I regretted it as soon as I hit “upload”.
It had felt good to see the highlights that way, at first - to see my year’s “most-liked” photographs in a neat square, all the different locations from around the world, the cute clothes, the yoga pose on the beach. I’m living the life of my twenty-something dreams, I let myself marvel.
2015 is the year I gave up a permanent address, travelling from one corner of the globe to another, wherever I wanted to go, because as a writer I make an income as long as I’ve wifi and a working laptop. As a writer – of books and magazine articles and copy for other people, if they ask - it costs me a third to work from a beach hammock on the Indian ocean than it does to live in London’s concrete jungle and pay the best part of a grand for a box room in a shared (and damp. Shared London houses are always damp) house. I took a chance, this year, on myself and some big old ambitions, and forgive me the repetition but it paid off! I got the publishing deal!!!!!!!! I also do not have to answer to some shitty boss who has no idea how to manage people!!!! I MANAGE MYSELF!!!! Total autonomy is my win!!!!!!!
The first few orange hearts came through on my collage, and with it a sort of… guilt. I hadn’t meant to lie to anyone, but seeing the handle of somebody who hits like on almost everything I put on social media (thanks, babe!), I thought: that’s not my whole story, and she thinks it is.
I added a bit to my caption. The caption had said, “Book, book, book in London; being bendy in India; the best outfit I’ve ever put together in Derbyshire; the prettiest Tuscan wedding; a Roman bookshop; me in Bali." It was all very light. Humble-braggy but forgivable enough. Superlative, in every possible way. I went back fifteen minutes later to scribble: Not pictured – the loneliness, the tears, the almost-love-affairs and crippling fear I will never be good enough. Because that’s my year. All of that. The ups, and the downs. The stuff with the saturation turned up full, and everything else hidden behind the documented scenes. Just because I have travelled, does not mean I have not felt the things I did when I knew where to send my bank statements to.
It has been the year of my life. An important one, for sure. I’ve been in total control of me, myself, and I, and that self-reliance means I’ve achieved things I otherwise would only have fantasised about. In twenty-two flights, fifteen countries, uncountable beds to sleep in and cafes to write out of, in front of hundreds of faces both old and new, I stepped in to the boldest, bravest version of myself yet. The version that gets it now – that there is no destination. And I think that’s why the photo bothered me. It made it seem like I’d “arrived”, somehow, because 2015 has been exotic and uncharted and photogenic. But. I’m ninety-nine percent sold on the fact that it’s the pursuit of happiness that means we will never, in fact, be happy. We don’t “reach” happy. There’s no finish line. Believing that there is sets us up for some fall. Disappointment.
Happiness is a slippery, conniving, elusive motherfucker and it happens by accident. It is seldom around for long. Instead, there is frustration and bemusement. Contentedness and anger. Confusion and bliss. Agony, ecstasy, long stretches of not-very-much-at-all, actually. Just the motions. Just going through the motions, every day, one foot in front of the other, which is sometimes (nearly always) the most admirable thing of all. Continuing. Pressing on with business, wherever in the world that is.
My year was an incredible one because I was tested in new ways, mostly though travelling in solitude, and I survived, and I came out altered. I am not the same as when the clock hit midnight on the close of 2014. I’ve cried too many tears, kissed too many boys, felt lonelier than I ever thought I could, to be unchanged. I’ve worried endlessly about money, been staggered by the support of friends and strangers alike, been offered opportunities beyond what my tiny imagination could have concocted alone. There are still things I have to apologise for, and some things I never will - and I’m owed a few I'm sorry’s that I've resigned myself to never hearing. Yes, there was beach yoga and free flights and deep, mahogany tans. Yes, not once did I have to account for my time to somebody else. Yes, 2016 will be much of the same. It all counts. It’s all part of the recipe. Do you understand? That I am not "happier" because nine out of my twelve months were spent in temperatures above thirty degrees? I wanted you to think I was. I wanted to believe it, too.
That’s the bit I want to take over into the new year with me. That there is no “good” or “bad”. That life is messy, and it doesn't matter if you're in a rice paddy or your mother's shed in Belper. I think what I mean is, is that this is the year I learned to bend, so that I wouldn’t break. That shit happens, and it makes the glory that much sweeter. That sometimes, you wait longer than feels fair for that glory, and the waiting is the point of it all, really. The waiting is when life happens.
All of that, though - it's hard to Instagram, innit?
All of that, though - it's hard to Instagram, innit?