Looking back over the year 2016, it’s difficult to find just one word to sum it up. What I can say is that it has been one of my busiest years yet. Between creating a magazine from scratch, completing my Masters degree, travelling to new places in both the UK and abroad, enjoying the rugby season, catch ups, cocktails and interning at magazines in both Bristol and London, I’ve hardly had a spare five minutes, and quite honestly that’s just how I like it. Living a hectic and nomadic lifestyle is my normal. This year alone between my bedroom, holidays and my friends’double beds, I have called 23 different rooms home for a night or two. I have graduated from student to freelance journalist and made a start at leaving my footprints on the journalism industry. Change, transitions, personal and professional challenges have come my way, yet I have also excelled beyond my own imagination in terms of independence, in journalism and in conquering anxiety. Here are my highlights.
Although last year was pretty career focused, I did manage to widen my cultural horizons a little further and visit a few snazzy new places. Bath had always been on my ‘must visit list’ and in the freezing February cold we booked an Airbnb, visited the Roman Baths, Jane Austen’s home and had a generally jolly time. Bristol was also an unexpected treat – a city I could see myself living in. Its rugged edge, hidden charm and independent, free-spirited feel got a big tick from me. Tagging along on a free family road trip vising universities with my sister I also got to see a different side of Birmingham and Egham, whilst getting a complementary side portion of nostalgia. Realising that these prospective students were just 12 years old and probably thought a 2:1 was the running score of a game of rock, paper, scissors when I was looking at universities made me feel positively ancient. A few trips with my 20 something friends were thankfully added into the mix when I discovered Solihull, Warwick Castle and the Cotswolds. While abroad, Vienna was the highlight as its palaces, opera houses, ballets and bespoke patisseries were right up my street. The last holiday of the year was rounded off drinking Peronis on a seaside balcony and carbing out on bread and gnocchi on the Amalfi Coast. I guess my culture calorie intake wasn’t too shabby after all.
Friendship has been very important to me this last year, especially given the intensity of my Masters course, family and personal illness and bereavements. My friends have on many occasions put up with a less sparkly version of me. And to their credit, they have risen to the occasion to sellotape rhinestones back in place and have tried to shower me with glitter confetti. This year I have made new friends, solidified older ties and have been shown who my true friends are. Kindness is currency I can deal in, and looking back, this year I really have been spoilt. Friends have made time for coffee and pancakes when I needed a revision break, ordered take-aways and indulged my obsession with documentaries about the royals when I’ve been ill, made detours along the M4 corridor to pick me up, supported and shared my blog and generously allowed me to share their university rooms when I interned in London. We’ve been on girls trips away enjoying seaside strolls and hot tubs, tasted the full spectrum of afternoon teas available in West Wales, partied in Cardiff by night and lounged around in pyjamas watching Take Me Out by day. Friends, you’ve been 5* fab.
It’s true what they say about silver linings. 2016 had its fair share of heartbreak in our household as we lost two family members. But, we’ve also had some good times celebrating my grandparents’ 54th wedding anniversary, the 18th birthdays of two of my cousins and my sister hogging all the limelight by entering adulthood, becoming head girl, passing her AS levels, her driving test, getting a leading part in the school production of Grease and winning the Christmas talent show for the third consecutive year. Taking this all into account, we’ve become a lot closer as a family and have spent more time together and I’m really glad we have. Reconnecting with my cousins has been one of my favourite parts of 2016. We all share a similar dry sense of humour and are prone to demonstrative storytelling, meaning an evening together is the penny pinching equivalent of getting front row seats to Live at the Apollo. We’ve enjoyed warm ciders in Bristol, a few Disaronnos in Covent Garden and wine in Llandeilo. We’ve met boyfriends and girlfriends and most interestingly discovered that our family has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Wham! Family pub quiz night here we come.
The year started positively having successfully pitched a home décor/craft magazine concept as part of my MA in Magazine Journalism. Watching my ideas come to life, working in such a talented and passionate team, learning new skills and managing to collaborate with Julia Kendell were all highlights as well as finally getting my first distinction grade in journalism. Then came my dissertation project which looked into modern masculinity. I interviewed transgender men, biological men with traditionally feminine jobs and masculine men in traditionally masculine professions with a more feminine side. Or in short – many men. This piece of journalism is something I am very proud of as it pushed me outside of my comfort zone. I contacted famous faces, had to overcome my anxieties to interview people over the phone and Skype and worked my socks off to create interesting and alternative articles. After working tirelessly all summer to complete this project I was rewarded for my efforts in October when I was offered a month-long internship at Stylist magazine. As clichéd as it sounds, this really did turn my dream into a reality as I got to experience the glitz and glamour of the magazine industry, network with fantastic journalists and get myself a few by lines. To top it all off, I was shortlisted for The Bauer Media Award for Outstanding Consumer Journalist 2016 which only reassured me that my capabilities measure up to my passion. I honestly can’t wait to see what else I can achieve in journalism in 2017.