The Death of a Decade (and the End of a Year)

I had meant to jump on the ‘end of the decade reflections’ bandwagon before, well, the end of the decade. Now the 2010s are over and we are days into 2020 and the 2020s and that bandwagon has long since receded over the horizon. But I’ve decided to follow it alone on horseback anyway. What follows is a brief reflection on the past ten years…

In 2010 I was 14 and still in high school. The less said about that, the better; I left in 2012, without going into sixth year and doing Advanced Highers, for reasons which are no better defined in my mind now than they were then. 2012–13 was something of a purgatory year which involved me not doing very much at all. I’d always meant to go to university, and I applied late in 2013. The only place still accepting applications was the University of Stirling and I got onto a History and Politics course there. It wasn’t exactly what I’d hoped for- I’d had my eyes set on St Andrews or Edinburgh for years- but it was better than nothing.

Very shortly before term started, on the 23rd August 2013, my Dad died, having been in hospital for a couple of weeks for a brain injury. Those were dark days and my already rather fragile mental health was battered and bruised even more. I ended up dropping out of Stirling in early 2014- my head was not in the right place, and it also wasn’t the right place for me, beautiful though the campus was. There then followed months on the dole before I got myself a job at ASDA on the checkouts. Not very glamorous but I started making money.

I think ASDA, despite forcing me to put up with some complete bastards (both customers and managers- laypeople have no idea how hard retail is, so try and be nice to your shelf stackers and checkout operators), was the beginning of an uphill journey. I made new friends and got a social life, learned to drive, and had money in my pocket (though it didn’t remain there for long). And, through my old friend Jonathan, I had made other friends far and wide, one of whom, Duncan, has stuck by me for reasons opaque, but which probably indicate that he is insane (and I’m thankful for it). Fraser, a new ASDA friend, has done likewise.

So, at the start of the decade, I had been in purgatory, lounging around and doing nothing with my meagre talents, and had lost my flawed but wonderful Dad (I’ll always have those most precious memories of our regular trips to the beautiful St Andrews). But by the middle of it, I had good friends and a good life. And through it all- family, particularly Mum, without whom…it needs hardly be said.

I still intended to go to university and, in 2016, I was accepted into the course I am currently studying- English Literature and History- at my dream institution, the University of Edinburgh. I don’t know why they let me in- again, everyone must be mad- and I hope that offsets what might seem my arrogant joy at being a student at one of the world’s finest educational institutions and in one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Leaving ASDA was sad, though I can’t say I miss it- only (most of) the people.

I moved to Edinburgh that year and made some lovely new friends, some of whom I wish I was in more frequent contact with, others who have endured my company for longer than is humane. 2016 also saw my first proper relationship (with a man- the horror!) and its ending, which upset me more than I now realise it should have (we probably weren’t right for each other). And so, 2016 and 2017 passed as I studied and partied. I’d moved back home for second year to save money but as third-year was dawning, in 2018, I returned to an (overpriced) flat in Edinburgh.

And because I seem to be cursed at the beginnings of new university terms (Dad dying, crashing my car before my first year at Edinburgh), I was struck down with a very nasty case of appendicitis a few days after I returned from a great holiday in Turkey with my dear friend Nes. To be brief: it very nearly killed me, I still have the scars, and I had to take the year out of education. Obviously, I am better now, and I returned to Edinburgh, and a new (much more reasonably priced) flat, to restart my third year in 2019.

The year out was quite good, after I recovered, as the time since returning to university has been. I’ve done new things and achieved more- I’m the president of the university’s Atheist, Humanist, and Secularist Society, the host of the society’s podcast, the political editor for The Broad, a staff writer for Areo Magazine, and I’ve contributed lots more articles to lots of publications. And 2019 has also introduced me to new friends- my flatmates, Shankar and Maria, and lovely people on Twitter, one of whom, Iona Italia, is simply delightful (and who I recently met in Edinburgh).

I’ve lost a lot but also read a lot of books, drank a lot, danced a lot, achieved a lot, and laughed a lot in the past decade. My mental health is still something I struggle with and there are dark days and always will be. But looking back to the start of the decade and the darkest of dark days in 2013, I think I have made steady, if not always linear, uphill progress. That hill is a tall one, more of a mountain, whose summit will probably never be reached, but though I might stumble, and occasionally slip further down, I think and hope that I’m on the right track.

There are, of course, many people whose names I haven’t mentioned, because there are too many, but you know who you are, and to all of you, friends and family and people who took a chance on me- thank you. I hope to see more of you in the years to come. And I know I am terrible at keeping in contact; it’s not personal, I’m just useless; I love you no less. Meanwhile, to anyone who has struggled along this far, happy new year- and have a wonderful decade, however good or bad or mixed the last one was.

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