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2019 retrospective – a year rated 9 out of 10

2019 retrospective work

Just this Sunday past, end of January 2020, we’ve visited some friends for dinner, wine and a catch up. We spiced it all up with a fun cards game – Vertellis. It’s a question-based game, that invites to insight, to sharing, and to reflecting over the year past. Some of the questions focus on the future – the year to come. We spent a great afternoon of deep thought and good laughter.

I wrote this 2019 retrospective a while ago. But then Iceland happened, and when we returned work, family, the house, and all the rest happened. Tonight, after our dinner and game with friends, I can finally invite you to see how 2019 treated me. And I am sharing it with you because it occurred to me why I gave my 2019 a very high rating.

Why I rated my 2019 so high

Vertellis presents two types of cards – individual questions, or questions for the group. First everybody draws a card with an individual question, reads it out and answers it. Then everybody in the group needs to answer, for themselves, one question drawn out of the second type of cards. Each of the players then guesses another’s answer.
It does sound a bit more complicated than it is.

One of the cards with questions for the group asked us to rate the year past, on a scale from 1 to 10.

I gave my 2019 a high rating of 9,  and without any doubt I said it has been one of the best in my life so far. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a walk-in-the-park, dolce far niente year. On the contrary, so much happened that I would not know where to start. And I experienced some very important things at a very personal level – I won’t be talking about those. Maybe another time, I will, if I feel it would benefit others too.

For now, I will just tell you how it all panned out for me, starting with professional life.

Work life in 2019 retrospective: out of the woods 

I still struggled the most, in 2019, with my professional life. Looking back, I see myself like as of those Grimm tales characters, hacking through the thicket for days and days. Just like those characters, I eventually made it out of the woods.

Whatever happened during the first half of the year pushed me forward to where I wanted to be. I went to a dozen and more interviews – that heart and mind wracking process. Somehow, I managed to keep both mind and heart together and I found a great job in PR & Content Marketing.

Through that difficult half a year I stood for myself again when I wasn’t treated fairly. I researched and found resources on how to protect myself from being intimidated or taken advantage of. And I refocused, adapted, pushed through.

LE: 2020 proved to me that the fight carries on and we currently experience a quite toxic work environment in the UK. While I proved what great results I bring with my work, the coronavirus pandemic might just show me that I’m yet to be where I am meant to be. More on that to come.

2019 retrospective Halloween

Halloween fun for the first time at work since I have been living in the UK.

happy work 2019

 

While my professional work is very important to me, I work to live and not the other way around. So let us look next at all the delights that filled my free time last year.

Premieres of 2019 – from theatre to circus

At any time, I could name without hesitation the two most important elements of my life. I value my partner Adrian and my writing the most. I would struggle without him or without being able to focus on poetry and story telling.

Thankfully, Adrian supports me so much in every aspect of my creativity, and he has backed all of my progress in 2019.

Now, as a creative person, I feed on all art forms I have access to. This year past truly nourished me from a cultural point of view, and I accessed new venues through Adrian. With a background in music and musical theatre, he introduced me to a few wonderful things last year.

Where do I even start?

Should I talk about the very first Verve Poetry Festival I attended?

Should I mention how I giggled at the discovery that so many Spanish painters retired and died in Malaga?
Or should I tell you how many cultural firsts I experienced in 2019?

First symphonic concert, first Shakespeare, first ballet

  • I attended my first symphonic concert live, Holst’s The Planets Suite, at Birmingham ICC. Adrian bought tickets for us and a friend, and we all took delight in this concert with the Royal Symphonic Orchestra London. In the live version, same as on Classic FM or various recordings, I loved Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity the most.
  • I watched my first Shakespeare – As You Like It – with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. I loved the casting, with great racial variety and also a bit of gender swapping. An actor of colour, David Ajao, played Orlando with such passion, innocence and great humour. And I adored the fact we saw a shepherdess, not the male counterpart, falling desperately in love with the cruel Phoebe. This little twist added some well balanced, cheerful sweetness to our great experience of classical theatre with a contemporary glow.
  • November gifted us The Nutcracker, my first classical ballet in the UK. Birmingham Royal Ballet set in motion pure magic of dance, costumes, music and décor. Elegance, exuberance, laughter, melancholy, sweet sadness, all these emotional ingredients added to the ultimate Victorian Christmas fantasy. At the end, when the choreographer joined the dancers on stage, Adrian exclaimed: “That’s why it was so good!”. It was produced and choreographed by Sir Peter Wright. This version of his is considered one of the best. At the interval, Adrian told me this was possibly the best ballet he’d ever seen.
  • In February 2019 we also watched a great circus show at Birmingham Rep – Cirque Berserk. The very skilled acrobats and the overall show gave us a lot of breath-holding moments. My favourite act was the motorcycle Globe of Death. With three motorcycles and the lady standing in the middle of the blue illuminated sphere as the main lights went off, this was the most thrilling act I have ever seen live.
    We took so many photos I never published! Adrian had previously watched the world-famous Cirque Du Soleil before, and he also enjoyed Cirque Berserk a lot. He said this show rose to about 70% of the skill and challenge of what he had seen with Cirque. However, tickets were ten times cheaper.

 

Cirque Berserk 2019

My favourite act at Cirque Berserk – the Globe of Death, with 3 motorcycles.

Cirque Berserk 2019

What a show of lights, music and incredible human skill!

 

Birmingham Writers Group & Wrekin Writers

Two things mattered most to me and my writing in 2019. Both pushed me forward, helped me regain my dedication, my focus and passion in writing. I discovered a second writers’ group which I am attending regularly. And I had an amazing retreat in November with my very first such group here in the UK.

I started attending Birmingham Writers Group meetings since February. At regular meetings, participants provide feedback to four anonymously submitted texts. I used to attend such writing groups from the age of 10-11. Throughout my life, these mattered so much to my progress as they kept me focused. As a person with an ENFJ personality type, my motivation is fuelled by people around me. And as a writer, I need other writers the same way a wolf needs a pack to survive and thrive.

For the first good months of attending, I was primarily reading my colleagues writings and giving feedback. It took a while for me to properly sit down and edit the first two chapters of the sci-fi novel I’m working on.

End of December though I received feedback for my first chapter. As Christmas break started, I sat down with Adrian and he helped me edit the prologue my novel needed.

Best New Year’s Eve & best writing retreat

Then I spent my most amazing New Year’s Eve in the last 35 years with Adrian and my literature. I can only compare it to that same night of the year, when I was 8 and wrote my first poem.

Back to 2019, I prepared some buffet style dinner at home, just for the two of us. We munched on the treats, with a great glass of Argentinian Merlot from Tanners on the side. And we discussed my main characters, their flaws and motivation, the drama, the peril, the important points in the plot arc. We spent about two hours to clarify it all. I am now more motivated and determined than ever to finalise this trilogy and do a damn good job at it.

I also managed to have a proper three full days writing retreat at Abersoch with Wrekin Writers. This is the first group I ever attended in the UK. The chats, the board games, the landscape, the literature debates really inspired me. And I realised just how much I had  missed these things during my 8 years of cultural draught.

Absersoch Wales

We were blessed with sunny weather and incredibly blue skies in Abersoch.

Abersoch

The colours of autumn make Wales even more spectacular than in any other season.

The most inspiring women authors

Two other literary premieres marked 2019 as an exceptional year for me.

I saw two of my all-time favourite and most inspiring women authors.
(Yes, I know, gender shouldn’t matter, but sadly it still does).

At my very first Hay Literature Festival I attended Elif Shafak’s event. She talked about her most recent book, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World, and about the political situation in Turkey. It did not come as a surprise that she had such warmth and sadness in her eyes. She was very approachable, and humble in a way only a big heart can be.

 

 

Hay Festival 2019

I found Elif Shafak just as she looks seen through her books – a warm, caring, and very deep person.

Can you guess who was the second female author I saw this year?

I chased after tickets to see her for at least two years. But all her London events sell out in no time. Lucky enough, I managed to buy my ticket on a lunch break – the add just popped up on my Facebook news wall. When I finally saw her on stage, she felt like a beloved teacher or an older, wiser, pragmatic (in a very positive way) friend. She is Margaret Atwood, and I went to see her at Birmingham ICC in October.

She talked about writing, politics and environmental issues in such a relaxed, but meaningful way. Her presence felt most inspiring, and I will keep the memory of that evening with me for a long long time.

to be continued

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