I am nervous about even writing this post. The year has been huge for me in every arena of my life: personal, professional, creative, academic… I don’t know where to begin.
I know that at the beginning of the year I made some plans which I slightly revised halfway through. I haven’t re-read either of those blog posts yet, because I’m afraid to. What if I have accomplished nothing at all? (This is a ridiculous fear, I know, and yet the gremlin who lives in my mind is whispering it to the insides of my ears: What if I’ve been kidding myself all this time? What if nothing has been achieved?)
But of course, I know the gremlin is talking bullshit. That’s what gremlins do.
I saw in 2019 standing on my friend’s roof terrace, watching the London fireworks. It’s a great place to go for new year’s eve because you can see all of the firework displays in a panoramic view, without having to go to any of them and deal with the crowds.
In January, before I went back to work properly, I moved into my new office. The BFF came to help me settle in, and to drink champagne whilst building flat-pack furniture.
I was really scared of getting an office for Bohemiacademia, because I live in West London and that shit’s expensive. I wanted something that didn’t involve me having to get on public transport – what’s the point of working for yourself if you can’t get rid of the rush-hour commute? – but in order for that to be the case, I had to be prepared to really shell out.
But I knew it was time. I’d been running the company for six years by this point, and I needed some impetus to make myself grow it more. Every year I’d tell myself I’d try, and every year I wouldn’t, because there is always a reason not to do things.
So I went to the bank and got a business loan which would cover the rent on the office space for a year. If, by the end of the year, the company wasn’t making back the rent through new clients, then I’d ditch the office and go back to working from my house.
I am so glad I don’t have to do that, because I’ve got used to my house being a place where I don’t have to work, and I like that a lot.
I bought this for myself when I moved into the office, and it has turned out to be so true about this year on many levels:
By the end of the year, we had taken on enough new clients to justify the office rent. Most of them actually came as a direct result of having the office: something I hadn’t been anticipating, since we don’t have a shop front so I wasn’t expecting passing trade. But the lovely people who own the building the office is in know what we do, and so when someone comes to them and asks for writing or proofreading or translation, they ask us if we’ll take it on, and we do.
2019 was big for the company in other ways, too. I hired a couple more people; I found a bunch more freelancers; and towards the end of the year I managed to put together an excellent group of writers for a project which will hopefully keep us all afloat for some time.
In August there was a particularly difficult period, during which the company nearly went bust when a variety of bad luck hit a number of our clients simultaneously, but with a lot of hard work and super-long days, we pulled through.
I have been on the organising committee for DFRWS, a digital forensics research conference, for a few years now. A couple of years ago, while I was in Florence for the EU chapter, I offered to co-host for 2020, and the Oxford conference was set up. It’ll be happening in March: if you’re a digital forensics person, please come. It’s going to be great, I promise. A bunch of us are working really hard to try to make sure it’s the best conference you’ll ever go to.
This has necessitated a few trips to Oxford in 2019, which is fun because I used to live there, and it’s been interesting to see how the university has changed since the days when the Pilgrimage Project used to be based at the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion.
I went to fewer conferences than usual this year: only DFRWS and the Forensics Europe & Counter Terror Expo which happens in Kensington. Other people – Christa in the US, Mattia in Europe – went to various other conferences for me, because I recognised that I needed to cut back on *something* in order to fit all the myriad themes into my life, and travel was the obvious thing to cut.
In February I got bronchitis. By mid-March I still had it, but I also had a concert to sing in, which I managed to do, albeit not quite to the level I’d normally have liked.
The bronchitis stuck around for four months, and then turned into something new and resistant to antibiotics, and they’re still not sure what it is. I can now breathe again, which is nice, and it’s definitely not lung cancer, which is ever nicer; but I can’t sing without rendering myself hoarse.
They were supposed to do a barrage of tests in August, but they accidentally sent me to the wrong hospital for the wrong procedure, so they rebooked me a new appointment at the earliest available time: February 2020.
We really need to fix the NHS.
In the meantime it’s not massively bothering me, in that I can do most things absolutely fine. It’s just that singing is my primary stress release, and this has been a particularly full-on year, and therefore not being able to sing has made it harder.
In April I went away to a beautiful, secluded little cottage in the middle of the Welsh countryside and had a wonderful time.
The only travel abroad I did this year was to Norway for the aforementioned DFRWS conference. I took the BFF, who spent the week doing ALL the things while I was at work, and then she took me on a whistle-stop tour of the highlights on the Saturday. As a way of going on holiday, I recommend it.
They have some great historic architecture there. If you’re ever in Oslo, go to the folk museum.
Pangur Bán the Maine Coon came to live with me at the end of November last year, but this year was when she fully settled in. She now runs the house, as well she should, and every time I get something new she immediately claims it as her own.
And speaking of nice new things…
This year the renovation plans have ramped up a bit. The living room is now almost completely done – I just need to put up a single vent cover and hang the guitar and ukulele.
The bathroom is done, too.
The bedroom was done ages ago. It’s mostly books.
The only things left now are the kitchen and the hallway.
Finally, this year, I wrote a novel. I think it’s alright. It needs some work, but it’s the first one I’ve ever written that I think could actually go somewhere at some point. Like, onto bookshelves, for example.
I also began work on the Notebook Indexing Project, a mammoth task which involves creating an index of all the notes I have from the last twenty years of reading and writing. This will take some time, but I am making headway. I might even work on it over the holidays, although I doubt I’ll get it finished.
And I worked on First Steps In Digital Forensics, a new textbook which is now about 50% finished.
My Hallowe’en party deserves a mention here, not just because it was great fun but also because once everyone had left and I was tidying up, I realised just how lucky I am to have some wonderful people in my life. And how excited I am to have made some great new friends this year.
One of the biggest things I did this year was begin an MA in Psychotherapy & Counselling. I chose Regent’s University partly because of its excellent location and beautiful park views from the psychotherapy corridor.
But also because it’s the original school for existential psychotherapy, which is the type I want to practise. I have made some great friends already and I’m looking forward to subsequent years.
My own personal therapy journey has been intense this year, too. We have made a lot of progress and discussed a whole bunch of things I never thought I’d talk about, and that has been difficult but extremely important, and ultimately very helpful.
Being a psychotherapist had been my dream job since I was a child, but life went a different way when I entered young adulthood, and honestly I think that was a good thing. But now it’s time to get back on that track and pursue my childhood dream.
Speaking of which…
A Flat, A Cat, And A Fiat
When I was seven years old, we had Circle Time at school. Circle Time was when we all sat on the floor in a circle and discussed a topic of the day. This particular day’s topic was “my dream life.” The idea was that you could choose absolutely anything – the best existence you could possibly think of, even if it had no chance of ever coming true.
We went around the circle and most people said things like “I’d be a princess!” “I’d be an astronaut!” “I’d have a million pounds!”
Then it got to me.
“And what would your dream life be, Scar? What would you have if you could have anything at all?”
“I’d have a flat, a cat, and a Fiat.”
The teacher explained again that we were supposed to be talking about an absolute ideal, not something that might be attainable, but I stuck to my guns. The best thing seven-year-old Scar could possibly envision was a home of her own with a cat inside it and a Fiat outside. The teacher told my mother and it became a running joke.
Well, this year I made it happen.
I passed my driving test and bought a car, which you can just about see in this picture behind the cat, who is taking centre stage as usual.
I am pleased with myself for sticking at driving, because I was not naturally good at it. (That is, in fact, quite an understatement: I was awful.) Normally when I am not good at something, I give up and decide to just pay someone else to do whatever it is for me, or to live without it entirely. But this time I decided not to give up; to keep going with something and see if I could improve; and I did. I will never be the world’s best driver, but at least now I am roadworthy and I no longer freak out every time I have to drive past a truck.
So, I think it’s fair to say that I’ve got a lot done this year. And I just looked back over my list of goals, and… well…
My goals for the year:
Growing Bohemiacademia’s client base and portfolio. A conference in Oslo. A certificate in Psychotherapy & Counselling. Getting onto a Master’s in Psychotherapy. Passing my driving test. Writing part of a novel. Reading, obviously. Walking around. Completing the first draft of a novel. Working on the Notebook Indexing Project. Reading more foreign-language books.
- Writing a paper about atheists on the Camino to Santiago.
- Getting our paper about belief systems published in a journal.
- Playing some open mics, if the chest thing resolves itself.
- Going back to my singing lessons, if the chest thing resolves itself.
The only things I didn’t do were write an extra paper (because I wrote 50% of a digital forensics textbook instead); get the belief systems paper published (yet – we’re still waiting to hear back from our latest submission); and the musical items, because the chest thing did not resolve itself.
So, yeah. Overall, a pretty good year: certainly a big year, in which I have achieved many things.
Next year promises to be busy, too, though not quite as manically so as 2019. If this was the year of “GO, GO, GO, PUSH HARDER!” next year is the year of building on the foundations I have laid in 2019 with all the manic working.
How was your 2019?