Just under two years ago I met a lovely man. I asked him out and I was quite surprised and excited when he said yes. We got on really well, we went to the cinema and to a couple of gigs and out for food. One night when I got a lift home from a friend and our evening was cut a little short, he walked across the city to see me.
“Fresh starts: thanks to the calendar they happen every year —just set your watch to January, our reward for surviving the holiday season is a new year. Bringing on the great tradition of new years resolutions, put your past behind you and start over. It’s hard to resist the chance of a new beginning, a chance to put the problems of last year to bed.”
Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy [2.13]
It’s nearly the end of the year, very soon I will be by a beach overlooking the Indian Ocean and so many things have changed. The Mayans thought the world would end today. They were wrong but for me, this year, a good many things have ended.
The first, in January, was a three year relationship, I thought that we would get married (mainly because he said we would), I thought that we would have children and that I would live in a cottage somewhere in the North East (he said all that too…). Last December I sat at my sister’s and then at my brother’s playing with their children and decided that enough was enough. Enough making do with someone who couldn’t look after himself, enough hoping that if I was supportive and patient that things would pay off and we would be happy. Enough of being afraid that I couldn’t cope on my own without him, despite him dragging me down gradually with him. So I told him that this was it and he agreed.
This year has been somewhat of a trial. I qualified as a teacher last June and although I applied for a few full time teaching positions I wasn’t keen to take one on immediately. The PGCE has been one of the most difficult years of my life – as I’d been warned – but this hadn’t been helped by having a turbulent personal life. I probably should have taken the hint when I was dumped on my first day at university, but after a few weeks we worked things out knowing that things weren’t going to last forever. I’d found out that I’d been cheated on, I lived 250 miles away from my family, most of my university friends had moved away and I’d drifted out of touch with others because of three years of anti-social shift work.
I spent 9 months getting up at 6am, going to university or school, working solidly until 10pm, letting myself watch a couple of TV shows and then off to bed at midnight. I worked nearly every weekend and holiday between September and June. My boyfriend was by no means perfect but was someone who I could mostly rely on to keep me going. By the time I came round to applying for jobs I was burnt out and unhappy at home. I’m not saying any of this because I want to portray myself as a martyr, many others were in the same boat with difficult circumstances, but just to give a sense that it’s an exhausting thing to do. Grey’s Anatomy and Community were my lifelines and may well continue to be.
Luckily, during that time I did have my part time job as a careers adviser that kept me in touch with other people, gave me an escape from the simmering tensions at home and gave me some spending money. After a couple of unsuccessful interviews I decided to sign up for teaching agencies and stay with my current job until a teaching position came up. When September came there was not a lot of supply so I opted to go full time again with the careers advice.
By December I’d still not had any supply work and I’d come to the realisation that my relationship was pretty much over after nearly 3 years. It was something that I’d known for a long time, but hadn’t been brave enough to voice, mainly because I didn’t think I could manage financially without his support and also because I’ve never been on my own before. I’m 28, I’m the third of five children and in the last 9 years since starting my first degree I’ve lived with 16 people. I’m not really used to my own company.
Making the decision to end things was actually quite liberating. Although we continued living together in a one bedroom flat for about 6 months, he’s been on a lot of night shifts so I’ve had more time to myself. Had I not spent the last couple of years mostly being miserable then I probably wouldn’t have developed the confidence to apply outside the UK. I probably also wouldn’t have discovered that the lyrics to the Umbongo song fit pretty well to the tune of Rolling in the Deep (try it) or remembered that my Heather Small impression isn’t too bad.