* We have still not returned to Rum. This nags at me as there are things I would probably like to collect and I know things will be decaying and need to be dealt with. I can list the reasons why ; busyness, expense etc. but ultimately we just need to organise ourselves to do it.
* The car. Our car was a gift from Nic’s Mum which was incredibly generous. It is not really a suitable vehicle for our lifestyle here though and has been an expense to maintain this year.
* One of my oldest friends died last year. We had not been regularly in each others lives for a good few years but when we was diagnosed with a terminal illness another of our friends organised a big reunion and I made the trip to meet up with around 20 of our old group of friends who were at school together.
* Whilst for sad reasons the reunion with old friends was a highlight of 2023, to catch up on several decades of each others lives and see the paths everyone has taken from similar beginnings.
* We remain a happy and close family unit who live very happily together with close relationships and a lovely lifestyle. That makes me feel very blessed.
* We have enjoyed lots of trips and events in the last year. Although we are working hard to facilitate this it is lovely to be in a position where working hard enables these sorts of treats rather than just paying bills.
* I continue to love where we live. I still feel the novelty of living close enough to a town to drive to in under an hour while retaining a remote and very rural life.
* I really enjoy my job. It is rewarding despite its challenges but it is something I look forward to going to work to do.
* There are too many to list but my job means I am still learning new things all the time.
* I feel like this year I have finally learned to take things a bit slower and listen to my body when I am tired, or suffering pain or ailments. Things which I would have done without thought have started to become more challenging with advancing age. I also notice my children now spotting ways in which they are quicker and more able thanks to youth to do things than I am.
Hopes for 2024:
* I hope that we continue to enjoy being together as a family for as long as the children want to.
* I would like to do more trips and adventures. Our short breaks in the UK in 2023 have been really inspiring in making me want to explore and travel more.
* To definitely get to Rum.
Special bonus wish for 2024: Vegas
* The war in Ukraine is not only still happening there are more places at war. Wars are not even the first item on mainstream media news and it feels as though we have accepted them as a way of life rather than something to be horrified about. I am disappointed that people do not stand up for things they believe are wrong when it becomes too difficult.
* Big businesses – particularly high street food and drink chains are notorious for underpaying staff, providing financial support to war or bad governments but people continue to buy from them. Even when boycotts are started against them they don’t seem to make a difference or be continued for any length of time.
* UK politics remains a source of frustration for me. At 21 I have never voted in a general election and yet there has been a succession of unelected Prime Ministers making decisions which affect me.
* A few months ago there was a large spillage of polystyrene balls on our local beach. Despite us spending many hours clearing them and informing the person responsible and being assured action would be taken it is continuing to happen. I hate that people, particularly ones who claim to care do not demonstrate that through their behaviour and actions.
* I still feel the absence of Bonnie and miss her every day.
* We managed a lot of travelling, adventures and gigs in 2023 and have plenty more planned for 2024.
* My trip to the USA was a lot of fun. I have been to mainland Europe as a small child but didn’t really remember it so travel outside of the UK and Ireland was cool. It was really interesting to see another country, different culture and ways. I particularly enjoyed the time we spent at a cabin in the wilder part and the wildlife we saw.
* I got to spend lots of time with my best friend Ellie this year. As well as the whole month in the US together there were more months in which I did see them than didn’t thanks to various trips. We already have time together planned in January and February 2024 too.
* I spent a lot of time this year helping our neighbour with her pony. It was really nice to spend time with and bonding with an animal and I got a lot out of it as well as helping our neighbour.
* Thanks to spending time with our neighbours pony and attending an equine behaviour course I learned a lot about horses.
* I did a full silversmithing course this year and learned a lot from it. I really enjoyed it and was happy with the items I made.
* My month in the USA was a big learning experience. America may be English speaking but there are huge differences in culture to here. While in the US we went to 3 different states and it was interesting to note the differences in different areas too.
Hopes for 2024:
* More travel with family and hopefully a Europe trip too.
* I would like to learn taxidermy and taxidermy the critters I have stashed in the freezer.
* In 2023 we started some Pride events in the area including a film screening and a stall at the local village show. In 2024 I hope we can build on that further.
Special bonus hope for 2024: To see an apex predator in the wild (carried across from 2023).
* School was pretty stressful this year. As it is my final year I have worked really hard and ended up doing all-nighters to make deadlines. I also was applying for my internship and applying for graduate school for the final semester alongside studying which meant I was very busy for a lot of the year.
* I have been the vice president for the Active Minds club at school, which is a mental health awareness and advocacy club. I had joined because I was really passionate about the work the previous president had done and wanted to continue their legacy. Earlier in the year I felt as though I was underused and not able to contribute in the ways I had hoped. Later in the year things did improve but I have spent some times frustrated or disappointed about the club and the focus.
* Many of my fellow students live either on campus or close by while I am still living with my parents some distance away from school. This is due to financial constraints and I have found it frustrating to have missed out on some of the on campus experience, social and other opportunities.
* During 2023 I had several experiences of losing friendships. These were a blend of me not being prepared to not be true to myself or finally ending toxic connections. While I was going through the process of this it was painful and difficult.
* There have been instances during the last year when I have been super self aware and at times felt negative about myself and my interactions, particularly in group situations.
* This year I have been diagnosed with the neurodiversities of ADHD and Autism and I have experienced a retrospective grief for the time I lost or negative previous experiences in not understanding some of the difficulties I went through.
* I have spent time this year observing laws being changed in some US states eroding Trans rights. 2024 will be a presidential election year and Trans rights are high on the agenda for protection or removal depending on who is elected. This is hugely worrying and feels like fear mongering and reminiscent of previous social justice movements including gender, sexuality and civil rights.
* This past year I have continued to move forwards in understanding who I am but my home and school environments have hampered and stifled a lot of exploration of my gender, personality and identity which I find frustrating and hard.
*This year I have received a formal diagnosis for Autism, ADHD and OCD. This has felt like a really positive experience for me as I have felt seen, heard, understood and validated. I have found the experience of undergoing a diagnosis and getting relevant support and medication a beneficial one, which has helped to explain the things I struggle with and to justify why I may need support.
*A real highlight for me this year has been increasing my social circle and making some new friends as well as deepening some friendship connections. It has felt really good for people to accept me and to feel as though they are pleased to see me, to hang out with me and to be around me.
* I have previously done public speaking in a church environment but this year I have had several public speaking engagements including some paid opportunities to deliver public speaking on a wider scale. This has included speaking about personal experiences, sharing issues which are hugely important to me and delivering speeches to audiences where I am able to shape opinions and influence policies. This has really increased my confidence and I have more of these opportunities lined up in the coming year.
* I am really excited that I have been accepted into the grad school of my choice and the internship I applied for and was interviewed for. I will be starting my internship in early 2024 and grad school in the summer.
* As part of my work with Active Minds I have assumed a leadership role in welcoming people and I feel I have made a difference and helped people in that way. I have also acted as a mediator in some situations, working to present both sides of an issue and help to find a way forward.
* I took a creative writing class early in the year which I found really enjoyable. I had good feedback on my writing and really enjoyed being in a creative environment with like minded people. I have continued writing in my spare time and hope to carry on.
* This year I discovered a youtube channel which brings together many of my passions and interests in one fusion. I am really enjoying the blend of creativity, gaming, social dynamics and presentation which it delivers and am inspired to maybe create something similar myself in the future. I have also spent time this year playing a game which blends gaming and decisions and a single player narrative in which my outcomes were very different to those of another player.
* This year I fully moved on from contact and connection with someone who has played a sometimes toxic role in my life. It has been a process to entirely place them in my history rather than my present and I am pleased to have finally achieved it.
* I had so many adventures and travel in 2023 both independently, with my partner, extended family and with friends. Some of the experiences were ones which were just exploring what was already in my local area but with different company and fresh eyes and some were brand new. All of them were exciting and memory making which is so special.
* This year has been a really good year for my relationship with Davies. I feel we have continued to grow as a partnership and found new and deeper ways to connect and communicate to make us even stronger.
* Learning more about myself and my needs. I have progressed in being confident and comfortable in my identity and in who I am in certain situations.
* I have learned some new things about myself by new friends telling me how they see me and seeing myself through their eyes. They are that I am positive and optimistic and that I am funny and fun to be around.
* Through my year of studies I have learned so much about Social Work in the US. Both from an academic perspective but also in terms of confidence to create change, about activism and how the system works.
* I have learned this year that I may not always make the right decision or do the best thing but that it is not always possible. It is important to do the best I can but then to move on from that. I have also learned that sometimes it is not entirely about me in every interaction and that the other person also has a role and that their reaction to me may not have anything to actually do with me.
* As per all of the above I have learned so much pertaining to the bad and good things I have listed.
Hopes for 2024:
* I would like to travel somewhere new.
* I would like to explore possible opportunities to move to my school campus.
Special bonus wish for 2024: Vegas
* The state of the world – environmentally and politically remains hugely concerning and feeling powerless to change that adds to the general worry of it.
* I have started a final module of study in this academic year and it has not been as engaging or interesting as previous years. This has made it harder to stay motivated to study and made the less enjoyable aspects of studying such as essay writing even more challenging.
* The impending conclusion of my studying is giving me reason to consider next steps – in life and in possible careers. Knowing that I am not keen to study beyond this and that this degree has not necessarily led to a specific and clear career path has me feeling slightly lost about my next steps.
* Coupled with reaching the end of my time studying I am also conscious of being into my adult years without a clear vision of where my future lies, particularly in comparison to people my own age or even younger. The feeling of the unknown is daunting.
* I do not have an in person social circle or social life. This is in a large part down to where we live.
* I have made progress in both my piano playing and in my art. I ensure that I spend time daily working on one or both of these and can identify real progress in both over the course of this year.
* One of the unintended good things about studying is spending time with Mummy and the interesting conversations that the module content inspires between us.
* I have really enjoyed all of the trips I took in 2023 and all of the new experiences I got to have while on them. Some highlights include: On the US trip: meeting up with some of the people I met in 2022, the roadtrips, visiting the cabin. It was really good to return to the US and to have Scarlett with me too this time. I loved going to the live music concerts we went to, hanging out with our friend Ellie in York and meeting her friends and my first experience of a night club.
* I continued my quest of watching lots of movies including cult classics. I chatted to people I know about their movie recommendations and shared reviews with them. I have also read more books this year than in previous years.
* I have grown closer to some of my online friends and been able to have virtual movie nights and other get-togethers with them.
*I have learned more about piano and music.
* I have continued to learn more about art from visits to galleries, working at the gallery and online tutorials and self teaching.
* I attended a six week silversmithing workshop which taught me a whole load of new skills in design and working with metals.
* My studying in 2023 was mostly the forensic psychology unit and this had lots of real world and film / tv parallels which aided my understanding of both.
* I feel generally more aware and educated about the world around me as a result of further travel, watching news and world events and engaging with the world as an adult.
Hopes for 2024:
* I would like to continue working to raise awareness and visibility and support for the LGBTQI+ community specifically in the area we live and more generally. I am aware that activism has the most impact where you are and in the situation you are in so I want to invest more time and energy into that.
* I would hope to find remedies and resolutions to some of the things I listed as bad in 2023 – in terms of shaping my plans for the future.
* I would like to explore a few ideas I have which include: video making, more art.
* I would like to learn to drive even if I don’t necessarily run a car of my own.
Special bonus hope for 2024: I would like to climb Ben Nevis.
* I did not feel I got my work / life balance right in 2023. I was definitely putting in more hours of work than I wanted to and feeling resentful of that. Whilst the extra income as a result enabled lots of fun stuff that also contributed to a lack of downtime as it meant when I was not working I was busily ‘enjoying’ life with little in the way of actual resting and doing nothing.
* I felt a real sense of being ‘the generation inbetween’ during 2023. Davies and Scarlett were enjoying more independence and pursuing their own adventures at the same time as my parents are starting to feel suddenly older. It felt like a very sudden shift from both directions and was quite unsettling.
* We lost our cockerel, Kevin, to a fox while we were away in the summer. He was the last of the chickens we had bought over to the mainland from Croft 3 and our Rum life so felt like our final connection to those years. I also still miss Bonnie and our shift in pets and animals feels like a movement away from those days.
* Ady had a second brush with shingles, although he saw it off quickly by identifying the early signs. Towards the very end of the year all four of us had our second bout of Covid which I still feel some of the lasting effects of in terms of energy levels and a persistent cough. Whilst we are certainly still in good health I am also aware of the impacts of age.
* Various combinations of us have been to lots of live music and performance events in the last year. I saw: Cavetown, Lucy Spraggan, Rura, Ali Affleck, Malin Lewis, Susie McCabe, Bridgit Christie, Seamas Carey, Hamish Napier & Duncan Chisolm. Events like these make my heart sing and fill me with joy. I am thrilled to have more lined up in 2024.
* Some friends and I began a weekly singing group in 2023 which has been a source of great happiness to me and others. I love singing, particularly with others and we led a few community singing events over Christmas locally. I also met with a smaller group of friends to sing and play music regularly throughout the year which is also something I get a huge amount from.
* We had some fab trips this year within the UK – including Glasgow, York (twice), Durham, Chester, Manchester and Northern Ireland. We met up with family and friends and had some lovely adventures. We were also delighted to have visits from three sets of friends to come and stay, all of whom had visited us on Rum but we had not seen for a few years so it was lovely to catch up.
* I have ended 2023 fitter than I started it. In February I undertook a 28 day skipping challenge to raise money for charity which inspired me to start walking 2km every morning down and back up our rather steep track. I have massively improved my lung capacity and general fitness with this (more or less) daily 30 minutes of exercise.
* I continue to swim in the loch daily. I completed two winter swim challenges over 2022/23 winter and am on track to complete two over this current winter. I enjoyed a winter swim event with a couple of friends and have been on a couple of swimming spot road trips with a friend. I have also encouraged several visiting friends to join me for a swim and made some new friends as a result of wild swimming.
* Whilst it was their adventure rather than mine and I would be lying if I said I enjoyed every moment of them being away for a month I have to list Davies and Scarlett’s trip to America as a ‘good’. To see your children head off together as best mates on an adventure without us was special and to have daily contact hearing about their travels and see the photos of them off doing exciting new things made me incredibly proud of them.
* 2023 was always going to be a slightly reactionary year to the events of the previous few years. From nearly a decade of incredibly remote and extreme living we were thrust back into mainland life in 2019 and had barely found our feet with being back in a bricks and mortar house with mainland expenses and finding work before 2020 and the pandemic / lockdown arrived. 2023 was the first year which had any sort of ‘normal’ feel to it after we had left Sussex in many ways. As such we filled it very full and whilst the memories of that are precious and special I also know that I have not entirely found the right balance for me of the somewhere inbetween. I did return to fully self employed this year and have resisted set working hours in favour of working from home at times to suit me but I am still fine tuning precisely what I want to do and how much of it.
* I have continued to learn new skills in my various work roles, I have attended courses in silversmithing, beading, food fermentation and beeswax wrap making. I have also read various books and listened to podcasts and learned more about weather, the Orkney Islands, American culture, walking and breathing.
Hopes for 2024:
* A quieter second half! The first half is already looking pretty busy, with lots to look forward to, so now is not the time to be setting intentions to do less. However I am scheduling a time for myself to sit down and take a long look at our life direction for the second half of the year and make some forward plans.
* Some new swimming adventures / challenges / intentions. Again I have some half formed ideas rather than full plans but I am noting here that I have those to encourage me to work on them further.
* A new (Ad)venture. I am not sure yet quite what form this will take but I have some plans bubbling away ready to rise to the surface once I take myself off somewhere quiet to ponder on them further. Watch this space!
* Some of the others have mentioned Vegas and that is something I am determined to make happen. 2024 is a year of big numbers for us – I have just celebrated my 50th birthday at the start of the year, Ady will be celebrating his 60th birthday in a few months and we will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in the second half of the year. We have always planned to return to Las Vegas and take Davies and Scarlett with us so that is a hope for September.
Special bonus wish: to tick off a natural wonder experience, either a wild animal encounter, a meteorological phenomena or a bucket list destination.