A Decade of Uneven Halves

Yes, as it’s New Year’s Eve 2019, I’m going to reflect back on the past decade. I see it in two distinct periods of time – not quite equal halves. The first ‘half’ was from 2010-2013 and the second from 2014-2019 (obviously).

Those first 4 years were spent in a relationship and 3 of the 4 were spent travelling the world. I/we spent a year in New Zealand, 6 months in London (slightly less exotic), a year in Canada and then 8 months travelling across the globe. It seems strange now that all of that took place within the space of just-over 3 years. Especially when the past 6 years have flown by more quickly and less eventfully. The past 6 years have been spent back in Cardiff, trying to re-establish a slightly more ‘normal’ lifestyle and moving on from the loss of a parent, a step-parent and the end of a long-term relationship. Yes, as well as the few years of global adventure, there’s been a lot of loss this decade. As I reflected on with my Mum over Christmas; our numbers have somewhat dwindled in recent years. As well as losing my Dad and my Step-Dad within the space of a year and half, my Mum’s parents have both passed within the last few years, plus my Auntie Margaret (Step-Grandmother) is currently in hospital and not seeming quite as likely to live to 100 as I used to assume she would be. Granted, it’s a lot less shocking for people in their 90s to die, than it is for people in their 50s, but it’s quite an overall loss within the space of one decade. Throw in my Mum’s battle with Breast Cancer (which she’s thankfully overcome) and it’s not exactly been The Best.

The past 6 years have felt quite transitional. I’m not totally sure what they’re transitioning me towards, but I’m hoping it’s something good. There have also been some odd similarities to events from my past. Like history’s been repeating itself, but I’m getting the option to do things differently/better this time. I mean, 7 years after I’d originally moved to Cardiff, I moved back to Cardiff and started working in the exact same place as I’d worked previously. In the same department. With the same line manager as I’d had when I’d left. But this time it was better. I was older and more experienced (work-wise and life-wise) and less inhibited by shyness. I mean, I’m still shy, don’t get me wrong, but I’m much chattier and more outspoken at work than I ever used to be. Not to the extent that I’d actually be considered chatty or outspoken – it was a pretty low bar that I’d set – but still, it’s been a positive change.

Another odd coincidence – after working there for 3 years, I got the opportunity to take severance, just like I had when I’d previously been there for 3 years. I mean, that’s weird, right?

There’ve been other little things too – like when I first lived in Cardiff, I was initially in a fairly-modern flat that seemed pretty nice on the surface (even though I’d never been 100% sure about it) but ended up having a massive issue with mice (plus an awful letting agency that went bust and meant I only ever got half of my deposit back). I then moved to a flat in a converted house that was alright, but was basically just the best that I could find in the time I had available. Fast forward to my return to Cardiff in 2014. This time around I initially lived in a house where my landlord was my ex, but that’s a whole other story and thankfully not a repeat of the past. The similarities come when I moved out of there. Initially I moved into a fairly-modern flat that seemed pretty nice on the surface (even though I was never 100% sure about it), but then turned out to have a number of problems (including a brief appearance by a mouse, but also an incompetent landlord, a leaking bathroom ceiling, damp in the bedroom and a creepy-ass cellar where the electricity meter lived). From there I moved to a flat in a converted house that was alright, but was basically just the best that I could find in the time I had available. It’s where I currently live (and have somehow lived for 3 years now). It reminds me a lot of the place I lived between 2008-2010, but this flat happily has a washing machine and less annoying neighbours, so again is an improvement from the first time around.

Any more of these parallels I can draw to the past? Well, a little while back I realised that I’d first started living on my own in early 2004 and that I’d returned to living on my own in early 2014. I started looking for patterns between what had happened 10 years ago and what was happening now. In 2007 I’d gotten a new job and moved to Cardiff. In 2017 I also started a new job in Cardiff, though this one involved less moving – in fact it was literally round the corner from where I live. In 2008, the novelty of living on my own had started to wear off and I felt like I was shutting myself off a bit too much. So it was a positive thing when I started seeing someone in 2009. It shook things up in a way that I needed at the time. So last year, when I started feeling similar to how I had in 2008, I wondered if 2019 would be reminiscent of 2009. Would I meet someone new who’d be better for me than my ex was? The TL;DR answer is ‘no, I didn’t.’ Over the past 6 years of being single, I’ve dabbled in internet dating and gone on the very-occasional date. Earlier this year I re-activated one of my dating accounts and spent a while chatting to a guy. It was starting to reach the point where we were probably going to meet in person, when he said something that eerily evoked something my ex had said to me (prior to the 2 of us getting together), almost exactly 10 years previously. Like, literally just a couple of days out from being exactly 10 years previously (I searched for his original email in order to verify this). I then realised that a lot of the things this guy had been saying, and a lot of his written conversational style, was very reminiscent of my ex. This somewhat freaked me out and seemed like some kind of red flag, so I closed my dating account back down. I did message the guy first, I hasten to add – I didn’t give him all that detail, so as not to sound insane, I just said that I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be dating, which was very much the truth. So 2019 has been in no way like 2009, but that’s probably for the best. I feel like there are things I need and want to do on my own right now and that dating and relationships can wait until I’m ready for them; whenever that might be. I’ve got other stuff to be doing first.

‘What is this other stuff?’ cry the two people who are still reading at this point (she said optimistically). Well, I’m glad you asked… At the start of the year I said this:

Rather than have a whole daunting list, I’ve gone for just 2 big goals for the year: Finish the first draft of this novel and buy a flat. Surprisingly, the first of those is currently seeming the more likely to happen!

Well, I totally called it. I’ve written what I’m now happy to refer to as a first draft of a novel, but I still haven’t bought a flat. It’s frustrating to be spending so much on rent when I could be spending less on a mortgage and living somewhere nicer (hopefully) and more permanent, but being naturally cautious and perfectionistic is not really conducive to buying property. Nor is being introverted and hating phoning people, so yeah, progress has been slow, but so has the property market, to be fair. My budget isn’t massive and there are only a limited number of places I’d actually want to live, so it’s become a bit of a waiting game. But hey, I’m patient, thankfully, so fingers crossed I manage it within 2020. Ideally before I turn 40 in September. I realised recently that I’ve not had any kind of secure long-term home since I went to uni in September 1999. 20 years of temporary accommodation. Not that this is unusal for people my age and younger (I’m tail-end Gen X / very-early Millennial / Xennial) – I’m well aware of how lucky I am to be in a position to buy at all. Still, within the past 20 years I’ve lived in 13 different homes (and that’s not including a couple of 1-month sublets in Toronto, or the period of time at my Mum’s at the end of 2013 into 2014). 8 of those different homes have been within the past 10 years. So yes, bagging myself some long-term accommodation that I can actually turn into a proper home, rather than just somewhere I’m ‘currently living’, is massively appealing and a definite ambition for 2020.

What else? Well, the novel, of course. I’m hoping to batter it into semi-decent shape by September, so I can then seek some feedback from any willing/bribable friends. It mostly deals with issues of past-relationships (including one particularly toxic one), truthfulness (and the lack-thereof), family ties and trying to figure out your future from your past. Themes that I’d hope are fairly relatable, although the characters and plot are in no way inspired by my own life, I hasten to add. Well, okay, there might be one character who’s heavily-influenced by someone specific. And of course there are elements of me in some of the characters, as that’s just unavoidable, but none of my grandparents sent me on a scavenger hunt in order to uncover secrets about their (and my) dubious past, for which I am very grateful.

Anyway, anything else I’m wanting to do? Oh yes, I mentioned in January 2018 that I had various travel plans/wishes/dreams. One of these was to go back to New Zealand. My desire to do this has become even stronger over the past couple of years, so I’m now hoping to actually do it in 2021 – within the year that I’m 40, plus 10 years since I was previously there. I have spent a scary amount of time (genuinely, I dread to think how much), planning it out, costing different options, mapping a route, ogling accommodation on AirBnB… It’s become this big thing that I feel like I have to do. And I have to do it alone. It’ll act like a milestone, marking the end of my 30s and the start of my 40s. The end of this odd transition period and the start of something new. Hopefully something better. Okay, maybe that’s a bit much to expect from a holiday, plus it’s very-much dependant on actually having the money to pay for it, but it’s a plan. It’s a goal.

My other main goal is to worry less. Yes, that is the evergreen goal of every anxious person ever, but a worthy one. The past couple of months have seen panic attacks try to creep back up into my daily consciousness, which is not something that I want to let happen. I mean, what is this? 2004? No, thanks. I need to keep on top of that shit.

So, aside from the general skip-fire that is UK politics right now, I guess I’m quite hopeful for 2020, in general. But that’s just me – I’m always hopeful at the start of a new year. Despite an ever-growing layer of cynicism, I’m an optimist really. 

I started the decade by having a chilled-out drink with a boyfriend in Cardiff in Y Fuwch Goch (now The Moon). I’ll be ending it by having a chilled-out drink in Cardiff at home on my own. To some people that might sound like a step down, but only because society’s obsessed with everyone coupling up. To me it sounds no better or worse. Sure, there’s no-one to kiss at midnight, but the drinks are cheaper and I don’t need to bother putting a bra on. Also, I don’t have to worry quite so much about potentially starting the new year with a UTI (which LiveJournal reminds me is what happened in early 2010).

So, Happy New Year and Happy New Decade. Here’s hoping the next 10 years bring a lot less death, more fun times with friends and a world that’s more accepting and tolerant than divisive and hateful. Like I said, I’m an optimist.

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