When I look back on 2017, it feels as though I’ve spent much of the year in tears. Tears of fear and frustration, of shame and of sadness. At the endless and often relentless goodbyes I’ve had to say, at not knowing what the future would hold or when the light at the end of the tunnel would appear or if, as the saying goes, it would all work out in the end.
At times, I have felt – and no doubt been – an awful friend, daughter, sister and girlfriend. I’ve relied heavily on those around me, and become dependent on my loved ones in a way that one does in one’s infancy and younger years; when one has no option but to look to those around them for guidance and support, both financially and emotionally, In return, I’ve had little, if anything to offer – lost in a self-inflicted sea of despair, broke beyond my wildest nightmares – other than a promise of friendship and loyalty, through the good times and the bad.
I went to a carol concert while I was back in London with my mum. I had wanted to take her to a grand affair, where the choir were black tied; the congregation bedecked in their Sunday best, the setting suitably festive. Alas it wasn’t to be; many were sold out; those that weren’t I couldn’t afford. Instead we found a free service in Kensington, tucked away near the back entrance to the Albert Hall. The church was a draughty one; those attending kept their coats on, the candles we held flickered in the evening chill; there was a ten foot brass chandelier that had evidently come away from the ceiling. It was cordoned off by some make shift scaffolding; if there was a Christmas tree I don’t remember it.
And yet, the eery silence of the church and its tall ceilings offered the perfect acoustics for the mismatched choir and I cried throughout most of the carols. The director of science from The Natural History Museum read a passage on hope, its power and its impact. I myself have a tattoo that says have hope; a twelve-year-old memory etched in the wake of my friend’s death while I was naive and nineteen and travelling the world.
He spoke about a 25.2-metre-long blue whale skeleton, the new star of its reimagined Hintze Hall at The Natural History Museum. The whale had been called Hope as a symbol of humanity’s power to shape a sustainable future. We learnt that Blue Whales were hunted to the brink of extinction in the twentieth century, but were also one of the first species that humans decided to save on a global scale.
It made me think about hope, its importance, its capacity and its potential for change. I have spent much of this year hoping. Hoping that the decisions I made were the right ones; that things would fall into place; that my visa woes would subside; that I would one day know why things happened as they have. At times the hope has been mired with anger; at the so called friend who turned out to be anything but, at the boss that drove me out of my job, at everyone else whose lives have looked, on the surface, to be easier than my own.
I’ve learnt a lot this year. I’ve come face to face with my own faults; of which I have many. I’ve been taught empathy on a scale that I’d never have known were it not for my own unemployment and financial reliance on those around me. I also found out – the most valuable lesson of all – that I have friends and family whose value is truly above the price of rubies. And so, as well as this year having been a lesson in hope, it too is one of gratitude.
As much as I love words, as much as I love to write, it would be impossible for me to express my thanks to those around who have helped me through the year. Who have given me hope, who have given me friendship without condition, and who have helped me in more ways than they will ever know.
The cusp of the new year is upon us, and I hope for good things for us all in 2018.