I know it is not fashionable to say, but 2019 was one of the best years of my life.
There is a whole pile of stuff that I have spent most of my adult life battling that I finally got to grips with - and life is a lot lighter since I finally unpacked the baggage and gave away what was not serving me.
I handed someone their own beauty - immortalised and waiting for them to check back in on when they doubted, I captured a catwalk of acrobats, I realised that I was probably going to spend the rest of my life alone, and if that is how it was going to be, then I may as well start enjoying my own company a bit more and appreciating the body I live in with a bit more kindness, I sat on a beach in India and found myself surrounded by people from Hackney, I floated on my back looking at the sun drenched sky pondering my place in the world and a dolphin leapt over my ankles and I remembered it was here, right here, I swiped right on a cute looking someone whilst bored in the airport and by the time I had landed I had someone very cute flirting at me through my phone, after two weeks of being pen pals, I flew home and into their arms, I knew. I knew from the off. I always thought that love felt hot, like a fever, like a hunger, an addiction, something to be grabbed at before it inevitably slipped away through my fearful fists. But this one was different - the urgency was gone - and instead it was placed with a sense of peace. I used to think love felt like fire - you just got burnt and had to deal with the damage - but now I think it feels like water - soothly, nurturing and sustaining into everything.
I chased murmurations, I watched a friend marry a man I did not know and could not be happier, I hid Easter Eggs, I went to a hedgehog hospital, I snapped a friend's wedding, I decided to face up to the fact that I wanted to make photography my career. I have always been fortunate enough to have my photos met with lots of love and emotion but I knew I was not good technically, and I finally admitted that was an excuse, I can learn the technical stuff, what I have is a mix of a juvenile eye and a love of life, which means I spot things other people may not notice, and that is something precious. And then I realised I can help other people see that magic and wonder in themselves, I realised it was time for be to take the bold step into trying to make a go of my photography a business. I’m a photographer. There. I said it. I have been fortunate enough to have friends trust their weddings, pregnancies, newborns and divorces to be celebrated through my lens. I want to expand. Find beauty where you are told it is not allowed. Menopause, miscarriage, bereavement, chemo - what are you processing which you want to take agency of and stand in the middle of it and scream into the camera - this is life - all of it - Look! Isn’t it glorious? Every damn hard battle is beautiful. Come closer. Look. Why would we let photoshop and filter our collective memory? We are trolling ourselves by editing out every side except that one. Well I want that one. I want you to be able to look at all of yourself and encourage the healing to begin. I realised had found a new mission. I passed my second year of counselling studies. I applied for university for the first time in my life. I got turned down because I “did not present as professional” (just to prove their point, fuck you UEL).
I did a course on Authentic Body Confidence with Jessi Kneeland and finally broke open that it is ok to be a fat human - I am still allowed to be human. I realised why coaching works better for me than counselling. Though both have their place. With a dance class I pranced my way into 40 and then we all had a nice sit down afterwards in a park, because we are the grown ups now. We witnessed Stormzy storming it. I whispered to some seals to come and visit for a birthday surprise and they did. We walked through a forest of memories and back through an ocean of expanse. I joined The Clutch, more than any one single action I have ever taken in my life, listening to UnfuckYourBrain podcasts and being coached by Kara Lowentheil has enabled me to stop being so attached to my sad story and finally let happiness into my life. I practiced asking for one thing every day which I did not think I could get. It was excruciating. And life changing. I won the lottery five times. And I am awestruck grateful for every single penny. Three times winning five pounds, once winning thirty pounds and once a friend gave me my life back. I danced in the streets at carnival. I cried in the street at carnival. I danced at the gym. I danced in clubs. I danced and I danced and I danced. I broke my leg, knee and ankle, making it a grand total of 12 broken bones in 12 months. I went camping. I made a new website with an old friend. I realised I had to let go of my hurt about Brexit as it was only harming me. I know lots of you are still hurting. I know there is more hurt to come, but if you want to know some of the strategies I have found, message me.
I had an exhibition of my photos of London, I did a course in Systematic Coaching with Constellations. A lovely restaurant called Sodo asked to host my photos. I found one of my photos in a forest in Paris. I decided it was time to stop prioritising helping other people and time to start helping myself. I am fatter than I have ever been and more comfortable in my body than I have ever been. I am less unkind to myself, less critical, less full of self sabotage and self deprecation and generally feel like I am my own champion. And with this, obviously, life has started opening up accordingly. It is hard not feel like your story is your truth. That your past writes your future, but fundamentally when I started noticing that the narrative my brain was spinning was not always in my favour, the torrent of abuse started to loosen it’s grip. My brain (and I am betting yours too) has a habit of framing things along the lines of “DANGER! That thing / thought / feeling / relationship will reveal to the world what an awful creature you are, you’d be better to sit here in this cave of doom where at least it is only yourself you have to explain your shame to.” but noticing, acknowledging, being kind to these thoughts and then taking them off your knee like a tantruming toddler who is punching you in the face has proved very effectual in reducing their volume. And somewhat surprisingly, when I have stopped getting in my own way, life has started to open up more possibilities than I could have dreamed of. Or maybe they were always there and I am ready to allow them in at last. I’m ready. I finally realised that Disney got it all the wrong way round. When you crown yourself as your Happily Ever After then life falls into alignment with that.
I spent most of the decade thinking that not asking for things meant I was less of a burden, but now I realise it simply means people do not know what I want. So I would like you to help me make a real go of my photography business. Even if you cannot afford to pay for a session - once a month I do a Pay What You Can shoot and once a month I do a shoot in return for a donation to charity. If you have some thing to celebrate (spoiler: you are something to celebrate) please connect - let’s make it happen.
Funny isn’t it? I don’t think a happy year makes for half as interesting a read as some of my gloomy rollercoaster annual summaries which have often read like an extended episode of Hollyoaks. I have always maintained, even at it’s grittiest, that if this life was a film, I would probably go and see it. The irony that happiness is not as interesting as drama, is not lost on me, but I am ready for some calm for a while, for the space to stop running into the fire and start building where I am right now. So here’s to a new decade, and all of the unknowns and the adventures and loves and losses and spectrums in between that prism into our life times.
It occurred to me the other day that I am incredibly fortunate, that if I were to die right this moment, none of my friends would have any doubt how much I love them, because I tell them often, loudly, I laugh (too) loudly with them, I feed them, I plot with them, I know they know, but here’s your reminder to let your people know. There was less of me to offer when I was spending so much time doing myself down, playing small and trying to out-humble myself so no one was ever inconvenienced by me. And now if feels like I am finally learning to come home to myself. Which in these volatile times is needed more than ever. I am becoming my own safe space. My roots are stronger so I am able to allow others to learn in with more confidence. Life is fragile. We’re only here for an eye blink of time, let’s aim to keep our hearts and our minds open, because we are going to really need each other on the road ahead.
Happy new decade and all power to your 2020 vision.