The decade that was…

At the end of the year, I usually like to sum up the year with my thoughts about what has happened in the past 12 months, the lessons I’ve learned and what I’ve gained from it.

This year, I thought I’d do something different and look back on the decade instead, seeing as we’ll be entering a new one soon enough, and choose moments that stood out. I don’t think they all will be positive ones, because life is full of good and bad ones, but ultimately, they shape who you become as a person. I think it’s also a great way to see how far I’ve come in the last 10 years.

Okay… here we go.

2010

I started the year off by travelling to Nepal with the Volunteering Services Overseas International Citizen Service (VSO-ICS) youth volunteering as part of their Global Xchange programme. Their aim was to bring volunteers in to work alongside young Nepalese volunteers to contribute directly to genuine development projects. It was also an opportunity for me to explore a new culture, challenge myself and develop transferable skills to bring back home with me.

I worked for the Blue Diamond Society, an LGBTIQA human rights organisation committed to changing existing laws against homosexuality and advocating for the rights of the members of Nepal’s LGBTIQA community. It also provides care, counselling, and services to people living with HIV/AIDS. I focused on ensuring that the materials were accessible because, in addition to the information being in an inaccessible format, 59% of the population was literate. At the time, the population of Nepal was estimated to be 27 million people, which means 11.7 million people were illiterate. The materials were useful but the the language used was advanced Nepali, with minimal pictures which meant people were missing out in vital information that could enrich or in some cases, save their lives. The service had a lot to offer but it wasn’t accessible, so my partner and I set about transforming their materials, which meant creating leaflets with easy-to-read Nepali with visual aids, DVDs in Nepali Sign Language and audio CDs.  This would mean deaf, hearing and blind people would be able to access information about LGBTIQA services and HIV/AIDS. I enjoyed working with them and was proud of the work we did. My boss told me that having us there changed his perspective and mentioned that when he paid a visit to a governmental building, he had a look through their leaflets and realised that it wasn’t as accessible as it could have been and gave them information on how to ensure that people could access it; it was heartwarming to see that we managed to bring change to our workplace and their mindset.

Whilst I was there, I experienced many moments that took my breath away.

The sunrise at Annapurna, Pokhara’s green landscape, the Buddhist temple, people’s generosity and especially the closeness of family. We would only have electricity for 4 hours a day but the timing would vary, depending on which district you were in. This meant that we had no electricity most evenings so we would sit down and talk for hours and hours, and because I lived with a deaf family, we would always get the candles out and carry on talking until we had run out of matches!

However, there were also moments that broke my heart and still is very fresh in my mind to this day. I would see children as young as 4 or 5, walking on the streets, high on drugs. Some of them would be lying on the floor, so people would have to step over them to get to wherever they wanted to go. We were told to not to engage with them, because there have been many efforts to make sure that they’re brought up in a safe environment but they actually prefer the streets. I met with an organisation that focused on making sure that children are brought to a safe place with bedding, food and education, but more than often, children would often run away because they wanted fast money instead of education. There was nothing they could do about it, and it was heartbreaking. Disabled people were also treated like the lowest of the low. Whenever I got on the bus, I would usually have a seat. But whenever a disabled person got on, they were usually made to sit on the floor of the bus. The first time I saw this happen, I was enraged. A woman from my workplace got on the bus with me and she was told to sit on the floor, but I could sit on the seat. I lost it with them and made her swap seats with me. People thought I was crazy, but screw them. This happened to her every day. That was ten years ago though, I hope things have changed by now. There was also an assassination on a newspaper editor outside my work place by men on motorbikes. The newspaper had been reporting on the Maoists rebels and their activities. They did not like this and sent threats to the newspaper that if that they continued to do report on them, something would happen. Nevertheless, they persisted, and the newspaper editor paid the price. That was jarring. But… what got me the most, was losing Rita.

Rita was one of the Nepalese volunteers, and she literally had a heart of gold. She always had a smile on her face. and a sunny disposition. If I was sad, she would always come up to me and say…

“Oi. You sad, why? No. You must smile. You must be happy. Come, you hug me.”

Her smile and hug was a like a huge ray of sunshine.

Sadly, Rita died 3 months after the project ended. She committed suicide. Whenever I think of her, my heart hurts. We don’t exactly know why she did it; we’ve heard different stories, but none have been confirmed. All I know is that she must have been in a really painful place to have done that, and that makes me really sad… but I will always remember her smile, the power of her hug and warmth.

When I returned from Nepal, I went backpacking around Thailand with Sarah-Jane, Rachael and Conan.

Phrases uttered throughout the holiday:

“Hi, you have girlfriend?”Stripper to Sarah Jane.

“Abigail, have you been kidnapped??”Sarah Jane to me when she discovered that my coach had arrived to pick me up to go but I had already been picked up by another coach. Who was I with?? Thus began a 10 hours journey across Thailand, with me being absolutely convinced that I was being kidnapped ad would be sex-trafficked. Thankfully I was not.

“I will be Cardinal Puff, dammit!”Irish drinking game that resulted in me drinking 8 humongous bottles of Magners and then throwing up on Ko Samui beach. Classy.

“So, when you give me a full body massage, can you use aloe-vera instead of massage oil?” Rachael to the masseuse after being horrifyingly burnt to a crisp. The poor love.

“Have you ever fought before?” “Yes, just little fights here and there with my brother. How about you?” “I’m a semi-professional kick-boxer.” “Fuck my life.” – Me, 5 minutes before getting into the kickboxing ring with a little Danish girl who looked so timid but actually turned out to be a ferocious kickboxer who kept hitting me and made my brain wobble.

“You are not brown! You are a yellow bish!”Sarah Jane repeatedly to me throughout the holiday, because I was stunningly tanned, and she… was not.

“This plane is going to crash!”Conan to us when we went through extreme turbulence.

“I’m okay with the speed, it’s just the steering that I’m having problems with…” “The steering is the most important part of the whole thing!!!”Me to Conan after doing a test-drive on a scooter and almost crashing into a tree.

“This boat is going to sink!”Conan to us when the boat started to fill up with water because the waves were 1000 ft high and it was monsoon season.

“It’s happy hour now, 2 beers for the price of one! Let’s go.” “Yes!! I will be Cardinal Puff this time!” “Abigail… Sarah… it’s 11am.” “Yes… we know. And your point is…?” – Sarah Jane and I pretty much every morning on some beach – I can’t remember which one, probably because it was happy hour – and being judged by Conan and Rachael.

“I’ve been mugged.” – Me, realising that £1,500 had been stolen from me.

All in all, it was a jolly good time.

2011

Whenever I think of this year, there’s only one thing that stands out the most for me. It’s the year mum got cancer.

I can still remember it clear as day. Mum was admitted to hospital with stomach pains, which turned out to be diverticulitis. She had to stay at the hospital for a while. They didn’t provide us with interpreters because…

“Our rounds are at different times of the day, so we don’t know what time we’ll be at your bed.”

So, I would end up interpreting most of the time, which was frustrating and stressful. Frustrating because she had a right to receive information in an accessible format but was not getting it, and stressful because there were times when I didn’t understand what the doctor was saying. We also had a family friend who was doing his level 3 BSL who offered to come every now and then to interpret, which eased the burden but it was still highly inappropriate and not at all professional of the hospital.

As it was also a teaching hospital, there were moments when the doctor would talk to his students instead of mum, which pissed her off to no end, and she made sure that they knew she was pissed off by getting out of bed and walked out whilst he was in mid-speech once.

A few days after she was admitted, they wanted to do a scan to see what was going on in her stomach and when the results came back, they said they found a tumour. It was left to me to interpret to her tell her. I remember thinking that I didn’t want to tell her that it was a tumour because we sort of knew what that could’ve possibly meant and I didn’t want to be the one to have to tell her that. It was a stressful and emotional moment for both of us because she wasn’t getting the full information, and I didn’t want to be the one to tell her. She asked if it was cancerous, but they said they didn’t have the answer yet – they also didn’t tell her when they’d know, which made it more frustrating. The next day, it was the weekend and as her doctor was off duty, mum cornered the weekend-duty doctor – she was relentless – and ordered them to find out what the results were.

They told her it was cancer.

How the hospital dealt with the whole incident was incredibly frustrating and disappointing. We weren’t given full access to information and the hospital didn’t take our needs into account. This meant we weren’t given the appropriate time and space to process what was happening because mum was more focused on getting access than she was about actually processing the fact that she had cancer, and I was focusing on making sure that she understood everything that I didn’t have time to process it. I finally had a meltdown a week later.

However, mum spent no time wallowing in grief and instead decided to be positive about the whole ordeal so we decided to muck about instead. Planking was trending at the time, so we would compete with each other to see who had the best plank idea. Nan was bemused but also somewhat amused.

The ward sister was frustrated because mum would be running around the place, but didn’t tell her off too much because it took her mind off it all. The operation was a success and she was discharged earlier than expected, which was great news. I’m pleased to say that she is in remission, but the journey was not an easy one. However, it made me realise that although life is a long journey, it can also be a short one, so be sure to make the most of it.

2012

I spent the first few moments of 2012 by being shot at with rubber bullets by the police in Barcelona. Thankfully they missed. We were celebrating the new year in Plaça Catalunya when a riot broke out, so the police came in riot gear. What an experience that was. We also got stuck on top of a mountain and had to climb down the rocks in pitch darkness.

I also did the Brighton marathon. With no training. Lesson learned. But it really was an experience I will never forget.

1 marathon, 2 broken ankles, 2 broken knees, 1 broken soul and 1 medal – never am I ever fucking doing that ever again.

“There will be days you don’t think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing you have.” – Facebook status a few hours after doing it.

I got my teaching training qualification.

Sarah Jane got married and it was a beautiful wedding!

2013

Egypt. I was supposed to go travelling for a month with Seeta. I woke up on the day we were due to fly off to a message from Seeta saying that she sleptwalked the night before and threw her passport away. Great. Off I go to Egypt on my own then.

I booked myself into a hostel that was in the centre of Cairo, which sounded like a great idea until I ventured out for the first time. I was shouted at by several men, and that was scary. Several men tried to talk to me when I walked to the station and when I got on the women only carriage, a man got in and shouted at me. The women in the carriage grouped up together and shouted at the man and got him off the carriage. It was lovely to see that solidarity but it was also scary I went to the deaf club to meet my friend Rob, who would be performing there. When the locals found out where I was staying, they said,

“You will be raped, killed and have your body chopped up into pieces or have your organs sold on the black market.”

Okay, thanks. Good to know. It turns out that the area I was staying in was ruled by the mafia and that women would often be sexually assaulted, raped and killed. Needless to say, I changed accommodation the next day.

I went to stay with the family of a guy I met at the deaf club the evening before. That’s one thing I love about the deaf community; they are always happy to welcome you with open arms, even if they don’t know you. I went from knowing nobody to being fully included in the deaf community – they took me to unknown places, showed me delicious local cuisine, explained the history and generally a good laugh!

After Cairo, I went to Sharm el Sheik to witness Bassim and Becki get married, and it was such a beautiful wedding!

The hotel we stayed in was absolutely perfect and we all managed to spend some quality time with each other. A small group of us climbed up Mount Sinai, and it was amazing.

Afterwards, we came back to Cairo to have another wedding reception for Bassim’s family, the ones that couldn’t make it to Sharm. It was a lovely dinner, afterwards a small group of us went on a boat down the Nile, and we forgot to tell Seeta, who was in the toilet! Needless to say, she wasn’t impressed and so we turned back and picked her up. The stay in Cairo was a different one compared to when I was there a few weeks before. I’m glad I got to experience it both ways – the local way and the tourist way. It was so hot, it reached 45 degrees and some of us couldn’t cope! You could see the Pyramids of Giza from our hotel, so it was an amazing place to stay at. Seeta and I had a camel and we called him Egbert.

It was also an emotional year, because my mother’s best friend, Vitalis, was killed. Seeing him in the hospital bed, hooked up to the life machine, is also another memory that will always stay with me. When they said they had to turn if off, it was a surreal moment for all of us, and I wrote this poem as soon as we stepped out of the hospital.

When you kiss the forehead of a beautiful man who is in a coma, you start to see life a bit differently.

You become more aware of your surroundings.

You start to see the details on a wandering leaf blowing by.

You notice the gentle breeze on your face.

You notice your hands, lips and your body moving.

You notice the hubbub of conversations, people walking past you, with no idea what’s going on in each other’s heads at that exact moment.

But most of all, you notice a huge gaping hole in your heart – that’s where you’re aching.

Make no mistake, you will ache several times throughout your lifetime. Yes, it hurts.. it’s horrible – but it also reminds you that you’re alive.

Take that pain, and use it as the driving force to make sure that you live your life to the full.

Throw caution to the wind and set sail. Because who knows what’s around the corner..?

Vitalis passed away in July, and it was a very hard time for us all, especially my mother. I felt bad because I had already planned to go backpacking for a year in Australia, and I wanted to be there for my mother, but everyone reassured me my mother would be well looked after, and she was. So, I went to Australia.

Australia… was definitely what I needed. When I was there, I had a blog, which I’ve merged with this one. It can be found under ‘https://abigailgorman.com/category/abi-in-wanderlust/‘ so if you’d like to read about my time there, that’s the place to go!

Words cannot describe how much I treasure and value my Australian friends. When I arrived, I only knew about two people in the whole of Australia, but whenever I met someone new, they took me in and made me feel at home immediately. I got a job at VicDeaf and I fell in love with all of my colleagues and I had an amazing boss, Phil, who treated me like I was family.

Christmas was fun! I spent Christmas Eve at Kym’s family in Ballarat, and I became a swamp monster. On Christmas Day, we went back to Melbourne and had a BBQ at James house in our bikinis, which was so surreal and so much fun!

2014

Like I said, as I’ve already written a blog about my time in Australia, so I’ll skip most of the year and summarise up how I felt about it. I met so many amazing people and they became my friends, housemates, colleagues and ultimately… friends for life. I also unexpectedly found love, so it broke my heart to leave, but I knew that I had to go back home and build up my life. However, Australia will always be a chapter that hasn’t ended for me. What the future holds, I don’t know.

Coming back home was a very hard thing from to do, and I struggled a lot. It wasn’t a case of the holiday blues; I genuinely felt like my heart was being ripped out, so I was very grateful to have good friends to stick by me and keep my spirits up. Especially James. I lived with him and his family in Newcastle for a few months to get my bearings together and figure out what I was going to do. I was very grateful for that.

Una and Fergus got married!

Caroline and Jamie did too! Caroline’s Halloween Hen party in Carlingford was bloody brilliant! The best moment of the whole weekend? It was when…

I FINALLY BECAME CARDINAL PUFF!

Yes, it only took me about 4 years to do it! Zorbing, Masterchef cooking, horror house, and the invasion of zombie bridesmaids… a bloody good weekend!

2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018

The blogs for those years are already on this blog, so scroll on to see those years. I’m already exhausted from doing 2010-2014! Okay, so that brings us to the next one…

2019

I’d say 2019 started out to be, as the Queen so eloquently put it…annus horribulus. Latin for, ‘horrible year’. That’s not say that the year was entirely a horrible one, it was full of both good and bad experiences. There are some I will not talk about but I will share some with you.

As most of you will already know by now, my grandmother fought a vicious battle against cancer and passed away. I haven’t really spoken much about it because it was a pretty painful, horrible and traumatic experience for us all and it’s not something that I feel comfortable about.

Whenever I think about her, it’s always a mixture of feelings. I feel sad because she’s not here, I feel angry because of the pain she was in before she passed away and I feel regret that she won’t be able to see me achieve the many things I want to do. But then… I remind myself that I’ve had so many memories with her. Some people aren’t as so lucky as I am to have a brilliant nan like her. I know she will always be looking over me, wherever she is. Away, away, away.. my nanny.

In March, I was interviewed by See Hear for International Women Day about the issues that women face and what we can do to resolve them. I obviously had a lot to say on the issue.

In April, I went to Finland to see Anne – it was a weekend full of talking, walking and lots of laughing; just what I needed.

Mischa and Micole got married! It was such a lovely day. Mischa’s journey hasn’t been a smooth one, but it’s made her who she is today; a strong, resilient and caring woman.

In May, Ashley and I were asked to be part of the European Union Deaf Youth General Assembly in Ghent as the Chair and co-Secretary, and we were honoured be asked. Ashley did a great job as Chair. Very proud of him.

It was also Robert’s 50th this year, and we had a lovely celebration. I am very grateful for this man’s friendship. He has provided me with love, care and support, and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for him.

June was an incredibly busy month! First, I went up to Edinburgh to attend Annelise’s ethnography workshop. Afterwards, I went with the girls to see Spice Girls!

I finished the course I was on for work, and it was one of the reasons I struggled so much this year. I started the course just soon after nan passed away and I also had to do my university degree, work and carry out my volunteering duties. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done that, but the course was interesting, emotional overwhelming and and inspiring. I wouldn’t have to hand in my coursework until the end of the year, but the block learning classes were finally done and I was so glad but I was also sad that it was over. It was inspiring to be with an amazing group of women from all walks of life who contribute to the training their own lived experiences, stories and opinions. At the end of the day, we were given this story and a box. I read the story and I got emotional; I opened the box to fins a starfish and that almost pushed me over the edge. Sometimes I do question why I’m in this job because it’s emotional, but it’s always short-lived – I already the answer. it’s the children. it’s knowing that you’ve made a difference to their lives simply by being there for them.

Afterwards, I went to the Wirral for Florence’s christening! It was lovely to spend some time with old friends and catch up properly and play with the kids!

Glastonbury again and it didn’t disappoint. Tara also went viral for interpreting for Stormy but used the publicity to encourage people to become allies and learn sign language instead. We both were interviewed by BBC News and we spoke about DeafZone – how inclusive it is and the importance of providing access. I’m pleased to see that it got a good response from the deaf community and the public. We need to make sure that we have access in all aspects of life.

David Attenborough made a surprise appearance! Absolute ledge. Kylie was amazing and my boys, Bastille, rocked their set. My brother was the first deaf interpreter to perform at Glastonbury and he interpreted for Bastille. Proud moment. I’m also proud of Bastille. Two years ago at Glastonbury, James filmed Nikki interpreting for them and it went viral. Kyle, the keyboard player saw the video and contacted us saying that he wanted to learn BSL. I taught him for a while, and when I moved to Denmark, mum took over and taught him. He has been a good friend since then, and the band have such an amazing attitude towards BSL. They gave us the set-list before the festival, which is something that most bands don’t do. Without that, Ben wouldn’t have been able to prep for the set.

Pascale and I acquired a stalker, who we named Dolores and then changed it to Beatrice before finally settling down on Dorothy.

Glastonbury delivered, as usual.

July was also a busy month!

I started it by going to Clin d’Oeil festival in Reims, France. I wasn’t planning on going because it was the weekend before I finished university, but at that point, I had enough of university (for reasons I will explain later on in the blog) and said “Screw it. I’m going.”

So I booked a last minute flight to Paris and made my way to Reims, and I’m glad I did.

It was great to see a variety of things happening at the festival. You could see that everyone was passionate about what they did, and that was inspiring. It was even more inspiring to see my friends talk/perform, and I felt very proud of them all. In the evenings, it was crazy.

C-R-A-Z-Y.

So many deaf people in one place! Even for an extroverted introvert like me, I found it overwhelming but I enjoyed meeting so many new people! I especially enjoyed being reunited with my Frontrunners family! It took us a while to finally gather together, but when we sat down and talked about our lives, what we had been up to, how we were feeling and what we’ve learned in the last three years, it was like we had never left. When it was time for us to go home, we were KNACKERED.

As soon as I got back, I handed in a large chunk of my coursework in for the course I was doing, and that made me feel slightly better. Then it was off to Paris I went to for the XVIII WFD Congress. I was part of the WFD Media team, and it was a honour, as always, to work with them again. I am always in awe of how, despite being such a small team, they manage to pull everything off. The Organising Committee team were brilliant as well.

I loved how I was able to work so hard, but also socialise as well. There were moments where I should’ve probably had a rest, but the extroverted side was in her element, so I certainly socialised! Especially at the Nordic evening…! I sampled all of their finest delights (alcohol) and got trigger happy when they did an auction for a bottle of Absolut Vodka from Sweden and bought a bottle for €120, knowing full well that it costs £20 back home… 😳 Luckily, others came to my rescue and we all chipped in together. It was non-stop filming, editing and all kinds of shizz which was absolutely exhausting, but I’ve enjoyed it as always. I was SO proud to see Robert and Phil (my old boss) be presented with the First Class International Solidarity Merit award for all the hard work they have done for the WFD over the years. Very well deserved.

After Paris, I was meant to travel throughout Belgium and the Netherlands, but I was dead.

DEAD.

So I went back hone to recuperate for a few days and then decided to book a last minute flight to Sweden. I think it’s fair to say July was a spontaneous month.

Sweden was an absolute tonic for me. It was Pride weekend, so it was the perfect time for me to come and visit. The weekend was great; it was full of deep and meaningful conversations that filled my soul, with some amazing people.

It was also full of high jinks… *coughs* kinky quarter *coughs*

All in all, a great weekend.

So far, it looks like I’ve had a good year in general, doesn’t it?

Wrong.

Throughout the year, I was constantly having breakdowns because I was struggling with anxiety so much and it was deeply affecting my mental health. The anxiety was linked to struggles I was having at university. It wasn’t the course itself, but rather the access. Access is something that I have constantly been fighting for ever since I started university, which is slightly ironic, considering the degree that I’m studying. I have gone through four interpreting companies and three note taking companies in the last three years and some of their attitudes have been absolutely shocking at times. I consider myself to be a strong and confident woman, but having to constantly fight for my access absolutely broke me and almost pushed me over the edge. They did not have any empathy nor compassion for what deaf students have to go through; it was all for their own financial gain.

Frances is currently doing her PhD in Interpreting support for Deaf students studying at university, and here are some of her findings.

https://limpingchicken.com/2019/01/28/frances-lewin-interpreting-support-for-deaf-students-studying-at-university-survey-results/

As a result of this, I wasn’t able to hand in my essays on time because I began to associate university with stress and I would get anxiety attacks every time I tried to do my essays. This, combined with dealing with bereavement, work, coursework for the course I was doing for work and volunteering duties, was all too much for me.

How did I manage to deal with it all? I had a strong support network; work was incredibly understanding and supportive, which I am incredibly thankful for. Robert would listen to me rant and gave me his shoulder to cry on, and do did the rest of my friends.

Most importantly, I had my counsellor. I cannot stress how much she has supported me throughout it all. Yes, family and friends can be a good source of advice, but ultimately, they are biased. They will give you advice based on what they want for you or what they think you will want to hear, but a counsellor will make you reflect on your thoughts, your experiences and give you the tools to compartmentalise and make sense of why you are feeling the way you are feeling.

We need to start reframing mental health, and reframe conversations in our homes, work, study and space.

It took a while, but eventually my mental health began to improve. I made decisions to step down from some boards I was on in order to ensure that my emotional wellbeing was at its best and to give myself time and space to do things for myself.

So, in August, I managed to hand in all of my essays for university and the course and had a meeting with the university to sort out my access. As soon as that was done, I felt like a huge weight was lifted of my shoulders. I literally felt light; it goes to show how much stress and anxiety can have a physical impact on your body. I would wake up and automatically think of what I had to worry about today and then realised that I didn’t have anything to worry about. I had become so used to living with stress and it was horrible. I wanted to quit several times but my friends, family and interpreters wouldn’t let me. I’m thankful to you all for believing in me. I only have 4 months to go now.

In September, the girls had a our annual trip, and this time it was in… Hitchin, of all places. We had booked a cosy cottage with a hot tub, but we found out days before that the hot tub was broken. It goes to show that you can devise all the plans in the world, but if you don’t welcome spontaneity; you will just disappoint yourself. So, we went ahead with the cottage. On the first night, Mischa announced that she and Micole were having a baby, and that was the perfect start to the weekend! The next day, we had an impromptu trip to Cambridge: vegan ice-cream and punting down the River Cam was absolutely perfect. It was all my idea. *points to myself with a smug face* (inside joke)

After Hitchin, it was off to Chiddingly to see my cousin Holly marry her fella, Jim! It was a lovely wedding and there wasn’t a dry eye in the church. She looked beautiful, and I’m so proud of the woman she has become.

In October, I received some exciting news! Earlier on in the year, I did some research with Paul and we’ve co-authored a chapter in a book titled, ‘Young, disabled and LGBT+: Voices, Identities and Intersections’. We found out that it’ll be ready to be published in February!

Mark and I went to see Marta in Madrid!

It was also the invasion of the Danes! Caroline, Daniel and Emilo came to visit! Emilo also delivered a presentation about his journey as a transgender male for the BDAYouth, and I was the international interpreter for it. It was an inspiring presentation as always.

I also decided to start doing something for myself so I took up kickboxing and martial arts, with Thomas Paull. I love it!

November came and it was my birthday. I haven’t celebrated my birthday in the UK for the last four years because I am usually working abroad, so it was lovely to have a quiet, intimate night out with some close friends.

I also found out that I was successful in the London Marathon charity ballot! This year, the stress I was under has taken its toll on my body. I have been emotionally reassuring myself with food, and whilst it’s enjoyable, it’s also unflattering. I need to get back into shape again. So… in April, I’ll be running for Martlets, the hospice my nan was in before she passed away. To find out why I’m running for them, you can visit my fundraising website. My family really appreciated everything they did, and so did my nan. So I hope you’ll be kind enough to donate.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-portal/dashboard

I was asked to speak at DEAFx in Groningen about equality and privilege. I was very nervous about this as it’s a subject that I’m passionate about; I wanted to make sure that everyone understood and wanted to do something about it. Thankfully, it went really well and I had lots of deep and meaningful conversations about it afterwards! I was also full of admiration of the people I shared the stage with – they all delivered wonderful presentations.

In December, I was asked by the Wellcome Collection to chair a panel discussion about ‘Politics of deafness’. The panel talked about racism in the deaf community, politics of different sign languages, cochlear implantations, accessibility and attitudes toward deaf people. It was an enjoyable, thought-provoking and reflective discussion and I hope that people took away a lot from the talk.

The results of the General Election left me feeling absolutely heartbroken and devastated, so I was glad that I had already scheduled a trip to Paris for the weekend with Sophie and Isy to see Ace and Amina and Tyts Teater perform Peter Pan at the International Visual Théâtre.

I keep forgetting that Paris is HUGE. It takes forever to get around so we decided to hire scooters. Bad idea. Sophs and I kept forgetting that they don’t ride on the left. *honk honk* “Move your ass, you dumbass!” (that was me shouting at Sophs) and the motorbikes are lethal. One almost collided with me so I swerved to avoid it and ended up riding into a lorry ramp. Very Mr Bean. FML. We composed ourselves and visited Centre Pompidou and admired the artwork. Afterwards, it was dinner at Le Potager Du Marais, a gorgeous cosy vegan restaurant, where I kept accidentally head butting women’s boobies every time they walked by my seat 🤦🏽‍♀️ #DeafPeopleProblems. Then we went to the gay district. SO MANY GAYS and so very few lesbians. The next day, we went to the flea market. I grew up surrounded by markets, so I always love to explore them. However, it was also sobering to see a lot of immigrants, laying out blankets and placing their things on it to sell. You could see they were objects that meant a lot to them, but desperate times calls for desperate measures… that left me with an uneasy feeling as we walked through the market, and as we walked back, they were gone because the police had come. Quite jarring. After the flea market, we explored the antiques market and the things we saw were gorgeous yet overpriced! However, I’ve decided that my house will be a Parisian – circa 70s – shrine. 😍 We went to meet Mindy at a gorgeous vegan restaurant. A big difference from this summer in Paris, where it was almost impossible to find vegan restaurants anywhere! I was a happy girl. Then we finally went to the theatre, and it was absolutely amazing. No signing, it was just pure imagination and skillz. The children were transfixed and so were the adults. It really felt like we were transported away to another world, and language wasn’t even needed. Stort applåder till aktörs och besättningen. We rounded the evening off with dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant where all the food was vegan as well. SO GOOD!

Christmas time! Mark came over to spend the festive season with us, and it was a lovely day! I got many lovely presents from everyone, thank you! But there was one present that stood out the most. A pussy pendant from mother dearest. Thank you! Mum and I cooked Christmas dinner and it put everyone in a food coma. Job done. Afterwards we played games and watched festive films. It was a lovely and relaxing day.

Marta and Emilio came over to spend New Years eve with us, alongside with Ashley and Hannah, and it was such a lovely cosy and intimate evening. We were joined by more Spaniards later on and celebrated New Year twice! One for the Spaniards and one for the Brits!

So… that was a decade. Those were moments that stood out for me. That’s not to say that others didn’t stand out as well; there were so many births. We had Elijah, Niamh, Noah, Nate, James, Henry, Ava, Emily, Ruby, Lucas, Spencer, Florence, Seamus, Roisin, Sìocha, Faolán, Tuiren, Louisa, Conor, Jora, Skylar, Lola, Elf (still to be named) and many more, and couple more coming up this year!

I guess what I’ve learnt in the last decade is that happiness is not a destination, it is a state of mind. There will be times when we are happy, and there will be times when we’re not… and that’s okay.

We all have days, weeks or even months that life just isn’t going the way we want it to. Things happen and we are allowed to deal with it in any way we want. 

Sometimes we beat ourselves up when we think we should be dealing with it in a different way or that we should be getting over it faster. But that’s not how life works. 

There isn’t a rule that says it should take you this amount of time to get over a certain situation. That’s the beauty of life, we are all different and have different ways of falling apart and it’s all good. We ALL fall apart sometimes and it is okay.

So, if you are falling apart, just let it be. Allow yourself to cry, get mad and release all your emotions. Don’t fight against it, just allow your natural emotions to flow through you without judgement of them or you. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that it is temporary. When we go through things, it can feel like nothing will EVER change. But it ALWAYS does. So, understanding that it is temporary is very important.

Nothing in life is permanent. This includes the situation you are going through that is causing you pain. How fast it changes is up to you; but know that it WILL change. At the start of the year, my counsellor told me to keep a log of things that I was grateful for, and I did that. I took photos every day and wrote about what I was grateful that day. Looking back on the first day and comparing it to the last day, I can see a big difference in myself, and I’m grateful for that. I’ve also learned that communication is important. I was able to pull through this year because I communicated how I felt to others. I told them where my boundaries were; what I could handle and couldn’t handle. I told them what I needed and they gave it to me.

“Chapters – Life has many different chapters for us. One bad chapter doesn’t mean the end of the book.” – Edenia Archuleta

I may be calling this year ‘annus horribulus’ now but I have a feeling that I will look back on this year and see it as the year that tested me the most, and I pulled through.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next decade will bring me.

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