2016 has been a weird, messy, scary, unpredictable bundles of chaos, but we have all come out the other end and that is honestly a major achievement.
We've seen political shakeups, deaths of well-loved icons, humanitarian crises, mad memes, a shift in journalism and also a widening gap between people of difference races, genders, religions and classes.
This year will definitely go down in the history books as a bizarre time, but if I look at my life more closely, I have actually achieved things I could only have dreamed of.
2016 is the year I said "goodbye" to fear and self-hate and chose happiness. It was a bumpy journey that had so many frustrating twists along the way, but boy, I'd do it again in a heartbeat if it meant I'd be as self-assured as I am today.
Doing things alone, like going to the cinema, parties or cafes used to give me the fear, but I conquered this by throwing myself into the deep end. A lot of us fear doing stuff alone because A) we are scared of looking lame/lonely or B) we don't actually like our own company. As an anxiety sufferer, I was determined to become more comfortable being alone and it's one of the best things I have done.
And that's another thing... mental health. 2016 was the year I finally went to the GP, who diagnosed me with depression, anxiety and stress-related disorders. I was put on various prescriptions drugs (some worked, some didn't) and saw a counsellor frequently during my last year of uni. I talked a lot and got so much off my chest. I discovered triggers and ways to deal with stressful situations. If I had been more open, it would have saved me EIGHT YEARS of making really bad decisions, but I'm glad I finally did something about it.
I learned that mental health is just as important as physical health. You would never leave a broken bone unattended, would you? No, you'd go to your doctor and that is exactly what you should do for your mental health as well!
I was able to let my friends, family and uni lecturers know and the support I received from most was really great.
Throughout 2016, I chose to speak openly about my mental health journey and be as honest as I could about triggers, self-care, etc.
Black people (especially women) are rarely included in the UK mental health discussions, despite many of us experiencing trauma and stress that could lead to mental health issues. That was why I used my voice, my words and my platforms to open up and encourage others to do the same. It has been the most rewarding thing and comforting in the fact that I am not alone. The article I wrote about self-care tips can be found on Leomie Anderson's website HERE.
This year, I ditched toxic friends and wrote about it. I also published my most personal diary, which hundreds of people now have on their shelves. Psst, it's available to buy HERE. Mad, right? I mean, who does that? So many people were telling me not to do it, but the reaction to it has been extraordinary.
In June, I finally left university with a degree in Petroleum Geology, but then found the courage to move away from that field in order to pursue a more creative job. It was a massive risk, which after months of almost giving up paid off when I started my internship at a book publisher in London.
I don't see it as a break from education because I'm learning on the job every single day, but the difference this time is that I'm actually enjoying it. I'm allowed to use my own intuition and get on with things without an academic casting a shadow over me and judging my every move.
Moving into 2017, I've come up with a few goals:
1. Stop neglecting my blog - yeah, I know. This year, I barely blogged and a lot of you guys sent me gentle inquiries about when I'd be writing more. The truth is that I as just so busy making life-changing decisions this year. Talking about my fave handbags just didn't resonate with the new person I was becoming. Also, not having a camera anymore meant relying on a crappy iPhone 4, which meant my picture quality was shambolic this year (sorry!).
But I promise that 2017 will be a relaunch of this blog with more direction and less rambling!
2. Tithe - I am terrible at remembering to set money aside for church and charities every month. I will sort out some kind of direct debit!
3. Be more active - now that I'm not living in walking boots and scaling rocky hills, I need to find other ways to keep fit. I LOVE spinning, which is also great for my legs, but I am keen to take up boxing in the new year!
4. Promote responsible journalism - call out fake news and articles that blur opinion with fact. We consume so much nonsense online these days and the only way to stop hate is to call it out wherever possible. Regardless of our readership size, we all have a duty as content-creators to do this. Challenge ignorance and ignore trolls.
5. Read more books by people of colour and marginalised genders - I look at my bookshelf a lot and am really disappointed that I barely read books by Black, Asian, female, LGBT authors. This is going to change and I am going to immerse myself in their works.
6. Stop. Wasting. Time. With. Fuckboys. This is pretty self-explanatory... If anyone dares to waste my time in 2017, I'll drag their arse to court.
7. Take up space - this is a phrase I have been using for a year now (since I discovered the genius that is Gal-dem). It basically means being comfortable enough to create art, tell your personal truths and share your opinions unapologetically. As a Black woman, I have learned to write as much and as shamelessly as I can. Our voices are just as valid as everyone else's, regardless of race, class, gender, etc.
This year has been a year for self-care and trying new things and I only hope to do more of that in 2017. I tried experimental theatre, mindful origami, talked on two radio shows and a panel, met some Playboy bunnies, hung out in a cat cafe, let my social media followers be my tour guides, developed a love for foreign language films, podcasts and activism (e.g. the Feminist Library).
I learned that self-care is NOT selfish. Feminism is made up of many many branches, not all of them good* and that changing my mind is totally normal. Life gets tough, life gets hard, but life goes on!
Overall, this year has been weird and messy. On a selfish level, it's been eye-opening and refreshing, but on a worldly level, there's a shit-tonne of work for us all to do.
What was 2016 like for you? What are you planning for 2017 Let me know! I wish you a very happy New Year!
*Psst! I'm working on an exciting new book all about this that I'll tell you about in January!