Wednesday, 7 December 2011

2011: My year in review

Trying to put the last 12 months into context is easier said than done. Quite simply, I have never had a year like it. In fact, even the year I spent wrenching myself away from my microscopically-sized hometown, teenage year friends and a (first) long term girlfriend to make the leap to a big city was a doddle in comparison.

The year started bad. Su was fanning the flames of a fledgling freelance career, which, in terms of success, seemed to peak and trough with rollercoaster-like frequency. We were, in every sense, miserable. We lived off less in a week than I now make in a day, couldn’t afford to put the heating on in the peak of an Auld Reekie winter and had to excuse ourselves from socialising in any shape with the outer world for the first half of the year.

We’d kid ourselves things were good. At least Su wasn’t working with dead bodies, we’d say. But were things good? Were we really staring at an incline in fortune? I didn’t think so. Not deep down at least. Work for me was going nowhere. A promotion never looked on the cards, despite some of the effort I’d put in, and my stuttering journalism career seemed to nosedive into a pit of pointlessness, saying nothing and meaning even less. Half the time I didn’t even want to read it, so fuck knows why anyone else would.

Add my rapidly dissolving emotional state to Su’s already diminished resolve and you had a couple of people who were unable to see enough light to figure out which way the tunnel led, never mind where it actually ended. It was a nadir. But then things started to pick up. My recently married mother sold my family home, lending us enough money to pay for spirit-lifting flights to Florida to see Su’s family. And then my dear wife got three job interviews and got three jobs. Our luck was up. Change was afoot.

Of course, it was never going to be that easy. One of the jobs required moving to Colchester. That was, of course, the job Su wanted. So we thought long and hard. Could we do it? Do we really want to up, what were admittedly rickety, sticks and leave a city we both love? I wasn’t sure, but things needed to change. Bold decisions aren’t always my wont, but even an idiot could see we weren’t able to go on like this. So we went for it.

What proceeded were the most mental three months of my life. Separated from my wife, someone I’ve fought tooth and nail for to be with, I spent my time wrangling between a life in Edinburgh and a hopeful new start in the south of England. I’m not sure just how many flights I took in that period, but I’ll definitely not be getting invited to any eco-friendly social functions this year. Finding a job was tough, being apart from my wife was tough, trying to feign interest at work was tough. It was, I’ll admit, a fucker of a time.

Then, by a stroke of LinkedIn induced luck, I got a job. Suddenly I was moving: packing up my flat, saying tearful farewells to my friends and moving away from a city I’d lived, breathed and loved for 11 years. That was the hardest part. Colchester is no Edinburgh and coming from the cultural epicentre of Scotland to one of England’s many vacuous commuting voids rang my head through a ringer. What the hell are you supposed to do here? I still don’t know. But I do know why there are so many trains to London.

Right now, I’m still adjusting to life down here. Thankfully, my homesickness has gone. A trip to New York and a few beers with some rekindled friends has put things into perspective. I’ve also been spending a lot of time thinking about culture and environment. I used to think that when Scots moaned aboutnot getting any airtime down south, there was an element of justification in their parochially-borne whinging. But, really, there’s not. It’s just the thought process of people who don’t have the cajones to move on to the next step. And that step, no matter what people protest, is London. A place no-one come from, and almost all need to go to.

Down here it feels like you’re living in hyperspeed; the work, the people, the bastards on bikes that nearly scythe your feet clean off every morning, even the trains (well, only when they work). It’s cliché, but this place doesn’t have time to wait. If you want to be a part of it, you need to jump on. It won’t come to you. And it’s something I’m still learning. If you need something down here, ask for it. If you don’t, then tough titties. Proactivity is the only action these people understand.

And now the end of the year is here. Somehow, I’m almost 31 and it’s the first time I’ve felt like I’m actually shaping my own life. I’m still writing, but it’s not an overarching ambition anymore. I’ve got a career to think of. A wife to think of. The next step to think of. Those Lester Bangs ambitions have finally gone; there are others out there being better and hungrier than I am capable of being (the consistently amazing John Doran is a prime example). Instead, I’ve found my niche and my focus is to take it to all the places I want to go: London is just the starting point. That, in itself, is quite exciting. It’s not the height of my ambition, merely the beginning.

If I was my old journalism lecturer, I’d mark myself down for pretending this was a ‘review’ of the last year. There’s not really enough analysis here to masquerade as a critique. So, I apologise unreservedly for my shameless naval gazing. In some sense it was probably very useful for me to reflect on the changing shape of the previous 340+ days. And given how tumultuous 2011 has been, it would seem a little masochistic to say I hope the next year is just as berserk. But, right now, that’s exactly what I want. Bring on 2012.


last year's girl said...


Also, if you want a drink with a Scottish accent I'm around until Saturday.

Milo said...

Sounds like a tough year Billy but I'm glad things have worked out well for both of you.

Billy Hamilton said...

Aw thanks guys. Lis I'm actually about to trek up to Edinburgh. But if you're ever back down in this neck of the woods do holler. It's always reassuring to hear familiar brogue! x