The personal one

I’ve been a sporadic book blogger at best in recent times. It’s probably not a huge surprise to those that know me in real life. The last year or more has been one of upheaval and change and huge life decisions. My life at the end of 2015 is not the same as the one I had at the beginning of 2014. Work, study, home, relationship  – none of these things have stayed the same. In the spirit of over-sharing, and because I don’t compartmentalise my life well and everything affects everything else, this post is about how I started in one place and ended up in another.

Back at the start of last year I was working on my PhD and missing bookselling beyond measure. My branch of Waterstones had closed the previous year and I took redundancy rather than try and find another part-time position that would fit in with my studying. After 17 years with the company I was ready to make the break, and I was in a situation that made it viable for me to stop working for a while. I hated it. I missed my friends, my routine, the books… and I missed being part of something as amazing as bringing stories and people together. I hadn’t understood how fundamental a part of me bookselling had become; the gap it left was almost unbearable.

It’s horribly easy to lose yourself. Looking back (oh hindsight, you are a cruel thing) I can see this was happening even before my shop closed. A whole messy heap of things led to me becoming less sociable, more tightly buttoned, less and less happy, more and more numb. A serious bout of depression made me realise I needed to change things, but I didn’t how or what to change then. I tried bits and pieces but nothing made much of a difference. Reading my diaries back shows a litany of trying and failing and trying again over and over. Last year, finally, the cycle broke. It was brutal, and I have probably cried more in the course of the last year and a half than in the rest of my life put together, but I think it had to happen.

I started work again last summer, at Foyles, and that’s one of the best decisions I have ever made. The place is wonderful, the people are brilliant, and the work is constantly engaging and stimulating. Being back in a bookshop felt like coming home. I will hold the feeling of elation when I got the phone call offering me the job forever. Going back to work full-time meant needing to put my PhD on hold, which I did for a year, which has now become two years…

And that’s because when I ought to have been enrolling I was in the process of moving. The break-up of my long-term relationship (a major event but not one I want to elaborate on) meant that inevitably I would need to find somewhere else to live. Last month I left my home of 13 years and moved into a little flat all of my own. There’s a distinct sense of deja vu starting out on my own again, only it’s not 1999 and I’m not in my mid-twenties anymore. But all any of us can do is keep going forward and try to be brave and give it our best shot. Because the alternative is to hide from the world and stop being ourselves and I tried that and it didn’t work.

So here I am. Not where I expected to be, but it’s OK, I can do this. I am kind of hoping 2016 will be less tumultuous though. Some good books, some decent films, a few interesting exhibitions, Adam Ant in concert, dancing (watching and doing), tea parties with my family, these are the things I’m hoping for next year. They’re the same things I always want, but with luck I can enjoy them without the background anxiety and worry that’s accompanied me for quite long enough. There’s no going back, so here’s to the future!

4 thoughts on “The personal one”

  1. I'm sorry you had to go through this, it sounds horrible and a huge wrench. I recognise the idea of losing yourself in connection with the PhD and not working – it's not easy at all. Hope 2016 goes as you want it to xx

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