(forewarning: this post is ridiculously long and after reading Lexie's 2017 review, I realise unnecessarily so. Conciseness never was my strong point)

2017 opened in bed, crying. Start as you mean to go on, they say. I was terrified about the end of exams and pressure and emptiness and lack of direction.
As 2017 closes, I am no longer terrified about these things, I feel (mostly) full and my life feels busy and yes there are cracks and dark corners but I see a direction and a purpose beyond one sole, abusive thing. 
This year has been an unbelievable challenge, academically, mentally, socially, personally. It hasn't been a shit year, that description feels wholly unfair, but it has been immensely difficult and has ensued a lot of pain and fear. 
It has been characterised by 3 simple words: challenge, change, growth
It is a year I never believed I would survive but here I am, at the 31st December, alive, strong and through the cracks of my faulty mind and the challenges of this year, I am glowing with a radiance of survival.
I did it.

In my mind, it is divided into two distinct halves. The first you know about. The challenge. The intense loss of self, an abusive addiction to academia, permanent stress and relentless breakdowns about the prospect of the future. Home was a toxic and messy environment, plagued by depression of a loved one and a raging fire of perpetual conflict.
January to May was characterised by safe afternoons in the library, kind, kind teachers who said kind, kind words, believed in my abilities and listened to my incessant worries, whom I will forever remember for they way they looked after me and inspired me and understood me, days structured with immense precision to ensure both revision and uptight socialising could be achieved, and endless laughs and gossips and jokes. We were bombarded with relentless mocks, in January, in March and almost broke trying to achieve in a school that was falling apart (a failed ofsted, 3 different head teachers). Much of it is a blur. Of tears, of a dressing gown I never got out of, of "I can't do this" to teachers and "yes you can" responses". My dear mum drove me to the beach, repeated nights in a row, to cry, to walk and to listen to my pain. I ignored the dates, hid my calendar, pretended I had no idea how many weeks it was until the end but still repeatedly thought "3 months, its okay thats ages", "4 weeks I can't do this.

June. Fucking June. Here's some snippets of memory.
Geography exam, my first, one I relied so heavily on to achieve. An exam in which the pressure led to a panic attack, leaving the exam half way through, crying into the invigilators arms that "it wasn't supposed to happen like this".
A walk, that same evening, with my closest friends. It was raining and dark. I felt my life was over.
An English exam were I lost myself in the bliss of writing about made up characters and the excitement of an interesting essay.
A conversation with my dear History teacher. "Be kind to yourself Katie", "feed the right wolves".
A day, one of the weirdest of my life, that consisted of 2 goddamn awful exams and a surprise hung parliament???
A week spent solely revising Romantic poetry, days spent in the library losing brain cells to Shelley's depressive narrative and Blake's religious beliefs.
The final exam, utter glee at the questions (presentation of nature in Romantic poetry UHM YES) and the most conflicting emotions.
3 consecutive days of partying, mixed with emptiness.

July was a whirlwind of Leavers' (a night spent clubbing with out English teacher/head of sixth form, all smashed and having a blast), 2 of the most insane weeks travelling around Europe with my best friends, exploring cities and feeling so alive at the adventure, my 18th birthday in the sickest club in Buda.

August is a month of juxtaposition, aching with the pain of grief. I also experience one of the happiest days of my life, opening my A-level results to see 3 A*'s (?!) and screaming "what the fuck", spending the night absolutely pissed and watching the 7am sunrise before heading on holiday that very same day.

And September brought the change, the return of my sister to school, but me not with her, and the loss of my closest friends. It existed as a day by day month, one day it was okay, the next I would creep downstairs and breakfast and just sit in silence, blank faced, crying. But, I survived.

And I suppose the rest is just the after.
And now it feels okay.
Its taken 10 months of pain to reach this place but I've learned time really can heal anything. It soothed my first experience of grief, not towards a person but towards the most reliable and secure element of my life.
Day by day things got easier. I felt less need to fill every second, my life began to feel purposeful, I learned what helped the longing and the loneliness. I busied myself with numerous trips, to Leeds, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Manchester, London, Oxford, allowed myself to do more art and create for the pure enjoyment. I applied to uni and experienced an Oxford interview. I spent more time with my family, gave back in return for everything I took this year and allowed the world to be.
I volunteer and I work and I learn and I feel good and life feels as though it has meaning and I have grown so so much, so far beyond anything I could have imagined.
And to get through the absolute shite that, in retrospect, was August–mid November, I wrote and I talked and I tried therapy and I ran and I listened to podcasts and I read and I spent time in nature and I baked and I created and I went on nights out and I reminded myself that it will get better. And it has.

This space on the internet has provided a divine sanctuary of safety. A space that has allowed me to process the madness, to disperse my thoughts when they felt most vulnerable and provided a sense of stability in the turbulence and change 2017.

It has also given me new friends, something I never could have pre-empted, but which cures my loneliness and built my dwindling identity. To them, I really am so grateful for saving this year, no matter how insignificant a part they feel they have played.
I understand myself to an extend I never believed possible, I enjoy my own company, I feel an ability to take on new challenges, I feel proud of my written work and I am so, so much more confident, in trying new experiences, in meeting new people, in talking.

And despite all this deep and analytical talk, there have been some fucking great moments (and just some worth mentioning):
Endless nights out, fuelled by trebles and eager, messy and hazy and complicated but always a blast. The submission of my English and History coursework, the latter causing immense trauma but also producing a piece of work I am overwhelmingly proud of. The introduction of a cat into our house, who I now adore, flute lessons that offered an hour of disappearance from this abusive world, evenings spent with my 3 best friends (more like sisters), where time just disappeared, the annual family Easter trip and days spent revising Soviet architecture on the beach, takeaway nights in pyjamas, a dear teacher who cried at my thank you card (despite me despising geography) and still emails e for updates. A day on the quayside filming for a friend, days at work, often with kids falling asleep, meeting Dalal and Libby in London, endless trips to the beach and walks and the Guilty Feminist podcasts and live viewing at Edinburgh fringe and knitting and probably so much more but this post is already so long.  Fucking nuts politics that saw a general election, the inauguration of an abhorrent president, relentless trauma, in the way of terrorism and fires and an aching country, and so many other global events, the relieving avoidance of a French right-wing leader, the activation of article 50, a faulty government plagued with division and allegation, the rise of the voice of victims, war and coup and an ongoing climate crisis.

And right now, I still miss school in some ways, but the pining has diluted. I am craving education, feeling increasingly stupid but, more than anything, am relishing the absence of permanent stress. I am apprehensive about the turning of the year and no longer having a numerical connection with the academic path and still freak out when I think about growing up. I manage to overthink most aspects of my existence and judge and compare my life with almost everyone around me.
But it's okay. I've survived this, I can survive almost anything.

And, in true melodramatic spirit, some thank you's.
To my aforementioned History teacher for never telling me how much of an annoying fuck I was, putting on extra lessons despite him being sure I would succeed and for inspiring my love for the subject. To my friends, for offering never ending laughs and distraction and withstanding the journey with me, to this online space for offering an unjudgemental outlet, to you all of listening to my incessant crises, to my family for not giving up, no matter how annoying I was, crying every second and the pain a-levels ensued for them all (lol sorry guys, was worth it in the end??) and to my dear mum, for always being there. Always.

Here's to 2018. May it be fucking ace.

(okay this post seems so complainy and whiney and privileged–my year was so much better than some peoples and I am entirely aware of this but my mind also tried to ruin me so I guess it wasn't all rosy but this is just a disclaimer insecure me feels is necessary to say I know how privileged I am. Thank u.)

calm amongst the chaos

This christmas has been a weird one–filled with tears and family dramas but also laughs and fond memories and happiness.  I haven't really been able to relax (possibly perpetuated by my total exhaustion) and have a strong sense of undeserving: of relaxation, of calm, of food, of enjoyment. But despite the inner voice, I've relished time spent in pyjamas, with family and copious quantities of delicious food. Another Christmas will come, and perhaps I will be able to pass that one with a little more ease.

In hindsight, my somewhat dampened enjoyment was possibly caused by the numerous nights of 2 hours sleep that have occurred in the past week and this, along with being ill, has caused an overwhelming fatigue–my sleep pattern has been so messed up.

As was the case last year, here are 3 questions and 3(?) answers.
Leave yours below.

Something that makes you smile.
Having my brother home for Christmas.
Cranberry sauce.
New pyjamas, of which I now have numerous pairs and am struggling to find time to wear them all.
A Soviet Spy book I received for Christmas, which encompasses 2 of my favourite things.
Dancing, with old and dear friends and, in a complicated way, the drama that encircles a night out.
The exciting prospects of the year ahead.

Something that makes you sad.
The relentless and internal pressure, a voice that never leaves, that never allows rest.
The future of my brother, in an organisation I neither agree with nor see the appeal of.
That days spent together, at a slow and loving pace, occurring so infrequently.

Something you wish to achieve.
The silence of the internal voice.
Harmony with my sister.
A fluency in the language of love (meaning French, not romance lol)

I am currently suffering from a night out that rolled into a 6 hour family road trip, the start of which I was most definitely still drunk. Last night was weird, it was in one of my least favourite clubs but I think I had a good time? It ended with drama which left today feeling somewhat stressed and caused multiple outcries of "oh for fuck sake", creating a situation in which I feel trapped but, due to severe insecurity, am incapable of denying.
Its pretty messy but I feel vulnerable discussing it, maybe a 2018 goal will be to discuss more romantic-y shit. This already makes me feel uncomfortable because, as I am beginning to learn, I am catastrophically appalling at expressing my emotions but hey, you don't grow when you're comfortable.
I should probably also learn to say no as a 2018 goal.
Thats pretty important.

How were your christmases? What answers do you have for the above questions?

today's musing: this podcast, which is so so good. Its about the power of emotions, ways to tackle negativity and feels like a warm and safe conversation with your mum. Give it a listen.

update: 2017 goals

I will be composing a lot of 2017 update posts, partly because it has been a monumental year and partly because I need to process everything thats gone on. I also want to remember this year, and how I survived, despite continuously thinking I wouldn't

1) Read 26 books – lol ok so I read about 3 books between January and June of this year, and have finished on a grand total of 16, which isn't bad all things considered.
2) Finish cups of tea– even now I don't revise, I still successfully manage to leave moulding, half drunk cups of tea in every corner of my room
3) Learn to drive–yes! I'm in the process of (trying) to learn
4) Write more poetry–I've wrote a few poems this year, but I'll continue to pursue this next annum
5) Begin French again–I've sort of just been repeatedly putting this off, I don't know why because I love the language more than anything and crave the (semi) fluency of 1.5 years ago but its a definite for 2018
6) Do a photoshop/art evening class–I haven't achieved this but also don't really want to anymore, which is fine because goals change!
7) Get A-level results I am pleased with– OH BITCH YES I couldn't physically have been happier or more overwhelmed
8) But don't kill myself in the process–despite an awareness of the abuse, I did ruin myself in the process of achieving my a-levels and have spent every month since trying to recover from the intense focus and subsequent emptiness, sort of going with the mindset of what was the point?? was it really worth the pain just for 3 starred letters on a piece of paper?? (I could never have comprehended these thoughts whilst in the process but now its something I think a lot about
9) Apply to uni–oh yes! I've applied for History @ Durham, Oxford, Leeds and UCL
10) Get another piercing–got another 2!!!
11) Continue journalling–my journal has been my inner sanctum and having a physicalised version of my mind is very therapeutic
12) Try and let the future be–???? ok but seriously, this has got a bit better.
13) Allow myself to enjoy staying in but relax when going out–oh gurl, you have loved going out more than anything this year, but have also found real peace in evenings in and the fact that most of my friends are now in different cities has allowed space for this peace to grow
14) Get on better with my sister–this has probably been one of the most unsuccessful goals (oops)
16) Enjoy (or at least try to) my gap year– parts have been so enjoyable, some satisfyingly normal and others swarmed by panic and challenge–but the good has outweighed the bad
17) Try being veggie–ok so, for the most part, this has been immensely successful and I am committed to a veggie life (I say for the most part because I have consumed meat 4 times this year, twice when drunk (lol) and twice by GENUINE accident (i.e. I thought the sushi was tuna not duck–oh yeh I eat fish)

I also achieved so many things beyond those I set out at the start of this year so, whilst 2017 feels as though its been defined by one goal then nothingness, that is far from the truth.
How have you got on with your goals? What resolutions/goals are you setting for the new year?

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the battle of my mind

the battle of my mind
who can ruin it first?
the pulsing adrenaline of overdrive,
pushing harder
seizing, singeing 
the flames of burnout licking at my core
or the narcissistic cries of perfectionism 
unattainable expectation
that will never be enough 

either way
when it comes down to it,
when the swords are drawn, 
the final bow taken,
nothing will be left.
it will fight to oblivion. 

a bitter, empty loneliness. 
no one.
and through this struggle, my cruel mind is the only friend. 

I don't know. This poem isn't really how I'm feeling, I more just found it on my document entitled "words" that remains permanently open on my laptop and needed something to share. I'm trying to write more poetry, however, so perhaps sharing will motivate me.
I don't really know how I'm feeling. I'm exhausted but not really sure why which is anxiety inducing and am beginning to experience the tingles of panic about the future, as though I'm (again) not doing enough with my time. 
Ever since returning from Oxford I've felt unsettled. I suppose its the sense that I am, eventually, moving on but its been difficult to resume my routine. I can't fully relax into the things I am doing or truly experience the festivities. Perhaps, once work has broken up next week, I'll have a little more time. 
There are so many thoughts in my head, majority of which feel intangible. I'm trying to use the Messy Heads 30 days of journaling to understand myself a little better, but I've already missed 1 day so maybe not. I've been thinking a lot about travelling but its got a lot of questions surrounding it: when, where, who?  I've also got a Eurostar voucher I need to use and am pretty keen to visit le Chateau de Versailles and Monet's jardins des Giverny, along with my 2nd favourite city in the world (Paris) so if anyones down for a trip hmu lol. I've also been feeling romantically lonely but have also learned that I am fearful of both intimacy and commitment so bleurgh. Everything feels a bit lost.
There are so many potential and exciting trips and events in the new year but nothing feels secure or set in stone which is, perhaps, what is causing the unease. 
Ugh. I want my mind to settle. These feelings aren't the darkness and depression of a month ago but just a little instability. 
Let me know how you all are. 

(the above visual was just composed to showcase some of my favourite musings. All are found here)

some thoughts whilst in Oxford

The title of this post reminds me of something William Wordsworth, or perhaps Percy Shelley, would entitle one of their poems. Ah, English.
Its raining today which is shitty because I need to get out and explore to clear my head and I didn't bring an umbrella–but fuck it, I need to breathe some air.
So I am at Oxford for uni interviews, I didn't want to talk about it too much but I've had lots of thoughts, and have few people to share the inner workings of my brain with (because I know no one here), so here you are.
The interviews have been weird. There was no way I could have prepared for the questions they asked me. No one asked me about the books I'd read or my coursework. To any future Oxford interviewees, you can't prepare–you can't pre-empt what they will ask you. Just read over what you've written and your submitted essay and think about arguments, beyond that relax.
I've had 2 interviews, one on my written work and anti-Semitism (she was like "I'm now going to ask you about your personal statement" and then isolated the single word 'anti-Semitism and I was like oh cmon) and one on a source and the value of testimony. I did get asked "whats the difference between history and memory?" which threw me a little, but in context it wasn't as challenging.
I really enjoyed both the interviews, which is  a good thing. There is, however, no way you can tell what they're thinking, which is intimidating. I sort of think they weren't hard enough so they don't think I'm capable and am doubting everything.
In all honesty, I'm a mix of emotions.
I, unfortunately, have fallen in love with this city, uni and college and I know that that is detrimental as, previously, I was impartial but applied through pressure. But now I love it and don't want to leave. There are only 8 places available at this college, and 43 applicants, so the chances are oh so low. But I really feel at home in this empire of castles.
But I'm also missing the familiar and am looking forward to escaping this high-charged environment of nerves which feels odd. This afternoon I'm going for coffee with an old friend which will be so warming as I'll be able to just be myself and I haven't seen her in so long. I've met some nice people and have had a chance to relax and explore the city but am also looking forward to being in a world I totally understand/where nothing is new.
Despite this, going home makes me a lil apprehensive as I feel I am returning to a world of dullness and am so excited to start my degree and am reminded of my love for this subject. My old school friends are also coming home this weekend, which also makes me stressed because I feel I am retreating to the past and am so ready to explore new worlds and new people and don't really want to go back.
Its now fucking pissing it down. Ugh. (lol I understand that this is so ambivalent and ambiguous but thats sorta how I feel)
But, I am so proud of myself for this whole process. Two years ago I couldn't stay away from home, would never have come to a some-what unfamiliar city, alone not knowing where I was staying or who I was meeting or what my timetable was. But I've talked to new people and explored and I feel so calm and wow. I've grown so much.

This post is maybe a little damp, like the weather lol. I am happy, just this process is weird (its just waiting and waiting and waiting) and it feels odd falling in love with something you know you can't have. But I've had fun and I love it here and I don't miss home or want to escape so, yay for new experiences and growth but also disheartenment at the fact that it'll never come true. Oh.

Its now 18:18 and I am so incredibly tired and am dreading, beyond all amounts, the 4 hour train home tomorrow and the preconceived emptiness of the weekend. I'll probably have a good cry tonight.

gratitude list

Life is really great at the moment, genuinely. Not in a particularly amazing way there's just a lot to be happy about and, despite being horrendously hungover (which appears to be when the majority of my blog posts are written) I am content.

Here's some things I am grateful for.
1. The freedom to be able to lie in bed all day because I'm exhausted and suffering (from last night) and spend the day exactly how I want to
2. The bright crispness of the autumnal morning and the beauty of the view out my window
3. Friends who look after me and are always down to have fun
4. The opportunity to meet new people
5. My cat who lies at the end of my bed
6. My mum who listens to my incessant worrying and my endless tears and makes everything bearable
7. The acceptance that I am an emotional person, my release is to cry and that's okay, it doesn't make me weak
8. The excitement that next year holds, the opportunity to be able to study my beloved subject at some of the best unis in the country/world
9. books, because I feel a love for reading I haven't experienced in a while
10. An excitement about christmas and festivities and celebrations

so yeh. Currently feel like I'm dying but its entirely self-inflicted and I'm being a wuss.
What are you grateful for?

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