10 things to be grateful for in 2021

Oh ugh. I kind of don’t want to do this this year – 2021’s been such a struggle. But the point of these gratitude posts isn’t to dwell on how hard things have been – there are always hard things – but to find the things that worked out and constituted a benefit gained from the year just finished. So here goes…

  1. I PASSED MY AFHEA!!! Dear God, that was possibly the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. Harder than my Masters degree, harder than any part of my PhD. It’s literally the only course I have ever done that I regularly considered seriously if I should just chuck it. To be fair, this wasn’t solely the fault of the course – I definitely feel I’ve come out of it a better teacher and more aware of the issues surrounding teaching and learning, and that that will benefit me all my life, and our tutors were great, but it was a metric smegtonne of work, which hadn’t been clear when I signed up for it (because that stuff was hidden on the staff intranet which I never did manage to get access to even though bits of the course required us to access things on there) and I hadn’t expected to be working 3 or 4 jobs (as well as the required teaching) at the same time, as well as to still be trying to do my PhD (which has barely got a look-in this year at all). But I got through and passed, and now I am a qualified Higher Education teacher!
  2. I got my dream job! I’d been expecting to just carrying on with my mess of casual jobs but in the middle of the year this role at Royal Holloway came up – 2 days a week, permanently (as opposed to pandemicly) work from home, flexible hours on a fab research project. It’s pretty much perfect! I’m still working on my time management to get it to work alongside the PhD and everything else that’s going on (still got a mess of casual jobs carrying on that I’m trying to clear back a bit), but it’s a great role and has meant a much more stable income, which has been a huge help financially.
  3. I applied for and received a commission! When I saw the calls for applications for the Electric Medway commissions, I figured I should take the plunge – I wanted to do some tinkering about with video anyway in the wake of the AFHEA, to ensure I made something over the summer, so it fitted in neatly, so I chatted to K & J and wrote the application and shipped it off… and got it! So we all got some money and I made another 2 sets of 4 WALKS videos, which I am rather pleased with. It was a real boost in a number of ways – firstly, nice to be earning some money doing some of my own creative work; secondly, it was great to feel like Kaths Kaff as a group can now say ‘we did this thing’ – it validated what we’re doing in a more formal way than anything else we’ve done, which always feels good; thirdly because it’s more of a digital arts festival than a music festival per se, it felt like breaking new ground for my work, showing me that what I’m producing can stand in a context of new media art, not just music. Very satisfying.
  4. My parents are continuing quite well. They’ve both had some Little Moments with their health, which have been quite stressful, especially as for most of the year Australia’s borders have been closed, and then the cost was prohibitive as well as the risk of being stuck there if they closed the borders again, so there was little I could do. But they’re both thoroughly vaccinated and have managed to avoid The COVID all year, so hurrah!
  5. VACCINATION! So grateful for the scientists who have developed the COVID vaccines and for the NHS which has allowed me (and everyone else in the UK) to be vaccinated for free. J and I have had our main two plus the booster so we’re as well protected as we can be in that respect.
  6. I’m grateful that we (Bastard Assignments) got to do some gigs! After nearly 2 years off the stage, we ended up programming 4 gigs in November/December. At the time of organising it, I was very stressed about it all – it felt like too much, would anybody come, would I just feel totally overwhelmed by it all after so many months of indulging my most introvert tendencies? but when it came down to it, it was great. We met up in Dublin a couple of days before our gig for Music Current there, and it was like we’d never been apart (grateful for the Lockdown Jams for that!!!). It was lovely to work together again, and while the month was really full on (with a trip to Huddersfield for work, then straight into rehearsals, 3 gigs and a photoshoot all crammed into the last 2 weeks of November), it was really great and satisfying; fabulous to be paid for doing what we’re good at, and it seemed the timing was perfect because almost immediately after the last gig of the ‘tour’ I started seeing people having gigs cancelled again as the Omicron variant began to take off here. So I’m very grateful that we got a chance to do all that, reconnect with each other and our audience, and start working on some new pieces too.
  7. As always, I’m incredibly grateful for J. For his love, companionship and help, his culinary skills and his knowledge of washing-machine repair (no idea what we’d have done if he hadn’t been able to fix that one). He’s been amazing, not least with taking on the burden of grocery shopping in a pandemic – as an habitual early riser, he’s just taken to zipping off to Sainsbury’s at 7am every now and then and doing a big grocery shop while there aren’t too many people about (and while I’m still struggling to wake up), which has limited our exposure to the virus and taken that task off my shoulders. Lovely boy.
  8. I’m grateful for the many, many lovely people I work with – all the Bastards, my colleagues at Royal Holloway, my supervisors and research group, my manager and fellow Research Assistants at Bath Spa, and the many lovely and interesting students I’ve taught and learned alongside this year – not to mention the friends who helped me get that teaching work. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by such a large number of cheerful, friendly and all-round delightful colleagues.
  9. We still have our house! For a while there it was feeling like we might not at this point – our cut off date to run out of savings was April, but my various jobs have kept us going, and the mortgage company has been super-helpful and have allowed us a reduction in our payments for a while.
  10. This last one feels a bit weird to say, but fuck it. I’m grateful for ME. It’s been an incredibly hard year. I thought at the end of last year I’d never been so exhausted and frantic, but actually that got even more extreme in 2021, and then was compounded by getting something in my eye which sliced the eyeball, resulting in multiple hospital trips, including seeing an ophthalmologist, days of lying in a darkened room, in pain and freaking out because I couldn’t work on anything at all and didn’t know if there’d be permanent sight damage, and ended up with weeks and weeks of severe eye strain and ocular pain (which I’m still dealing with from time to time); then just before our ‘tour’ I managed to pull a muscle in my back somehow – something just went ping and I was incapacitated for 2 weeks and then needed to have multiple sessions of sports therapy and acupuncture just to get me onto the stage. And those two experiences were my only real breaks from work in the entire year. I’ve worked three or four jobs the entire year, but still managed to get through writing a first draft of my thesis, had Haydn Space Opera be on the programme for three events (SparkFest, the Music and/as Process conference on Networked Collaborative Processes, and Electric Medway), successfully applied for and completed the Electric Medway WALKS commission, published my first book chapter, completely revised and am about to publish a jointly-authored peer reviewed article, did a joint conference presentation, successfully applied for funding to replace my ailing laptop, jumped through the government’s hoops for the humiliatingly small SEISS payments (and when I say humiliatingly small, I mean they decided that £50 a month was sufficient to replace an entire part-time income), finally launched the website housing my composition notebooks, and – most importantly – didn’t go completely insane or just explode through the stress of it all. I even managed to get the parents’ Christmas presents to them on time for the first time in literally years! I’m super-proud of me and grateful for everything I have managed to achieve this year.

So that was 2021. Special mention, I guess, for being grateful for not having caught COVID-19! I guess that’s part of the vaccine gratitude, but whatever. Grateful to have dodged that bullet for another year, especially through all the gigging. Now, what’s in the plan for 2022…

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