* I wrote this 30th December, then worried it was too mopey to post, changed my mind and wanted to post it on New Years Eve but then, to be honest, forgot.
I don't think it's a particularly hot take to sit in December with a drink in hand and utter a huge FUCK YOU to 2020. I usually adore Christmas, love picking out thoughtful presents, wrapping them (badly but carefully) and popping them under the tree. Living off a diet of Baileys and Christmas movies, I listen to Christmas songs relentlessly and bop around like an elf on crack. But this year ... nah. A very merry fuck this, was much more my vibe. I sat at work on Christmas Eve, eating a quiche (not festive) and wearing a limp Santa hat (moderately festive) wondering where my Christmas buzz had buzzed off to.
In truth, the year has just been fucking horrendous. This post probably isn't gonna be funny at all soz, but I guess I just wanna bash my feelings onto the page. You don't have to read it, just tell me you enjoyed it and I'll never know.
Usually, around this time of year I'd take pride in reflecting back on my achievements throughout the year. As a working class lass fighting to be recognised in the comedy industry, each year I took tiny steps forward and ticked off amazing opportunities I'd earned, feeling proud at what I'd done and excited by what was to come. I'd also love reading my friends posting about their years; go on mate, look at the things you've accomplished, big or small it's great to see people sharing their achievements and feeling happy about what they've done.
But this year, I won't be writing one of those posts. And with the greatest respect, I am finding it way more difficult to feel good (and give as much of a fuck as previous years) about anyones posts like this, whereas usually I'd stop and read, I'm actively trying to scroll by. What a goblin I am.
Before you say it, yes, I have managed to achieve some things this year, but they feel so outnumbered in difficulty, so overwhelmed with an uncertainty and fear for the future that it feels false for me to share them like this year has been alright after all. And to be honest I still feel so wrapped up and weighed down with this sadness and anxiety over the things I and others have lost this year, like a big wet heavy jumper, that I don't want to write a post about achievements that makes it look like 'hey things weren't so bad!!' when I feel pretty bloody miserable right now, even when I do think about the good things I scraped from a hovel of a year.
I also think, and this is merely my opinion (and who truly gives a fuck about the opinion of a woman in her twenties with a blog) that something doesn't sit right with me about rounding up the good things that have managed to happen to me this year and posting them out for the world to see, in a year where loads of people have struggled. I wouldn't want to make anyone who has focused primarily on achieving staying alive and sane, which to be honest are the main things I have focused on and the main things we should be god damn proud of achieving, feel bad for not having done x y and z in the midst of a global pandemic. You don't need to have achieved fuck all this year, getting through it is the biggest thing we could all ask for.
Some people will say I'm bitter and jealous and you know what ... probably. Of course something will pang in my heart when I see people celebrating engagements or newfound love when my relationship crumbled so soon into lockdown. Of course something will burn in my soul when I see people celebrating dream jobs and promotions in a year where my industry basically ceased to exist. And of course, something will ache in my belly when I see all the new skills and creative things people managed to do with their newly discovered free time when I had to use mine to work any and every hour I could get in a shop job that leaves me too tired to do anything else other than watch dog videos when I get home. It doesn't mean I'm not proud and happy for you for doing that stuff, good on you. Genuinely. But I guess at the end of the year when I am so worn out by A Series of Unfortunate Events that even Lemony Snickett would have gone 'nah that's a bit much' and I've got knocked down and got back up again more times than even Chumbawamba could sing about, I've found seeing posts like these makes me feel a bit shit about myself, frankly, which I know is on me, not the author. Seeing these things pop up on my social media feeds sporadically throughout the year has been nice, glimmers of positivity amidst a storm of shite, but perhaps seeing them all rounded up and packaged in a 23 bullet point post is a bit too much for me to handle in a slightly fragile state.
I totally get why people are doing it though before you think I'm a total jealous bitch! People want to find moments to celebrate in a year that's been, and I repeat, fucking horrendous. I don't want to shame anyone or make them feel bad for doing it, I get it!! Go, for it, you feel proud of what you've done, share away if you want! Jesus don't let me stop you. When I think about it, I'm actually quite enjoying seeing the small, human things people have taken from this year, lessons they've learned and things they're grateful for. That I can handle. It's the more physical, concrete achievements that for the first time are making my belly feel all twisty like when you eat a prawn and instantly know it's a bad one and you're gonna shit yourself inside out in the morning. Like I said, of course I'm chuffed at what you've done, this isn't me hating you, it's me feeling bad about myself because I have lost a lot of what I loved and feel I am a long way off reclaiming any of that happiness and feeling as content and secure as my 'old life' gave me. There'll be plenty of people who find those posts lovely, I'm fully aware I'm just a mentally fragile little raincloud who is worried about her future and this is very much a me problem and not a you problem.
Maybe this is just months of irritation and frustration that I've tried to brush off and replace with positivity, humour and optimism (why does it sound like I'm writing a LinkedIn profile??) taking its toll. Prime example - one thing I'm growing impatient with is people telling me 'it'll be back.' I know for a fact I've said this myself, and every time I say it I want to be sick in my own mouth and then spit that sick out onto a picture of our government. Of course these things we miss will come back. But for those of us who are waiting for our livelihoods to return - those of us who work in the arts, entertainment, pubs, gyms, restaurants, hairdressers, beauty salons, small businesses, the list goes on ... we have already been without the jobs we love for so long, watched them come back in ways we've had to adapt to and then be snatched away again. Forgive us for being so done with waiting for it to come back. It'll be back ... but how much longer? And how many businesses and individuals can wait much longer before they abandon ship for another career. And when those things do come back, lets not pretend they'll be 'back to normal' straight away, especially things like gigs. Its gonna take a while, isn't it?
And has anyone considered - will it coming back make me happy? I know this sounds weird when I've spoken about how happy comedy makes me, which it does. God I love it. But pre pandemic, there were a lot of things about the comedy industry that I was finding difficult. I am so grateful for the amazing opportunities I got, but it became increasingly apparent that I wasn't getting those big regular tv gigs, and I was making my money largely on the live circuit. Don't get me wrong, I love being a live comic, it's made me the performer and person who I am. But I will admit I was finding the pressure of having to gig so many times a week to make enough money to live (admittedly that pressure will be loosened now I've flee'd London) quite tough, constantly travelling round the country for gigs does make it difficult when it comes to relationships and friendships. It's a job where you can go from feeling very connected, to very lonely in about 45 seconds, and you have to sacrifice a lot of spending time with the actual people in your life.
I was starting to feel like I'd hit a wall with my career. This time last year, I had a plan on how to hopefully tackle that, I was hoping to break into more writing opportunities, wanting to write for panel shows, comedy shows, other comics. I wanted to have a smashing Edinburgh that would maybe give the industry a kick up the bum bum reminder what I could do, and possibly open some more regular TV doors which would give a bit more financial security and equally important, start broadening my audience to allow me to properly tour. I had no interest in being 'famous' but I knew gaining more TV opportunities would help me financially and professionally and push me to that next stage of my career.
I was hoping all this would allow me be able to be more selective about which live gigs I did, so I could just do the lush ones that made me 1. happy and 2. a nice profit .. which in hindsight, be careful what you wish for eh. I can now be so selective about gigs because there are none to select from.
I had fire in my belly and couldn't wait to graft in 2020 to take my career to that next level. And now I feel very shaky. If things are still a way off coming back, how do I go about making those steps I'd been hoping to make this year? Will those opportunities ever come to me? How much longer can I hope it'll happen? Can I continue to cross my fingers and risk it when this has proved how financially precarious a job this is, and how it can all go just like that? Am I even good enough? Even though this pandemic should have showed people you don't have to be based in London to be able to have a meeting or see someone's work ... when this is over will finally putting my mental health first and choosing to remain in Newcastle bite me on the arse? Will it be like going back in time to 2016 and feeling like I'd always be ignored because I lived up North? I think I am good at what I do (most of the time, lol lets face it I've had some shockers but who hasn't) , but I also think there's only so long you can run into brick walls before you start to get a sore head.
I'll be told I'm being pessimistic. I disagree. I have tried so hard to be positive this year. I have held my head high, and tried to stay upbeat, take things in my stride. I've grieved and cried and broken down quietly, in private and dealt with my emotions with the care they deserve, whereas in the past I would have spilled this out onto social media without actually making any efforts to look after myself. I went straight and got another job to support myself, I tried so hard to keep making people laugh, not to be falsely positive, but to find light in the dark, mock myself and my situation lovingly without any actual self hatred and just generally cling on to what I love doing - making people smile. I legit hope I have made you crack a smile even once this year, and honest that'll make me buzz, I'll see that as job done.
But optimism alone would not have paid my bills, would not have given me a route to independence when I found myself forced to live back at home. A healthy dose of realism, knowing I would need to seek work immediately before there were even more job losses and even less jobs out there, knowing things might take a while to be normal again, has kept me financially and mentally in a slightly more stable position than they would have been if I'd just optimistically watched my world catch fire and gone THIS IS FINE, I DO NOT NEED TO DO ANYTHING OTHER THAN CROSS MY FINGERS AND HOPE FOR THE BEST. ALAS I CANNOT CROSS MY FINGERS AS THE BURNING EMBERS OF MY DREAMS HAS SINGED THEM OFF.
This is veering into waffle-y territory now so I apologise. I guess I'm trying to articulate my concerns and my worries and why I don't feel like now saying 'it'll be back!' or 'stay positive!' does much to calm the panic I feel every bloody day lately. And I'm trying to maybe just be sad, without the pressure of also being funny, for the first time this year.
I am allowed to be sad. I mean, I think a lot of people assume that the career thing is the only thing that's been difficult for me to handle this year, but let's really look at what's gone on.
My career, my relationship and my time in London were all very intertwined. I moved to London properly just after Edinburgh Fringe 2016. April 2017 I walked out of my day job to pursue stand up full time, and that same month I started dating someone. August 2017 I got the Edinburgh nomination, I finally felt I was getting recognition and approval as a comic, and the dates had turned into a relationship. So naturally, over the next few years, my career and relationship blossomed side by side. Imagine how much of a headfuck it is to lose that all virtually overnight. To be broken up with, during a pandemic that's robbed you of all your work, and with the end of that relationship you know it will also mark the end of your time in London, somewhere that while you may not have loved it there, you tried so hard to make it a place you could live, and it was a big part of your life. It felt like the last 3 years of my life had just been obliterated. Like a bomb had gone off. Know when you go on a lovely walk and then you slip on a rock and nearly fall and your arse panics but it's fine cause you stay on your feet. Well the entire mountain collapsed underneath me and it's hard to stay on your feet when the ground has gone.
Everything I had worked for, struggled for, loved and enjoyed just sort of disappeared all at once. It was like the last 3 years of my life hadn't ever existed, like it was a cruel joke that I could have a job I loved and someone who loves me. I'll probably talk about the break up in a separate post cause this one has become heavy enough, but lets just say one of the hardest things for me to get through this year, has been the crushing feeling that while I was excitedly planning a future with someone I adored, genuinely thinking this is the year he'd propose, imagining how he'd do it, picturing what kind of place would become our 'forever' home ... all the while that person was picturing a future where I wasn't in it. And at what point did I leave that picture? The 2 and a bit months of this year we did have to enjoy became tainted as well, where the window of lovely memories I had suddenly became tinged with the concern that maybe all that time I loved we spent together, maybe that time was only loved by me. Maybe he'd stopped loving me then, and the pandemic fluttered into his lap like a Get Out Of This Relationship Free Card. At a time when couples forced apart realised how much they adored each other, my other half had realised he much preferred it without me actually, much better thank you. Know what is improving this global nightmare? Her not being here, phew, what a relief! Jokes aside, that fucking stung. And while I am over that break up, that feeling has definitely burned a little bit of hurt into me that will always be there, and will absolutely leave me tentative about future relationships. When you get burned that bad, you want to try protect yourself from ever getting hurt like that again I suppose.
Fuck me that got deep. This post started about not feeling fucking Christmassy and I just harped on and decided to finally let myself be upset about the shit heap of 2020. So I hope you don't mind there's been no jokes, I hope I've given you enough laughs and smiles throughout this year that you can allow me to just be honest for a bit. I promise, I'm alright before any of you think this is some kind of cry for help. I feel a whoooole lot better for getting all this out of my brain and my heart and onto a lame ass blog.
Fingers crossed 2021 is a good one lads. Or at least a kind one. I would say it can't be much worse but fucking hell knowing my luck I'll jinx myself so I'm not even going there. Big love for still being here, big love for getting through.
PS - Who am I kidding my biggest achievement is obviously that I finally stopped severely burning myself in the cafe at work, what a turn out
PPS - Admittedly the reason I stopped burning myself is cause the cafe was forced to shut which is excellent irony that I 'Retrained 4 Rishi' then he made my new job illegal as well as my old one
PPS - Thanks for your support this year. It has been so very appreciated and you've kept me going probably without even knowing it
See ya never again 2020, Lauren x
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