I was going to do an end-of-year meme to wrap this up with, but it's been so many years now that it feels more appropriate to do something a bit longer. So here's the last ten years in review.
1. What did you do in the last ten years that you'd never done before?
Got a PhD. Left academia. Got married. Had a baby. Spoke at the Sorbonne. Climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Ran a 10K. Ate a Tunnock's Caramel Wafer. (They're all right.)
2. Did you keep any new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I have never been great at making new years’ resolutions, and January never seemed like the right time anyway, when it’s dark and cold and everyone’s broke from Christmas. When I was an academic I used to make any resolutions I did make in September, the start of the new academic year. Now I’ve left, that doesn’t seem right either.
So probably I won’t make any, but there are things I’m planning to do more of this year. Write more (here, maybe); finish the cross-stitch piece I’ve been working on for, um, four years now; read more; cycle more; procrastinate less.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
ME, DAMN IT. And an awful lot of other people too. All the babies. So many babies. Including my formally most vocally childfree friend, which was kind of unexpected but hey she’s happy. Right now I am working in an office where, seriously, 50% of my colleagues are either pregnant or on parental leave or just recently back from parental leave. The rest of us are trying not to drink the water.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
A few, yeah. Including my grandfather-in-law, who died at 101 after a ridiculously healthy life. (When in hospital for an operation aged 97: “Gosh, this NHS is very good, isn’t it?” “What? When were you last in hospital?” “Well, it was definitely before VE day…”). And my lovely great-uncle Tony, also much missed. I didn’t really know him well until he was already close to 80, and I so wish I’d known him better earlier.
Both of them were in the war, and I got to know both of them at a point in their lives when they were happy to talk about things they hadn’t talked about before, life in the Arctic convoys or London during the Blitz. I’ll make sure it’s all remembered.
5. What countries did you visit?
I got to travel a lot for work for a while there, so:
and then Australia and Iceland for non-work.
All my work travel now is domestic, so all of the travel frustration and none of the exciting international sightseeing. But sometimes I get to stay in hotels, which means I get a full night’s sleep without the worst-sleeping toddler in the world kicking me in the head all night. Swings and roundabouts.
This year we went on holiday to Shetland, which is not quite a different country but does feel sort of like one after a 14-hour ferry journey. I sort of want to move there, and own a croft somewhere really remote and sell puffin memorabilia to tourists.
6. What would you like to have in the next ten years that you lacked in the past ten years?
A house. A house I own. I no longer care if a mortgage is an incredibly boring life-goal to have - I am so fed up of the insecurity of renting, and I have had it up to here *gestures towards ceiling* with the terrible oven in our current place. Enough enough enough.
7. What was your biggest achievement of the past ten years?
It’s a draw between getting my PhD (and getting through the four years of multiple cobbled-together part-time jobs, crazy hours, and no money to get there), getting through pregnancy with hyperemesis, and getting my current job. It’s a career change from what I was doing before and not something I have any direct experience in, but in retrospect I don’t think I could have got it, or done okay at it, without years of doing other things beforehand.
8. What was your biggest failure?
I suppose all the jobs I didn’t get. There was one amazing one in the Highlands, which I would have absolutely loved and got to the final stages of and… nope, didn’t happen. It’s probably for the best in many ways - it would have been far away from family, it would have meant staying in academia, which I’m glad now that I didn’t do. But it would have been an academic job I’d have liked a lot, and I love that part of the world very very much, and I will always look wistfully back on missing out on what was probably the only opportunity I’ll have until retirement to ever live there.
9. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Not until I got pregnant, and then I was pretty much constantly ill for about two years. Hyperemesis, gall bladder issues, antibiotic-resistant kidney infection, broken foot, loads of dental work. So that was fun! I seem to be doing all right now.
10. What was the best thing you bought?
Baby carrier. Worth its weight in gold.
11. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
I have met a lot of professionals who won’t ever be particularly well-known, but who have just got on with important work in a noble and wonderful way in a world that won’t ever massively value the day-to-day work they do. And more than that, who work where they’re being increasingly pressured by powerful and awful forces of e.g. funding cuts, meanness of large portions of humanity, etc. - forces that are too big for any one of us to overcome in our lifetimes. I’ve worked with lots of social workers, charity workers, and local/government staff working in the same kind of field, and it can be so discouraging and thankless and overwhelming.
It is something I’m working on myself - that the response to deep-rooted injustice and cruelty isn’t always to throw over furniture and organise a revolution, but plodding away inch by inch to make the world of the future a very slightly better place. We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
12. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Well, we had an incredibly divisive referendum campaign during which an MP got murdered by a neo-Nazi and that was before the vote and the aftermath, so. Well.
13. Where did most of your money go?
Rent (do you have views on housing costs? because I have views on housing costs, let me tell you) and more recently, childcare.
14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Changing the world. I think it’s customary to focus less on that as you get older, but I seem to be going in the other direction.
Also, I have discovered that I really like reading National Audit Office reports. I am totally serious, they’re fascinating. Here is one on over-optimism in government projects
16. Compared to this time ten years ago, are you:
1. Happier or sadder? Happier. But more tired.
2. Thinner or fatter? Slightly fatter.
3. Richer or poorer? Richer, although still with not much actual money.
17. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I'd done more reading before I had a child and had less time and mental space to read all the books ever.
18. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Throwing my heart and soul repeatedly at academia. I don’t regret staying, but I do regret putting so much of myself into wanting to.
19. How did you spend Christmas/Hanukkah?
With enough family that we had to bring in emergency chairs and extend the dining table, for the first time in years and years. It wasn’t perfect in other ways, but that was really nice.
20. What was your favourite TV programme?
Big Love, Mad Men, The Middleman and most recently The Expanse. Also Planet Earth 2, most recently of all.
21. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time ten years ago?
22. What was the best book you read?
Decision crisis! It’s been ten years so maybe this question does not work so well? I don’t know. The most recent book I finished was Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, which I am still thinking about a lot a week later. I don’t even know if it’s my favourite one of hers (I used to teach Behind the Scenes at the Museum and it’s fantastic), but it made an impression.
23. What did you want and get?
That’s a dangerous question, Mr Morden.
So, I suppose: An Academic Job, which was the one thing I wanted so very very much this time ten years ago. I didn’t get a permanent one, but I did get a full-time, well-paid, looks-good-on-CV one, and indeed two, and I am fairly sure that if I’d slugged it out for a few years more (and not inconveniently got pregnant and sick in the interim) I’d have got something permanent somewhere.
So I got what I wanted. But then after a while, it wasn’t what I wanted any more. And maybe if I hadn’t got it in the first place, I’d have realised that sooner. But maybe not! We will never know.
Also: more Star Wars films.
24. What was your favourite film?
The Force Awakens. Not only because it’s new Star Wars! and I would put up with a lot for new Star Wars, up to and including Jar Jar Binks. It’s the Star Wars film that I want to travel back through time to show to my fourteen-year-old self, who had to do a lot of mental and fandom gymnastics about how Leia must have had this amazing story you just never got to see on screen, etc etc, to have some kind of Venn diagram overlap between “characters with amazing stories you can dream about being” and “women”.
25. What kept you sane?
Running, my child (“the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s stresses!”), jigsaws. Listening to Elvis Costello singing “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding” very loudly on the way home from work when 2016 especially got a bit too 2016.
26. What political issue stirred you the most?
Less of an individual issue, and more the realisation that the political is personal, right across the board. And vice versa as ever of course.
27. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in the past ten years
This, from Bishop Ken Unteger of Saginaw:
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent
enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of
saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Happy New Year.