My Year in Review: 2022

In my review for 2019, I wrote that the year felt “inbetweeny”, with nothing of note happening- good or bad- that I would likely remember in the future. In contrast, 2022 felt like the opposite of that. This was easily the most eventful- and intense- year of my life. I felt pushed to my limits, always engaged in something, never idle. And despite the bad things that happened, I think I’d always rather live in a 2022 than a 2019.

I like striving towards something that’s just out of reach. I like being challenged and surprised, because that’s how I grow and learn. Waking up with a sense of purpose makes me happy. I’ve learned that my mental health can deteriorate fast if I get the sense that I’m drifting, aimless and inert, just passing time. As much as I can, I want to be living a vigorous life.

That said, I don’t always know how to do that. One thing I did that helped me to do that- and easily one of the best decisions I ever made- was moving to London to study a Master’s in Publishing in 2021. When 2022 started, I was in the thick of this new life I’d secured for myself. I had one semester of studying under my belt and a host of new, interesting friends. Things only sped up once 2022 started, as most of our assignments were actually loaded into the second semester rather than spread evenly throughout the year. When I returned from Christmas break, there was no time to settle back into things. Deadlines came thick and fast, pretty much every week until Easter. So, the year started at quite a fast pace for me and didn’t really slow down until October, but we’ll get to that later.

As I’ve stated many times, I like to frame life’s events in narrative terms. I like it when other people do the same, and lately I’ve been seeing folks online categorize their recent history into distinct chapters, or “eras”. I’m not sure where this trend came from, but when I first saw it, I was intrigued. There’s something about reflecting on your personal history and arranging it on a thematic basis that I find compelling. The only thing is, whenever I see this trend online, I always get the impression it’s self-deprecating or ironic, like “lmao in my slut era rn fr”, so I’m a little hesitant to use the term. I’m afraid you might laugh at me. But I’ve thought about it, and “era” as a word really does appeal to me more than any other. “Part” sounds too functional, “period” sounds too academic, “chapter” sounds too insufficient, and “epoch” is just fucking ugly. So heck with it, we’ll go with “era”. It’s just so illustrative. If I get ridiculed, then so be it.

In retrospect, I think my 2022 can be comfortably divided into three distinct eras: my Master’s Era, my Book Era, and my New House Era. What I mean by that is that each one was characterized by its own lifestyle. I’ll run through each of them and finish with my thoughts on the year as a whole.

January – April: My Master’s Era

This was a time where I lived deadline to deadline. The second (and last) semester of my MA was daunting at first, but I could feel myself growing in strength each week as I crossed another assignment or freelance article off my “master list”. At this point I was fully immersed in the rhythms of being a student again, my 7 years out of the game as seemingly inconsequential as a faraway dream. Although this period of my life was stressful, I felt about as alive as I’d ever felt. It stood in contrast to my time on furlough during the pandemic, where I wasn’t challenged in my daily life at all; comfortable but unhappy. As much as my assignments might have stressed me out at the time, I can see in retrospect that on aggregate I was happier with them rather than without them. I think I need external demands on my time to be happy. Essays aren’t fun in and of themselves, but the feeling of getting shit done that comes with submitting them contributes massively to my overall mood.

My Master’s Era was defined by a repeating sequence of images. Getting the KU2 from Clayhill to Penrhyn Road in the morning. Iced cappuccinos. The bustling flow of the stairwell in the John Galsworthy Building. The little two-note beep from swiping your student card on the wall-mounted attendance reader. Hitting up every café in the Kingston town center with Emily on our lunch breaks. Cutting across Fairfield Park, Lucozade in hand, on my walk home from the gym. The pub quiz at The Victoria on Wednesdays. Constantly checking the news for updates on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Tasty Bite Pizza Bar. Long days in front of Microsoft Word at the Town House. Games of Dobble, Paranoia, and Ring of Fire with my friends. The neighborhood cats that would greet me on my walks to and from Clayhill. Paddle-boarding on the Thames. The thrill of double-clicking an assignment on my master list and hitting the strikethrough icon.

This was a busy, stressful, but mostly healthy period of my life. The stress seemed to peak at the end of March, where we had a gauntlet of three presentations to close out the semester. Classes finished in the last week of March, and once the last of those infamous presentations were over, it felt like we had crossed the summit and were finally heading downhill. There would still be significant assignments until May, but they were now more spaced out. Those spaces allowed for new activities. And so, it’s April where this era comes to an end. Even though I would technically still be a student until September, I was no longer living a student lifestyle after classes finished in March.

For stories from my Master’s Era, see: Spring Semester 2022: Poetry at the Outbreak of War, Spring Semester 2022: Finding Fun Between the Deadlines, and Bookish Fun with Bookish Friends Part 1: The 2022 London Book Fair.

May – September: My Book Era

The changes that came with April had calcified into a new life by May, one that would be dominated by the development and release of my book, Fractured Threads. This was easily one of the most memorable and vibrant periods of my life. There always seemed to be something happening and it always felt like I never had enough time. I was fully focused on my book, and I’d never felt more motivated about anything in all my life. Even though working on it could be stressful, I felt insanely happy, and all I wanted to do was work on it all the time. There were always more stories I wanted to add to the collection, more things I wanted to tweak about the stories already written, and more things I wanted to do in order to help promote the book. A part of me wanted to keep working on Fractured Threads forever, perpetually tinkering with it and never actually releasing it.

Even though I was ostensibly doing this as the final project for my Master’s, I’d long-since checked out of the student mindset. I didn’t care about what grade I got- I just wanted to write the best book I could, and in some ways it felt as if the Master’s was now an excuse for doing what I’d always wanted to do. I kind of had a routine- in that I still went to the Town House each morning to write, as I hated my dorm room- but my Book Era wasn’t defined by repetitions the way my Master’s Era was. More than anything, it was defined by this singular focus that I had.

There were also some vivid memories that happened during this time, all of which now feel like they are connected to Fractured Threads in some way. I attended the launch for the KU Ripple and gave a reading from a short story I’d published in the anthology. Emily and I went on a bookstore crawl through central London. I went to see The Northman with Lucia, Hilde, and Sigrún. I took my first vacation since the pandemic started, flying to Texas to stay with Aaron and Anne-Marie for a week. During my visit I went to an Astros game on July 4th, embarked on a bookstore crawl of Houston, and got lots of cuddles in with Adelaide. Not long after I got back to London, there was a heatwave of historic proportions. I continued editing my book with the curtains closed and the fan on, while outside the grass turned to the dry yellow I was used to seeing in Texas. In August, my brother married his high school sweetheart in a beautiful ceremony at this Victorian walled garden. The summer flew by.

On August 27th, my book released on schedule and I celebrated by grabbing lunch with Emily at The Press Room in Surbiton. This was the place where we had regularly come to write our books together after classes finished in March. Perhaps more than any other place, The Press Room feels inextricably tied to my Book Era. I haven’t been back there since. A week after Fractured Threads released, I moved out of Clayhill.

For posts relating to my Book Era, see: Bookish Fun with Bookish Friends Part 2: The KU Ripple Launch, Cover Reveal for My Upcoming Book!, and Fractured Threads- Book Launch Q&A

October – December: My New House Era

This is where life started to slow down. After staying with my parents in Nailsea for three weeks, I moved into my new house in London on September 20th with my friends Minako and Yíjūn. I was officially no longer a student. My book was out. The friends I’d made during my year at KU now lived in a dozen different places. All I had was my freelance copywriting gig. Otherwise, my life was completely different.

I loved (and still love!) the new house. It’s not too expensive by London standards, and it’s near to so many amenities. I much prefer it to when I lived at Clayhill in Surbiton. Given that I’m much closer to central, it’s a lot more how I imagined London would be like. Supermarkets, pharmacies, gyms, barbershops, pubs, newsagents, tube stations, cafes, and green city parks are all within a five minutes’ walk from my front door. I’m trying to make the most of it and find reasons to get out of the house as much as I can.

Compared to my Master’s Era and my Book Era, this period of my life has a lot less milestones and vivid memories. Almost all of my effort has been focused on writing my freelance articles and searching for an entry level job in the publishing industry. And various things concerning the house, of course. In general, I’ve been less happy, and I think the main reason is that finishing my book has left this giant hole in my life. I miss being passionate about something and having a project to work on. My intent was to promote Fractured Threads for a long time after it came out, but I just haven’t found the time or the motivation. Once the book was released, I felt myself disconnect from it emotionally. I think I always need to be working on something to be happy. Trying to persuade people to buy something I created isn’t my comfort zone. It feels wrong, somehow. However, I do regret that I didn’t give my book the attention it deserved post-release.

Another thing I missed were the demands on my time that came with my Master’s and Book Eras. Between my articles, job search, and the house, I had plenty to do, but I didn’t use my time efficiently in the absence of an external structure. It was like I was back to being on furlough during the height of the pandemic, having to rely on my own willpower and self-discipline, all the while stuck inside and not seeing people regularly.

That said, while life has been quiet during my New House Era, there have been plenty of little moments of joy. Going on a day trip to Oxford to see George and Elizabeth. Long walks through city parks with Emily. Video calls with Aaron, discussing everything from soccer to Joe Abercrombie. Playing Age of Empires 2 with my brother on what we’ve called “Wololo Wednesdays”. Making gnocchi, pizza, and nachos with my roommates on our cooking nights. Not planning anything for my 30th birthday only to end up being spoiled by my friends in what was one of my best birthdays ever. The Publishing MA end-of-year party where my professor dressed up as Colleen Hoover (wearing a curly blonde wig and carrying around a vacuum). A cozy night of boardgames and pizza with Lucia, Hilde, and Sigrún. Reconnecting with my old Clayhill friends for an amazing Christmas dinner at their new apartment.

As you can see, even though my New House Era hasn’t been the best for my mental health, it was nonetheless filled with little moments like these where my friends made things more bearable.

Closing Thoughts

When I look back on 2022, I’ll think first of the big milestones there were in my personal life; completing my Master’s in Publishing, attending my brother’s wedding, publishing my first book, and moving into my new house. Not every year has milestones, but 2022 had quite a few that I’ll remember for a long time. There were definitely some very low moments, but overall, it was a good year for me.

Beyond my personal life, however, 2022 was pretty fucking horrendous. Russia invaded Ukraine in an act of naked imperialism, committing many atrocities in the process. We’ve seen more instances of extreme weather across the world, from the flooding in Pakistan to the wildfires in Europe. The American Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade. The U.K. continued its inexorable slide towards a plutocratic dystopia as the Tories plugged new depths of shameless depravity. And so on and so forth.

I held little hope that things would get better in 2023, but by December I was eager to leave 2022 behind. For reasons good and bad, 2022 had exhausted me. I spent my last few hours of the year at an arcade with my hometown friends. It was amazing to see them again, and I was glad we were able to work something out as everyone now lived busy lives in separate places. We played shuffleboard and darts whilst having a few drinks. I got home before 10pm and, unwilling to drag out 2022 any longer, went straight to bed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s