It’s the time of year when I normally get very introspective (yes, more so than usual) and productive with my writing, and these two things mean I write something about what I’ve done this year and what I want to achieve next year. But having had cancer not so long ago makes that tricky – and the expectations I have for myself that it shouldn’t be tricky, make it trickier. Are you with me?

So for ease, this time around I’ve decided to modify a questionnaire I found on an old blog of mine from 2015, and answer those questions instead. I’m finding it difficult to think too much about the new year and the word January fills me with dread a little because not only does January suck in general, but I have all sorts of medical appointments coming up and all I really want is to know the pathway is going to be clear for me to go to Disney World in the spring. This questionnaire has also highlighted the fact that I remember very little about the things I watch on TV or in the cinema:

1: What did you do in 2019 that you’d never done before?

I visited Iceland, Gibraltar and Fuengirola, Spain, and I applied for and began my PhD! This meant I also visited Middlesbrough for the first time. I also went to CenterParcs Longleat for the first time.

2: Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My resolutions last year were things I’d like to do in general, not necessarily in 2019. I did this because after the terrible year of 2018 I didn’t want to put too much pressure on the following year to be amazing, when simply getting through it felt like it would be enough. But here’s the list of things I wanted to do then, and what’s happened with them:

  • Learn more Swedish – I did not do this! I have recently been trying to practice a little more, but generally this has gone completely by the wayside for ages.
  • Read and think about Buddhism more and make it more part of my everyday life – Not really, I would like to do some more reading on this.
  • Finish my jigsaw puzzles – Nope, that should be rectified soon, though!
  • Finish the books in my to-read pile – HA. No.
  • Buy a digital piano and learn/relearn how to play – I did buy a digital piano! The playing needs more work, though.
  • Write and get published – I did this! See my Published Work list for more info, but I had 23 pieces of creative work published in 14 literary magazines/journals, with more due to come out in early 2020.Obvs I’ll be wanting to do more of this every year.
  • See the Northern Lights – I attempted this in Iceland with my parents but, although we saw the faintest of white streaks across the sky, I don’t think we can count this as accomplished.
  • Visit Gran Canaria – I haven’t done this yet, but I would still like to. It’s not a priority though – we have bigger travel plans in 2020!
  • Visit somewhere in the UK I haven’t been to before – I did this! I went to Middlesbrough to visit my new university, and it’s a really lovely town and campus. We went to Longleat too and drove past Stonehenge on the way there (accidentally), which was cool. This is definitely something on my list for every year, though.
  • Buy a house – Not yet, but we’re on the way there!
  • Get married – Not yet!
  • Feel better and don’t die – So far, so good!

I will make more resolutions for next year. I feel a bit weird about next year because I don’t know what’s waiting for me there. All of my plans feel rather fragile and like they could be broken by appointments and diagnoses at any moment. But all being well, in 2020 I would like to:

  • Progress to the second year of my PhD
  • Go to a conference related to my PhD
  • Continue to write and be published
  • Buy a house
  • Go to Florida again
  • Visit somewhere in the UK I haven’t been to before
  • Inject cancer-related chat into conversations around trauma, anxiety and mental health as much as possible and advocate for our experiences to be heard
  • Continue to be healthy

A modest list, and I hope it’s all achievable.

3: What countries did you visit?

Iceland, Spain and Gibraltar.

4: What would you like to have in 2020 that you lacked in 2019?

I honestly can’t think of anything I lacked in 2019. There might be a glaringly obvious answer to this, but really I just want to keep going as I am. I like my life.

5: What dates from 2019 will remain etched upon your memory and why?

Nothing particularly memorable has happened for me to remember or want to remember the date of it.

6: What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I was accepted to do my PhD! This time last year more studying wasn’t on my mind at all, much less that I might be doing it so quickly. My supervisor said my proposal was exemplary and that they turn away a lot of people who apply, so I’m very proud to be an academic right now.

7: What was your biggest failure?

I sent the manuscript for my memoir to a publisher but after requesting the full manuscript (I initially sent the first three chapters) and then asking me to do some work on the first three chapters and resend, they rejected it. But it’s still an achievement that I wrote the thing – emotionally and creatively. Trouble is, it’s such a hard subject I don’t really want to go back into editing it, so it may be unpublished forever unless I get someone to work on it with/for me.

8: Did you suffer illness or injury?

I was recovering from surgery, so still suffering but nothing new! Recovering from abdominal surgery takes a really long time and it isn’t a linear journey. I can still hurt myself by sneezing, which is an interesting superpower.

9: What was the best thing you bought?

My digital piano! Or maybe our bathroom refurbishment, that was pretty awesome.

10: Where did most of your money go?

Tuition, holidays and bathroom refurbishing.

11: What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Planning our trip to Florida next year!

12: What song will always remind you of 2019?

Probably The Way I Feel by Keane. Me and mum went to see them at the Royal Albert Hall and they were amazing.

13: Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

Definitely happier, but still feeling cautious about that.

14: What do you wish you’d done more of?

Probably should have done more reading.

15: What do you wish you’d done less of?

Worrying – I could always be doing less of that!

16: How did you spend Christmas?

At my sister’s house, as usual – it was great. Especially with a dog using me as a bed.

17: What was your favourite TV program?

I watched a lot of Gilmore Girls while I was off work earlier in the year. And I just watched Don’t Fuck With Cats, which was great. I am struggling to remember beyond that – I don’t watch much new TV.

18: What was the best book you read?

It’s a book of comics, but Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle is wonderful. I haven’t read much fiction recently.

19: What was your greatest musical discovery?

There are so many and I get mixed up about what I listened to when, but let’s say Dominic Fike.

20: What did you want and get?

Good health, as far as I know.

21: What did you want and not get?

To be left in peace from the medical world, but that’s not safe or practical.

22: What was your favourite film of this year?

Avengers Endgame. I can’t remember what else I have watched except the new Star Wars movie, which I also enjoyed.

23: What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?


24: How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2019?

A lot of pyjamas. Are blankets a garment?

25: What kept you sane?


26: Who did you miss?

I’d rather not disclose.

27: Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2019.

Good intentions don’t always excuse hurting someone.

28: Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

And they say that you should move on

But you can’t even get your shoes on

– Keane, The Way I Feel