And just like that, another year has passed. I feel like 2019 went very quickly, but it was also very long too. I started the year by returning from maternity leave at Leeds University Union. It was a strange time in my life; work was largely just the same, but I wasn't. I was a mother and it wasn't the most difficult thing ever, but it was certainly harder being a mum and going to work three days a week. I enjoyed being productive again and it was nice that Joe and I got time on a morning to just sit in the car and talk briefly before we both headed off to work. I enjoyed being around people again, walking around the campus on my lunch and treating myself to marble cake from my regular cafe. But when the time came to choose a new role or essentially, redundancy, I knew (for various reasons) that the best thing for me to do was leave and focus on my PhD and Eliza.
That has been both positive and negative. Working part time for my parents is more flexible and comfortable, but not the same as I've been used to for the last five years of my life. It's less sociable, but convenient for now. But it means I have the necessary time to focus on my PhD, which I am now entering the second year of. I have lots of time to read, plan and write. Sometimes I am full of motivation and have lots of ideas, then other days I struggle to focus. But overall, this year has been a successful year in academic terms and I feel ready for stage two of the PhD.
2019 was the year of Keepsake, my debut poetry pamphlet. Today I've been reflecting on the journey I've taken since I first started properly writing and submitting. Thinking about it now, my work wasn't ready when I first started submitting, but I was eager to get my work out there. I feel that I've developed greatly as a writer and I'm now relaxed into my own style and voice. I'm proud of how far I've come since my first publication with Riggwelter Press and Keepsake is something I will always be thankful for. Maytree Press have been a fantastic publisher and I have had some lovely responses to Keepsake. My main priority is my PhD creative work, but I also have a side project which is pretty much ready. This project is something I've written specifically, which is under wraps at the minute. I have a reading next week at The Albert Poets in Huddersfield and I will be appearing in the next Wild West Press publication. Some highlights of the year was the official launch of Keepsake, reading at Butcher's Dog Issue 12 launch, winning the Gloucestershire Poetry Society Competition and the poetry showcase at Huddersfield University. As for 2020, I'm going to focus on developing more as a writer and being selective with submissions; the reason is just to ensure I'm submitting for the right reasons/if I have work that is ready and fits.
Having Eliza means Joe and I can't travel quite like we used to, but we've managed fairly well this year. Back in March we visited one of my favourite places, Edinburgh. Then we went to Aberystwyth with my good friend Nick. In May we visited Lisbon which is one the best places I've been. Unfortunately, we did have a stomach bug whilst there, so I'm very much looking forward to going back and getting to grips with everything more. A highlight was definitely the university botanical gardens. We spent a chilly week in Whitby with Joe's mum, which was nice but I also found it tough - Eliza ill, anxiety etc. Then, our final trip this year was to Barcelona, a place which always makes me feel happy. We had a lovely few days just hanging out as a family and getting some much needed sun. A favourite moment was our time at the beach, it was very peaceful and warm. A moment I will look back on fondly I'm sure. We already have a couple of trips booked for this coming year. Firstly, we are going to Oslo in May for my birthday. I've been wanting to go to Oslo for a while, so I was pleased when I found the perfect place to stay for a great price. AirBnB is really helpful with Eliza; it gives us more freedom and comfort than a hotel. Then in July, Joe and I will be going to Amsterdam whilst Eliza stays with Joe's mum. I'm very excited as I can't wait to explore Amsterdam and spend quality time with Joe, but of course, I'm very anxious to leave Eliza too. I'm looking for a third trip too, there's so many places I want to go it's hard to choose!
Overall, 2019 has been very good. There's been lots of highs and some lows. But, the pattern is that there are more highs than lows these days, which I'm thankful for. A huge part of that, is Eliza. She brings me so much joy; she a wonderful. Of course parenthood is the causes for some of the lows, mainly the limiting nature of it, but we are navigating through it and wouldn't change a thing. I'm hopeful that the year ahead is going to be even better. I'm going to focus on being a better writer and being the best mum I can. And I'm going to make sure I'm well and healthy. My goal is to start going swimming each week again and to read one fiction and one non-fiction per month. I've not been reading for pleasure as much as I should, so as part of my focus on wellbeing, reading is going to feature a lot this year. As for poetry, I try to read as much as I can!