Home Life 2019: a year in review

2019: a year in review

by Ellie Hopgood

As I wrote about in my 2018 review, last year was all about having fun. I had graduated, I had an income, I was living independently – the stage was set for me to take my fledgling steps into the adult world and have a good time doing so. 2018 was all about the novelty of being a real grown up.

I did have a lot of fun in 2018, but as the year crept on, I started to form some more grounding habits. I got a new job, which was much more serious and professional, I started this blog and I read more than one hundred books, all of which took up hours of my time. By the time 2018 ended, I was happy with all the fun I’d had, but itching to dig in and head back to my serious roots. As the fact that I have blog full of articles about the minutiae of climate change might attest to, I am quite a serious person. I spend my leisure time writing about the carbon costs of electric vehicle batteries and climate psychology, like a weirdo. I like messing around, absolutely, but at my core I am someone who is always thinking deeply – some might say obsessively – about something or other, wondering if I’m ever going to have enough time to read all the books I want to and fretting about what comes next. Neuroticism and introspection are baked into my bones. In light of this, 2019 was about going deeper, and being thoughtful about my writing, work, photography, travels and future plans.

Let’s start with the good about this year, of which there is so much. As I hope I make clear often on this blog, I am tremendously privileged, and lucky on top of that. I am especially thankful that the chronic health issues that plagued me throughout 2017 and 2018 have largely cleared up this year, after seeing a specialist who diagnosed me with a rare urethral infection and sorted me out with some different medication. The two infections – the rare one and your standard UTI, to which I have also been unusually prone these past couple of years – often obscured each other, and being treated for one and not the other led me to develop two bad kidney infections this year, as the untreated bacteria ravaged my system. It was not great. However, in the autumn, things started to get better. I have spoken to many people about chronic UTIs in the past two years – who’d have thought that would be such an effective icebreaker – and most people I spoke to also had stories of a couple of years of chronic problems. I am really hoping that I have now paid my UTI dues and will only get them occasionally like a normal person. This ongoing issue clearing up is one of the biggest reliefs of 2019.

While my work life has not been without bumps, I did study for and obtain a proper professional certification this year, and was taken by surprise by how proud I felt of that achievement. I hadn’t studied for anything in a while, and I’d forgotten how satisfying it is to learn something new and be rewarded for it. This blog has also remained one of the brightest spots, especially since March, when I started writing a lot more political content, which is where I feel most comfortable. While I certainly have my fair share of days when writing feels like a chore, I am always calmed by putting the final full stop in a new blog post and knowing that I have something interesting to share that day. I am so proud of all the words I’ve written this year and I can’t wait to write more in 2020. In a similar vein, photography remains one of my greatest joys. I published my best photos of the year yesterday – and shoved the link onto every social media platform that I have ever casually used – and am already so happy with how many people have looked at them. For the first time in my life, I am actually creating art. Me! I’ve never thought of myself as a creative person so discovering this part of myself now has been brilliant.

In terms of what I learned about this year, climate change definitely takes the top spot. Like much of the world, this year woke me up to our burning planet, and I ploughed through books and penned thousands of words about everything I found. Learning so much about climate change has changed the way I think about everything, really; my work, my future, my travels and my lifestyle. I feel like I gave myself a good grounding in the politics, science and philosophy of climate change this year and wrote some interesting posts about it all. I plan to keep learning and protesting for climate change action next year and, I suppose, every year after that. Undeniably intertwined with everything I’ve learned about our warming world, I have also learned a lot more about politics and economics. I will share the books that taught me the most in an upcoming blog post, but safe to say, I have never known more about the forces that underpin the world while continuing to feel so clueless. I feel like my perspective was cracked open this year and I am so hungry to dive even more deeply into these ideas next year too. Aside from reading, I attended and photographed many protests this year, including two anti-Brexit marches, the Trump protest, London Pride and September’s Global Climate Strike. I went canvassing for the first time in December, donated money directly to the Labour Party and wrote more openly than ever about my political views and questions. I have never been as politically engaged as I am right now and it only makes me want to do more, especially in the wake of December’s election. Taking more political action is also on the docket for 2020.

However, no matter how much I learn and write about the climate crisis and politics back home, the world continues to call to me. Seeing the world is one of my true passions and something I feel a burning desire to do even more of in the next decade. I had an amazing year for travel, visiting Finland, Bulgaria, Belgium, Turkey, Spain, Hungary, Kenya, Indonesia, France and other parts of the UK, most notably Cornwall and Edinburgh, both of which remain two of my great loves. Our trips to the Finnish Arctic and Indonesia stand out as my highlights, but it was all incredible, and I am so unbelievably fortunate to get to have experiences like this at such a young age. I do my best to never take it for granted. Another favourite part of 2019 was diving again! Getting back into the water felt so right. I am truly happiest underwater, especially when I am learning new skills at the same time. Diving more is also a big priority for 2020, both at home and abroad, along with improving my underwater photography skills at the same time.

This was also the year that I truly fell in love with London. I feel so at home here now, in part because of our new flat, which is wonderful and somewhere I always look forward to coming home to at the end of the day. While I hope to travel more, I also hope that, for now at least, London will be the place to which I return. Finally, my relationship with Jake remains one of the best things in my life. I feel amazingly fortunate to have met such a beautiful partner in life at such a young age and the things we have done together in the past three years make me confident – as confident as you can be at twenty-three – that our relationship will only serve to push me forward and never hold me back, as is often a fear when you’re young and in love. Thanks, J, for always being up for my crazy plans and supporting my obsessions. Love you.

As the above thousand words make clear, there has been so much to be grateful for this year. To be learning constantly, trying new things, seeing the world, developing myself and surrounded by wonderful people is a blessing. But of course, the good always comes alongside some bad, and I have certainly had some anxieties and uncertainties this year, which it would be disingenuous not to share.

My friendships caused me a lot of anxiety this year. I love my friends dearly, and they are up there with Jake and my family as the most important things in my life. Much of the other great stuff is only able to be so great – or happen at all – because I have a strong, loving, supportive foundation of wonderful people around me. But I worried this year about not spending enough time with my friends, not giving them the attention they deserve, even when I felt overstretched. I worried then about them not worrying about if they’d seen enough of me and what that meant for us. I worried about our paths diverging, about judgement, about managing conflict effectively, about being too much. I just worried a lot. My friends are so important to me and I want those relationships to always be a priority – and sometimes, I felt that slipping away. More than anything, I want my friends to know that I am always there for them, without judgement, and to feel the same from them to me. I’m sure this is stuff that we will all continue to figure out as we keep growing up together. I love you all, too. You know who you are.  

My job also had its difficulties this year. I won’t say much on the Internet, but I definitely had plenty of awkward moments and teething difficulties as I tried to navigate a workplace full of older, established people who are a little set in their ways as a stubborn young woman who has no problem questioning authority if I feel it’s warranted, often to my detriment. It has definitely made me think carefully about my plans for next year. I have done good work and learned a lot, but also felt very unsettled at times. Some of this fed into a general sense of unease I felt often this year, especially through the summer, about what I’m doing, what my plans are and what the future holds. You know, typical twentysomething navel-gazing.

Finally, I felt the general awfulness of the world right now more deeply than I ever have before. We are currently surrounded by our environment collapsing, the rise of the right wing, fake news, poverty, consumerism, hate crimes, bigotry and a general sense that things are getting worse rather than better. While I am extremely lucky in this damaged world, and doing fine personally, I don’t feel fine when I know many, many people are suffering and when I think that suffering will only continue. The British election result in December was a real low point, as was every moment that I watched a clip of Donald Trump or read one of his tweets. I am glad that I’ve learned so much about climate change this year, because it’s important, but I do have my moments of despair about the future of our species and what my life will entail as the ice melts faster and we break temperature records every year, even though I am more protected than most. All of this has also led me to feel a lot of guilt this year: guilt about everything I do that raises my carbon footprint, guilt for my privilege, guilt for wanting to have fun and do frivolous things while everything goes to shit around me. But the more I read about history, the more I realise that: this is life. Most people have lived through times of sadness and upheaval, most people’s lives are defined by events that are out of their control. We are just one point on an endless continuum of moments, some good, some bad, some devastating. I hope that 2020 will see us move toward something better, to a good point on the timeline, but I’m not holding my breath.

I don’t want to end this on a sad note, because it was not a sad year! I feel like I was purposeful and intentional with my time, I saved money, I pushed myself, I laughed a lot. I had some incredible moments around the world and at home, of which scuba diving was my favourite, but also included learning to snowboard, speaking French in France, taking some excellent zebra photographs, trying new ramen places in London, reading eighty-five books, winning the fight with our ex-landlord, passing my exams, having a viral moment on Twitter, protesting at every opportunity and writing hundreds of thousands of words. I did a lot of stuff this year. I was always moving, always learning. Next year, I want more of the same. More writing, more words, more action, more travel. More time spent with friends and standing up for what I think is right. More time pushing myself to try new things, step out of my comfort zone and relax, just a little. I’m excited.

New year. New decade. Let’s do this.

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