2020 in review

What kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t write a 2020 year in review? Loosely calling myself a blogger since I haven’t blogged since March/April… but this year has been challenging to say the least. I’m sure you will all agree.

My 2020 review.

My 2020 got off to a fairly strong start. At the end of 2019 I was battling some pretty tough internal battles, but with the help of my close family and a few close friends I was slowly starting to put my pieces back together. Oh and the help of a therapist. I’ve never openly declared that on the internet because I felt like it was private. But I think what I was feeling was embarrassment that I’d needed to see a therapist… anyway, that’s not the point of this post. Early 2020 with the help of those all mentioned above I’d put together a plan to get myself out of the funk I’d found myself in. This plan involved indulging in the things I enjoyed and making them a more significant part of my life. I signed up to do a personal training course following my passion for fitness. Okay, lifting heavy things, don’t make me go for a run. I’m not that fitness. I had found that lifting heavy things and progressively lifting heavier things made me feel the endorphins people spoke of when they talked about the benefits of exercise. I’d never found them before with any other physical activity. It also gave me an acceptance of my body, which I’m struggling to hold on to here in December 2020 after what has essentially been 9 months of home workouts. I wanted to learn more about this amazing thing I’d found and maybe someday pass on that knowledge to others, like I’d found a secret to body acceptance and wanted to share it with everyone.

The next thing on my list was photography. I’ve always loved photographs and in particular photographs of people. In this digital age where we all carry cameras on our phones I still print off the pictures from my phone most months. I have a big box under my bed documenting my life since I was a teenager! In early 2019 I’d bought a DSLR camera and set about trying to learn the ins and outs of photography and for the most part I think I got quite good. My dad is a keen photographer so on a visit home in 2019 I tried to pick his brain for tips and came away with the knowledge of how to take pictures in artificial lighting and not making them look yellow. Photography is more complex than you think! I decided I’d start taking portrait photographs for anyone who had an online presence. The first few months of 2020 I had a client every weekend and while I was working for free the plan was to start monetising it as a business once I’d honed my craft and was confident I was producing images worth paying for. I even got the chance to do a regular gig at the local F45 studio, combining my love of photography and fitness. It was perfect. I did one trial and one paid gig there before the wheels fell off the world. If you’re interested you can see my photography at gem_takes_pics.

February also heralded the start of something I can only describe as miraculous. I met someone. Like an actual significant someone. Of course I didn’t know that on our first date, although I suspected. After being what I can only describe as ‘long term single’ his arrival in my life took me completely by surprise and I am happy to report that I write this from his flat after spending Christmas with him and his daughters. I genuinely didn’t believe this would happen for me, but here we are. Very happy and planning our future.

Of course, March 23rd arrived and good old Boris issued the lockdown order due to the whole pandemic thing. Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives. The world ground to a halt as businesses up and down the UK closed their doors and only essential businesses were allowed to stay open. For me, this meant working from home in my one bedroom flat, no visits to the gym, no photography clients, the end of the burgeoning relationship with the F45 studio and the rest of my photography business. The theory side of my PT course continued, but the practical sessions necessary to qualify stalled. I was also not allowed to see my new found boyfriend. I was completely on my own. 

Since then I think 2020 has just been about getting through it. The world moved online and actually spending weekends getting drunk on video calls with my friends in Scotland and Dubai was really nice. I’ll hold the first video call on House Party with my mum while we both tried to figure out how to use it as one of the funniest memories of this year. The online interaction however only held for so long as the isolation kicked in. I’d gone from being an incredibly busy person who loved recharging on her own and really making the most of my downtime to existing permanently in that downtime. I missed my family, all the way up in Scotland with no clues as to when I’d see them next. When lockdown was lifted my boyfriend and I made the 8 hour drive up to Scotland so I could see my mum. It was the longest we’d ever been apart and the high emotion of the times meant that there were tears when we saw each other again. The whole time I’ve lived in England I’ve always had the next trip home in the diary. I hug my mum goodbye at Edinburgh airport with a ‘see you in April!’ Or whenever the next meet is. Now when we say goodbye, it’s a ‘see you sometime’. And I don’t mind telling you that is hard. I’m sure there are millions feeling the same way. For the first time in nearly 9 years, Scotland seems very far away.

Without being able to go the gym or lift heavy things regularly I’ve struggled my way through home workouts. Like most of the country, online exercise classes have become the norm. What has been good is how accessible different kinds of exercise have become. I even managed to do a Disco Aerobics class with my friend in Scotland, something we’d never have been able to do in real life (unless of course she was visiting me and we went). I was able to try out new classes I’d never normally go to, Disco Aerobics being one of them. I am in no way coordinated enough to do that kind of thing in public, but from the safety of my living room with my camera turned off, who cares! I really, really tried to love home workouts, but they’re not for me. My love for the gym comes from picking up really heavy things and putting them down again. And my heaviest at home weight is 8kg. I’d have to rep that a lot to get any of the same endorphins that come with hitting a PB. I’ve watched my gains (LOL at my bro speak) slowly disappear (I mourn the loss of my pull up ability daily) and my weight slowly creep up. I’m trying to be okay with the weight gain because when the world goes back to normal my weight will too. But this has gone on for so much longer than I thing anyone anticipated. Or maybe you did, you just didn’t want to believe it. Lifting really did teach me to appreciate my body. I didn’t do it to lose weight or look hench but the aesthetic changes that came with my new hobby were ones I enjoyed. I felt like I’d found that sweet spot where I could eat without feeling like I was restricting, be fuelled enough to hit those PBs and like what I saw in the mirror. My changing waistline and the size up in jeans (I mean, I’m living in leggings these days anyway) is becoming harder and harder to accept. I still refuse to diet though, I like food and refuse to demonise it. I’m just trying to ensure my activity levels stay reasonably high. This has meant walking every day. Which has also been good for my head. I’ve discovered how important it is for my mental health to just get outside every day, providing a break between work from home life and chill time on weekdays and socially distanced walks with friends on weekends. I’m very aware of the prevalence of diet culture rhetoric, particularly around this time of year, and I’m doing my best to ignore it. I’m heavier than ever, but I have my whole life to get back to the gym and doing what I love. At least, that’s what I’m trying to tell myself.

So what does 2021 bring for me? Well, hopefully the arrival of the two vaccines cleared for use has heralded the beginning of the end, but let’s not get too excited that normal life will resume any time soon. So I guess for a while yet I’ll be doing what I’m doing now. Working from home, walking most days and spending time with my bubble who I am so incredibly grateful came into my life in February. 

I want to go into 2021 with the same fire in my belly to do the things I love as I did coming into 2020. I’ll pick up my camera again with the aim of creating a series of portraits as a form of art rather than a business. It’ll be a year long project, I suspect. I also want to focus more on food photography; cooking and trying new recipes has been a huge part of my lockdown so I want to work on sharing what I’ve learned and making them look aesthetically pleasing enough to post on my Instagram; Just_another_gem

As ever, I want to do more writing. Maybe I’ll be more consistent on here, or I’ll write more for the online magazines I found in 2020. Maybe one day someone will pay me for my words… I’d also like to finish that novel. It’s been 5 years in the making and on my goals list every year. I’m sure one day I’ll do it. After this long writing it it had better be good! 

I’m so close to finishing my PT training, let’s pretend I shouldn’t be qualified already by now, but hopefully 2021 will see my practical assessments finally going ahead and a new qualification to add to my name. I’ve never wanted to work in a gym, but I’d like to somehow share my secret for body acceptance. And get back to accepting mine again too!

This next 12 months see some significant changes coming; after 9 years living in Bristol I’m going to be moving in with my boyfriend in his town. I’ve been here over Christmas exploring what will be my new home. I’ll miss Bristol, of course I will. It’s given me the best 9 years I could have asked for when moving to an unknown city where I knew no one, but it’s time to look at closing this chapter of my life and opening a new one with my favourite human. I couldn’t be more excited about that.

2020 has been horrendous for so many reasons for so many people. The pandemic has stolen the livelihoods and lives of so many, so I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on how it has been for me and remembering how lucky I am to be leaving 2020 with healthy, happy family and friends and job security. This unfortunately won’t be the case for everyone and if that’s you, then I am truly sorry and I hope 2021 is brighter for you. I hope it’s brighter for everyone.  

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