m sure the rest of my career path will be broken into chapters rather than parts – how exciting!
2) Discovering my passions. A passionate teacher, I was sure I wouldn’t find another career that suited me so well – and yet, here I am in the publishing world. Over the past few years, I’ve discovered so much about what interests me and I feel privileged to be able to spend my free time tending to these desires.
3) My friendships. I was never the most popular person in school, but I always strived to be warm and friendly towards classmates. I liked hanging out with different groups of people and found friendship in some unlikely places. Although I could probably count the number of good friends I have on two hands, the quality of these friends is exceptional. After attending an all-girls secondary school, I worried I wouldn’t find the friendship in boys that I enjoyed so much in primary school, but this changed as I moved to Brighton after university (once I learnt the value of having male friends rather than always wanting to shag every man I liked).
Part 2 of 2 is currently being drafted, and I thank my friends for sharing their successes and failures with me. Please comment below if you’d like to share your own experiences of achievements or regrets.
*It’s worth noting that Elizabeth has published a book of the same name, which is available in all good bookstores (and in my TBR pile). If you can’t buy it in a local bookshop, buy from Waterstones (at least they have a great points system there) – but please, don’t buy from Amazon.
Here’s Part 2.
And here’s Part 3.