I wasn’t going to write one of these. 2015 is… exhausting to think about.
I was so poor, and depressed, and ill at the start of the year. A week into January I had to ask for your help to pay my rent and my bills. I was flat broke and had exhausted all other avenues. It’s a humiliating and panic-stricken situation to be in. I am so very grateful to the strangers and friends who kept me afloat in that period. I quite literally would not have made it without you. In the end I raised £1,460 via Go Fund Me, and about £60 via my tip jar (that last may have been smaller, but was immediately accessible funds badly needed at the time!).
Thanks to you I kept a roof over my head and I was able to finish my PhD.
Which I did. I submitted at the end of May and was examined at my viva on 26 August, where I passed with no corrections. I was completely floored. Having spent the previous year largely bedridden due to illness (and the two years before that ill enough that I often went immediately to bed after work), I spent the final months of my PhD frantically writing up in my supervisor’s office. He didn’t get to see a full draft before I submitted. I was convinced I’d have major corrections – another chapter to write at least! – but I didn’t.
I had typos.
And they decided to accept the thesis with them anyway.
It’s… a bit hard to deal with. I had no reason to think it would go so well. A lot of people had told me I couldn’t do it over the years, and that my depression and illness were symptoms of me trying to do something I wasn’t cut out for. I knew I was ill because of the poor diet I had adopted because I had no money and was depressed, and that I was depressed because of long-standing issues combined with the fact that so many people had no faith in me to do my PhD, which was the most important thing in my life. And now a few people have made comments along the lines of ‘You see, you had nothing to worry about!’ … I can’t sweep it under the carpet that easily. I can’t just set aside how difficult it has been.
Being happy about finishing my PhD is… complex.
I am looking forward to graduating, though.
Today I told a salesperson that my title was ‘Dr’. That was nice.
A New Mattress
I was ordering a new mattress when I did that. I can afford a new mattress now. That’s nice, too.
My current mattress is the one I bought at the start of my PhD when I moved in to share a house with my friend Fred. It was the first unfurnished place I had ever lived in. It seems a lifetime agio.
It was never a particularly good mattress, and it ceased to be anything but deathly uncomfortable years ago. I got a couple more years of life out of it with a mattress topper, but even that has been struggling for a while.
Imagine being bedridden on a broken mattress and too poor to replace it because you are too ill to work. It’s not fun.
I’ve been temping full time since June, and now I can afford a new mattress. It’s good.
Full-time income is really good.
Not working in the evenings and weekends is really good.
I have played a lot of Dragon Age. Which is really good.
Temping isn’t really good for me, though. I work with nice people and they don’t mind if I have blue hair, but I only get half an hour for lunch and is in an Enquiry Centre. I answer phones all day every day. I find phones very stressful. I have a very good phone manner, but phones are not good for me.
I need a job in something I’m actually trained for, but I can’t get an academic job without publishing, and I needed a break from all that, and I’m so tired when I get home from work that all I do is play Dragon Age.
And instead of losing weight after the PhD was over, I’ve continued to gain weight. Because work is stressful and there’s a food table at work and when I’m stressed I eat from the food table. Also, I have continued to be ill, so even though I have been exercising, I have not been exercising enough. Yeah.
I had my least ill Nine Worlds ever, which was nice. And I also gave my first paper on their academic track, which seemed to go down well. And I was on a panel about geekdom in academia. I enjoyed both a lot!
I also had an updated Daenerys costume, and I got to take part in Knightmare Live – childhooddream fulfilled!
For various other reasons I have a lot of anxiety right now about the thought of going back. I hope I will overcome them. Nine Worlds has been a real bright spot in some very dark times, and I would like to feel that way about it again.
Although I have done less editing overall this year than previously, it’s still formed a fair chunk of my income and was vital in seeing me through those last few months of my PhD. I’ve also expanded my client base of authors and come to enjoy working directly with people who know what they want.
My sincere thanks to all my clients for being wonderful and a joy to work with this year.
It’s not been a great year with regards to writing for me.
I had one story published – ‘The Runaway King’ in Fox Spirit Book‘s Missing Monarchs anthology. I got to second round with pro magazines more times than I ever have before, but nothing was actually accepted.
I’ve barely progressed at all with my novels.
Some of that is deliberate. I put a hold on more or less everything in order to finish the PhD, but I had intended to return to writing when I was finally free. I haven’t.
I have mostly just played Dragon Age.
Some of that is much needed rest. Some of that is still me not being particularly healthy. Some of it is the FEAR.
I need to get over it.
I’m 32 and my life has been on hold for the last nine years whilst I finished the PhD. I can’t bimble along waiting until I’m Ready to become a Writer anymore.
I want to have a full first draft of one of my novels before I’m 33. That’s six and a half months. It’s not impossible, but I need to get serious about it if I’m to manage to do that alongside a full time job.
I want to lose at least a stone in weight. I need to lose three or four stone, but I’ll settle for one. My clothes don’t fit and my health is suffering. This can’t go on.
I want to be earning more money this time next year than I am now. I’ve never earnt as much as I do now, but it’s temp work. There is no job security and I don’t get paid if I’m ill. I also have a lot of debts to pay off. Things are better now, but they’re still tight. I want to get out of this situation of limping by and owing lots of people money. I need a proper job.
That might be an admin job or a job in publishing or an academic job – those each come with varying levels of difficulty, but at some point I need to stop just coasting and take control of my life.
So. There’s three resolutions. I know a lot of people don’t believe in resolutions, but they have sometimes worked for me in the past. I want 2016 to be the year that everything changes for the better. A lot happened in 2015, much of it for the good, but there was too much hardship for me to really look back on it with any fondness.
Thanks to my wonderful friends who have been with me through it all. You’re very special people, and I’m inadequate in expressing quite how much your support has meant to me.
Thanks also to the friends, family, and strangers who kept me afloat this year.
And now I think I need to move on from thinking about 2015. I want to look forward, instead.