I haven’t written in a long time. I mean properly written. I haven’t written an essay since June, I haven’t interviewed anybody since July, and I haven’t written in depth about music since my 2015 round-up. It’s even been months since I put pen to paper in one of my corny notebooks that have never and most likely will never see the light of day anyway. It isn’t fair to say that I don’t consider what I do on a regular basis, that is writing a paragraph or two about an outfit I’m wearing, to be ‘proper writing’, because there is no such thing, but I like to put my mind to something meatier every now and again. I’ve had a number of ideas throughout the latter half of this godforsaken year which lie, unfinished at best, barely started at worst, in my drafts or scattered around my laptop. Ironically enough there’s even one about writer’s block.
But as we near the end of 2016, widely regarded as the shit year to end all shit years, I started thinking about the post I did at the end of 2015. I wrote about self-appreciation, without really alluding to the real reason that I needed to write something like that, which was by and large because I had a boyfriend who single handedly took my self-esteem from an all time high to an all time low. What I really wanted to say in that 2015 post was that, in spite of the fact that on paper it was my best year ever, by the end of it I was a shell of myself.
May of 2016 marked the overdue, necessary end of that relationship. After this I tried to keep up my writing and the productivity I had attempted to immerse myself in during the first half of 2016 in order to cope with the turbulence caused by the Bad Boyfriend, but instead I found it easier to distract myself. I had, all things considered, a really good summer. I went to festivals, did my first ever press trips abroad, had a great holiday with friends, and shifted everything I needed to deal with to the back of my head while I went out and had a laugh.
Summer ended, albeit not until the end of September for me and my swanning about having a nice time, but it ended. I’d maintained my blog well enough, but I hadn’t really made progress. When the travelling and the beer gardens and the warm late nights came to an end, I wanted to focus on making what I do better, but falling back into a more stable existence in fact gave me more time to think than I had had in months. The second I was left alone I just sort of stopped. I used to genuinely enjoy doing stuff by myself, but a ‘what’s the point’ attitude started to permeate my previously more optimistic outlook and I found myself spending free days in bed unable to muster the energy to do anything but watch mindless tv, to the point that I can’t remember the last time I went to work in a local cafe or visit a gallery alone. My work continued in the same, satisfactory but not satisfying rut that I had been coasting in over the summer.
‘Useless’ has been an overriding emotion for me for a good long while. I haven’t felt capable of engaging in anything I find challenging, organising anything outside of my ordinary, or exerting my energy into anything other than ‘having a laugh’, which is always all too temporary. Sadness in any degree can breed creativity and in fact is responsible for some of the best art, but for me that reaction was short-lived; an of-the-moment coping mechanism which allowed my brain to barter how I was being treated with ‘at least it’s making me write’. It didn’t last, replaced with distractions and eventual numbness. But in spite of all of this, of all of my dissatisfaction with myself and my lack of productivity, I am doing so much better than I was at the start of this year, even if my output doesn’t reflect that.
To circle back to the point…
At the beginning of 2016 I was a functioning mess. I was being gaslighted. I couldn’t eat or sleep, I was unwell and I wasn’t forging any meaningful friendships in London. At the end of 2016 I, tentatively, do not think that I’m a mess any more. I’m not ‘fixed’ and it is ok to admit that, and what happened to me over the first half of the year and the six months prior to that will in one way or another continue to deeply affect me for some time. On a working level I am more sensitive than I ever have been: I cry at films, tv adverts and episodes of First Dates, I am more empathetic, I am slightly better at talking about my feelings and a lot better at asking for help. I am also more numb than I ever have been, I shy away from anything that might require me to feel deeply. I feel happy more often than I did, I also feel more overwhelmingly hopeless. Mostly, maybe most importantly, I am calm again. This year has been unbearable for everyone, and personal tragedy against a backdrop of the world as it currently is feels like being punched in the gut once per minute without a break. But I’m still here, and in spite of everything I sure as heck prefer me at the end of 2016.