You are more than welcome to ignore this post altogether- the following one, is the important one, but Part 1 will be looking at all the negatives experiences of this year. Part 2 is the redeeming part of my reflections on 2012. But it does explain just how hard the year was, and why the positive experiences and achievements have even more significance for me.
2012 appeared to have begun beautifully. Both at work and at home, Christmas 2011 had been a wonderful end to a lacklustre year, and I spent New Years' in London- the first time I'd gone away for NYE- with friends at Tower Hill's Reptile. Also, shortly before the end of 2011, I had decided to bite the bullet and had mailed letters to various local tattoo studios. I was prompted by an experience from the autumn, when I had accompanied my uncle when he got a tattoo I had designed for him inked. Caspar, the tattooist, had been impressed with my design (a dark, twisted take on the classic Superman logo), and had suggested I take up tattooing as a profession, even going as far as inviting me to sit close by and watch what he was doing. The experience had been encouraging and I had decided to try and pursue it. Shortly into the new year, I recieved a reply from that same studio, inviting me to show them my portfolio.
I had only expected feedback- that was all I had requested- but was told that my work was good, and that they would like to meet the other artist at the studio before making a decision as to whether or not to take me on as an apprentice. This having far exceeding my expectations, blew me away.
Work's atmosphere had decayed somewhat- a disagreement about agreed booked holiday dates and the threat of losing entitled holiday days had left me angry and disheartened. At the time, I worked for Peacocks PLC. Christmas had been nice, but the stress of my manager's lies and back-tracking on her word (I still believe that she was hoping to confuse me into doing what she wanted, hoping I was stupid enough to take her word on it) regading my booked holidays to see my fiance* were becoming too much. I started to break out in a rash at this point.
(*My fiance and I are in a long distance relationship- I live in the UK, and he in the US- and we see each other once a year. Frankly, trying to fuck around with my already-booked holiday dates is a good way to make an enemy of me).
But when I met the next tattooist, the meeting went very well, and I was then offered an apprenticeship. With a career in tattooing looming on the horizon, I figured my time at Peacocks was coming to an end anyway, and started trying to find new work. Little did I know how right I was.
It came as a shock to everyone; even the media followed the story closely. When Peacocks PLC went into administration, a month of stress and awful uncertainty followed. We tried to continue as normal, and for the most part, I think my colleagues and I supported each other, but irate and unsympathetic customers didn't help at all (nor did hearing we might not get paid). And even though I had been accepted as an apprentice at the studio, I was plagued with an awful worry, convinced that everything was going to fall apart at any given moment. With disagreements at work about changing my hours to accomodate my apprenticeship, the stressful working environment and my fears of failure, the rash suddenly exploded into full blown stress-induced eczema. I was covered from the chin down in red scales, I felt like a reptile. I took to dressing like Rogue of the X-Men to hide my skin. I certainly felt like a mutant.
(We think it was eczema, but we're not entirely sure. At one point we feared German Measles when my mum broke out in something similar but nowhere near as severe about a week after I finally cleared up- but whereas German Measles typically lasts 3 days, I had over 3 weeks of being an itchy little bunny lizard ; _ ; I did try calling the doctors to try and have it confirmed, out of fear of passing it on, but the awful receptionist- who will be mentioned again- just treated me like I was wasting her time.)
Somehow, that time passed. I remained on edge, but the rash eventually receded, and I began to feel hopeful. Even though I was feeling incredibly awkward at the studio, and feeling like I was an utter screw-up, I was learning a lot. Work was still a major pain (namely, my twisty manager), so I have to admit that a part of me really did hope for redundancy to be free of those problems.
When that day finally arrived, however, I didn't celebrate. There was a strong sense of relief, yes, that my years of problems at this company were now at an end, but it was covered by a blanket of solemnity. It was the most surreal experience; putting up the closure signs in the windows, cleaning up the staff room, knowing that this place where I had worked for 5-and-half years I would never return to. Despite having wanted to leave, money was a major concern (especially as I would only be paid £20 a day at the studio), but sympathy for my colleagues also added to the sadness of the whole event. We didn't even get a proper chance to make our farewells and part ways.
Despite the good and the bad, it certainly was the end of an era.
I knew something was wrong the next day at the tattoo studio. I told the shop manager about the redundancy, and she was more awkward than ever, saying I had to go home early due to her having trouble procuring the insurance to keep me on the premises. The artists seemed to have no idea about that. I was sent home very early, after only a few hours, not at all failing to notice the manager's peculiar behaviour.
When I recieved a bluntly-worded email the next morning, I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was devastated. The shop manager informed me that they couldn't get the insurance full stop, and couldn't keep me on. She wasn't particularly apologetic in her email, or sympathetic. I am sure she meant no spite, that she had taken the coward's way out and hadn't been able to tell me to my face the previous day, but she certainly could have had more heart. Over the next couple of days, she also informed me she would not be paying me for the days I was there and had trashed my designs. All of this was needlessly painful.
So with no job and no prospects, things certainly weren't looking cheery. The only thing I had to look forward to was my pre-booked trip to see my fiance. I was certainly looking forward to a break. The Jobcentre and job-hunting in general was the most painfully tedious thing, but in addition to all this, my brother was also undergoing a huge emotional upheaval, which led to me worrying about him constantly.
One day, I met my mum in the supermarket- her face was twisted with pain and anger. She had tried to get an emergency doctor's appointment due to an awful pain in her lower abdomen, but the bitchy receptionist (yes the same one! Oh the things I could tell you about this woman) totally dismissed her and just booked her in for the next day. We worried it might be her appendix, but nothing happened.
The next day, while job-hunting online and chatting to friends, I got a phone call. My mum was at the doctor's surgery, about 20-25 minute walk from our house, in floods of tears. She said she was in so much pain and didn't know how to get home. Usually, my anxiety means I have to check-and-re-check all the locks and things before I leave, and take an-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink bag, but in 30 seconds, I was locking up the door and leaving with just my keys and phone. I found mum on the route home, tears streaming down her face and barely able to walk. I should mention that my mum is a tough cookie, a bit mental really (I say that with love! :P) and doesn't cry much. I had to support her much of the rest of the way home. The examination had been too painful for her, and she'd been signed off work.
She told me the doctor said the pain in her stomach was one of two things- a fibroid, or an ovarian cyst. Mum was fearing the fibroid, as her mum had had one 40 years ago, needed a hysterectomy, and the subsequent menopause had turned her into "the Wicked Witch of the West". The cyst however sounded worse- in fact the doctor feared that if it was a cyst, than it had burst. Lots of tests had been booked to follow up.
However, there was another potential problem that shared its symptons with both of these things. Cancer often acts like other ailments. I tried to ignore the idea for a long time. A few days after that incident, I flew out to stay with my fiance in the States, absolutely distraught and totally convinced that my mum would be diagnosed with cancer while I was away. I couldn't bear to tell his family, and had many private tears with him as I fretted and feared the worse. People often accuse me of being a drama-queen, and I will admit that I like to ham things up a bit sometimes, but I didn't tell anyone else for ages, and kept my tears between my fiance and I.
I continued to look for work, even while I was abroad (thank lord for the internet! Btw, anyone job hunting, anywhere, regardless of your country, I recommend indeed.com!). I managed to nab an interview while I was still in the states, but the morons who set it changed my interview to the day I came back into the UK even though I had already told them I wasn't available. They insisted only that day would be possible. With the likelihood of my mum needing hospital treatment in the near future, and their total lack of reasonable flexibility, I didn't even bother.
I focused a lot on writing for a while. Drawing hurt too much- reminded me too much of the tattoo apprenticeship. One interview with a musician I like went very badly, and there was something of a fall out between me and the agent, despite my attempts to clear things up. In general, I was feeling like a real loser and a screw-up. Even my supposed best friend criticised me for not going to interview the day I arrived back in the UK (with severe jet-lag and zero-hours sleep after a 15-hour journey? Please)
I had 2 more interviews, aced them both, and accepted one- a job with a national hardware store who's name I won't mention (just a personal rule. I don't mind naming Peacocks as that is the past now). One of those jobs had appeared to be an arty one, but transpired to be purely generic retail crap, with poor money and a long distance to travel. In all honesty I wasn't overkeen on the job I accepted either, and my first day was awkward and unpleasant. Despite major difficulties, however, I managed to settle in and enjoy some aspects of the job. Its not perfect, but...its ok. And the money is better than Peacocks.
I had a falling out with my fiance, regarding our future. What followed that were two different things that affected me very emotionally. The first was confronting the possibility of ending the 8-year-relationship with the man I love. Once we made up, we seriously discussed parting ways amicably, and even the contemplation of that made me physically sick. Needless to say, we remain together. I think we may even be closer for it. I'm so glad. He such a support to me. I don't know what I'd do without him.
The other was falling out with the former best friend- she slagged off my fiance, criticised my decision to stay with him and even accused me of failing to consider HER feelings in my decision, and it all went downhill from there. In the four months that followed, I tried time after time to peaceably talk it out, tell her how she made me feel, and resolve the issue without attacking her. She constantly dodged me and my feelings festered. She only spoke to me to inform me of things going on her life.
Mum went into hospital. The diagnosis was a fibroid- although she had feared this the most, it was actually the most benign, as the fibroid tumours are rarely cancerous. But it was huge, and so painful. By the time it was removed, "Bob", as she nicknamed it, was 15cm across. In preparation for the surgery, she had to have a course of hormonal treatments that induced a menopause, and it was an awful time for her. My parents were under so much stress. The day she went in for her hysterectomy was most emotional I've ever seen my dad.
The surgery went well, but days later she was rushed back into hospital with complications via ambulance. She was ok in the end, but the hospital practically panicked- it had been their fault. During this time, while many of my friends offered me their support, my supposed best friend was totally unsupportive and further drove a wedge between us with her ignorance.
Mum's recovery was quite long- technically, it is still ongoing, but she recovered and managed to go on holiday (it had been booked long before diagnosis and was non-refundable). When they came home, I surprised my parents with gifts. I am just so happy mum is still with us, healthy and happy. I know a fibroid is not life-threatening, but for a short while, I really thought I'd lose her.
My friendship with my ex-bestie totally fell apart in the autumn. After another display of ignorance towards me and my feelings, I decided to cut ties with her. I'm not even sure if she's aware of it, and has just assumed we have drifted apart. But it was far too painful for me to keep taking these emotional stabs in the heart everytime she did something else to hurt me. Even now I don't believe she intended any hurt, that there was no malice in her intentions, but I'm still hurting a lot over it. She wasn't the only one...in quick succession, a fair group of "friend" suddenly showed their true colours and abandoned me. More than enough WONDERFUL people have filled the void in their absence, but losing a friend is still a loss, and I lost several all at one. One of whom I considered family for the best part of the last decade. I hope that with time I can look back on this time and not feel so much anger and hurt, but thats a work in progress I suppose...
My job has progressed from "ok", to "stressy" to "annoying and completely unfulfilling." Even a good week, where I can just get on with the job with no hassle usually induces some sort of brain-numbness. I have determined after the last week that I either need to find a new job in the new year, or really focus on getting a novel in Waterstones...
It may seem trivial to some, but fear, pain, hopelessness...I've had a lot this year. Between the redundancy, the apprenticeship thing, losing a lot of friends and my mum's illness, this year has been a massive struggle. But all those good things that came out of it...
And thats why I'm splitting Reflections of the Year into 2 parts :)
Next time- all the AWESOME things from 2012, and why they, coupled with even the crap stuff, make this a very significant year for me.
I dun wanna hear complaints about the emo blog post :P But seriously, like I said before, I don't honestly expect people to read all of it, unless they are genuinely interested. The next post will be full of sparkles and awesome though ;)