I’ve been hiding from this. From sitting down and thinking about the last year as whole, from trying to articulate how I feel about all the water under my bridges in the last twelve months. It hasn’t exactly been ‘uneventful’.

Last year, I made one resolution: “This year it is simple. I am going to try.” When I wrote that, only Matt (my partner), my best friend and my parents knew that I had been invited for an interview for a job in the Netherlands; that I might be leaving for at least 3 years. It was all too big to think about; I didn’t want to broadcast about it until I knew for sure if I was going or not. Dealing with the ‘maybe’ was hard enough.

I did it, I got the job. I really hadn’t expected to and was immediately overcome with fears: not about me and Matt (we are pretty rock solid, thank-you-very-much), but about the job itself; would I be ‘good enough’? The turn around was insane. I had about 5 weeks from finding out to starting, and that had to include passing my driving test. Time flew by and before I knew it, it was the end of February, and I had gone. My brother left the Netherlands for Georgia about a month before I arrived. We were both nervous about being even further away from home as our Dad had had a heart-scare just before Christmas. Our parents, as ever, bent over backwards to help us live our lives in ways that were meaningful to us, and told us to go, helped with money, helped with hand holding.

In March I got settled at work and hit the ground running for fieldwork in April, (and I fell in love with Italy all over again) which also saw my 30th birthday and Matt coming out to visit. May and June saw trips to Germany, for fun and for work. I got to know Berlin better. Mum came to stay, which was wonderful, and I made it back to the Uk for all of four days, which was confusing and hectic. I promised myself that if I could only come back for a short time, I’d be selfish about it next time. July was fieldwork, which was amazing. I went in a cave, drove for the first time since my test, and got to teach students, which I love. I took up running (!). August was crazy– My Granddad died, and I couldn’t make it home for the funeral, but Matt made it over for a long weekend. I wanted to be there for my Mum, but I knew dad was taking care of her. She’s been pretty poorly ever since (more on this later). Emma M was particularly awesome at this time; she’s been doing the ‘long distance life’ thing since she went away to uni at 17, and knows exactly how to remind me how much love and support I have around me. I’m never going to live up to her ability to dash about and somehow see everyone and be there when it matters, but I am trying!

I also had a horrible time with serious gastric pain and eventually was diagnosed with gallstones. It was Not Good ™, being in so much pain (and more than a bit scared), in a different country and somewhat on my own, but my friends & colleagues took good care of me, and people at home supported me by email and skype. I’m doing good and managing it by managing my diet;- so far, no attacks since November! This dragged on into September and I almost had to miss going to ISAP in Turkey, which was fascinating (the country) and stimulating (the conference). I came home in October for Matt’s birthday and the UKM weekender, so I missed the final fieldwork campaign. The last 6 weeks before coming back to the UK for an extended trip were filled with trying (and failing) to get reports and papers finished, and then speaking at two conferences about the work we’ve done since March (which went well).

December was all about being home. Matt and Cat threw a great ‘welcome home’ weekend for me and I’ve spent my time alternating between lurking at home getting as much Matt-time as possible, and trying to see all the people I haven’t yet. I know I’ll have missed people out. Mum seemed to have mostly gotten over the nasty stomach problems she’d been having since the summer, and then she got a serious infection in her bloodstream and ended up in hospital on Boxing Day. She is recovering slowly at home, but for the first time in a long time I didn’t see her on her birthday (New Years Eve) as she didn’t feel up to it. I went out in Southampton with the usual suspects; fun, but I’d much rather she’d been well enough. I’m heading over this weekend instead, and I am really hoping this horrid cold is gone and I don’t make her more poorly.


Me and Matt by the river in Groningen


So. Quite a year. I had a lot of adventures and got to do the job that I have been training for for more than 10 years, in two countries I adore. My new friends and colleagues are wonderful people and Groningen is an amazing city to live in. It’s also pushed me to the absolute limits of my social and intellectual anxieties. A combination of homesickness, anxiety and a creeping sort of paralysis have made as much of an impact on my recollection as all the good bits. I think I’m doing better; I’m ‘coping’ left right and centre, using every trick in the book. I think that all counts as ‘trying’. I could have just said ‘no thanks’ and taken the other job on offer; stayed in Southampton, safe and comfortable. I am glad I didn’t, but sometimes I hated myself for what I was doing to Matt especially. Other people I care about have not had a very good year; there have been break-ups, break-downs; a lot of people I love have been all kinds of broken. One good friend was almost deported because some idiot pen-pusher totally screwed up her visa application, twice. She had to appeal and it was heart-breaking to watch my country do that to someone. It was so hard not to physically be there for my Mum this summer.

Good things happened too- people graduated, got engaged, had babies and fell in love. I guess that’s the key isn’t it; life happens. You just have to keep trying.

I’ll post again tomorrow with some specific ideas and goals for 2012 but I think keeping trying sums it up.

2 thoughts on “Reflecting

  1. So proud of you. Such a strong person who has pushed through so much and come out the other side so loving, fun, thoughtful and caring. You have accomplished HUGE things this year, if more people had your attitude in life it would be a wonderful thing. Very glad to be able to call you my friend. X

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