Friday, 5 January 2018

2017: A Year in Review

January is usually a pretty terrible month, coming off the high that is Autumn and the festivities of December, but this month was possibly the most social I've been... ever?! I don't think I've ever had so many interactions with friends in such a concentrated time before (then again, I've never had this many friends before either so...). I had a pretty easy time getting back into the swing of work for college, even though the stress of exams was beginning to simmer under the surface. Then of course, there was La La Land ... it killed me... as in, the soundtrack is the only thing that I listened to for an entire week. Additionally, I got my last two offers from universities I'd applied to - my fourth choice and then my fifth. After that everything got a little complicated when I found out that I couldn't put my second choice as my insurance because it was an unconditional offer. As I write this I have no idea what the fuck I'm going to do... Bangor is my firm choice and always will be, but unless York St John are willing to compromise, I don't know what to put for my insurance. (I worked it all later, says 2018 Holly, but the stress was unneccessary) Wrapping up a rather chaotic month, my MuggleNet internship got a month extension! 

February was a month where I did so much and experienced so much more than I could have possibly predicted for the dregs of winter. The stress was starting to increase a little as predicted ahead of exams in June, and on top of that I was trying to secure my job at MuggleNet. My eighth and ninth articles were my final chances to show what I'm capable of, and that made me really just how much I wanted this job. At the very end of the month, I actually got hired as a member of permanent staff for the site, so for now at least, I'm there to stay! Speaking of Harry Potter, my friends and I won a ridikkulusly hard quiz at our local Harry Potter Book Night, gaining Waterstones gift cards as our prize (not to forget the glory). I still don't know how we managed it... The month proceeded on to be one of seeing friends time and time again, and attending book events; one for Stephanie Garber and another for Maggie Harcourt.  In the final few days of the month, I attended an applicant day for my first choice university: Bangor University and got another chance to indulge in Hogwarts buildings, seagulls, sea spray, and views of the mountains - everything I adore in one!
Also:: I saw two pretty excellent films this month: Moana and Hidden Figures (which is a new favourite of mine) - you should check them out! 

What started out looking like fairly busy month became busier by the day in March. On the first day of the month, I officially started my job as a member of staff at MuggleNet! This had been a dream of mine for years that'd I'd never expected to happen, and yet there I was. IT was also the month that I started being a blogger for events at my local Waterstones - starting off with Samantha Shannon! Then after a couple of weeks in the quiet depths of revision, I had what may have been the busiest 10 days I've ever experienced, involving an applicant day at my insurance choice - York St. John University, and travelling to London twice. The first of these was a rather unexpected surprise invitation from Amber to be her plus one to the preview event of the Forbidden Forest at Warner Bros Studio Tour London, and so I finally got to visit my favourite place again, and this time with a friend! Being there late in the evening and getting to wander around when it was quieter and darker was so fun, and we got to see things that we hadn't expected to, such as Privet Drive. The day was tainted by the fact that we were caught near the Westminster Terror Attack when that was going on, but nevertheless that didn't stop us returning a few days on. Later that week, we were back in London again for the March for Europe anti-Brexit protest, and of course the House of MinaLima, Foyles and Veggie Pret. This was both Amber & I's first protest, and if the opportunity arose, I'd do it again. After the wind down from this week, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was FINALLY released on DVD, and from the moment I had the DVD in my hands, it quickly became my revision reward. 

April was mad. Of course, it was revision packed, but at the same time, it was a month filled with unexpected encounters and new experiences. Early on, I had the opportunity to once again blog an event for my local Waterstones; this time the incredible Angie Thomas on The Hate U Give. Aside from this the month was generally quiet aside from the stacks of revision and the few days where I went on "revision based trips." Over Easter, as part of my Wuthering Heights revision, my mum and I went to Haworth to visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum, and then a week later I headed to Shakespeare's Globe to see Othello with Amber. The day was mainly spent with sore feet because I wore the wrong shoes, exploring the British Museum (naturally, I got to London too early), and visiting the Platform 9 3/4 shop at Kings Cross Station. 

Honestly? I'm very surprised that I managed to pull through May. Bar leaving the house twice (once for seeing Patrick Ness with my friend Lottie, and once for book club), I was a hermit in the depths of revision. I was doing 10 hours a day, every day, minimum. It seems extreme, but it was obsessive and was the only way I ever truly felt okay with myself. I also voted for the first time, in my city metropolitan elections (my side won, which I must say was an added bonus). It was the hardest month I've faced in years, and between the night panic attacks and recurring meltdowns, I'm genuinely shocked that I've made it to a point where I'm on the other side of it all and have hours of the day I've not seen since January. There was also a terrorist attack in my city, and that knocked the wind out of me for a bit. As I wrote in the aftermath, it was hard to deal with, and made Manchester feel more like a house than a home. As you can gather, it truly was a crappy month, but nevertheless, I pulled through stronger for it. 

June was a fairly mixed month, as until the 9th, I was sitting exams, some of which went well, and some of which - through no fault of my own but through the fault of the exam board - went not so great. I spent most of that week having bad panic attacks, encountering a serious lack of sleep, and studying until the early hours of the morning ahead of said exams to make sure I had the information down. In the midst of this on my one day break that week from exams was the General Election, which turned out horifically. Astonishingly, I managed to avoid any form of results until 3pm when I finished my final exam and met up with a friend for coffee afterwards, but it was still such a disappointment. The next couple of weeks, whilst experiencing the immense relief of being on summer and taking a break for a while, were mainly spent sleeping, and recovering from the months spent without really looking after myself from stress. I like exams, I always have, but I was simultaenously very glad of a break until University commenced. The remainder of June was spent adjusting to the sudden amount of endless days without few committments that I now had, and loving having the time to read, go outside, and write again. In the final few days, I got really ill, which was probably delayed exhaustion, but prior to that my friends and I participated in a Harry Potter 20th Anniversary Quiz Night, and didn't do too badly. Finally, going back to 9th June, this was the month in which I left college, which was sad for the end of lessons and some friendships that were built up, but also happiness for it meant the next step was around the corner. 

July on the whole was incredible. Always my busiest month, 2017 was no exception to this. Whilst still trying to adjust to the summer, I decided to fill as many days as I could with things to do, including reading. I don't think I'd read as much in a month up until that point all year, and that included one of my favourites of 2017: 666-pages-long A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab. Additionally, July was when I finally saw Wonder Woman. I'd never seen a superhero film before this for reasons that even I don't know, but this was spectacular, and good enough that the next week I went again to see it with Lottie. Aside from this the rest of the month was consumed by travelling. My friend Jess & I went to Matt Haig's Manchester book signing in mid-July, and following this, a week later I headed to Edinburgh for five days. Until then, I'd never been to Scotland before; so another country ticked off the list and intense wanderlust once again fulfilled! I rarely go on holiday to cities, and rural, costal areas like Wales are far more suited to my taste, but Edinburgh was a beautiful city that I'd happily revist again. Admittedly a lot of my time there was spent trying to find Harry Potter sites, including breakfasting in The Elephant House and going on Edinburgh's "Potter Trail" which was fantastic. I even raced to pick up my copy of the official script edition of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child just before we headed back to Manchester. Overall, it was a lovely few days away and a good distraction from the current A Level results anxiety looming over me. At the end of the month, Lottie and I headed down to London for YALC/LFCC which was amazing, and consisted of endless hours of books, missing our train home, FINALLY meeting Gee, seeing Amber and Hannah, and in a total struck of luck of managing to get a ticket, meeting Dan Fogler aka Jacob Kowalski from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them... why yes, I did lose the plot. 

August was simultaneously gruelling and amazing. It was the month that changed everything. At the beginning of the month I went with my friends to V.E. Schwab's Manchester book signing, totalling the number of times Lottie and I had seen her in a week to 3. She's always so lovely and answered all our questions - what more could you ask for from one of your favourite authors? However, following on from and underneath this was the constant anxiety of A Level results looming. I spent the first half of the month constantly on edge and frightened for what the outcome would be. Then on the 10th of August, I got 2 out of 3 of my results through: English Literature and Sociology. Whilst I had done amazing in both results and that would definitely help me stand a chance at getting into the university I wanted to attend, I was still scared on the basis that my Media Studies exam had gone horrifically. 17th August was a day that I knew would be the happiest or the worst I'd ever encountered, and thankfully it was the former because I got an A in Media Studies, meaning I'd overachieved what I needed to get and thus had got into Bangor University! The feeling of having achieved what I had so desperately desired was immense, and the day was celebrated by going for lunch with my mum and dinner with the family. The day was amazing, but it was slightly tainted by the fact that I discovered I had one day less before move-in than originally told, and it unsettled me in the sense that suddenly I couldn't value time at home more if I tried. A couple of weeks later, and I was back in London; this time for a solo trip I'd been planning for years. I think this was pivotal for me trusting myself and having faith in myself that I can push the boundaries of my anxiety. Exhibit A: I'm terrified of the London Underground, but day 2 and I did it alone, then day 3 navigated 3 changes alone. Day 1 I forced myself to leave my hotel and walk into central London. I love London, spending time there travelling around book shops and so much history, but I know that I could never live there. Those 4 days, especially the first 3 alone were so great for pushing myself, and also for doing what I wanted to do in London, no strings attached. For example, I went to the British Museum 3 times, walked the length of Hyde Park, visited the Natural History Museum, and spent a ridiculous amount of time in Foyles. But above all, the most wonderful thing about those days was Wednesday 30th, when I FINALLY SAW CURSED CHILD! I couldn't have fallen more in love with the production if I tried, and I got to see their 500th show! Everything was, to fulfull cliche, so utterly magical, and I was left feeling speechless. From the moment the play started, tears were streaming down my face, and I cried for the majority of Part 1 Act 1, and Part 2 Act 2.  

September commenced on a day that I'd been waiting for for years. 1st September 2017: 19 Years Later. For me, this was practically a religious day, and I spent the entirety of it with Lottie and Gee travelling around central London and, of course, being at Platform 9 3/4 at 11 o'clock. To be around so many Harry Potter fans, for such an immense, significant moment, was so unbelievably special in a way that I'll never be able to truly explain. Following my return from London, I had two weeks of spending remaining time with family, finalising paperwork, and then packing for university. The weekend of the 16th-17th September were probably the hardest couple of days of my life, with moving to Bangor on the Saturday, and then my family leaving to head back to Manchester without me on the Sunday. Studying at Bangor was all I'd been working for, but the moment they left and the hours before and after that were brutal. Then freshers week happened, which was insane, chaotic and exhausting, and I ended up with freshers flu right as I officially started my degree at Bangor University. Overall, September was a manic rush to the senses of displacement, excitement, anxiety, and adjustment whilst trying to make new friends in my new setup. There were a lot of times where it wasn't enjoyable, and I disliked freshers week far more than I liked it, but going from starting this year with no idea where I'd be in nine months time, to reaching the end of September when I'd completed my first week of university is immensely satisfying.

October was... well... October was interesting. Though for reasons I can't say because they're very personal, the only way I can describe this month in terms of the year is as one giant, giant plot twist that I am so grateful for. October was crazy, again for reasons I'd rather keep private, but a huge part of that month was also the adjustment into university life and finding a rhythm. It's now December and I'm still yet to find that rhythm, but October was for the most part about settling and trying to establish my university life. I had some really bad mental dips in the latter half of the month, which totally disrupted the lifestyle that I'd been trying to maintain at university, and ultimately cost me a lot of money, but I got through the month a month further into my degree, and with a heck of a lot of stories. 

November was the quietest month of my year by far. Although I was consistently going back and forth between Manchester and Bangor, it was kind of my month of radio silence across most aspects of my life. Again, I fell into a horrific mental dip which saw me through the latter half of November and in the first half I was on reading week, frantically trying to get on top of university work and submitting my first essays. There were good moments, some very good moments, such as having dinner with Amber and Hawwa (Hawwa and I, despite living a town apart for years, finally met!) but for the majority of this month I was seriously low and had no enthusiasm to do anything other than sleep. So yeah... that was November...

December was huge for me in my personal life... again for reasons that I'd rather keep quiet, but it was huge, and I'm so grateful for it. This was a month of house viewings and Christmas celebrations, and on the 12th I had my first University Christmas Ball as part of the School of English Literature. It wasn't what I expected... at all.. and by the end of the night I was rather drunk and my feet were in agony, but I feel like it made me closer to the people on my course, and I'm thankful for that. From the 15th, I returned home to Manchester for Christmas and a much-needed break from university life. Following then, everything became rather manic, and the latter half of the month was spent seeing friends who I'd not seen since before university started, such as my book club friends for our joint birthday meal, meeting up with Gee from The Books Bandit in London to go to the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibition, which was truly incredible. This was the first time I'd ever been to London at Christmas, and everything glowed with beauty as we travelled around the Kings Cross area and then headed across to the Southbank Christmas markets. A few days later, my 19th birthday came around, followed by Christmas, and then my first visit to see Amber in Cambridge, a city which I'd been dying to see for years. My year ended perfectly, hearing from and seeing the people I care about the most, and spending the final day of 2017 with my best friend, who I hadn't seen since we both started university. 

Overall, 2017 was a hell of a year. I always knew it would be, but in many respects it was what I'd imagined for the right and the wrong reasons. It was a year in which I encountered so much, achieved so many goals and experienced so many new things, but simultaneously, it wasn't ever easy, and when I peaked my mental health dipped hugely. Now, I enter 2018 ready to face more, whether that be trials or happiness, and hope for maybe a more stable year. 

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