twenty-thirteen: in review

I feel that the turn into the New Year is overrated. Here, we are brought up in a culture which tells us that the night between two months – a turning point just as much the same as that between any other two months, two weeks or two days – is one in which we are not only permitted but actively encouraged to drink and party ourselves into oblivion, before awaking into January and practically being expected to entirely regenerate ourselves into ‘better’ people. It’s not something I can buy into; however, I cannot avoid the fact that with the New Year comes a certain element of refreshment. Perhaps it is the (unwarranted?) joy of filling in the next calendar with birthdays and future events and plans, but the dawn of the 1st of January, as much as I generally despise this month, always feels as though it brings with it a sense of healing. A cure for the previous year that has been steadily dying with the onset of winter: January is the baby phoenix rising from the ashes of its past form, and through a sense of mourning or, perhaps, recovery, I feel the need to analyse the previous twelve months before I can truly continue with the next.

On my Facebook page, I divide 2013 into three photo albums: winter/spring, summer, autumn/winter. The first third was unpleasant at best and frighteningly shadowed at worst, but as the spring broke I was shocked out of the dark.

January

1 -January
Jamie in the snow, Castle Gardens, 19.01.13

After a beautiful beginning, January soon swept in the bitter cold and the snow which I always struggle to enjoy beyond a couple of days. College was a hard slog in the run up to the winter exam season and I felt trapped in darkness, shackled to exhaustion and an unhappy reflection. My braces were put on and I took my first AS History exam in a panic, assuring myself that I would be retaking it in the summer.

February

2 - Februrary
snowdrops on a walk that almost felt like spring, 19.02.13

The weather began to lift but college work continued to pile and the month itself was short and uneventful. We were being encouraged to start thinking about university, eleven months in advance of our application deadline.

March

3 - March
Rosie Thomas & Watzmann at Burnham Market International Horse Trials, 30.03.13

Schoolwork crept up and suffocated me from behind; I wrote about feeling numb at all times bar my nightmares, until an A in my January History exam jolted an element of confidence back inside my head. I revisited my old school to watch their production of Peter Pan thinking how strange it was to be in the audience rather than backstage, and finished Orwell’s 1984 for the first time.

April

4 - April
Dom annotating his music at orchestra residential, 02.04.13

A busy and, generally, happy month. The early days were taken up with an orchestra residential at which we played music from Wicked, some favourites by John Williams, Malcolm Arnold’s Four Scottish Dances and the Adagio from Spartacus. I turned seventeen on the day of our concert in Great Yarmouth, and left considering a Music or combined honours degree at university. Almost immediately I was swept into my role as Gamesmaker for the Model European Parliament Norwich international session (there is far too much to explain so if you are interested, please click the link) for seven days straight, spent being a secretary, politician, host, housewarmer, tour guide and photographer. Towards the end of the month my relationship, which I felt had been the biggest (and, at times, only) rock in my life for the past four difficult months, broke down, and I with it.

***
May was a transitional month as I started to resurface. When I broke free for air I found I had stumbled into summer, and a hundred photographs ready to be taken.
May
5 - May
revision begins in earnest for my AS examinations, 05.05.13
Struggling to cope with the events of the end of April, I flung myself into college work and preparation for my summer AS-level exams, which would ultimately decide whether I would receive offers from the universities to which I would apply in the autumn. Meanwhile, we made the finishing touches to the school magazine which I, along with a number of others from my yeargroup, had worked tirelessly on throughout the entire year. After my exams were completed I had two weeks off in which to recover before heading back to college; I read The Great Gatsby for the first time and made amends with an old friend.
June
6 - June
Paris by moonlight, 24.06.13
Despite being back in college for another month, I began my second Summer Onehundred project and, with it, this blog. Decided not to waste it from the very first day. I attended the biggest gig of my life and began researching universities having decided on a single honours degree in English Literature. Towards the end of the month I travelled to Paris with school and spent the four days as if in a dream.
July
7 - July
spinning defiant, 06.07.13
A strange month. I played in the County Youth Orchestra’s summer concert, and stood by an open graveside for the first time. I finished Year 12 – my penultimate year of school – on a high, and felt free. Took a break; adventures, haybales, photographs and diary entries.
August
8 - August
Loughrigg Cottage, 27.08.13
A busy month full of travelling and friends. Spent three days in York helping to paint a flat and looking round a potential future university, only to receive my AS results a week later to discover that they, along with many of the other establishments I had been considering, might well not make me an offer. Took a while to find myself again. Spent a week in the Lake District with the family, including Jonny and the harp, and the day we came home I attended a party despite not being overly enthusiastic and nearly not going. There, I met a young man named Grant.
***
Although my Summer Onehundred continues into September, I draw the summer line here. Autumn arrived with the new school term and I prepared myself for the onset of winter, something which tends to chain me after the liberating summer months. School promised to be harder than ever and I saw no refuge amongst the promises of coursework and exams.
September
9 - September
dewdropped cobwebs, 05.09.13
Year 13 began quietly enough, with pressure for university applications steadily mounting. Mum and I spent a warm day at Burghley Horse Trials, an end-of-summer tradition, before throwing ourselves back into work. Once again my life was enveloped by school, so much so that to begin with I barely noticed my sister’s absence as she jetted off to her new, albeit temporary, life in Davis, California. Orchestra rehearsals restarted and the announcement was made that world-class pianist Stephen Hough had contacted us to request we accompany him playing Dvorak’s piano concerto in the spring. I made my university application to Cambridge, York, Lancaster, Sussex and Exeter, and settled down for a long wait.
October
10 - October
the walk home (disposable), 10.13
College continued: we were thrown into History coursework and novel studying. I met G for coffee for the first time (later this month we went out for a meal) and received an offer of a place at the University of York. Mum and I spent a weekend in the Lake District, and another orchestra residential brought pieces of epic proportions, such as Dvorak’s The Water Goblin and Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite no. 2, as well as offers from the Universities of Sussex and Lancaster.
November
11 - November
riding Solly, 24.11.13
November continued to bring masses of work with it, and I crumbled once or twice, but my mood remained one of resolve and general happiness. G and I travelled to Cambridge to see our friend James (the host of the party at which we met) and he met Becki, Steve and Adam as we gathered at my house for the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special. I had my braces taken off and attended my last-ever Parents’ Consultation Evening of my school career. I received an offer which is too high from the University of Exeter, and my rejection letter from Cambridge.
December
12 - December
advent bunting, 01.01.13
December was packed full, and very little of it was to do with school. Billie and I met a county councillor to discuss the proposed financial cuts to the County Music Service and I went for a meal with G’s family. The Christmas Formal which I helped organise went to plan, though it took a weekend of sleep to recover from not only the party itself but the seven hours of decorating beforehand and the two hours taking it down again afterwards. Suddenly the Christmas holidays arrived, and my sister flew home from Cali. We went carolling for charity in Norwich with her friends, and were handed cards to instruct us on how to get to heaven instead of change by one member of the public. My grandmother turned 90 and I threw G in at the deep end by having him attend the get-together. I spent a happy evening at a party hosted by my oldest friend catching up with the girls from high school and reliving old times. Christmas passed followed by a haze of nothing days, right up to a New Year’s Eve, spent with a bottle of sparkling wine watching the London fireworks on the BBC with Grant, Becki, Steve, Rosa and Jonny.
***
When I planned this post, beneath my list of moments for December all I have written (in capital letters and underlined twice) is the word ‘transformation’. It is true that I began 2013 happy, and I ended it as such also. However what took place between those two miniscule moments has changed me far more than I feel I am able to put into words. The beginning of the year was caged in shadow, whereas now, despite the natural darkness, those traps are nowhere to be seen.
I feel as though the happiness I felt last January is incomparable to that I feel now – it was fake and tainted. I was very much lost, and now I understand what has taken place over the past year. It is not that I have ‘transformed’. I have not changed; I am still myself.  But at the beginning of twenty-thirteen it has become clear to me that I did not know who I was. Whilst the past twelve months have been extraordinarily difficult, and there are far too many moments upon which I try my best not to look, I have instead transformed the way that I look not only at the world, but at myself and my place within it. I understand a little better where I fit, and where I could go. In short, I have found myself.
Thus, though I do not think that twenty-thirteen – specifically the first half – is a year I will ever look too kindly upon, it has in fact been an utterly crucial one. I feel I have found my voice, and this year, I intend to use it.
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