Things I learned in 2016

1) Drastic hair cuts aren’t always a good idea, but it’s worth trying them out anyway

A couple of months ago, I had seven inches of my hair cut off. I kept it plaited in the glovebox of my car for a few weeks, marvelling over the blunt bit and saying “DOESN’T IT LOOK LIKE A PAINTBRUSH??” to grossed-out passengers, then sent it to a charity that makes wigs for children. I’m really glad I did it, but the trouble is that I got a bit overexcited and decided to have even MORE chopped off. This was not one of my better ideas. I am now convinced that I look like a cross between ’00s popstar Dido and someone’s mum, and nothing you have to say will sway me.

Is there anything wrong with having an extreme hair cut? No. I was bored of my old style and of spending 40 minutes curling different layers only to realise the weight was too much and I might as well have just stayed in bed. Part of me wishes I’d just left my hair well alone, but at least I tried. Now I know. Now I can embark on the (not literally) painful growing-back process, which will no doubt be filled with tears and the bulk-buying of Holland & Barrett vitamins.

2) Kindness isn’t necessarily a weakness

What I mean by this is: it’s a good quality to have. There’s even a Dumbledore quote about how people consistently dismiss kindness and how he thinks that’s bullshit (totally paraphrasing but that is kind of possibly more or less what he said in The Half-Blood Prince).

I enjoy being a nice person, as boring as that sounds. I like sending my friends little letters in the post to surprise them and I like being the one who says serious, friendly, let’s-help-you-to-feel-better things instead of the one who always makes jokes so you’re never sure quite what they think of you. Everyone has different parts that add up to make them a whole – a proper, completed jigsaw puzzle – and ‘kindness’ is one of mine. I used to hate that and wished for a personality people would compare to a queen bee teen drama character, but now I’m pretty happy with it.

3) But deciding when NOT to be kind is also v. important

In April I went to London with my mum and I noticed that we both say “Sorry!” a lot to strangers who hit us with their bags by mistake. We then sigh softly and sadly as the strangers walk away, having looked at us blankly and said nothing at all. We discussed this over lunch in Jamie’s Diner on Shaftesbury Avenue and decided we were going to stop moving out of everyone’s way and apologising, because hardly anyone did the same for us in return.

I personally feel that this is something of a metaphor for life in general. There’s nothing wrong with being friendly and smiling and saying “Oh! Ever so sorry!” but only if you don’t expect anything in return. If you do, you’ll most likely be disappointed. I don’t even mean that in a depressing way, I mean it in a sort-of englightened (!!) way. Like, focus on the people who you care about and who care about you. Worry about them and what they think of you, not whether weird men on the tube think you’re polite or not. By all means apologise to the one whose foot you just stepped on, but don’t go out of your way to be a super-kind friend to every single person you meet. It’s draining and unrewarding and just not worth it.

4) Everyone has a lot going on and it’s not always about you

I think it’s only this year I have realised that if a friend takes a few days to reply to my WhatsApp, it’s not because they hate me and have formed a Thursday evening society named DEATH TO SOPHIE. And, if a manager seems distracted in the staff room and doesn’t return my “Have a lovely weekend!” wishes, it’s actually probably not because they are thinking of ways to have me fired.

It took me a while, but I am now uber aware that OTHER PEOPLE HAVE STUFF GOING ON, TOO! Who’d have thought it, eh? WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT IT. Sometimes it’s big stuff, like family issues or a dying pet or something. Other times it’s just that they’re really overwhelmed at work and they want a solid week of watching TV when they get home and absolutely nothing else. HOT 2017 TIP: If someone is a bit distant, there is probably a good 90% chance that it’s got absolutely sod-all to do with you. If they’re a friend, let them know you’re there for them if needed and then just give ’em some space.

5) It’s good to be productive, but not so productive you’re burned out

At the start of 2016, I was really pushing myself in terms of my writing. I got home from work every night, turned my laptop on and just tapped away on the keyboard until it was time for bed or my boyfriend asked me if I wanted to hang out. I had a lot of fun, but I also got a bit obsessive. If I spent the evening binge-watching Pretty Little Liars instead, I’d be hit by a wave of anxiety while brushing my teeth and would proclaim that I had wasted my evening. I would cry (like ACTUALLY cry) if I couldn’t complete a blog post when I’d hoped to, which if you think about it is really dumb, because the owner of the blog is ME and that means deadlines don’t actually exist.

Stuff at work got a lot busier as the year kicked off, we moved house and I bought a very uncomfortable computer chair named FLINTAN (avoid it like the plague if you go to IKEA for your office furniture), and I slowly lost a lot of confidence in my writing. I still think it’s incredibly same-y and that once you’ve read one of my blog posts you’ve pretty much read them all, but that’s why I need to keep going, so that it starts to evolve. I just need to stay c-a-l-m and remember that spending two nights out of five watching FRIENDS re-runs isn’t a crime punishable by death.

My writing hero Daisy, who is very wise as well as very talented, asked me at the start of 2016 what the last book I’d read was, and I felt myself go red and start to stammer as I struggled to answer her question. I went home and said to my mum “REMEMBER WHEN I WAS A BOOKWORM! REMEMBER WHEN I CHOSE READING OVER SCROLLING THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA! OH, WHAT HAS BECOME OF ME, MOTHER?” or something equally as dramatic, and my mum said “This is a problem very easily solved.”

Daisy told me that reading a lot helps her as a writer – which made so much sense I felt silly for not thinking of it before and wondered if my own writing screamed ‘non-reader!’. My blog took a bit of a backseat while I got back to grips with holding a book and inhaling its contents. I missed it a lot. And now I miss writing a lot, so I know it’s time to try and mix the two, and give myself chance to create and mess up and sit in the bath for an hour and have frantic, this-might-actually-be-good days and slow, uninspired, this-isn’t-what-I-hoped-for days. Both logic and the cynic in me says that 2017 Sophie isn’t really any different to 2016 Sophie, but either way, 2017 Sophie thinks “It’s midday on January 1st and I’ve already written something and it wasn’t atrocious. So this is a good start.”

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